I have long wanted to write a book, but never seemed to find the time. However, when I negotiated redundancy in 2009 my mind returned to the possibility of writing again. And early in 2013 I finally started putting fingers to keyboard. The result was my first novel, a 94,000 word thriller about modern-day piracy and how a unit of dedicated sailors is formed to defeat this 21st century crime.
Having published that in 2014 I started my second novel, The Savage Seas. In this, some of the characters from The Killing Seas return to the front line of maritime crime fighting. Now, though, their adversaries are another evil bunch of criminals: human traffickers. Taking African women and children from their homelands across for sale in South America is one aspect of the crime that will horrify. Selling those same victims into trades as diverse as domestic service, factory labouring and the sex industry adds an extra dimension that the IMP must fight. And a further twist is the potential for selling some of the slaves to a terrorist gang to be used as decoys in a widespread bombing campaign on American soil.
My choice of plot in both books reflects, to some extent, my favourite fiction authors. From today these are people like John Grisham, David Baldacci and Lee Childs. From further back, Agatha Christie, Conan Doyle and Leslie Charteris. But of more relevance are authors such as Alistair Maclean, Douglas Reeman and Nicholas Monsarrat. All these wrote about the sea, ships and sailors. I would not be so conceited as to say that I have matched their quality of prose, but I find their style of writing understandable, easy to read and hugely enjoyable. Not to mention how they had a gift for immersing me in their stories.
My debut, and subsequent, novels’ target audience, like those of the above authors, is adults. Probably people with an interest in the sea and merchant shipping – which includes those who have travelled on ferries and cruise liners as well as those with a more direct connection or interest. It extends to those who, whilst on holiday, have watched ships sailing in and out of harbours and wondered what cargoes those ships carried, what ports they had visited and where they were going next. In short, the audience could be anyone of us who looks at the sea and wonders about those who use it to earn a living.
With that in mind, I try to tell stories about vessels that travel the world’s oceans in calm and stormy weather, literally and figuratively. Ships that carry most of what we eat, drink, wear and use. Stories about ships and the people who love, or abuse, them that will attract readers who like characters they can understand and characters with whom they can empathise.
The underpinning story lines are influenced hugely by my first career after leaving school: that of a Merchant Navy navigator. As a Cornishman raised with the sounds of waves crashing on to the shore below my bedroom, this was, perhaps inevitable. I followed that career into my twenties before coming ashore and joining the Civil Service.
So, having started my working life as a sailor, and loved the time I spent at sea and in various ports around the world, I reflected on the sorts of experiences I had that I could use to form my story. As I started my research, I read about acts of piracy and started to look into the economic and human impact of this horrific crime. This formed the basis for my first book (The Killing Seas). When researching my second novel I looked in depth at the emerging and growing crime of people trafficking and this formed the basis for The Savage Seas.
For my third novel I turned to one of the most beautiful parts of England: The Isles of Scilly and based my story almost entirely around this most westerly part of England that for many years was my parents’ favourite holiday haunt. Adding a dual flavour of lost gold bullion and secreted Cold War chemical weapons enabled me to bring some of the IMP’s characters back to their homeland for this tale.
On a more personal note, I have been self-employed since 2009, helping small businesses by providing time-bound managerial support. The support varies from conducting market research to training their board directors in corporate responsibilities. I am married, with two adult children and a four year old Border Collie. My interests are walking, reading and playing occasional rounds of golf.