Brought up in the East End of London, James Herbert (near right), 55, is one of Britain's most successful thriller writers, with a score of bestsellers to his name, including The Rats, The Fog, and most recently 48. He writes at his home in West Sussex, where he lives with his wife. The guitarist-composer Gordon Giltrap, 50, is one of guitar music's most durable and individual talents. Though he never joined a band, he had hits throughout the Sixties and Seventies, is responsible for several of TV's most recognisable theme tunes (including the BBC's Holiday and ITV's Wish You Were Here), and recently had a major part in Sir Cliff Richard's musical, Heathcliff. A Londoner by birth, he now lives near Solihull

JAMES HERBERT: I couldn't tell you exactly when we first met, because time's gone out the window for me, but it must have been about five years ago that I got a letter, a fan letter I suppose it was, from this person signing himself Gordon Giltrap. At first I thought it was someone having me on. I mean, Gordon Giltrap had been a hero of mine for years. He's a genius of the guitar. And for anyone who's seriously followed popular music over the last three decades, his sound is very special, unique.

Anyway, here he was writing to me about a book I'd done a few years before, called The Magic Cottage. In this book the protagonist was a session guitarist. Now I've got many friends in the music business and I play the guitar myself, so it was easy for me to write about. But Gordon had assumed from various details in the book that I was a musician as well as a writer. In fact I'm more of a semi- musician, a strummer. At art school I used to sing in a band, until another group called the Rolling Stones came along and made me look silly. But I still count it a passion of mine. I keep an acoustic instrument in my study for when I'm struggling with a chapter and get a bit tense. Just picking up the guitar and playing a couple of numbers puts me right.

But here was my guitar hero, making overtures to me. First he just said how much he liked the book. Then he said he was putting some tracks together for an album and was inviting various people to play along with him. Would I be interested in recording a number? So I wrote back and said: "I'm not that good, mate! But yeah, I'd love to do something." So he came down to my place, and we had a jam session. He was such a nice, gentle man; we got on very, very well. It didn't seem to matter that I was way below him in terms of what I could do.

We share a passion, not just for the music but for the instruments. I showed him my collection of guitars and told him about problems I'd had with them. I've got long fingers, but they're clumsy and not very strong, so doing a bar can be difficult, not as fluid as it should be. And Gordon said: "Well it's your guitars' fault, Jim, the action's all out!" And he took them all away with him there and then - my Fender Stratocaster, my acoustic guitar and a 12-string, and he gave them a makeover. I've since discovered that's typical of the man's generosity. When he brought them back they were like new instruments. Suddenly I could play 10 times better, and it completely revived my interest. I've improved no end since then.

Though the friendship gelled, we never got to do the disc. It turned out the record company wasn't interested, even after Gordon had got people like Brian May to agree to play on it. But we've jammed together informally several times now and who knows, one day we might lay a track down. In the meantime Gordon has become the sort of friend who understands instinctively where my boundaries lie. I'm a very private person, and my work is private too. I'm aware that he's interested in my books and where the ideas for them come from, but he doesn't push it, he doesn't probe. I make a rule never to talk about the book I'm currently working on. It dissipates the energy that should be going down on paper. And Gordon respects that. We just talk guitars.

I wish I could do as much for him as he's done for me. But I did redesign his letterhead. I once got a note from him with a logo printed at the top and I thought, I could improve on that. I used to do a lot of advertising artwork before I wrote books. So I sketched an outline of that trademark droopy moustache and long hair - it was only meant as a rough - and Gordon has been using it ever since.

It concerns me that someone with as much talent as Gordon has should ever have to struggle, so I was thrilled when he landed the part of the Troubadour in Heathcliff, and invited me up to see the show. I hear he's taken up classical guitar lessons in order to learn a regular technique. I can't understand why. His technique is irregular all right - he uses a weird combination of plectrum and the little finger of his right hand - but it's served him brilliantly all these years. I suppose you reach a certain age and you hanker after doing the things you haven't done. Just as I'm in awe of someone like him doing what I can't do.

GORDON GILTRAP: Jim claims to have forgotten, but I first wrote to him in the late 1970s. I'd released an album called Fear of the Dark and shortly after that he had a book published called The Dark which I read. I'd been a fan of his for years, so I sent him a copy of my album saying that if by any chance his book was ever going to be made into a film, this music would suit it perfectly. He did write back, but I don't recall now what the answer was. I made contact again in 1993, when I had this idea of doing a 25th anniversary album which was going to be called Giltrap and Friends. I'd read another book of Jim's called The Magic Cottage, a book about a musician. There were so many strong, accurate references to guitars in it that I thought: "This man has to be a musician himself." I wrote to him and said: "I'm sure you play guitar, so how about it?" This time I got a letter back within two days saying yes I like the idea, where and when? Unfortunately the album never happened - the concept changed and it ended up as Music for the Small Screen, all the stuff I'd written for TV. But from there he invited me down to his house in Sussex to have a look at his collection of guitars. They were in a bad state of repair so I said: "Let me take these guitars away and make them playable." I love doing that. I get almost as much pleasure out of fixing guitars as I do playing them. When I brought them back he was over the moon, and now he plays all the time.

We're both Londoners and from poor backgrounds, he from the East End, me from Deptford, and I think there's an empathy there. We're both self- made - only he's got wealth and fame, and I'm just a poor struggling guitarist who's got a name among the guitar fraternity. And we're both self-taught. I hadn't had a guitar lesson in my life until recently, when I hit a major birthday and decided I had to learn to read music properly and learn proper fingering. But that won't change the way I perform my own music - my totally incorrect technique is what's created my sound and style. So I suppose we both work outside the mainstream

We're both very single-minded. I've dropped in on Jim on a number of occasions when he's said: "It's great to see you, mate, but I can only give you an hour. I'm stuck into this book and I've got to keep the train of concentration going." He's very disciplined is Jim, always an eye on the deadline. You need to respect his space and his time. But he's been very supportive of me: I got him tickets for Heathcliff and he brought along two signed copies of 48 - one for me and one for Sir Cliff, who's also a big Herbert fan.

Whenever I have a new album released I make sure Jim gets one, because I know he loves what I do. Though he's also incredibly honest with me and tells me I'll never make a lot of money because I'm not overtly commercial. But I kind of knew that.

We mostly talk guitars. He's after a really nice, loud guitar, so I'll keep an eye out for him. There's such a lot of choice out there and just because the guy's got a lot of money doesn't mean he should be ripped off. There's no awkwardness on either side about his being so much richer than me. The friendship couldn't exist if there was. But what can you give to someone who's got everything? You try to pass on bits of yourself.

! Gordon Giltrap is touring his new album, 'Troubadour' (K-Tel), until 7 August.

Arts and Entertainment
Stewart Lee (Gavin Evans)


Arts and Entertainment
No half measures: ‘The Secret Life of the Pub’

Grace Dent on TV The Secret Life of the Pub is sexist, ageist and a breath of fresh air

Arts and Entertainment
Art on their sleeves: before downloads and streaming, enthusiasts used to flick through racks of albums in their local record shops
musicFor Lois Pryce, working in a record shop was a dream job - until the bean counters ruined it
Arts and Entertainment
Serial suspect: the property heir charged with first-degree murder, Robert Durst
TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Igarashi in her

Art Megumi Igarashi criticises Japan's 'backwards' attitude to women's sexual expression

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

Arts and Entertainment
It's all in the genes: John Simm working in tandem with David Threlfall in 'Code of a Killer'

TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Far Right and Proud: Reggies Yates' Extreme Russia

TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Kanye West was mobbed in Armenia after jumping into a lake

Arts and Entertainment
The show suffers from its own appeal, being so good as to create an appetite in its viewers that is difficult to sate in a ten episode series

Game of Thrones reviewFirst look at season five contains some spoilers
Arts and Entertainment
Judi Dench and Kevin Spacey on the Red Carpet for 2015's Olivier Awards

Ray Davies' Sunny Afternoon scoops the most awards

Arts and Entertainment
Proving his metal: Ross Poldark (played by Aidan Turner in the BBC series) epitomises the risk-taking spirit of 18th-century mine owners

Poldark review
Arts and Entertainment
Eddie Redmayne is reportedly favourite to play Newt Scamander in Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them

Arts and Entertainment
Tom Hardy stars in dystopian action thriller Mad Max: Fury Road

Arts and Entertainment
Josh, 22, made his first million from the game MinoMonsters

Grace Dent

Channel 4 show proves there's no app for happiness
Disgraced Top Gear presenter Jeremy Clarkson
Arts and Entertainment
Game face: Zoë Kravitz, Bruce Greenwood and Ethan Hawke in ‘Good Kill’

film review

Arts and Entertainment
Living like there’s no tomorrow: Jon Hamm as Don Draper in the final season of ‘Mad Men’

TV review

Arts and Entertainment
Yaphett Kotto with Julius W Harris and Jane Seymour in 1973 Bond movie Live and Let Die

Arts and Entertainment

Arts and Entertainment

  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    NHS struggling to monitor the safety and efficacy of its services outsourced to private providers

    Who's monitoring the outsourced NHS services?

    A report finds that private firms are not being properly assessed for their quality of care
    Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

    Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

    The Tory MP said he did not want to stand again unless his party's manifesto ruled out a third runway. But he's doing so. Watch this space
    How do Greek voters feel about Syriza's backtracking on its anti-austerity pledge?

    How do Greeks feel about Syriza?

    Five voters from different backgrounds tell us what they expect from Syriza's charismatic leader Alexis Tsipras
    From Iraq to Libya and Syria: The wars that come back to haunt us

    The wars that come back to haunt us

    David Cameron should not escape blame for his role in conflicts that are still raging, argues Patrick Cockburn
    Sam Baker and Lauren Laverne: Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

    Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

    A new website is trying to declutter the internet to help busy women. Holly Williams meets the founders
    Heston Blumenthal to cook up a spice odyssey for British astronaut manning the International Space Station

    UK's Major Tum to blast off on a spice odyssey

    Nothing but the best for British astronaut as chef Heston Blumenthal cooks up his rations
    John Harrison's 'longitude' clock sets new record - 300 years on

    ‘Longitude’ clock sets new record - 300 years on

    Greenwich horologists celebrate as it keeps to within a second of real time over a 100-day test
    Fears in the US of being outgunned in the vital propaganda wars by Russia, China - and even Isis - have prompted a rethink on overseas broadcasters

    Let the propaganda wars begin - again

    'Accurate, objective, comprehensive': that was Voice of America's creed, but now its masters want it to promote US policy, reports Rupert Cornwell
    Why Japan's incredible long-distance runners will never win the London Marathon

    Japan's incredible long-distance runners

    Every year, Japanese long-distance runners post some of the world's fastest times – yet, come next weekend, not a single elite competitor from the country will be at the London Marathon
    Why does Tom Drury remain the greatest writer you've never heard of?

    Tom Drury: The quiet American

    His debut was considered one of the finest novels of the past 50 years, and he is every bit the equal of his contemporaries, Jonathan Franzen, Dave Eggers and David Foster Wallace
    You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

    You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

    Dave Hax's domestic tips are reminiscent of George Orwell's tea routine. The world might need revolution, but we like to sweat the small stuff, says DJ Taylor
    Beige is back: The drab car colours of the 1970s are proving popular again

    Beige to the future

    Flares and flounce are back on catwalks but a revival in ’70s car paintjobs was a stack-heeled step too far – until now
    Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's dishes highlight the delicate essence of fresh cheeses

    Bill Granger cooks with fresh cheeses

    More delicate on the palate, milder, fresh cheeses can also be kinder to the waistline
    Aston Villa vs Liverpool: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful,' says veteran Shay Given

    Shay Given: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful'

    The Villa keeper has been overlooked for a long time and has unhappy memories of the national stadium – but he is savouring his chance to play at Wembley
    Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own - Michael Calvin

    Michael Calvin's Last Word

    Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own