OBITUARIES : Tristan Hawkins
Thursday 06 February 1997
By day, as creative director of Rapport Learning, the specialist promotion and publishing company of which he was a founder, he was a constant source of ideas for educationally led projects, from initial presentations through to the final product's vast volumes of copy. By night, he wrote novels. His first, Pepper, was published by HarperCollins as a Flamingo Original paperback, in November 1993. Hawkins was then 30.
It attracted many favourable reviews. The story of a hard- living, hard-drinking advertising executive who spends a great deal of time around favourite Soho haunts, it had woven into it deft street knowledge with an incisive and compassionate understanding of contemporary relationships. It also announced Hawkins, in the words of an Independent on Sunday reviewer, as "a young writer with talent to burn".
After leaving Newcastle University with a degree in Philosophy, Hawkins had joined the circulation department of Centaur Publishing in a temporary capacity. One day he plucked up the courage to criticise his publisher's copy for a new subscription letter. Given half an hour to produce something better, he did. As his obvious talent for copywriting became recognised, he moved into full-time marketing, establishing himself in a variety of key roles across a wide range of published titles.
His experience within the publishing field was to inform much of his second novel, The Anarchist, which was published as a Flamingo hardback last August (the paperback version is due out later this year). The story concerns a senior, middle-aged publishing executive who tires of the pretensions and rituals of suburbia and seeks solace from New Age travellers, only to find that they are just as contrived and that the middle classes do indeed experience a full range of emotions, including grief - just that they do it with a tie on.
Writing novels was Hawkins's first love. To achieve their publication, he used his marketing skills. Rather than sending the script of Pepper out to dozens of publishers only to be rejected, or trying to find an agent to sell his work for him, he wrote a direct mail-shot. He sent it to just four major publishers. HarperCollins responded and, subsequently, nurtured his writing talent.
A driven, committed and compulsive man, Hawkins was as fascinated with the style of the Sun as with, say, Kant's Critique. He had, the week before he died, completed the draft of the script of the third novel he was working on. His death at the age of 33, of an acute asthma attack, was totally unexpected.
He wrote: "People say that as someone dies their life flashes before them. Of course they cannot know this. Perhaps what they are trying to say is that when someone dies, one particular angle of their life flashes before each of those who are left."
Tristan Harry Hawkins, copywriter and novelist: born Bromley, Kent 1 May 1963; died London 13 January 1997.
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