He is the “good egg” of TV and radio. But Radio 2 presenter and Channel 5 host Jeremy Vine is branching out. The master of fact is turning his hand to fiction.
Vine’s debut novel, The Diver And The Lover is just out. And he reveals his literary baby was conceived in Glasgow’s Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum.
He based the book in part on real events surrounding one of Salvador Dali’s most famous paintings, Christ Of Saint John Of The Cross, painted in 1951. It still hangs in the Glasgow gallery, which he admits was his place of escape while filming the quiz programme Eggheads over a two-week period.
The story, set in 1951, sees sisters Ginny and Meredith travel to Spain where they discover Dali is staying nearby. Meredith, fascinated by modern art, longs to meet the surrealist.
It explores a variety of issues including mental health, a subject not unfamiliar to Vine. He admitted in his memoir of three years ago (What I Learnt, What My Listeners Say And Why We Should Take Notice), that he suffered stress-related burnout in his younger years.
But if his spotlight on mental health doesn’t make readers sit up and take notice, the novel’s steamy sex scene will. And while it’s not quite Fifty Shades Of Grey, page 209 is likely to raise eyebrows among his broadcasting peers, as well as loyal listeners and viewers.
“I’m waiting to hear back from Fiona Bruce about page 209,” the 55-year-old broadcaster says with a chuckle, referring to the scene in which the main female character seduces a waiter in his bedroom, all in earshot of a sleeping male colleague.
“Sara Cox said, ‘Ooh er!’, Yasmin Alibhai-Brown said, ‘Blimey, Jeremy. I didn’t expect that of you!’ She was actually blushing. I’m too scared to get back to Fiona Bruce. I’m just worried someone’s going to put it on the staff intranet!
“But I wanted to have one sex scene which is explosive and comes out of nowhere. I took off the belt and the braces for that one. I can’t remember if I had half a lager before, but you have to light scented candles and maybe have a dry sherry.”
Clearly, he has overcome his stress and today is in a different place. “I feel great, I love my life, I’m in great shape,” he says. “We are all just conscious that you need a cushioning, to take a bit of time for yourself and not live a five-screen lifestyle and try to pause when you are in a happy moment. Don’t be constantly thinking about something else.”
He was a reporter for years on current affairs programmes including Radio 4’s Today, going on to present Newsnight and Panorama. Taking over The Wright Stuff on Channel 5, now just called Jeremy Vine, sees him adapt to a more of a tabloid format.
He says: “The whole thing is so exciting – to be a serious journalist but also to be engaging the audience, entertaining them.”
He tries to balance his huge work schedule with family life; his wife, journalist Rachel Schofield and daughters, Martha, 16, and Anna, 13.
“One of the small things about Covid is that I’ve seen a bit more of my daughters than I would have done if we weren’t locked down,” says Vine.
“I love to spend time with them. They have such a wicked sense of humour and I am the butt of every joke. It doesn’t matter how famous you think you are, when you walk through your front door, you’re just an idiot.”
Jeremy Vine The Diver And The Lover, Coronet, £20
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