Roderick Cooper was born in Burnham, Berkshire, in what he claims was then the lovely Thames Valley, his home being three miles from Burnham Beeches, Eton, and Maidenhead, but also, less happily, from Slough. The round keep of Windsor Castle could be seen on the skyline from the bedroom of his sister, the award-winning fantasy writer and children’s novelist Susan Cooper, but so could the chimneys and water towers of Slough Trading Estate. On passing the 11-plus, he had very much hoped to travel daily on the old Marlow Donkey steam train to Sir William Borlase School, Marlow, whose cap and blazer he very much admired, but instead found himself cycling past the trading estate and Mars, Horlicks, Berlei Brassieres, Aspro and Johnson’s Baby Powder to Slough Grammar School where he spent eight undistinguished years, although he edited the school magazine for the last three. He has written about his departure in a book, School Ties, see Extracts.
He began his training as a journalist in Cardiff at the Western Mail & Echo. He was a reporter and feature writer on the South Wales Echo and won the national annual Parkin Prize for the best all round young journalist before moving to London where he reviewed for The Bookman and reported on football matches for the Guardian. He worked for a number of newspapers before a long spell on specialist film magazines, finally as production editor of Screen International. Throughout this period he wrote a series of crime thrillers including No Place for a Tickle - generously welcomed in reviews in the Sunday Times and the Observer - The Patsy Prize, Open Verdict and Blood in Blue Denim. His books have been translated into French, German and Swedish, but, he says, would take a fair amount of tracking down in any language on Amazon today. He is waiting for them to be rediscovered.
He later moved to Kent where he edited a series of free newspapers and wrote another thriller, The Tennyson Code, a sequel to No Place for a Tickle, before becoming managing editor of a group of magazines where he survived several changes of ownership over nearly three decades, personally editing Kent Life, Sussex Life and Surrey Life initially, as well as Her Majesty’s Consuls List, later returning to editing Kent Life for a further 10 years. During this period he also wrote a novel, Chelsea Blues which also achieved some success in paperback editions in France and America, and he edited two books of walks.
When he eventually left the magazines to write as a freelance he continued to write for Sussex Life as a contributor and was then commissioned by Countryside Books to write Landscapes of Kent, with photographs by David Sellman, always his favourite front cover and feature photographer on the Life magazines. The book is now in its second edition.
His current writing projects include two novels for children, Down for the Hopping, an account of East End families hop-picking in Kent in the 1930s, and The Spirit of Bodiam Castle, set on his doorstep in East Sussex, as well as a series of six radio talks on the life of a rural editor. As nostalgia seeps over him in his dotage, he also plans affectionate remembrances of the last days of steam trains and of the hot metal provincial press. He still dreams several times a week of the night when Chelsea became Champions of Europe. His son, Richard, is a writer and his daughter is the actress Naomi Cooper.