NO LONGER WITH US

Last evening we celebrated the launch of NO LONGER WITH US at Daunt Books, in Marylebone High Street, to a crowded audience of friends and colleagues, whose range and number made the evening a memorable one.

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Here’s the address I gave which I hope captures the spirit of the occasion.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

At my age time flies and most people in my position would have retired by now and probably sought comfort in being bored stiff, or perhaps found an ideal pastime which unfortunately has escaped me so far.

But if someone had told me over thirty years ago, when my first book of interviews, WOMEN, was launched in 1987, that I would be celebrating the publication of my eleventh collection of interviews this evening, surrounded by so many friends and colleagues, I would have thought them bonkers.

This latest escapade grew out of my daily blog, as so many of the positive reactions which came my way whenever I remembered interviews with those who had recently left us to continue their journey elsewhere (as must we all), suggested a hunger for more.

There seemed to be a need to revisit the opportunity to remember what I hope you will allow me to call my ‘epic quest’ to capture the voices and experiences of so many of the great, and not so good, men and women who had an impact on all our lives. Compiling the 50 interviews made me realise a somewhat shocking reality that so many of the conversations still read as if they were conducted only yesterday.

Too many people have helped me along the way to mention them all. The book is dedicated to my little granddaughter, named after my dear wife Maria whose death haunts me still. She would have loved this evening. Richard Ingrams was generous in his introduction and I owe him the chance to have begun my interviewing journey with his help. However, in his past role as the editor of Private Eye he lambasted me mercilessly as Naim Attullah-Disgusting and as such he gave me a notoriety which in retrospect did me no harm at all. On the contrary, I became a figure which attracted an attention that catapulted me to celebrity status. For that I’m eternally chuffed.

In concluding this short address it has been my habit to end my book-launch orations with a desperate plea to buy as many copies as can be carried safely through the exit doors, but that would be an inappropriate ending to tonight’s celebration – by demanding you show us the colour of your money. However, I hope your generosity of spirit will nevertheless act as if I had uttered my usual cheeky words, whilst at the same time thanking you all for being here to celebrate with me the crowning glory of my long journalistic literary career.

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