Thursday, 28 March 2013


Notable episodes in life, changes in direction, major setbacks, minor triumphs, do not necessarily follow each other in sequence but often happen all at the same time, the dovetailing of events confusing the memory. 1972 proved to be such a year for me.  
 The publication of my novel, The Girl with a Peppermint Taste upset Eve and her parents who identified with some of the less likeable characters and were very miffed, they therefore no longer regarded me as very lovable.  I had been abroad a good deal so had also daily contact with my sons, while Maribel now became my main happy preoccupation. Though I had earned  more money from my writing than ever before, I saw it disappear remarkably quickly in the payments of rents, travel and the general financing of life for myself and others. 
 When the John Lindsay family returned to New York and the Frigiliana house was left empty, Eve thought we should sell it and buy something similar in Nerja. It was not an easy decision. I loved the place and had always imagined living there for ever, but for her it had unpleasant memories. An English couple, with whom I later became great friends, were keen to buy it, so Eve lost no time hunting for a new home and quickly found an old, but suitably renovated, three bedroomed terrace property in the middle of the town.  
 The sale of one and the purchase of the other took a few months to complete. When all was done. Eve moved in with the boys, Easy Rider and the dog, while I chose to remain in my bachelor flat thinking it wiser to wait for our frail relationship to become clearer. I sensed a legal separation was in the offing.
 Meanwhile, in London, Triton, my publishers were swallowed up by a larger company and the managing director swapped jobs and set herself up as a literary agent with most of her authors, including me, as clients. 
 'You have to follow up Peppermint with a similar novel as quickly as possible,' she informed me, 'so lets’s have an outline I can send to publishers from you soon.' 
 I had nothing in mind, having already used up all my domestic trauma experiences, but then I received a quite astonishing letter. It was from the Sun journalist with whom I had had a brief affair when we were adapting Peppermint for serialization together asking me if she could give my surname to a baby boy to which she had just given birth. She claimed I was his father. 
 My first reaction was that she had not given birth to a baby at all but was trying some lunatic tactic to get me back, for I had deliberately lost contact with her finding we were incompatible. She had initially told me she could not have children. I feared that if I was not very careful she could cause me endless trouble and therefore decided not to answer her letter but wait for developments, if any.
  Within a week I received another letter with a photograph of a baby and the threat that if I did not acknowledge being the father she would write unpleasant things about bastards to Eddy and my mother suggesting that inappropriate behaviour obviously ran in my family.  Unsettled, I rang a lawyer in London. 
 'I get six or seven cases like yours every month,' he said, a little bored. 'The lady in question has probably been sleeping around, got pregnant, has no idea who the father of the child might be and is writing to all her lovers hoping that one of them will bite. My advice to you is to do nothing, absolutely nothing, except pay the invoice my secretary will be sending you for this consultation.'  
 I therefore did nothing but worry the problem incessantly till Maribel, the only person I told, suggested I make use of the psychological stress as a conflict for my urgently awaited story.
  Time passed. I received no further letters and, thankfully, heard nothing more from the new mother, well..... not for twelve years.  
 In the weeks that followed, I worked on an outline.  
 What if this baby was really mine ? What  if, instead of a boy it was a girl ? What if, when she was eighteen,  I met her as I had met Maribel, not knowing she was my daughter.... and slept with her ? Innocent, incest ? 
 It was controversial, daring at the time. The idea grew. I gave it the title The Innocence Has Gone, Daddy, and sent the synopsis to my agent who got it contracted by Cassells, a then highly reputable publishers  and I started writing the book straight away.  

The summer proved comparatively peaceful. I joined the boys down on the beach as often as I could. Maribel continued to live with her mother but stayed with me on as many nights as possible. She  gradually filled the cupboards with her clothes and I lowered the bedroom mirror so that she could see more of herself than the top of her head.  
 As autumn approached and the cold Northern European winter loomed, the English speaking resident community seeking the sun doubled in Nerja and with it the complaints that the town offered little in way of cultural entertainment. 
 In storage, packed in cardboard boxes, I had two thousand books, a collection I had started when I was fourteen. When I was searching through them for a particular volume with Maribel one day she commented  'What a waste of knowledge. There are enough here to start an English language library.' 
It was a brilliant idea.
 With all her local connections, Maribel  found a cheap empty house on the main street to rent. We furnished it with unwanted chairs, sofas, and coffee tables from various well wishers, built countless shelves and started 'Libreria Nerja' where anyone could come and browse or borrow for a small donation to help cover the costs. 
  We opened it in the evenings. the place soon became a meeting place for what might be termed the 'foreign intellectuals', but Franco and his fascist regime were still in power and both Maribel and I were denounced and arrested for being communist sympathisers distributing left wing propaganda material..

Drew with Nicolas
Maribel and mirrow
Dictator Franco

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