Heaven and Hell: Neil Sands

Author Neil Sands

Neil Sands with the two novels he has written during lockdown - Credit: Andy Abbott

What do you do if you are a theatrical show producer, less than a week away from the start of a 40 date tour, when lockdown closes all the theatres and eventually the tour is cancelled? Well in the case of Neil Sands, former heavyweight professional wrestling champion, (who fought the giant American The Mighty Quinn for the world heavyweight championship, in Ipswich back in 1981), stand-up comedian, and publican, you write not just your first novel, but your first two. Time For Justice and Pursuit Of Justice are both crime adventure thrillers and part of the Hooper/Windsor Thriller series, with the third due out in the spring. He shares his East Anglian Heaven and Hell.

What’s been the impact of Covid-19 and how are you adapting?
The lockdown happened a week before the start of a 40-date tour of my Land Of Hope and Glory matinee nostalgia show. Theatres closed, dates were rescheduled and then rescheduled again, before being cancelled.
But for all the worry and stress, it has also been a blessing for me, because it gave me a chance to finish writing my first book Time For Justice, that I had started back in 2012 but had to put on the back burner because of pressure of work, and then when my Christmas Memories tour was also cancelled, I was able move onto writing my second book in the series, Pursuit Of Justice. While I really miss being on stage and performing, writing has kept me occupied, in fact my wife thinks it’s kept me sane in lockdown.

What advice can you give to our readers?
The various lockdowns haven’t been easy for anyone, I am sure that we all have down days, so if you are having one try to remember it isn’t just you, we all get like it. I think it’s very important to keep busy if you can, perhaps try to find a new hobby, research your family tree, even read a book or two – I can recommend a couple! – and don’t try to look too far ahead, think a day at a time, because no matter how long it takes, every day is a day closer to finally getting back to normal.

What is your connection to East Anglia?
I was born in Ilford, Essex. Jill and I were married in 1970 and moved to Sible Hedingham, then in 1979 we moved to Wetherden in Suffolk as landlords of The Maypole pub, and we’ve lived in Suffolk ever since.

What is your East Anglian Heaven?
I would say my happy place would be sat in the sunshine with my grandchildren catching crabs at Walberswick. It’s something we did with our children, have done with my daughter’s children and look forward to doing with my son’s children.

What is your East Anglian Hell?
That’s a very difficult one, but if pushed the A140. It should have been dualled years ago.

What’s your favourite East Anglian landmark?
I travel a lot with my shows, so the Copdock roundabout on the A12/A14. When I see that I know I am just about home.

What’s the best thing that happens in East Anglia every year?
Sadly with the travelling I don’t get as much time as I would like, to attend events, but I do like Ipswich Music Day when I get a chance to get to it.

What’s your specialist Mastermind subject?
British professional wrestling 1965-1980.

Neil Sands standing in front of a poster advertising his wrestling match against the Mighty Quinn in Ipswich in 1981

Neil Sands preparing to take on the Mighty Quinn for the World Heavyweight Wrestling title in 1981 - Credit: Andy Abbott

What is always in your fridge?
A cold beer and some home cooked ham.

What’s your simple philosophy of life?
Work hard, follow your dreams, count your blessings.

What’s your favourite film?
Back To The Future, I’ve seen it so many times, even at The Royal Albert Hall with a 100 piece orchestra, and when Secret Cinema did it at the Olympic Park in London and they basically rebuilt all of Hill Valley, it was brilliant.

What was your first job?
A £5 a week messenger boy on the London Stock Exchange.

What is your most treasured possession?
That’s a real hard one, I don’t have an actual treasured possession, but what means the most to me are my four grandchildren Myla, Riley, Autumn and Rex. I think grandchildren are God’s greatest gift.

Who do you admire most?
My wife of 50 years Jill, a brilliant mum, amazing grandmother, and having put up with me for so long, the patience of a saint.

What is your biggest indulgence?
Holidays and travel.

What do you like about yourself most?
Sense of humour.

What’s your worst character trait?
I like to be in control of things, so I guess that makes me a bit of a control freak.

Where is your favourite holiday destination?
Auckland, New Zealand, visiting my daughter Jemma, and my gorgeous granddaughters Myla and Riley. We were there in January 2020 just as Covid-19 
first hit. We did get a chance to spend five days touring the 
South Island, which was breathtaking.

Best day of your life?
There are so many, but top of the list is the birth of my two children Jemma and Jamie. But I have had so many wonderful memories. Meeting David Bowie and Stevie Wonder on the same day backstage at the Marquee club in the 60’s. Wrestling the giant American The Mighty John Quinn for the Heavyweight Championship of the World at Ipswich Corn Exchange in 1981. Teaching Prince Edward the Earl of Wessex to wrestle and giving him the stage name The Sandringham Slammer, for the play Trafford Tanzi, in Cambridge.

What’s your favourite breakfast?
A Full English, at Hall Farm, Dedham. 

What’s your favourite tipple?
A glass of a nice Merlot, or a large brandy.

What’s your hidden talent?
Nothing’s hidden. Trust me, as soon as I find another talent I like to get it out there.

What’s your earliest memory?
At about three years old knocking on next door neighbours’ doors and saying, “I’ve come to keep you compally”. I don’t think I could say company. 

Tell us something people don’t know about you?
I once worked for the Sheriff of London.

What’s the worst thing anyone has ever said to you?
Nothing springs to mind, when I was doing stand-up comedy you could get some nasty heckles at times, but nothing that really bothered me.

Tell us why you live here and nowhere else?
Having lived in Suffolk for over 40 years, we have so many friends here. It’s a lovely county with the best of coast and country, with great pubs, restaurants, and local shops.

What do you want to tell our readers about most?
I’d like to introduce your readers to my books. Time For Justice and Pursuit of Justice are the first two in The Hooper/Windsor Thrillers series, book three will be out in the spring. In book one a former SAS trooper sets out on a gruesome and terrifying murder spree, leaving behind a hideous signature, on every victim. Out to stop him is DCI Dan Hooper, an ex-paratrooper captain, and this is his biggest ever case. Is he capable of stopping a would be serial killer or will the death toll continue to rise?
This all-action thriller will take you on a plot-twisting journey from Great Britain to Baghdad, Switzerland, Turkey, and back again. In a non-stop race, of one man’s battle with his conscience and tragic past and the other his unflinching quest for justice. It has been getting lots of five-star reviews, with many saying they couldn’t put it down and can’t wait to read the next one. It would make a perfect lockdown read for fans of action adventure and crime fiction. It’s available in paperback and Kindle from Amazon or you can get signed copies from www.neilsandsbooks.com.

If you have an interesting story, email gina@hallfarmfornham.com or follow Twitter: @geewizzgee1 Instagram: @ginageelong

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