Sebastian Faulks

Diary – 13 September 2012

My postbag is mostly things like: ‘I once played tennis against you in the Provence in 1981. My daughter is now bicycling through Spain to raise money and I wondered… .’ So picture my surprise to get one that instead began like this:  ‘In your novel Engleby, the hero mentions a gig by Procol Harum he attended at the Rainbow, Finsbury Park, in 1972.’ The next line that was the killer: ‘I was playing keyboards in the band that night… .’

And so began an intriguing pen pal friendship. Chris Copping, who played Hammond organ on several mighty albums with Robin Trower’s seething guitar and Gary Brooker’s voice and piano, now lives with his wife Vicki on Magnetic Island, Queensland, where he brews beer, plays music and, above all it seems, reads books. I email things like, ‘How did they get that guitar sound?’ Chris patiently replies: ‘On “Simple Sister”, as I recall, there was a cross-fade from Les Paul to the Stratocaster half way through the solo’, before going on to what he wants to talk about: Proust, Zola, Thomas Mann, García Márquez and Dickens. He seems to have read a lot more than I have. He also has a degree in chemistry. No wonder he could play the Hammond organ standing on his head. Or was that Keith Emerson?

Anyway, it so happened that my new novel, A Possible Life, has a section in which the main character is a singer-songwriter in America in the early 1970s. So I asked Chris if he would look at it and make any corrections to detail of recording and engineering. This he kindly did, and declared himself a fan of Anya King, my fictional singer. So much so that a few months later he emailed me a version of one of her songs, using my lyrics, his music and the voice of an Australian jazz singer.

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