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My story

I was born in West London, close enough to Heathrow Airport that my mother was convinced the chestnut tree in our garden was used as a marker by the planes. I inherited sport-madness from my father and a certain Celtic melancholy from my mother, when she wasn’t railing against pilots. My folks were born in India in the days of Empire and the tales they told of that mystical place were probably the first things to whet my appetite for the dark and mysterious.

Indian Architecture
Hounslow and empire
Poison and strong women

When I first saw Roald Dahl's Poison on television in Tales of the Unexpected, I was reminded of my mother's tale of her own close encounter with a deadly krait. As my father died when I was young, spending a large part of my formative years with my mother and sister may account for the strong female characters that inhabit my writing.


After leaving school, where I showed my versatility in a production of Julius Caesar by playing the stretching roles of a cobbler, the fourth citizen and a soldier, I studied English and German at university, spending a year teaching English down near the Black Forest in Germany. The Cold War was still in full stalemate, so trips to East Berlin and Weimar were illuminating. 

Brandenburg Gate

It was strange going back to Berlin a couple of years ago. In many ways it symbolises what inspires me to write; the co-existence of different worlds; the darkness of the past living alongside the shadows of the present and the future. It's impossible to wander around Berlin and not feel you inhabit two places at the same time.


Even when I worked in Frankfurt at what was then the world’s biggest chemical company, it was fascinating to be there at a time when the huge 150 year old concern was starting to break apart. The original dyestuffs shed was still there at the centre of the plant, hidden away as the company grew outwards; pipework snaked around offices; two worlds side by side – till an explosion, which I witnessed one morning, killed an employee and hastened the end. 

Oil refinery plant in the evening

I live in Berkshire now and walking along the Thames riverbank, the flow of the water and its constant change reminds me of how I love to travel. In particular it makes me think of Venice. That beautiful city resonates with the past and always, just as in Berlin, you have one foot in history.

On writing
How it started

A moment of great significance for my writing career was a car journey with a colleague in 2002. When she found out I had a novel mouldering in the loft – this is not a metaphor for my head – she gave me a week to rescue it and make something of it. Through that one moment of bossiness she helped me rediscover my love of writing. So, I came back out of that mould-ridden loft fascinated by what hides, often in plain sight, in the shadows beyond the light of our everyday lives

The reader's mind

In my work, hope can only truly be appreciated by those who have looked into the darkness, embraced it even, and seen that still the flame doesn’t die unless we choose to extinguish it. If, as a result of reading my books, a movie plays in the reader’s mind, it is probably a film noir – we’re certainly living in times of tension, paranoia and greed similar to the ones that spawned that style – but I can’t help adding a hint of optimistic white. Those movies were often unremitting in their blackness, but even the darkest of themes, as examined by Dennis Potter or Peter Greenaway for example, can allow for redemption. Why has mankind always wandered willingly into the labyrinth if not for the joy of walking out again?

Blink in a mirror

I believe that we are not alone and by that I mean that the universe is built on attraction. We are always pulling something along in our slipstream, just as we, too, are riding on the coat-tails of a dream. These co-existing worlds are usually just beyond our vision – it’s like trying to see yourself blink in a mirror – but never beyond our perception if we are open to them. I love the Philip Pullman trilogy His Dark Materials, firstly because it captures with magnificence and eloquence the concept of parallel universes, and secondly because it provoked such outrage from the narrow-minded.

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