MICHAEL Bearcroft, a passionate reader and collector of books, bought half-a-dozen paperbacks to take with him on a Mediterranean cruise.
After a few days he’d finished the first two, but had not enjoyed either. He complained to his wife, Sue, about how disappointing he’d found them.
“Write your own, then,” she countered. “You’re always saying you want to write a novel, so now’s your chance to do it.”
Michael, 67, of Park Road, Henstridge, recalls how he bought up every notebook on the ship and wrote happily all the way back to port. The writing continued long after the holiday, as the tale he’d been yearning to tell poured itself out on to page after page, in unruly longhand.
Sue converted the chaos into a tidy, typed, manuscript and Michael contacted a literary agent. He barely expected a response, let alone a positive one.
“I was stunned when the agent said he thought the book could make it,” Michael says.
Two years after that first sentence of Dangerous Score was written in the middle of the Med, the thriller – a tale told through 100 tumultuous days of a soccer player’s life – has been published. With the subtitle ‘Murder, intrigue and the beautiful game’, the book also shines a light into the dark and troubling world of human trafficking.
Advance copies have attracted an enthusiastic response from readers of both sexes and from football fans and those with no interest in the game, so both the author and the publisher, Dynasty Press, are confident it will find its way on to the bookshelves of all lovers of a gripping, pacy, page-turner.
Michael’s own life story makes a cracking read, too, his interests and skills having led him into a variety of roles that no careers teacher could ever have predicted for him.
Brought up in Sheffield and a mustard-keen footballer, he was talent-spotted as a lad by a Sheffield United scout and played with club’s youth teams through his teenage years. The Blades let him go at 17 – “I wasted my opportunity,” he recalls. “I messed around and didn’t take it seriously enough.” However, that footballing experience was to stand him in good stead in later years when he became chairman of Corby Town FC. Along the way, he made many friends and contacts in the higher echelons of the game.
Michael continued to enjoy playing football as a semi-pro in south Yorkshire while an aptitude for sales led him into a successful career in marketing and management. At the age of 50 he took a bold leap into acting, using the same agent as his wife, who was a dancer at the London Palladium and major UK theatres, as well as television and commercials.
A keen Western rider, Michael took roles in a variety of TV dramas, including Peak Practice, Casualty, Dangerfield and The Bill, before training as a theatre director and director of musicals.
In 2008 he was named best director in the south-west region by the National Operatic and Dramatic Association, an accolade that confirmed how far he’d come from the world of soccer.
After touring a successful murder mystery production company called Murderous Liaisons, Michael franchised it and then sold it to help fund the launch of the musical stage show he created, Back to Broadway, whose tour of UK venues has included The Exchange at Sturminster Newton, where it was a sell-out.
With Sue, Michael now runs summer musical theatre schools at venues all over the country.
Since their move in 2010 to the Somerset-Dorset border, where Michael says they are “extremely happy in such a lovely village”, life has taken a bumpy turn. Ill-health has brought Michael into close touch with the NHS at Salisbury, Bristol and Yeovil hospitals, all of whom earn his praise for superb care.
Now recovering from a triple bypass, following a heart attack in August, Michael is turning his thoughts to a sequel to Dangerous Score. “I have some other books in my head at the moment, too,” he admits, “but I think the sequel must come first.”
In the meantime, Dangerous Score was formally launched at GoodisonPark, Everton Football Club’s ground at an event attended by many of soccer’s big names.
Royalties from sales of the book, through Amazon, bookshops including Waterstones and other outlets such as Tesco and Sainsbury’s, will be shared with the Hillsborough Family Support Group, a cause close to the hearts of so many, especially anyone who cares about football and human rights – two of the dominant themes of Dangerous Score.