ISSUE 20, January 2007
Historic: Dr Thomas Barnardo - children's saviour
Travel: South African journey
London Gala Evening: Royal Masonic Variety Show
Centenary Celebrations: Scouting's milestone
Quarterly Communication: Speech by the Pro Grand Master and Report of the Board of General Purposes
Supreme Grand Chapter: Speech by the Pro 1st Grand Principal and Report of the Cttee of General Purposes
Library and Museum: Facets of Fraternity
   Specialist Lodge: Internet Lodge - Masonry on the Web
Special Events: Spamalot and the Alternative Hair Show at Grand Lodge
Freemasons' Hall: ADelphi System - A computer revolution
Mark Master Masons: Duke of Kent at 150th anniversary
Breeches Bible: A Lodge locker's secret
Masonic Arboretum: Planting an idea
Education: Events and The hoodwink
Masonic Charities: RMTGB and Grand Charity and Legacy appeal and RMBI and NMSF
Letters, Book reviews, Gardening

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Which of the numerous best-selling novels you have written do you look back on with most satisfaction?

It is hard to say. Fist of God, which was set in the First Gulf War, stands out.
    It was complicated, multi-themed and had five principal characters, but it worked. I did a large amount of research and, although it was a novel, much of what was written turned out to be true. It seemed at the time a most choreographed war, but the reason for this was that an enormous amount was not told. On investigation, the true nature of the war came out, and I was pleased that my book broke stories such as the fact that the US would have dropped a nuclear bomb on Baghdad had gas been used against their troops at the outset of the war.

How did you research your most recent book – The Afghan?

In much the same way as I research most of my books. Firstly, I identified what I needed to know and then tried to find out who would be best placed to provide that information. I tend to avoid the Internet as there is too much rubbish to filter through. In the Soviet-Afghanistan war, the British sent four men to live with the Mujahideen. They were SAS men who had to resign from the army for this secret mission and were later reinstated.
    I managed to track one of these men down and this provided invaluable research material for the book.

What prompted you to become a novelist?

I began my career as a foreign correspondent at Reuters in 1961 and then moved to the BBC. I fell out with the BBC at the time of Biafra – the Nigerian Civil War – because I felt they merely wanted me to report the war out of my Lagos hotel. As a result, I covered the war as a freelance journalist. I ate into my savings and returned with very little money. Freelance journalism is a particularly precarious profession and the answer seemed to be to go into writing. My first book, The Biafra Story, sold 30,000 in a week but was uncomfortable with the government and Harold Wilson, who applied pressure to prevent it being reprinted.
    However, it was the start of my writing career and led to my second book and first novel, The Day of the Jackal.

Have you ever considered going into politics?

No, I have never wished to be a politician. I enjoy commenting and analysing because I have a pulpit.

Have you planned your next project?

On writing a novel, I tend to let it come out and running before considering my next project.

Where do you write and have you got a preferred writing routine?

I live on a farm which has a converted 17th century barn. It is a big Listed Building with rafters and beams, and I work on the upper floor in peace and quiet. When I am writing a book, my routine is the same seven days a week.
    I rise at 5am and begin work an hour later. By twelve my brain is going soggy, so I will either go for a swim or walk the dogs, followed by a light lunch and a short snooze. I return to the barn at 4pm and edit my morning’s work for a couple of hours. I still write on paper, not on computer.

Who are your favourite authors?

I tend not to have favourite authors. My interests are more thematic-related than author-driven. Ninety percent of my reading is non-fiction, particular modern history.

Which book are you currently reading?

I have just returned from the Maldives. At the hotel, I left three books and picked up a book, Echo Park, by Michael Connelly, which I enjoyed as a light read. My next is The History of the Cold War by John Hughes-Wilson.

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