The Dylan Spies series gathers pace. The first two books are published, the third is at the printers and the fourth is mid-edit.

My publisher, RedDoor, now has a wonderful offer for anyone searching for a lockdown read or for last minute Christmas presents. Order both the Dylan paperbacks and receive a 20% discount on the price with free packing and postage. Just click Offer for details. For every order for any of their books RedDoor donates £1 to charity.

2020 isn’t a great time to launch a new thriller series. The Guardian reported that when Covid arrived and bookshops closed some publishers anticipated a sales collapse of 75%. Publication dates were delayed, orders cut and author tours cancelled. In reality although High Street sales have obviously suffered online retailers have seen their sales massively increase. In the US it is estimated that Amazon’s share of the book market has leapt from 30% to 60%. Wretched news for traditional  bookshops.

Many publishers and authors moved swiftly, and successfully, to bring events direct to readers online. For me the whole launch process was a bemusing revelation with a virtual blog tour, my first influencer vlog endorsement and a very long article about me in the Mail online which barely mentioned the book at all.

Awakening of Spies sold better than anticipated, especially in the ebook format. It was helped by being chosen as a Book of the Month by LoveReading and positive reviews in places as varied as Chat magazine and the newsletter of the Honourable Artillery Company. One of my favourite reviews came from a distinguished US reviewer who commented that “The writing style is like sitting in an easy chair, sipping a fine brandy and listening to someone recount a great story.”

Peter Oborne volunteered a wonderful endorsement for the cover and fellow authors added their own support. More reviews are on my website

One question novelists are often asked is which comes first: character or plot? For me it’s neither, I start with place. For example the beginning of Awakening of Spies was written in the Buenos Aires cafe where it is set.

This is very much true of the second Dylan novel Families of Spies. For my non-fiction book Empires Apart I had researched the role of MI6 and the CIA in Iran and wanted to use that in a novel. But when I came across a memorial to a mafia massacre on an isolated hillside in Sicily the story changed direction. Sicily proved to be the perfect location for a thriller that is as much murder mystery as spy story. After finishing the first draft Liz and I returned to the island to recheck the locations and, more importantly, resample Sicilian food, wine and sun.

Coincidence of Spies, which is available for pre-order now, starts with Julia witnessing a murder in a small town on the Volga. Again I wrote the scene “on location” – as I did with the scenes when Julia meets the killer again – in Cornwall.

Finally I really appreciate feedback from readers. Please post a review online or respond directly to me. And if you know anyone who might enjoy this newsletter please do forward it.

Best wishes for a safe 2021


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