Place and time

Fifteen years ago I acquired a War Studies PhD.  And one of the key takeaways from all the research that went into it was this: wars happen because of the societies they happen in.  There’s some elemental clash fundamental to that place and time that means people turn to organised violence to resolve it.  And while outsiders may provide the catalyst, may even get involved, they can’t provide the solution – that will lie within the warring society or societies.          

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Dominick Donald
The thrill of the chase

Christmas on Skye with a copy of ‘The Thirty-Nine Steps’ brought pursuit thrillers to mind.  For those who don’t know John Buchan’s book, perhaps a third of it is a chase across the moors of south-west Scotland, with hero Richard Hannay enlisting what now seem improbable helpers (a road-mender, a literary innkeeper, a young toff) to keep him out of the clutches of the Black Stone.

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Dominick Donald
Period and prejudice

One of the great pleasures of being a history buff is mining seams – themes, periods, countries – you love. One of the great handicaps of being a history buff is refusing to mine new ones. I’ve loved Bernard Cornwell’s novels for thirty years, but can’t get into his Arthurian or American civil war fiction – a rejection I can only ascribe to some kind of period prejudice; after all, he’s deploying the same ingredients as in the Sharpe and Uhtred novels, and is certainly applying the same enviable skill…

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Spook-y beginnings

When I was eight we went on a family holiday to Italy, and as a treat beforehand my parents let me and my brother choose a few books in the old Blackwells paperback bookshop on Broad Street in Oxford. I can’t remember what I got, but I do remember that among my parents’ booty was a clutch of Gavin Lyall thrillers…     

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Way-stations

If, like me, you've taken a while to get your first book out, you spend a lot of time feeling a bit of a fraud.  Failure to deliver makes you wonder if you ever will; mention the book in conversations with new acquaintances and the lack of a publication date can generate a glint of scepticism in their eyes.  ('Ah yes, I'm not writing one either.')  Only in the last two months has that feeling gradually dissipated…

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Dominick Donald
The Importance of Proof(s)

The path to getting published is a constant education.  Things I had no idea of until this year included crime writing festivals (I’m a fan and I’d never heard of such a thing); the particular skill of fiction copy editors, who put my previous lodestar for omniscience, the newspaper sub – now endangered – in the shade; and the importance of bound proofs…

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The Conference Game

I’m not a novice at the conference game.  In my parallel incarnation as someone who does political risk analysis for a living, I’ve attended God knows how many symposia in places ranging from the exotic (Tashkent, anyone?) to the very very prosaic (the two-day session at a Toronto airport hotel offered no diversions at all).  But they all tended to have certain things in common…

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