The publication of a debut novel is a major event for any writer but in Colin Bell’s case it carries extra significance.

Stephen Dearsley’s Summer Of Love comes just a few years after the 64-year-old Lewes resident suffered a brain haemorrhage that nearly killed him. He survived but was left unable to write even a sentence of the book that he had been working on since leaving his career in television.

Then, during a recovery period in which he was unable to leave the house, he discovered social media site Second Life, where people use avatars to meet, socialise and discuss ideas with other users from all over the world. It was here, at a series of virtual writing seminars, that he met a real-world publisher from Ward Wood who took an interest in his unfinished novel.

Bell completed the book as his ability to write slowly returned and it is set for release at the end of this month.

“I’ve been very fortunate,”

he says with a touch of understatement.

“I wasn’t expected to survive the brain haemorrhage and I certainly didn’t expect to find a publisher during my recovery.”

The novel is a coming-ofage story that follows the titular character through his turbulent 1960s in Brighton.

Stephen is a “young fogey”, says Bell, a boy whose love of history threatens to eclipse his appreciation of his own time. As his contemporaries cast off traditional ways of thinking and dressing, Stephen immerses himself in his new career as a biographer but the hypocrisy, snobbery and homophobia he encounters during his research lead him to re-evaluate his own decisions.

Bell says the book is not autobiographical but the decade in which it is set is one he remembers vividly as a schoolboy at Brighton College.

“We’d walk through the college’s Gothic arches still wearing our boaters and into the middle of Brighton where we’d mix with people wearing bells and smelling of all kinds of exotic aromas. It was a very lively place and we learned a lot of things you’re not taught in school!”

He particularly remembers the vibrant live music scene of the time, which sparked a lifelong love in him. On leaving Brighton College, Bell attended the Royal College of Music but eventually pursued a career in television, working at Manchester’s Granada where he wrote scripts for Kenneth Williams and unwittingly had Sir Lawrence Olivier running errands for him.

“I had been asked to find a transistor radio and rang the sound studio to see if they had one. A well-spoken man I assumed was a technician answered the phone and after a bit of rummaging said he’d located one for me so I went over to get it. When I arrived, it turned out to be Sir Lawrence who was waiting to do a voiceover.

I thought it was marvellous that he was so humble.”

Bell went on to provide voiceovers for BBC investigative journalism series World In Action, set music questions for University Challenge and became a producer/ director of documentaries on subjects that included the 20th anniversary of The Beatles’ Sgt Pepper album, when he met Paul McCartney, George Harrison, Ringo Starr and Yoko Ono – “All charming and very helpful” – and an up-and-coming rock band called Oasis. Lead singer Liam Gallagher, he recalls, was sporting a black eye after a fight with his brother Noel. “But nonetheless, they weren’t nearly as macho as you’d think. They were quite shy and unassuming actually – at least at that time.”

But Bell had always harboured ambitions to write and deciding he would never have time to seriously pursue his ambitions while working in the demanding world of television, he eventually quit altogether when he began work on Stephen Dearsley, as well as a number of short stories.

He only began writing poetry after his brain haemorrhage – “Oddly, I hadn’t been able to do it before” – following encouragement from other Second Lifers.

“The site has a very lively literary scene on an international level.

I give readings on Thursday nights and there will be people from Singapore, LA, Germany – all over the world – in the audience.

“I know some people think Second Life is a rather strange concept but it’s a very supportive community. I was lucky to get both a second chance in real life and a great opportunity in Second Life.”

* Stephen Dearsley’s Summer Of Love is published by Ward Wood on October 31, priced £9.99