Passed/Failed: An education in the life of Eddy Shah, novelist and founder of 'Today' newspaper

'I was suspended for bad behaviour'


Eddy Shah, 64, revolutionised newspaper production in the UK when he launched the now defunct daily 'Today'. He also owned 60 local newspapers. Shah recently started up the eco-house business Green Ladder Homes. His fifth novel, 'Second World', is out this month.

As a child, I always wanted to write. My father was Cambridge-educated – unlike his son – and a barrister with the UN. From when I was 12, my father would make me read a book a fortnight and ask me what I thought about it: The Alexandria Quartet by Lawrence Durrell; Thomas Wolfe, Allen Ginsberg, Shakespeare, Jack Kerouac. These books gave me a great feeling for how words looked on paper. At 16, I wrote a novel called Cornice; I had a lot of rejection slips (I'm not surprised).

I was a lousy pupil. I had a broken schooling but I think it was perfect for me: it gave a maverick feel to my life. The first school I went to was in Cambridge, where I would be dropped off at a stop near the station and collected by my grandparents. I remember once running out from behind a bus and a car just missing me. Years later, I saw a painting of a boy running out from behind a red bus, a car, his parents and a station in the background: it was just that scene.

As my parents were always moving, I went to Pakistan to be with my grandparents who were living there. I attended Karachi Grammar School. We came back here, and I ended up at Hillside prep in Reigate. I got caned for fighting a bully called Ashley; I banged his head against the wall and he never bullied me again.

Gordonstoun, the Scottish public school, didn't have the normal Common Entrance but had manual dexterity and aptitude tests; you had to put square pegs in round holes. Or something. Did I enjoy Gordonstoun? Not really. With a nomadic background, I had no roots or childhood friends. My saving grace was that I was great at sport and broke some school records. I was suspended twice for bad behaviour. Years later, the headmaster said he would like me to talk to the sixth form. I said: "No – I was a failure at school!" But he wanted me to speak about the fact that there is life after school.

At 16, I went to Reigate Grammar – but for only two terms, as I didn't go in much – and then to secondary modern in Haywards Heath (now Oathall Community College). I liked it there; I was starting to get comfortable with myself and had my first girlfriend. Then I was sent to Davies's Tutorial College, a crammer in Hove. Having already got English language and English literature O-levels, I passed geography and physics and some other O-levels, which added up to eight or nine. I then went to a technical college in Barnet; I only lasted a term there. The idea of the Army was mooted by my father but I said I wanted to work in the theatre. For my first show, I was a dresser for Arnold Wesker's Chips with Everything at the Golders Green Hippodrome; the guy I dressed was John Noakes, who later went off to Blue Peter.

I didn't even start any A-level courses, but I became an A-level subject in media studies and they ask questions about me on The Weakest Link. When my son was at the London College of Printing, he got into a yelling match with one of his tutors. She was sounding off about how bad I was with the unions but, in fact, I had given power to the journalists instead of the printers.

Thanks to my schooling, I have been able to think outside the area in which other people think. Second World, my fifth book, is a novel that takes a look at the future, but my publishers said they wanted a political thriller like the previous four, so I put it away for 12 years. It is now a "Read of the Week" at WH Smith.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs People

Recruitment Genius: HR Manager

£25000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They are in need of a HR Manage...

h2 Recruit Ltd: Business Development Manager - HR Consultancy - £65,000 OTE

£35000 - £40000 per annum + £65,000 OTE: h2 Recruit Ltd: London, Birmingham, M...

Day In a Page

War with Isis: The West needs more than a White Knight

The West needs more than a White Knight

Despite billions spent on weapons, the US has not been able to counter Isis's gruesome tactics, says Patrick Cockburn
Return to Helmand: Private Davey Graham recalls the day he was shot by the Taliban

'The day I was shot by the Taliban'

Private Davey Graham was shot five times during an ambush in 2007 - it was the first, controversial photograph to show the dangers our soldiers faced in Helmand province
Revealed: the best and worst airlines for delays

Revealed: the best and worst airlines for delays

Many flyers are failing to claim compensation to which they are entitled, a new survey has found
The stories that defined 2014: From the Scottish independence referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions

The stories that defined 2014

From the Scottish independence referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions
Stoke-on-Trent becomes first British city to be classified as 'disaster resilient' by the United Nations

Disaster looming? Now you know where to head...

Which British city has become the first to be awarded special 'resilience' status by the UN?
Finally, a diet that works: Californian pastor's wildly popular Daniel Plan has seen his congregation greatly reduced

Finally, a diet that works

Californian pastor's wildly popular Daniel Plan has seen his congregation greatly reduced
Say it with... lyrics: The power of song was never greater, according to our internet searches

Say it with... lyrics

The power of song was never greater, according to our internet searches
Professor Danielle George: On a mission to bring back the art of 'thinkering'

The joys of 'thinkering'

Professor Danielle George on why we have to nurture tomorrow's scientists today
Monique Roffey: The author on father figures, the nation's narcissism and New Year reflections

Monique Roffey interview

The author on father figures, the nation's narcissism and New Year reflections
Introducing my anti-heroes of 2014

Introducing my anti-heroes of 2014

Their outrageousness and originality makes the world a bit more interesting, says Ellen E Jones
DJ Taylor: Good taste? It's all a matter of timing...

Good taste? It's all a matter of timing...

It has been hard to form generally accepted cultural standards since the middle of the 19th century – and the disintegration is only going to accelerate, says DJ Taylor
Olivia Jacobs & Ben Caplan: 'Ben thought the play was called 'Christian Love'. It was 'Christie in Love' - about a necrophiliac serial killer'

How we met

Olivia Jacobs and Ben Caplan
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's breakfasts will revitalise you in time for the New Year

Bill Granger's healthy breakfasts

Our chef's healthy recipes are perfect if you've overindulged during the festive season
Transfer guide: From Arsenal to West Ham - what does your club need in the January transfer window?

Who does your club need in the transfer window?

Most Premier League sides are after a striker, but here's a full run down of the ins and outs that could happen over the next month
The Last Word: From aliens at FA to yak’s milk in the Tour, here’s to 2015

Michael Calvin's Last Word

From aliens at FA to yak’s milk in the Tour, here’s to 2015