I knew the name when his submission arrived, but I couldn't quite place it. A few lines into reading his query letter, and the penny dropped. It really was THE Rob Gittins. You know, the one whose name appeared in the credits of most of the seminal episodes of EastEnders in recent years. Frank Butcher and the revolving bow tie. Who could forget that? The live episode in 2015 to mark the programme's 30th Anniversary? Also Rob's. In fact, he is EastEnder's longest serving writer, with 36 years on the show, and over 300 episodes to his credit.
Then there's his work on an incredible list of other shows: Vera, Casualty, Heartbeat, The Bill, Emmerdale, The Indian Doctor, The Story of Tracy Beaker, Soldier, Soldier and Stella. He is a man in demand, and in 2015 was awarded an Outstanding Achievement Award at the 2015 Soap Awards. He's also a radio playwright and novelist.
In other words, when I started reading his submission to us, the first brilliant novel in a new police procedural series set on the Isle of Wight called I'm Not There, I kept thinking, 'Why us?' Why Hobeck Books?
As a nascent writer myself, Rob's work has been a strong influence. EastEnders was my soap before life and kids made following it nigh impossible. I marvelled at the skill involved at producing so many episodes and maintaining the quality. Some of the most influential figures in story-craft cut their teeth there, including former showrunner John Yorke. His book, Into The Woods is one of the three best books on story structure going in my view. It says a lot that when he felt the series had a big episode, he would entrust it to Rob. You don't last in television drama for as long as Rob has, without being bloody good.
But the question remains. Why us?
We met Rob for lunch a couple of weeks ago - an opportunity to size each other up I suppose. We were both delighted and relieved that Rob didn't run back to his home in West Wales screaming that it was all a terrible mistake. Quite the opposite in fact. He picked us for our values, the way we think and operate, and because we're 'hungry'.
We are. We're also thrilled to bring someone with Rob's talent, spirit and experience on board. That can only help strengthen the Hobeck family of writers - now 18 strong. Together we bring so much to the company and to each other. We can't wait to read more of the investigations of Lara Arden. Rob is a master storyteller. His dialogue fizzes. The twists in his plots hit you when you least expect them. We're privileged to declare him a Hobeck author.
There's just one more question we have for him. What's the latest backstage goss from Albert Square?