The EP Weekend People Story: David Coubrough

David Coubrough is an experienced and respected industry leader, who founded Portfolio Recruitment in 1985 and has since had a successful career in non-executive roles including director of Maldon Crystal Sea Salt and past chairmanships at Bespoke Hotels and the Castle Hotel Taunton. For such an experienced individual, he has made the decision to write his own crime novel and EP spoke with him to discuss his motivations and the story so far

Photo credit: Joanne Aldridge

David is writing a crime novel set in Cornwall based on an unsolved case from 1972 which took place in a hotel. The narrator is Grant who was 17 at the time of the murder and, troubled by the event, decides to investigate some 40 years later. Inevitably this leads to a trail of complexity involving the other guests present at the time of the event (or in some cases their offspring), who are tracked down following this event all bearing the life experiences that define us as individuals. Throughout someone is trying to thwart Grant’s attempts and he is haunted by the fear that the crime, a poisoning, somehow involved his late mother.

For lovers of fiction, and crime novels in particular, this basic plot outline might well already have you hooked. It is certainly an interesting premise and, for David, who spent his childhood holidays in Cornwall there is a wealth of personal observations and memories that influence his writing.

Ultimately, for David it is the opportunity to indulge in this past-time that is the principal enjoyment. “Writing a book had been on my wish list for some time. I had co-written play about 30 years ago with a colleague and we had always planned to do more but, over the years, it proved difficult to get to a point where we could both take time off together.”

Most recently in his career David spent a good proportion of his time with business start-ups; a rewarding process but one that takes considerable time up-front with limited return in the early years. Having spent many hours in various connected meetings over the course of a few months to support these endeavours, he made the decision to re-evaluate priorities for 2013.

“From January I decided to focus on what I really liked rather than what I felt I should be doing. I had made a New Year’s resolution to seize the moment. I felt that writing a novel was something I could do and for a variety of reasons everything just came together, so I thought I’d better go for it.”

Moving from six non-executive roles to two non-executive roles, David now spends the majority of his time writing. He remains non-executive chairman of Maldon Crystal Sea Salt and non-executive director of Bloomsbury Properties, both of which are growing businesses and need proper focus but mean that David does not work a five day week. To date he has written about 35,000 words or 120 pages; about the half way point.

More about the book

The book’s central crime involves the poisoning of a night porter at the hotel and, although it did not kill him, it affected his quality of life and left him mute. Grant becomes driven to get justice and find out who did it, which comes at the expense of his personal life. Later in the book we discover that there is a second murder which no-one knew about at the time.

“Part of the journey of the book is to show how the various characters lives have changed over the past 40 years, some for the better and some for the worse.

“What I’m told is crucial is the ending; it’s like the business end of the season in football. In a novel, especially a crime novel, the ending is crucial and in a sense the author lives or dies by this in terms of their next book.

“It is generally regarded that there is a formula to writing novels, but I think my style is slightly different. The book is in three parts, part one is set in 1972 and sets the scene; part two is set in the modern day and part three weaves the two together.

“I’ve sent the first chapters to a select group of friends and so far one of the most common questions I’m asked is whether Grant is me! He’s not, he’s just a character that I’ve created.

“In a sense the novel has written itself so far; once the plot was in my head it has just naturally flowed.”

David is under no illusion that he operates in a competitive market. He notes that there are a lot of people like him writing a novel, but observes that many get stuck and give up part way through.

“I think I’m over that point now and, although did get blocked at one point, I went to Cornwall and came back re-energised.

“I feel very lucky that I am able to do this; I’ve reached a stage in life where I’m not under so much financial pressure and can have this indulgence. Fifteen to twenty years ago I never thought this would be possible. Whether this is my first or last novel, I have no idea. I’m realistic and am enjoying this for what it is.”

For more information about this communication please contact Heather Gibson on 020 7025 1874 or email:

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