I was born in Leigh near Manchester in 1945, and raised in south-east London. When I was in my early teens we moved to the Cumbrian coast, I was sent to boarding-school, and then my father died from a form of leukemia. This hit me hard and changed me a lot, forcing me to grow up fast. I was helped by a developing interest in literature, particularly poetry and fiction, which was boosted by several months working in a library after leaving school. For 3 years I studied English Literature at Cambridge, but I was becoming more interested in social anthropology and sociology, and had decided to pursue a career as a social worker. I completed further studies at Southampton and Bangor Universities, and worked with very damaged adolescent boys in Bristol and with disturbed pre-adolescent boys and girls at a residential school in Newcastle-upon-Tyne. Then for 26 years I worked in the field of social work, mostly with children and families, but also at times specialising in disability and mental health.
I worked in Worcestershire for most of this time, living in Malvern where for 9 years I lived with my first partner and her 2 children. I was a close friend of the poet Gael Turnbull during these years. In 1992 I met my current partner, the writer Kim Taplin, and we have been together since. When I retired from my social work career in 1998, I moved to her home in North Oxfordshire. I started writing fiction in the early 1990s, and I also edited and published the radical poetry magazine, Fire, from 1995 to 2012.
I had written poetry since my childhood, and first started having work published at Cambridge University. Since then I have had poems in many magazines and anthologies, world-wide as well as in the UK, and I have published 12 books of poetry with the alternative presses, most recently “Lighting Up Time” from Troubador Press in Leicester. In the last 5 years I have commenced a new creative endeavour as a composer of contemporary classical music, and in March 2012 my String Quartet no.1 was performed in concert in North London.
I am related to James Hilton, the author of novels such as “Lost Horizon”, “Goodbye Mr. Chips” and “Random Harvest”, and who coined the term “Shangri-La”. He, like me, was born in Leigh, Lancashire, 45 years before I was. As far as I’m aware, I am the first member of the family since him to have published a novel. Apart from one short story which appeared when I was at Cambridge University, “A Sound Like Angels Weeping” is my first published fiction.