AS the son of one of the Grumbleweeds, Otley resident James C Lee knows more than most about the world of entertainment.

James' father, Maurice Lee, was a guitarist, drummer and vocalist with the Leeds-based comedy band from 1967 right through to 1998.

The Grumbleweeds enjoyed a long time in the spotlight as an acclaimed and popular act, which James, naturally, looked up to.

But he explores a darker side of variety, drawing upon some of the things he witnessed or heard about during his unconventional childhood for his debut novel.

The End Of The Pier is described by publishers Troubador as an exploration of "the darkness backstage on a Variety show in a quintessential British seaside resort".

The book will be launched at Korks Wine Bar in Otley on June 30 and is attracting glowing reviews, including a 'thumbs up' from the author's famous father.

Maurice, who is still performing, said: "James has accurately captured, warts and all, the world I have worked and lived in for half a century.

"Every page reeks of comedy and tragedy."

Set in the northern coastal town of Grumby in 1985, the novel focuses on stagehand Martin Collier and his experiences – including falling for an unattainable dancer – while working for a 'seaside spectacular'.

Martin is forced to delve into a dark past, and find out more about his own painful history, after stumbling upon a secret.

Explaining his inspiration, biology teacher James – who grew up in Guiseley and has been an Otley resident since 2007 – said: "I spent a childhood backstage in theatres around the country and have witnessed first hand, or heard of, the kind of abuse I describe in my book.

"I have huge affection for the typical end-of-pier variety show, but also find it fascinating and disturbing that some of these cosy, loveable, family entertainers are in fact not very nice people."

He adds: "I suppose The End Of The Pier is a coming-of-age-story, a facing-the-monster-story, and a part detective story.

"It's about Gerry Neon, a top-of-the-bill performer on a summer season show, who is brilliant and hugely popular, but also a bully and an abuser of, well, everyone, especially women.

"Then there's Martin, a stagehand with a troubled relationship with his mother and no father.

"Due to a chance discovery of a secret – a lie – Martin suspects Gerry might in fact be his father... and the stagehand confronts the top of the bill."

The response so far to James' first fictional effort could hardly have been better.

Sara Elliott, of Just Books, called it: "A Tour de Force of observational writing… compelling prose, laying bare the often seedy side of variety."

Stav Sherez, meanwhile, author of A Dark Redemption, rated it as "highly recommended", adding: "Striking, compelling… a sharply observed evocation of a dying world.

"The writing is superb, the characters unforgettable and the ending incredibly moving. One of the best debuts I've read."

James will read from The End Of The Pier at the launch event at Korks, which starts at 8pm.

The book can be purchased online at the website.