John Gibson: How Leslie bowled his readers over

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If there was one flaw I discovered about Leslie Thomas in our frequent one-to-ones . . . nobody is perfect
 . . . was that he would chunter on interminably about his major lifelong passion. Cricket. I could never shut him up.

But he never let cricket get in the way of his 30 novels, with The Virgin Soldiers, a huge seller worldwide, pick of the illustrious bunch.

Of the countless authors I’ve been fortunate enough to meet, below, the perma-smile Leslie is never to be forgotten. Died last week at 83 after a lengthy illness, and a pleasant memory-stirrer when I dug into the Gibpress File for a selection of his words to me.

‘‘I have a very satisfactory home life. You need one if you’re writing. I live a very good life altogether. But I still work as hard as ever. I’d never take it for granted that people will buy my books regardless. You can do one bad book, but you won’t do it twice.’’

Thomas was due to talk at the Book Festival on How to Write a Novel (with a little bit of luck) He asked me to remember the brackets.

‘‘I’m quite good at isolation. I went to India, Australia and the South Seas for the new book and much as I like to see places, it does get wearisome. People think it’s all very glamorous, but I rarely meet Dorothy Lamour under the palm trees.’’

Thomas and then wife Diana had just moved house from London to a 17th-century fortress in Hampshire. Six acres by the river. ‘‘With this novel I sat in front of the fire in London last winter and wrote a great chunk in longhand and I ended up cutting 20,000 words out of that.’’

Leslie Thomas stuck for words? I’d never have believed it, thank God.