Newsletter #3 April 2021
Exodus of Spies is being published on 22nd April. And we’re having a party!
The fourth novel in the Dylan series is being launched on zoom that evening. Everyone is warmly invited at 7.30 UK time, but please register in advance. It’s free. Frustratingly, circumstances dictate you must bring your own refreshments.
You can register here:
Awakening of Spies, the first in the series, was published only last May. To publish four books in a year sounds impressive. Please don’t be misled: two novels had been finished and a third nearly finished before I found a publisher: RedDoor. Book 5 remains work in progress after more than a year.
Exodus of Spies is the first book where I have been able to consider the many helpful comments from readers. My apologies that not all have been actioned. Authenticity led me to reject the suggestion that the books would be easier to read if foreign characters were not given foreign names. I am also bemused by the lament from a prolific book blogger that I hadn’t included any bicycles.
One distinguished spy thriller blogger was upset that RedDoor has described my series as John le Carré meets Agatha Christie. I don’t pretend to reach the standards of either author, but I have tried to mix a little of the two genres. Exodus of Spies, is both a spy story, set against the background of the Angolan civil war, and a traditional murder mystery set in the Caribbean. When Adam Joseff, after a lifetime in British Intelligence, is found dead in Antigua questions are asked. Did he betray his country? Or was he betrayed? And why was he so interested in an Angolan student young enough to be his granddaughter?
If you enjoy the books please pass on the word. And I very much hope you will be able to join me on April 22nd, 7.30-8.30 pm
Newsletter #2 January 2021
Coincidence of Spies, the third Dylan novel, is published on Thursday! It was timed to come out when lockdown was over and the “new normal” had arrived. Got that wrong!
In this book Thomas and Julia Dylan are in Poland. It’s winter 1981. The Communist regime is close to collapse and the Americans want to help it on its way. But are they playing with fire? See for yourself by ordering here
To celebrate the launch my publisher is offering friends and family a 15% discount, just enter FAF15 on the link above.
The kindle version is available here
I really appreciate the support I have received for Awakening of Spies and Families of Spies. Thanks especially for reviews on sites like Amazon which nowadays are critically important. Comments are always welcome although they can be contradictory. I am still bemused by receiving on the same day two pre-release responses from book trade professionals one gushingly complimentary, the other declaring the book too “erudite.”
Readers seem to have enjoyed Brazil and Sicily as locations for the first two books. The Masurian Lake District in Poland is equally beautiful: two thousand lakes speckled from the Vistula right up to the mysterious Russian enclave of Kaliningrad. It really is the perfect setting for a spy story. For centuries Poles have suffered from the intrigues of their neighbours, indeed at times Poland has disappeared from the map. One of Poland’s highest honours, the Order Odrodzenia Polski, the Order of Poland Reborn, was established when the nation reappeared after the First World War. I had a special affection for Poland long before my first visit as my father received the Order’s Krzyż Oficerski, the Officer’s Cross.
My father also introduced me to the works of John le Carré. I can’t write a newsletter about spy thrillers without mentioning le Carré’s passing in Cornwall just before Christmas. His authority in the genre, his skill as an author and his sheer humanity will long be celebrated.
The Dylan novels are narrated by one of the central characters, Thomas. The advantage of first person narration is that the protagonist and the reader uncover the story together. There is no sense of clues being withheld from the reader for dramatic effect. However at times the author wants the reader to be aware of events that the narrator cannot possibly know. In Coincidence of Spies I have dealt with this by having a chapter narrated by Julia. She describes events in London occurring while Thomas is in a Warsaw. Please tell me what you think of this experiment. The gushingly complimentary reviewer I mentioned earlier commented that this was the best chapter in the book – I didn’t tell him that my wife Liz had painstakingly chiselled it into shape.
John le Carré’s archive, now in the Bodleian Library, reveals that his wife played an enormous role in fine tuning his novels. That’s the nearest I will get to imitating the master.
Finally feel free to forward this newsletter to your own friends and family so that they too can benefit from the 15% discount. Simply click here and enter the code FAF15
Best wishes and happy reading
Newsletter #1 November 2020
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
c/o Red Door Press, West Sussex, RH13 8BD
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