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Interview with Roy Brindley 2009

Roy Brindley

Ghost buster: How professional gambler-turned-author Roy Brindley found having someone else pen his words ended with the dice loaded against him.

Some people just have all the luck. Apparently, Roy ‘The Boy’ Brindley has it in spades. Good looking, great wife, two kids, author, TV presenter, columnist, he travels the world, playing his favourite game, for a living, ‘I'm going to Monte Carlo next week, all expenses paid in a five star hotel. It’s not a bad life.’

For his autobiography, there was no slush pile or Dear John letters from all and sundry in Writers and Artists Yearbook. Instead he had a word with Jesse May, the voice of Poker, who writes the foreword to Roy’s book, Life’s a Gamble - The High Stakes and Low Life of a Poker Professional (Bantam Press). Jesse had a contact from his own book and within a few months, every London publishing house wanted to discuss a substantial deal with Roy.

‘I’d best not say by how much to be honest, it might upset people. The publishers said you are going to need a ghost writer and arranged for one to come over to my home in Ireland. He came for three days and then wrote the first three chapters. If there’s a seminal moment as to when things started to go wrong, that was it. The writing was woeful.’

‘In the meantime I met a journalist who also thought I should write a book. When I explained what was going on, he replied that if that didn’t work out I should contact him. This was someone with twenty five books to his name, impressive stuff. He invited me to his place in Spain, where I talked into a Dictaphone for five days. When he came back with the script, I was stunned. It was word-for-word what I’d said. 140,000 words to be exact, transcribed to a word document, which he maintained was a ‘book’. Then he told me to get it together in three weeks; that his professional reputation was on the line. I did what I could but unsurprisingly the publishers rejected it.’

Despite appearing to have it all, life has not always been kind to Roy. Raised in a family of inveterate gamblers, his path has an unerring inevitability. From the card table as a child, to the bookies and dog track, destitute on the streets and on the run from the Police, scrambling for pennies under slot machines to buy baked beans. Now his book deal on a plate seemed barbed.

‘The publishers wanted their advance back on more than one occasion, ‘Sorry, but it’s not what we wanted’, they said. I told them look, please, although I’ve not read a book in my life, let alone written one, I’ve got some good ideas and written articles on greyhound racing for The Racing Post for years. Just let me have a go. To their great credit, they relented and gave me three weeks to write the first three chapters. I did it in a week.’

‘With no formal routine, I found the best time to write was between two and six in the morning. I could get more done then than ten hours during the day. I sent the manuscript off and, the publishers, impressed with what I’d managed to get done, came back with a resounding yes.’

‘Then, just as I thought I’d turned a corner, the ghost writer threatened us with court. He wanted fifty per cent of the deal. When I suggested giving all the money to charity if he’d do the same, he replied he didn’t work for charity. It was all so outrageous. I can assure you, hand on heart, no two words of Life’s A Gamble are his. The publishers didn’t want to risk the case, so for nothing but turning on a Dictaphone, this man gets half the proceeds of my book. The publishers have been fantastic, my agent wonderful and the response here in Ireland has been great. It is this one rotten apple that has soured the whole process.’

Roy has noticed the differences in markets. ‘In Ireland, the pick up has been incredible. We got Book of the Month, Book of the Week, every radio station, The Late, Late Show. In Ireland, if you do well, people are queuing up to shake your hand and pat you on the back. It’s very different in the UK. The reaction in England has been disappointing to say the least. So many books about alcoholics have been heralded and deemed acceptable, yet once they hear my book is about a different sickness, gambling, no one seems to want to know. Gambling is taboo.’

Another disappointment has been that so few people have picked up on Roy’s time in America, ‘More than money or my name in print. I wanted to highlight the plight of greyhounds over there. Working as a trainer, I witnessed the mass slaughter of superfluous dogs. The senselessness and cruelty still shocks me.’

Far from being dispirited with his writing experiences, however, Roy remains inspired. ‘I’ve got a real passion for writing now - I'm like a kid in a sweetshop and am planning a thriller based on characters I have met in the gambling world. I don’t need inspiration; they’re real people, real stories. There’s not much to fictionalize, just anecdotes to homogenize.’

Life's a Gamble by Roy Brindley‘I could also write another autobiography, using a whole different set of circumstances. The best thing is to move to a Greek island and get myself a hut. No distractions, absolute solitude. It’s going to be tricky getting the time off, but I’ll do it. And it will be better than Life’s A Gamble because there will be no deadlines and certainly no imposters masquerading as ghost writers.’

Life’s A Gamble by Roy Brindley is available now.
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Parts of this interview have, or will, appear in other publications and in other formats.


If you would like to comment on this interview with Roy Brindley in June 2009, please feel free to contact me - GUESTBOOK

“Writing gets me away for a while' from this world and into one where I, alone, can make or
break the rules as I see fit.” - Chris High 2003.
© 2009 all rights reserved