Sometimes we meet people fleetingly,who turn out to have a disproportionately significant influence on our lives. Hugh C. Rae, whom I first met more than 25 years ago, was someone in that category as far as I'm concerned, and I was sorry to read of his recent death at the age of 78.
My first encounter with Hugh came in the context of a writers' competition. There is a very good writers group in Southport, and I attended a number of their annual get-togethers in a seafront hotel in that pleasant resort. Each year, there was a competition that anyone could enter. When I heard that the competition involved writing the first chapter of a novel, I decided to submit the first chapter of the Liverpool-based detective story that I was writing at the time. In fact, I hadn't got much further than the first chapter at that stage.
My entry didn't win the prize, but Hugh made some helpful comments. He'd written thrillers himself, and said that he liked my writing. I found this very encouraging, and carried on with the book. That first chapter - much re-written, I have to say, since I took on board his advice - became the first chapter of All the Lonely People. In one of the essays that appear in the ebook version, I mention Hugh's influence on the story, and also the fact that, years later, it was a real pleasure to meet him again at a couple of CWA conferences in Scotland. He was a convivial chap, who cared passionately about writing.
He wrote under his own name and under various pseudonyms, but ironically he achieved his greatest commercial success with historical romances written as by Jessica Stirling. On meeting Hugh, a craggy Glaswegian, you would not imagine him as a writer of light popular romance, but the point was that he was a real professional, someone who could write in a range of different styles, and treat each genre he tackled on its merits. I shall continue to have fond memories of him, and the example he set, of treating a young and enthusiastic but rather unsophisticated writer with kindness and respect..