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Write place write time

Steve Horner, who has reignited a 40-year-old passion for storytelling, explains to Peter Taylor-Whiffen why he believes in maintaining an interest

Steve Horner describes himself as a winter author: “I’ve always been very active but I’m a little older now, I have a bit of arthritis, so when it’s colder, I tend to stay in, sit at my desk and write.” The 74-year-old is completing his third novel, having reignited a passion for writing after coming across a typed manuscript of his first book, a murder mystery called Goodbye Jeremy, in his attic – 40 years after he originally wrote it. “I would write longhand on the train, in a notepad, leaning on my briefcase,” he says.

“I paid someone to type it up, but then put it away and didn’t look at it again. I found it a few years ago and realised it wasn’t bad, so I typed it up in Word and self-published it. I enjoyed it so much I wrote another one.” The second book, Troubled World, is a spy thriller set a few years after Brexit against a backdrop of an unresolved Irish border, Middle East troubles, an ongoing refugee crisis and terrorism.

“I sent that one to Write place, write time Steve Horner, who has reignited a 40-year-old passion for storytelling, explains to Peter Taylor-Whiffen why he believes in maintaining an interest publishing agents who said it wasn’t their thing, but also suggested – rightly – that given the imagined post-Brexit issues, it might be proved wrong very quickly. So I published it myself on Amazon. I only have a few readers but my satisfaction comes from writing.”

Enjoyment and interest always took priority in Horner’s working life. After articles in the early 1960s at London firm Lord, Foster & Co he moved to Oxford practice Thornton Baker, attracted by the fact it audited the British Motor Corporation. “I loved cars and I got on that contract, ultimately auditing their MG department.” From there he held senior financial posts at businesses including Optrex, Buckle & Ballard (one of Lloyds’ first Black Horse estate agencies), Classic FM, the BBC’s Open University output, and NHS Direct’s service.

“I always seemed to be at companies at an exciting stage in their development,” he says. “The key for me has been to be busy and interested, and I’ve achieved that.” Since retiring in 2014 he’s maintained that mantra, offering his professional skills to Citizens’ Advice Bureau, Mind and the Campaign for the Protection of Rural England. He also enjoys gardening, golf – “I’ve played with it over the years, or I should say it’s played with me” – and retains his passion for cars.

“I took up racing when I was 40 and did that for 30 years. Now I find it increasingly difficult to get in a car, never mind race one. But I have a shed where I still keep cars to tinker with, and my three grown-up sons have that interest as well, which is lovely.” Those sons have given him five grandchildren “so they also keep me active”, but in the peaceful moments Horner returns to writing at his Buckingham home.

“I’m just finishing the first draft of my new book, Final Journey, about a solicitor looking back over his life. Again, it’s something different from what I’ve done before. It’s that same thing – always keeping myself interested.”

Originally published in Economia on 7 June 2019.