Mayo discovered fame because the Radio 1 breakfast present host within the 1980s
After being pressured out of his Drivetime present regardless of 37 years with the BBC, I ponder whether Mayo had been tempted to “do a Lee Child” in his personal debut thriller and stick it to the Radio 2 controllers who handled him so shabbily. He chuckles knowingly, pauses after which says: “You know when you write an article and hand it in and someone says, ‘I’m not sure that’s wise’? Well, that’s pretty much what happened with this. I’m well aware of what Lee did – and it was a very neat idea.”
And if he had adopted swimsuit, nobody would blame him. Mayo discovered fame because the Radio 1 breakfast present host within the 1980s earlier than transferring to five Live after which Radio 2 in 2010, the place he quickly established himself because the voice of Drivetime, successful six million listeners and a number of awards.
So it got here as a shock, not least of all to the genial broadcaster, who discovered by way of his agent, when bosses rejigged his present by introducing feminine co-host Jo Whiley in an try to redress a perceived gender imbalance at Radio 2.
Despite their long-standing friendship, and far to the displeasure of loyal listeners, the present’s delicate steadiness was upset and, after struggling gamely on for 5 months, Mayo stop the station in December 2018.
While he has remained diplomatic about his former bosses, and is having fun with constructing a brand new morning viewers on classical music station Scala since its launch in March, in addition to persevering with his highly-successful Radio 5 Live movie present with Mark Kermode, the character of his departure clearly rankles.
“Trust me, I was cross. I just came to the conclusion that I needed to leave to get my life back,” he says. “I nonetheless work for the BBC with the movie present however the controller had made issues fairly insufferable for me so it was simpler to start out once more.
Despite being buddies, it didn’t work out for Simon and Jo on Drivetime
“My intention was to remain there for ever, but it surely didn’t work out and I made a decision to go away when Scala approached me with a model new undertaking. It’s fallen relatively properly however I are likely to discuss with all the pieces that went on with the catchall phrase, ‘2018’. It’s definitely true it was my least favorite yr however we transfer on and issues usually have fallen very properly for me so I’ve no complaints.
“I’m doing extra radio reveals than I’ve ever completed, Scala’s carried out very properly within the lockdown and the movie present’s nonetheless very constructive.”
He pauses, sighs, and continues: “It was tough but I’ve moved on.” As one of many Corporation’s former excessive earners, Mayo, 61, doesn’t miss having his wage picked over yearly by the BBC’s critics.
“It was a turkey shoot every year. In fact, it [his departure] probably all started from the fact that they started to print the salaries, so I’m very happy I’m not part of that any more,” he admits.
“There were injustices that needed to be addressed, there are in all walks of life, but I am nothing but grateful for the way things have turned out. I always had great bosses and then there was one time it didn’t work out.”
Fortunately Mayo’s new boss at Bauer Media’s digital station Scala is one among his outdated Radio 1 breakfast present producers.
Simon Mayo within the early 1990s
And since lockdown, he has been fortunately broadcasting from his spare bed room – dubbed Egton Five after an outdated Radio 1 studio signal he helped himself to when the station’s former Egton House HQ was demolished – on the north London dwelling he shares with spouse Hilary, their three grown-up kids and pet canine.
“I walk across the landing and go into my spare bedroom. I haven’t left my house for a week, literally,” he laughs. “A few instances there’s been engineering points. My broadband disappeared which takes me off the air. But, usually, radio’s very nimble and the know-how’s labored in our favour.
“With a small mixer, a laptop computer, headphones and a mike, I can do my complete present. The movie present’s barely extra problematic – an all-speech present is tougher – however the Scala present is okay coming from my bed room. There gained’t be any official Rajar [Radio Joint Audience Research] figures for some time as a result of nobody’s going round asking who’s listening to what however with streaming you instantly understand how many individuals are listening on their computer systems. And that was up by 30 p.c within the first week in lockdown.”
With his broadcasting, writing and movie present, Mayo has a lot to maintain him entering into what should be one of many nation’s finest jobs in tradition and the humanities.
“Now you put it like that, it sounds pretty good,” he smiles. “Maybe I should be more grateful. When you’re going from show to show and deadline to deadline it doesn’t always feel like that. But I absolutely have no complaints. The only thing I’d like to do is find more time to write.”
While he jokes that he has “imposter syndrome”, his writing – a kids’s sequence, Itch, quickly to reach on British TV, and Mad Blood Stirring, his 2018 epic historic novel which is heading for a big-screen adaptation – has more and more gained plaudits.
Simon’s lockdown studio
He is speaking as we speak about Knife Edge, a gripping – and decidedly darkish – debut thriller that includes world-weary investigative journalist Famie Madden that’s printed as we speak.
Having drawn on newsroom expertise from his time at 5 Live, Simon begins with the brutal murders, in a terror assault, of seven members of the investigations staff at Famie’s information company, and concludes with an equally nerve-wracking set piece at Coventry Cathedral, close to Warwick University the place Mayo studied historical past and politics within the late 1970s.
In between, the tempo hardly ever falters because the physique rely escalates. He explains: “A variety of it shocked me once I was writing it. I don’t all the time know the place it got here from.
“I wished it to be plausible, credible, I wished to have a journalist on the coronary heart of it: hard-working, dedicated, passionate and indignant.
“Hopefully it’s scary and hopefully readers will heat to Famie. She’s superb at what she does however there’s a certain quantity of administration adjustments.
“She’s hanging on and he or she nonetheless enjoys what she is doing. It’s clear when she walks into the newsroom, she thinks, ‘I might not have been a good wife, I might not be a good mother, but I can do this. This is what I do’.”
I’m wondering aloud whether or not Mayo’s personal upsets on the BBC, the frequent administration adjustments and ill-advised reorganisations which were a function of Auntie lately, might need subconsciously been mirrored in his writing?
“There is a German word, ‘Verschlimmbesserung’, which means an improvement that makes things worse,” he explains wryly.
“If you’re employed for an enormous firm, the NHS, a broadcaster, a newspaper, you get that: ‘That last big change, that management idea, it sucked and it’s made all the pieces worse.’
“But regardless of all the pieces else, Famie feels at dwelling when she sits in entrance of her laptop. Then she has to report on the deaths of seven of her colleagues and he or she simply thinks, ‘OK, that’s it’.” A key theme of the ebook, much more apposite now after the fallout from the Covid-19 pandemic than when Mayo turned in his manuscript earlier this yr, is that civilisation as we all know it’s by no means removed from collapse.
“A lot of people do think we might have an unstable autumn which would be understandable with the depression that’s coming down the tracks and the number of people who will lose their jobs but I wasn’t imagining anything like this,” he says.
“It was really just the general drift of politics over the past few years and sometimes things feel very thin. It feels as though our institutions, our politicians, and the things we always thought were very permanent all feel very fragile.”
It’s barely disconcerting to listen to the broadcaster, whose status partially rests on the everlasting optimism of these acquainted tones, sounding so downbeat. He is, he admits, typically cautious to keep away from any controversy, particularly on social media, concentrating as an alternative on his radio reveals and writing.
“As soon as you venture out of those spheres it’s a pretty unpleasant place,” he provides.
Knife Edge by Simon May is out as we speak
Mayo is at present writing a second thriller, albeit with a wholly totally different solid of characters, and wrestling with the problem of depicting crowd scenes, prepare stations, soccer matches and bars when it comes out in 2022.
“What will life look like then? We just don’t know,” he says. “This story hasn’t run its course yet. A lot of people seem to be behaving as if it’s all over but I don’t think it is.”
As far as cinema goes, he fears independents will wrestle badly and that some could not reopen, however that main multiplexes will stay for large blockbuster movies.
“It will be interesting to see how much of the streaming habit people have picked up. For something like Mulan or the new Bond film, I don’t want to see them for the first time on my laptop. That’s a terrible idea. But at the moment, who wants to be sitting next to a stranger for three hours – I don’t.”
Talking from his writing cabin at dwelling, he displays: “I feel safe in here. Everywhere else is slightly more dangerous.”
Knife Edge by Simon Mayo (Doubleday, £12.99) is out as we speak. For your copy with free UK supply, name Express Bookshop on 01872 562310 or order by way of www.expressbookshop.co.uk