Simon Mayo presents his Devon tale in Sidmouth

Mad Blood Stirring - set in Devon

Mad Blood Stirring - set in Devon - Credit: Archant

Sidmouth is the last stop on a nationwide tour for radio presenter Simon Mayo as he promotes his latest novel – based on a neglected chapter of Devon history.

BBC Radio 2 presenter Simon Mayo

BBC Radio 2 presenter Simon Mayo - Credit: Archant

“I’m looking forward to meeting readers. It’s always very encouraging to meet as many as possible,” he told The Herald. He was a frequent visitor to the region back in his Radio One days with the famous Roadshows.

The BBC Radio 2 Drivetime presenter and former Radio 1 Breakfast presenter has previously written for children. His new book Mad Blood Stirring, a quote from Romeo and Juliet, is his first adult novel.

It’s based on a true story that takes place after the declaration of peace following the little-known Second American War of Independence. Seven thousand American sailors, prisoners of war, are being held at Dartmoor prison. It’s a powder keg waiting to go off.

“Dartmoor prison is still terrifying. It still looks like a godforsaken place to me and in 1815 it would have been truly terrifying,” he said.

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The prisoners are in seven blocks. Six are for whites and one for blacks. The action focuses on this segregated black block which boasts the first Gospel choir in England and a theatre company who stage Romeo and Juliet.

“I came across the story when I was researching Blame my last book. It was a light bulb moment really. I thought someone else must have written this story before,” he said.

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And he admits that ‘writing paranoia’ drove him to get the story down before anyone else got to it, so convinced was he of its potential. Indeed, with the film rights snapped up on the basis of a four page synopsis by Slumdog Millionaire producer Tessa Ross big screen success beckons.

“It would be absolutely amazing and something out of your wildest dreams,” he said.

Simon Mayo will be at the Music Room at the Sidholme Hotel next Thursday April 26 at 7pm. Tickets are £10 and available from Winstone’s or online at It will also be possible to buy them at the door.

The event is a curtain-raiser for this year’s Sidmouth literary festival which runs from June 15-17.

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