The Burnley author who got a book deal after watching his beloved Clarets defeated

PUBLISHED: 13:28 21 September 2011 | UPDATED: 20:01 20 February 2013

Author Stewart Binns at home in Somerset

Author Stewart Binns at home in Somerset

Stewart Binns watched his beloved Burnley get hammered but it led him to a new career as a best-selling author. Amanda Griffiths reports

Stewart Binns is member of the mafia and he doesnt care who knows it. That is, he says quickly qualifying the remark, the Burnley mafia and it played a significant part in helping him to become a novelist.

I was at a Burnley game at Watford. It was a Tuesday night and wed got beaten quite heavily, he recalls. We were all feeling quite sorry for ourselves. I got talking to Alastair Campbell in the car on the way home about his diaries, and thats when I told him Id written a book.

The former Number 10 spin doctor said hed read the manuscript while he was on holiday. He came back and said he thought it should be published, adds Stewart. He gave it to his publishers and in less than a month I had a deal with Penguin!

Stewarts book, Conquest, is a historical novel based on a Saxon hero called Hereward of Bourne. When it was published earlier this year it became the high-selling debut novel with 40,000 copies flying off the shelves in just eight weeks.

Stewart left Burnley at the tender age of 18, the only second only boy from his school to go to university and it set him on the path to an illustrious career in television, winning awards for his BBC documentaries.

Theres a sort of Burnley mafia - myself, Alastair, the BBCs Peter Salmon and television screenwriter Paul Abbott. Weve come from quite similar backgrounds and have managed to make our mark in life and tend to stick together, says Stewart.

He has very definite ideas about writing. There are two things important to me. Firstly, historical accuracy - I wanted everything in the book to be as close to history as possible and the characters to be based on what we know about them. Secondly, I like to write about places I know and have been to. I can see them in my head while I am writing.

Its no surprise then that a significant part of Conquest has been set in the Pennines.

I grew up in Burnley, I went to what was St Theodores, the local Catholic secondary modern and lived in a terraced row, just near Towneley Gates, so my memories are off cotton and coal, the colliers and the weavers, says Stewart, who now lives in Somerset.

I have very fond memories of growing up there. It was a grimy industrial town, I can remember miners getting on the bus with black faces and the chimneys belching smoke, says Stewart.

But it is surrounded by stunning countryside and even as a young child we would get out into the countryside every chance we got. I remember as a young boy working for a farmer. Wed lug hay bales for a shilling and a glass of milk and thought that was magical.

The hero of Conquest is based on Clitheroe hill, allowing him to write about the Ribble Valley and Pendle Hill.

I love the Ribble Valley, I always think of it as the forgotten dale. Its Lancashires dale; every bit as pretty as any of the Yorkshire ones, says the man who tries to come back up north as often as he can.

Burnley Football Club is an anchor for me. My twin boys are now at the age where theyre beginning to understand football; their first game was the last game of the season in Burnley. Theyre both Burnley fans, they dont really know why yet but they are!

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