US drama Breaking Bad starring Bryan Cranston.
“It was a happy childhood,” he says.
“Dad was a solid, stable character who never lost his temper with me. He didn’t even raise his voice. He was my moral compass, a very principled man who always stressed the importance of doing what is right. As a kid I really looked up to him, admired him.”
However, after academic success at a private school and a media degree from Bournemouth University, James found himself questioning everything he’d ever thought about his father.
First, his father told his son that he was gay, but the greater shock came when James was told Richard had been arrested for dealing in the class A drug, crystal meth.
Not only that, but police found the biggest-ever haul of the drug at his father’s luxury flat in Limehouse, east London.
Now James, 41, a software specialist, has written a book, inevitably called Breaking Dad, detailing the whole extraordinary story, more intriguing than the US drama Breaking Bad, which told the fictional story of how a chemistry teacher started producing the stimulant crystal meth in New Mexico after being diagnosed with lung cancer.
In the film the motivation for the central character is the fact that he is dying and needs money for his family, but Richard remains in robust health.
At an Italian restaurant in Covent Garden, James toys with olives and sips a gin and tonic as he speaks about his family and why he has chosen to write an unflinching account of his father’s downfall and redemption.
Author James with his father Richard
“I have nothing but happy memories of my childhood,” he says.
“It was normal, run of the mill. Dad travelled quite a lot because of his job as a coin dealer. He’d followed in the footsteps of his father and had a base in Regent Street.
“He went to coin conventions all over the world and at times me and my mum travelled with him. I used to sit with him at the coin stall. It was all good and easy.
“I was conscious he was one of the most respected coin dealers in the business. He was trusted and very philanthropic. He gave lots of money to charities.
“My mum and dad did have arguments but I didn’t see it as a major thing. When I came back from university for the first time, they had a massive argument and separated. But after that it was very amicable. They even became close friends.”
In 2003 Richard took his son out to dinner, saying he had something important to tell him.
“I was shocked when he told me that he was gay but I was also relieved. I was happy for him that he could finally be true to himself. I was proud of him for having the courage to come out and finally be happy and then two weeks later my mum took me out for dinner, presumably to talk about that and she told me that she was also gay.
“In the space of two weeks I found out that both were gay. It was a shock to the system but nothing too traumatic. I was just happy for both of them. There was a comedic element to it as well. You can’t make it up.”
I thought he was calling to say he was found dead in his flat or something like that but he said Dad had been caught completely red-handed with hundreds of thousands of pounds of the drug in his flat
About this time, he knew his father was smoking cannabis and had started going out clubbing.
“He was mixing with a younger crowd,” recalls James.
“I thought that was more to do with the fact he was very outgoing – extrovert. He always had a talent for meeting strangers and becoming friends with them. I thought it was great he was having a second life.”
As well as dope, Richard was also taking ecstasy and methamphetamine, more commonly known as crystal meth.
James’s parents at his Bar Mitzvah.
“I only became aware of him using crystal meth when I saw him smoking it,” he says.
“I said, ‘That looks like quite a strong drug and he said, ‘Yes, but it’s great.’
“He melted it in a glass pipe and that is how I learned what it was. He bought it initially for himself and then he realised if he bought larger amounts he would get a better deal. Having bought more he was able to give some to his friends. It snowballed from there. He was giving it to friends of friends and taking money for it. One thing led to another and it became this huge thing.
“Then one day I got a call from a solicitor friend of my dad. I thought he was calling to say he was found dead in his flat or something like that but he said Dad had been caught completely red-handed with hundreds of thousands of pounds of the drug in his flat and there was a lot of cash there as well. Part of me was relieved he wasn’t dead but another part of me was traumatised and very worried by what was going to transpire with him and what I was going to go through.
“My mum had passed away at that point, so it was a real shock to the system. I said to myself, if I can get through a day’s work after getting that sort of news I can get through the next few years. I kept telling myself, ‘You have to get through this’.”
To help finance his lifestyle Richard had sold his home and bought two up-market flats in Limehouse.
In a police raid on one of the flats in 2009 detectives found crystal meth worth £1.5million.
Richard was out cold in a chair wearing just a tank top – caught literally with his trousers down.
The following year he was jailed for eight years, but served only four because of his good behaviour.
“When I visited him in Brixton Prison it was a relief because he looked so much better,” says James.
“I had a lot of questions and his answers put me at ease. At the time he was a small, 62-year-old, middle-class Jewish man in this tough jail and
I honestly thought he would be ripped to pieces.
“But because of his easygoing, extrovert character he was popular and well- liked. I think some prisoners saw him as a father figure.
“He didn’t just survive prison, he thrived. It was a kind of rebirth. It saved his life. Away from the drugs, he got back to being his old self and that was good to see.”
Since his release from prison Richard,now 72, has settled into a much quieter life in Poplar, East London.
He regularly sees James and his wife Jo and their daughters, Gracie, five, and Mia, seven, and says of his drugs past: “It seemed to be the obvious thing to do at the time. I wanted it to stop, but I didn’t have the strength to stop it.”
James with his dad and daughter Mia.
James says of their relationship today: “We still argue and bicker but he is the father I had before he took all those drugs. He’s a bit slower because of the drugs, but he is Dad. He gets on fine with my wife and has a lovely relationship with his granddaughters. They love him and he them.”
Part of James’s motivation for writing his book was to chronicle all the events so his daughters would know the full story.
“It was an irresponsible, terrible thing my dad did, but the book is really a story about how things can go totally wrong and how they can be fixed and put right. That, I hope, is the message I am trying to get across.”
To order Breaking Dad, by James Lubbock (Mirror Books, £16.99) call the Express Bookshop with card details on 01872 562310.
Alternatively, send a cheque or postal order payable to The Express Bookshop to James Lubbock Offer,
PO Box 200, Falmouth, Cornwall TR11 4WJ or visit expressbookshop.co.uk
UK delivery is free.
Published at Mon, 22 Apr 2019 16:54:00 +0000