My books about the exploits of Alan Cadbury are based on a series of informal interviews or discussions between him and me. In the case of The Lifers’ Club nearly all our talks happened several months after the events I describe in the book. The only exception was the episode that started me writing the book in the first place. I happened to bump into Alan, purely by accident, in a pub in Crowland. He was returning to his brother Grahame’s farm in the Lincolnshire Fens and had stopped-off for a much-needed beer on his way back from the outskirts of Leicester. I hadn’t seen him for a couple of years and it was good to renew our friendship. He then told me about the things he had just witnessed, which I immediately wrote-up on my return home, and which later became the Epilogue, the final scene of The Lifers’ Club. Anyhow, it was immediately apparent to me that the traumatic events described in the book had bruised his confidence and I flatter myself that our subsequent sessions in most of the pubs between Peterborough and Grantham had a restorative effect – greatly helped, of course, by the great food he was enjoying with his brother. Grahame’s wife Liz was, and is, a wonderful cook.
That scene described in the Epilogue happened in mid-July, 2010 and the book itself was researched that autumn. The first of many drafts was written-up over the following winter and spring. But I did nothing about finding a publisher, as all my time was taken up writing the last of my Britain books for HarperCollins and in promoting the paperback edition of The Making of the British Landscape for Penguin. I think it was the following year that I stumbled across Justin Pollard at the Hay-on-Wye Festival, where I’d been talking about The Birth of Modern Britain. Justin is, of course, a co-founder of Unbound.