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Is David Seabrook Dead?

By Stewart Home.

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Is David Seabrook dead? What started as a trickle of email and phone call rumour yesterday, had by today turned into a flood of conversation. The first message was from true crime author Neil Milkins: “Are you able to tell me if David Seabrook has died. I have had an email saying he died January 2009.” When Cathi Unsworth contacted me about Seabrook today, I was able to trace the rumour mill carrying this story back through a network of my friends via novelist David Peace to film director Paul Tickell. So I called Paul to get the story.

Paul Tickell told me David Seabrook, age 48, had died around 18 January 2009. On that day, Seabrook had told his closest friend Nigel Pittam that he’d been suffering from pains in his arms and chest. Pittam rang Seabrook the next day to see how he was feeling but couldn’t get a reply. He knew Seabrook had an appointment with an optician so he called on the eye specialist to see if his friend had kept it. He hadn’t. Pittam then went to Seabrook’s flat at 2 Westside Apartments, Station Road West, Canterbury, CT2 8AN. When he knocked at the door he got no reply, so he went to the police. Either the cops or Pittam phoned Seabrook’s parents who gave them permission for a break-in. Having got into the flat, Pittam and the old bill found Seabrook dead in bed, he’d apparently suffered a heart attack. It appears there were no suspicious circumstances.

Tickell got to know Seabrook when he was pitching a TV documentary on the unsolved Jack The Stripper murders (not made), and they subsequently stayed in touch, mainly by telephone, with the crime writer making long calls to the film director at odd hours. After a while the timing of the calls became more predictable; settling into a routine of usually being after 9pm on a Sunday night. Tickell was away in the US filming a TV documentary about work place murder sprees when Seabrook died. A week or two later he received a phone call from his friend John Fitzpatrick who lives in Canterbury and teaches in the Law Department at the University of Kent. During the conversation, Fitzpatrick mentioned a report in a local paper about the death of a ‘controversial’ writer called David Seabrook. Tickell drew a blank from web searches but phoning around got the story I’ve repeated above.

I can’t say I got on with Seabrook. When I was doing research into my mother’s life there proved to be some cross-over between the people I was contacting about her, and those Seabrook was talking to about the Jack The Stripper murders. Various people told me that Seabrook had asked them not to talk to me because I was ‘encroaching’ on his patch. Obviously virtually everyone but Seabrook found this ridiculous. I was interested in my own family history, and had no intention of attempting to solve the Jack The Stripper murders. While Seabrook devoted some space in his subsequent book Jack Of Jumps to my mother’s friend and love rival Trina Simmonds – as background material on 1960s London prostitutes – he appeared to know very little about Simmonds, her subsequent evolution or the beatnik scene to which both she and my mother, Julia Callan-Thompson, belonged. When I met Seabrook I didn’t like him, and when I read his book Jack Of Jumps I thought it sucked.

Seabrook published his first two crime books with Granta, and then jumped ship to Faber and Faber where his new editor was Neil Belton. Seabrook’s editor at Granta was George Miller. At the time of his death, Seabrook was researching a book on the life and mysterious suicide of showbiz lawyer David Jacobs. If Seabrook had completed this book it would have been the third to bear his name, and his first work for Faber. Rumour has it that Seabrook had obtained copies of various Jack The Stripper scene of crime photos that should have been destroyed, but apparently someone had hung onto them thinking they’d be worth money one day. What will become of the photos (if they exist) and unfinished book is currently unclear. Seabrook appeared to me to be a lonely figure who seemingly lived much of his life vicariously via the telephone. He was unable to forge close friendships with anyone active in the culture industry. That is why news of his death has spread so slowly. Many of those who’ve asked me about his death in the past few days didn’t like him, and some seem to feel a little guilty about that, although I don’t see why they should. He is survived by both his parents. I guess everyone’s thoughts are with them, losing a child is a very tough form of bereavement. Seabrook’s funeral was at at Barham Crematorium on 4 February.

Stewart Home’s review of Jack of Jumps (Granta)

First published in 3:AM Magazine: Wednesday, March 4th, 2009.