As a child and young man, I was a voracious reader of 19th century seafaring novels and obscure early 20th century adventures about spies and bomb-carrying anarchists in Europe. I had fire in my belly and the books I read helped fuel it. But I always wanted to translate the escapism of the books into a life of real adventure. So, when MI6 tapped me on the shoulder after I left university, I accepted its offer of employment without hesitation.
I was an MI6 field operative who worked at the sharp end. I travelled the world alone, met the bravest men and women, did great things, terrible things, hard things, witnessed unbelievable heroism, and saw deprivation, sorrow, love, compassion and death.
Some of the things I saw and actions I made affected me but not as much as you may think. I was young, fuelled by my passion for adventure and an unrelenting motivation to combat bad people’s intentions towards the west. I have the luxury of pausing and looking back at that life now. I am older, wiser and have a few more inches on my waistline. But I never paused for a moment in those days. Not once.
I thrived on having other identities and personas. In every mission I felt as if I was an actor taking the stage on the show’s first night. Though an actor can take off his costume at the end of the night. Often I could not do so for months and in some cases years. And an actor risks a bad review; my work risked something else entirely.
I tire of hearing that the espionage world is not as glamorous and exciting as some would make out. I spent five years in MI6 existing on adrenalin, travelling to places that I dreamed about in my youth, doing things that would have made the authors of some of the early twentieth century thrillers I read as a boy blush with envy, and meeting fascinating, courageous, honourable and yes, evil men and women. But I will concede my path as an MI6 officer was ultimately a lonely one. Read SPYCATCHER and you’ll know what I mean.
Writing has always been my true passion. I won small awards for it at school, subsequently put it on hold to live-out my adventures and have now returned to it as a man with something to write about. I’ve come full circle. My work is fantasy and I am a story-teller. The characters in my books are based on my imagination, but there are elements of real people in some of them. They are like the real secret agents and officers who exist in the world today; men and women who risk their lives for us and who, like I did, tread an exhilarating, but solitary path.
When I left MI6, I was a very hard man, a million miles away from the innocent wonderment of my youth. But now that I’m writing I do once again feel like the boy who loves the smell of books, who loves the adventure on the page. Now I want to contribute to the greatest tradition of writing as entertainment and the opportunity to take readers to another place. I am a single father. My son is seven years old, my daughter eight. Unlike me, I don’t want either of them to translate escapism into a real adventure that ultimately takes them into a dangerous and lonely world. But I do want them to read.
I’m writing under my own name so that you know who I really am. As an ex-MI6 officer writing fiction, I have taken an unprecedented risk in doing so but I feel that my readers deserve to know my name. And for once, it is good to do something that has my real identity attached to it.
I have told you a little bit about me, not much, but a bit. However, I am in nature a private man who wants the focus of attention to be on my books, not me. I believe my books are more interesting. Let’s leave it at that.
What do you think is more exciting…the man’s experience or the story? Tell us to win a copy of SPYCATCHER
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