Write From What You Know: Red Light and Bell by Richard Cobourne

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Red light and bell, a book by Richard Cobourne

By Richard Cobourne

Not many careers begin by taking the advice from a Christmas Cracker: ‘Write from what you know.’

Normally I ignore crackers — but that is exactly what I have done with this thriller trilogy set in the world of showbusiness. The people, the places and — just maybe — the plot lines have played some part in my life.

But how did I start writing — that daunting first day with the blank screen mocking me and more excuses for just one more coffee before actually putting brain in gear and fingers to keyboard?

As any author will probably tell you, the question ‘what inspires you?’ or indeed, ‘why did you start writing?’ is difficult to answer. The answer is certainly multi-facetted… and not always answerable.

Ego possibly?

Maybe sheer bloody mindedness? A determination to prove something laced with dollops of dogged determination.

Maybe to re-live my career — maybe to show-off? I have been incredibly lucky to work with some fabulous people, many well-known; at awesome events backstage with Access All Areas lanyards; all over the world, giving me a global perspective of life and its dangers?

Maybe an urge to release the creative juices? This is certainly true in my case. For several years, I wrote for others with an exacting brief — mainly corporate; sales and marketing documents; exhibition panels (which teach you to be economical with words); video scripts (writing to fit precise timelines); booklets such as ‘The History of Castration’, ‘The History of Contraception’, and much more interestingly, ‘The Cardio-Protective Effect of Wine’. Everything had to be referenced back to source with clear citations — creativity strictly forbidden.

So back to the cracker — in the words of Dylan Thomas: ‘To begin at the beginning.’

Who would have thought my next-door neighbour, then Head of Sound at HTV, knocking on our door at the start of the school summer holiday, post my O-Levels, would provide the catalyst to write these novels?

‘We’re a bit short of people on the studio floor. Do you reckon you can push the Fisher Boom around?’

I didn’t hesitate, ‘Yes please’ — I had no idea what a Fisher Boom was.

‘We leave in fifteen minutes,’ was the reply.

Profile picture of Richard Cobourne wearing a green & white stripy shirt and holding a purple cup

So, it began — many years working behind and in front of the cameras and microphones all over the world. That first day was captivating on the studio floor — as I learned to call it. HTV was producing a mini-series entitled, ‘The Inheritors’ starring among others Peter Egan, Robert Urquhart, Charles Dance, Bill Maynard, and Philip Madoc. Great actors, then young, all who went on to carve out illustrious careers.

After three years, reluctantly I left freelance school holiday HTV for a full-time career at the BBC. It was thrilling and sometimes scary both behind and in front of the cameras and microphones. News, current affairs, drama, comedy, documentaries, sport, big music shows, huge orchestras, live events all over the UK and abroad followed. The list of programmes and people I met and with whom I worked is long, too long for here — it included: Rob Brydon, when he was a continuity announcer; Charles’s and Diana’s wedding (Philip Schofield then worked in OB stores); The Pope’s Visit; Mother Teresa in Calcutta; the jungles of central Africa (close up with the silver back gorillas); drug cartels in Colombia; several TV feature films; more live major sporting events that I could possibly remember; and three BAFTA nominations (but never won!).

Life was amazing making many good friends whom I still see today. But by the beginning of the nineties the BBC was changing, and I saw the metaphorical writing on the wall. I resigned.

After a short hiatus I formed my own production company. Somehow, we became successful working with some wonderful clients; huge productions and live events; and with some well-known names — many pictures adorn the walls of my sh’office at the bottom of the garden, including Joanna Lumley; Toyah; Leslie Ash; Nigel Havers; Little and Large; Paul Heiney; Anne Gregg; Tim Spall; Jeremy Northam; Simon Bates; Rhys Ifans, Owen Teale and more.

Travelling the world continued, one year racking up 91 flights — not sure that is something of which I should be proud? Some ridiculous travel such as a day trip to Cape Town, a day in Rio de Janeiro, with several one-dayers to New York. I worked in virtually every European city — including Kyiv. Along the way we won dozens and dozens of awards.

I have eaten in top restaurants; attended celebrity parties; walked up red carpets; been in the swankiest of clubs; stayed at magnificent hotels; and suffered in some very dubious, sometimes dangerous, locations.

So, what you might say?

I attempted to start writing several novels several times — but paying work interfered and they were soon shelved. I wanted — needed — to unlock the personal creative juices to do my own thing. So, I sold the business to enable me to write, to fulfil my ambition. Writing a novel is not a part-time job as many have found out.

How we all write varies — there is no magic potion. Some adorn their writing room with Post-It notes; others plot every twist, turn and chapter; I just write. Sometimes I do not know where I am going. One of my favourite tricks is, as the writing day concludes, to deliberately throw in a googly, or a red herring, or a mixed metaphor. The following morning, over one more coffee, I ask myself, ‘get out of that.’ I can almost hear creative writing gurus shrieking abuse. But it works for me.

I am not a fan of perfect grammar — words, phrases, sentences, and punctuation are there to be used, abused, and engage. I write to be read — as we speak.

Selfish maybe, I write for my own pleasure — so I am probably never going to win a literary prize.

I am, however, a believer in accurate research, going to source, not reportage — or, worse still, reportage of reportage (maybe that was instilled in me from my corporate past?).

Using the places I have visited, and the contacts made over the years, ‘celebrities’, friends and ne’er-do-wells augmented my own knowledge — over too many lunches they helped me with deep background to ensure the tittle-tattle of real-life show-business, the law, parliament, the criminal mind, and other aspects are accurately portrayed.

Are the situations true? I won’t or can’t answer that.

I refer you to my friend, Melanie Chisholm, AKA the Spice Girl Mel C, Sporty Spice: ‘Written with an insider’s knowledge, an utterly addictive, fun thriller revealing the darker side of showbiz. I loved it!’

‘Bandwagon’, the first in the trilogy, and now ‘Red Light and Bell’, the second, reflect some of my experiences (the finale of the trilogy, ‘End Turn’ is underway).

*The title ‘Red Light and Bell’ is a filming term. A red light is illuminated, and a long bell sounded once before ‘going for a take.’ When the scene is completed, the red light is switched off and two short bells sounded.

(c) Richard Cobourne


The first of the showbiz thriller trilogy, Bandwagon by Richard Cobourne, is available now as paperback and all ebook formats.

The second in the showbiz thriller trilogy, Red Light and Bell by Richard Cobourne, is available to pre-order now and all ebook formats.

About Red Light and Bell:

Red light and bell

Daisy DeVilliers, celebrity PR, and Danny Owen, former investigative journalist, sit hand-in-hand in the VIP seats enjoying the much-anticipated return of global pop-megastar Martha. Following the kidnapping and dramatic rescue of the star and her sister, neither thought this glamorous night would ever happen. The ecstatic audience are demanding encore-after-encore. Martha is back!

As the final notes die away, there is pandemonium ― the police sergeant seated next to Daisy is assassinated by a sniper. Daisy is covered in blood and gore. Martha is unwillingly bundled off the stage to safety. But why was the police sergeant killed? Mistaken identity or deliberate act? Who orchestrated the murder and why? Soon Daisy and Danny are forced out of their comfort zones from show business into a world of high-level corruption, international organised crime, attempted cover-ups, and governmental chest-stabbing ― all too believable with our current politicians and parties.

Featuring well-informed behind-the-scenes entertainment action ― who to trust in the duplicitous world where celebrity, the police, security services, and politics collide? This exciting page-turner takes you far and wide to Elstree Studios, the 02 Arena, the Houses of Parliament, inside the Security Services, and to Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan.

Order your copy online here.

About the author

Richard Cobourne began his career working at the BBC, before co-forming his own production company. Today, he continues to facilitate conferences and act as freelance consultant creative producer. He is a voting member of BAFTA and a member of The Ivy Club. He lives with his wife in the Wye Valley bordering South-East Wales with England, and Fuerteventura in the Canary Islands.

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