AUTHOR OF ‘BREATHE’, THE SUNDAY TIMES CRIME BOOK OF THE YEAR 2018
I have come to thriller writing late, by way of - in chronological order - intelligence reports, TV scripts, book reviews, newspaper editorials, UN Security Council resolutions, a PhD thesis and political risk analysis. I am not sure any of my previous writing experience really helps with fiction, other than as training - training in how to write for effect, and for the audience. (And anyone who thinks UN Security Council resolutions are dull should be part of the drafting process: achieving the right effect in the right audience takes multiple drafts and a ridiculous amount of verbal dexterity, usually against a very tight deadline.) Perhaps more valuable have been my decades of reading crime and thriller fiction; I know what I think works, and hope to avoid writing what doesn't.
I am inspired by the byways of history - the stuff that people might not have noticed or seen the value of, rather along the lines of Shakespeare's thief Autolycus ('the snapper-up of unconsidered trifles'). The plot for my first thriller, 'Breathe', took shape when I found out that the trigger for the final murder spree of an infamous London serial killer was - indirectly - the city's worst ever smog in December 1952. The smog was extraordinary - five days in which the city was stopped dead by a yellow haze that laced lungs with sulphur and killed thousands. Once I'd discovered that, the combination of this murderer, and the 1952 smog, was just too good to pass up.
The plan is to write thrillers that work with history rather than manipulate it, partly because I was trained that way, by mostly because I love it too much to abuse it.