AUTHOR OF THE QUARTER|
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
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
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
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.