Diary: A real affair leads to a real fair book

Ken Reah is married to crime author Danuta Reah and has just released his first book Edge of Arcadia.
Ken Reah is married to crime author Danuta Reah and has just released his first book Edge of Arcadia.
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When The Diary tells Ken Reah his debut novel - about a university tutor having a steamy affair with a student - comes on a bit saucy there’s suddenly an awkward pause.

It turns out it’s semi-autobiographical: Ken actually met wife Danuta when she was in his Sheffield University linguistics class.

“The situation’s similar,” he notes. “But it’s not about us.”

We move on without asking how realistic the bit with the desk is. Ahem.

At the grand age of 84-years-old, Ken has just become Sheffield’s newest - and almost certainly oldest - professionally published author. His novel, called Edge Of Arcadia and released this week by East Yorkshire house Fantastic Books, is wise, witty and, yes, a little wink wink.

And Danuta, 64, helped inspire it in more ways than one. She, readers may be aware, is an internationally-acclaimed author of seven crime thrillers. Her books have been published across Europe and the US. Her latest novel - The Last Room - will be released in June.

It seems having one best-selling author in the family wasn’t enough for Ken. So the retired artist and tutor knocked out his own work.

“I offered it to Danuta as an idea several years ago,” he says today at the couple’s home in Endcliffe Vale Road, Ranmoor. “But she didn’t want it. It doesn’t really fit with her crime genre. So I thought I’d have a go at it myself.

“She didn’t help really. Maybe looked over the odd draft. It’s been seven years since I started it so I’m interested to see how it does. What I do know is that it’s a good book. You don’t get to my age without learning a thing or two, and that’s useful when writing a novel.”

Within its pages are subjects as diverse as Chines ceramics, 17th century paintings and death, along with more than the odd mention of “exquisitely rounded breasts”. Our troubled hero employs that most brilliant of romantic tools: the half pound box of Milk Tray.

“I like books where you learn while you read,” says father-of-two Ken, who married Danuta in 1984 after they met in 1980. “Not stuffy academic books but good reads that also teach you something about life.”

And Danuta assures us she is fully behind him. Who’s the best writer, we wonder?

“Now, that’s a leading question,” she says. “Ken is very good. It’s a great read.”

* Available in shops now.