DERIC Longden made me laugh the very first time I met him 26 years ago. We were both new authors who had been invited to a Manchester hotel for a promotional evening organised by our publisher, Bantam Press.
We were to meet and greet book-store owners and buyers from around the North West. Deric’s first book Diana’s Story was set to make him a literary star. He was senior to me by a few years, offered a protective wing, calmed my nerves and made me smile.
We were, after all, two blokes from Huddersfield. We could cope with anything.
Deric, who died on Saturday, had coped with a great deal. His first book told of his wife’s battle with ME in such a way that you cried and laughed at the same time. After he tragically lost Diana he married best selling novelist Aileen Armitage. He always counted himself exceptionally fortunate to have found not one but two special loves in his life. He and Aileen made a great team.
Success as an author didn’t happen for Deric until his middle years. He accepted the fame, acclaim and awards with a pinch of salt and remained a modest man all his life. I don’t think he realised how good he was.
He had a fund of hilarious stories and an eye for observation that led to a string of best-selling books and they made him thousands of admirers around the world. He put you at ease and made you laugh whether as an after dinner speaker or in intimate company. He had immense genuine charm. He cared about people and it showed. Anyone who read one of his books felt they had found a friend.
He had been in failing health for some time and was diagnosed with terminal cancer last year but continued to attempt to live life with a smile and a sense of humour. A few weeks ago I was mistaken for him at Huddersfield Royal Infirmary and wrote a silly piece about the incident. Aileen says he found it hilarious.
Deric was a writer of immense talent. He was a man of greater humility and humanity. The very first time we met at that hotel in Manchester, after the guests had gone home, we sat in the bar drinking into the early hours. His stories were brilliant and addictive. You didn’t want them to stop.
Sadly, they have now.
Here’s to you, Deric.
Obituary – Page 23.