The story of a painter and decorator in south east London in the seventies. He loves Charlton Athletic, old war films and listening to Radio Caroline. By pure chance, he gets a job decorating the flat of the station’s manager, the beautiful Olga. In the right bed at the right time, he is given the chance to leave the paint roller behind and pick up the headphones on the pirate radio ship, anchored twenty miles out in the North Sea. Avoiding arrest is just the beginning. Avoiding death is somewhere in the middle. At the end, he faces the ultimate price. Love, hate, fear, joy, betrayal, guns, sex, drugs, rock n roll …. all play a part in The Last Great Adventure for Boys.

Bob Lawrence has spent all his adult working life in, and around, broadcasting. As an 18 year old he presented programmes on Radio Caroline using the pseudonym Richard Thompson. During a career spanning five decades, he has presented on stations including BRMB, Beacon, Signal and KMfm. His voice over his credits include Ant & Dec, Keith Lemon, Des O’Connor and two series of Dancing On Ice. This is his first book, a fictional story inspired by his real life experiences working on Radio Caroline in the late 70s. He returned to the station in the late 90s and is proud to have broadcast on the station over five consecutive decades.

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An Extract From Chapter Three

As the opening strains of Wish You Were Here filled the studio, he went next door to get Simon & Garfunkel’s Bridge over Troubled Water L.P. His mind quickly jumped from images of Jane to thoughts of bombs and pitched battles on the deck of the radio ship, the home of Loving Awareness. The irony hadn’t escaped him.

Here in the studio with the door closed, he felt safe. Safe from the fear, yeah, that was it, fear. Who was it who said that thing about nothing to fear but fear itself? He was probably right, nothing to fear but fear itself. And petrol bombs. What if they brought guns out too, fuck, he hadn’t thought of that. Once again he leapt out of the chair and ran down the corridor, up the stairs and stopped at the huge fridge just outside the galley. He helped himself to a bottle of Heineken, stopping off on the deck before heading back to the studio. He was somewhat taken aback to see Russ and Dave on deck in the freezing cold.

‘What’s happening, Russ?’

‘No idea, looks like the Belgian’s are back.’

‘Again? They were only here last night.’

‘Yeah, we reckon that they’ve been fishing in the area and maybe just popped back to say hello.’

‘Dave, Matt’s brought me up to speed. I know what’s going on.’

Both men looked at Bob and smiled. It was Russ who said, ‘Oh thank heavens for that, I hated not telling you. They’ve circled us twice, never come closer than a mile or so, looks like they’re heading off again now though. That’s them over there.’

An Extract From Chapter Six

The scene in front of him, once again, put him into a scene from any one of his favourite films. Turning to an imaginary crewman next to him, he suddenly announced in a very clipped, upper class accent, ‘Right-o, number two. I’m going to make my way back …. Cover me!’

He opened the door a fraction, quickly threw out the contents of his footwear and slammed it closed before putting the cold, wet boots back onto his cold, wet feet. Now he had to go and do what he had done a few minutes earlier, but in reverse. It filled him with dread, and he wished that he had remembered Dave’s instruction to make sure somebody else was awake before he ventured out. His mind flashed in quick succession between Jane, the unknown ship waiting for a lifeboat, and the chances of him making it back to the safety of the ship’s main housing without getting severely injured, or worse. Taking a deep breath, he turned the brass handle on the door and braced himself for the full force of the wind about to hit him hard, full in the face. He was right. The spray from the sea was spiteful and bit into him like a thousand ice-cold needles. It stung, it burned, it was agony. The noise from the wind was deafening; the high frequency loud “wheesh” as it whistled through the trellis mast at sixty miles per hour, battled against the low frequency thud as it smashed into any one of the steel walls on the ship. He positioned himself on the top step, with his back to the stern of the ship, ready to descend as you would on a ladder, but first he had to choose the right moment to take his first step. The ship was still twisting and turning like a bugger, this was a nautical term he had learned many months before. Timing was vital, but ultimately, he’d have to guess when it would be safe to get down the stairs. Get it wrong, and he’d be thrown off and overboard into the irate, lethal blackness which would take his life in a matter of minutes. There was no science to it, experience counted for a lot, but it was all guesswork. Unlike the rolling waves at the seaside, a North Sea Force eight or nine didn’t conform to any discernible rhythm. It was like a free-form jazz jam being played back at varying speed with an unrelated orchestral piece playing alongside it.

An Extract From Chapter Seven

‘Right, up the back or down below, which do you prefer, Brenda?’

It was clear that Brendan had no idea how to react to that question, and Bob leapt to his aid.

‘Leave him alone, Russ, bless him. He means do you want to sleep at the back of the ship or downstairs, underneath here?’

‘Don’t care, I’ll go up the back.’

‘You’ll fit in well on this ship then, Brenda,’ said Jan with a twinkle in his eye. Everybody laughed, and Brendan blushed as he replied, ‘It’s Brendan, wiv an “n” on the end, Jan. Brenda is a ladies name.’

‘Yeah well, what’s in a name? What’s important is the man that is inside you.’

More laughter erupted, and Brendan blushed again as he followed Russ back out onto the deck. Turning to Jan, and in impeccable English, Bum Fluff said, ‘You know, Jan, sometimes you can put people off by being too obvious.’

Without missing a beat Jan replied, ‘Yes I can, and sometimes you can put people off by being an uptight, bitter old Queen!’

Bum Fluff was the first to laugh at Jan’s acerbic, quick-witted put-down, but he was quickly joined by everyone else. The mess room was full of laughter which only abated when Matt, Dave and Olga walked in. Bob immediately looked at Matt who screwed up his face in a way that suggested he hadn’t had the chance to speak to Olga on her own.

‘Right, we should head back now,’ said Olga as she looked at Bob.

He had to act fast, and while he still had her gaze he blurted out, ‘Before you go, can I just have a quick word, Olga?’

Almost in harmony, the crew immediately gave a mass, ‘Ahhhhhhhh.’

‘How sweet,’ added Jan.

‘Bollocks,’ replied Bob as he stood up and walked towards the door. Olga followed.

‘Make it quick, Bob, like you do with me, eh?’

‘Jan, piss off,’ laughed Olga.

As Bob closed his cabin door behind her, he looked Olga straight in the eyes but said nothing. She was first to speak.

...a real adventure story that's probably closer to the truth than most fictional stories you're ever likely to read.

The fun, the passion, the camaraderie, the risk and the unexpected, together with the rough seas, make it just like the real thing - it really was the last great adventure for boys... and some girls!

Ray Clark, BBC Essex

 

I enjoyed the plot and all the bits in the book about the day to day life on the Mi Amigo (and) the camaraderie amongst the DJs which, presumably, were drawn from real life.

Many of the experiences, trials and tribulations of a young man in the late 1970s rang true with me too.

Bob Ayton, Nazeing, Essex.

 

There are good books... great books... and books you just can't put down. This is all three... and more. It works brilliantly as a story and as a (partly!) fictional history of a unique era. This is not just another 'memories of life at sea with broken generators and dodgy valve-holders' (enjoyable though they are), this is a real novel.

Everything you would expect in an offshore radio book is there but it's all woven into a genuine yarn of thrilling adventure, not only on board ship but on land as well. The characterisations are truly inspired; I felt I knew the protagonists. I could visualise them as if they were standing in front of me. So strongly was the narrative delivered that I felt real anger at the behaviour of some.

The atmosphere on the ship hits the reader between the eyes, as does the description of land-based activities.

This is a book that will appeal to lovers of a 'ripping yarn' not just to so-called anoraks. I was lost in it from the first page. Truly a brilliant read from a natural writer.

Now, after that ending, when's the sequel due?

Allan King, formerly L.B.C Radio & Sky News.

Although this book will appeal to fans of Offshore radio, the narrative moves along at such a pace that even the more casual reader will, like me, find it difficult to put down. Those with a knowledge of the era will have fun speculating as to which events might be based on reality.

Derek Scott, Meridian Radio (London)

 

It describes perfectly (the) piece of art a DJ makes (and) how important some letters from listeners were to us.

The story of the marmalade jar .... hilarious!

And the way we lived through storms all came back to me …. Besides that, I just downloaded the songs mentioned in the story, to get the complete feel.

It is well written. Gives a perfect insight of life on board the Old Lady.

Marc Jacobs, Holland.