Tell us about yourself?
I worked for almost thirty years as a barrister/QC in London, but earlier this year stopped practising law to focus full-time on writing. My debut novel is Five Minds, published by Viper Books in September 2021.
I write speculative crime fiction - which involves adding a twist to reality, and then playing with the consequences. In Five Minds the twist was to imagine a world in which overpopulation meant that all children, at age 17, were required to make a choice: live a life of luxury, but die aged 42 (a Hedonist); have your mind downloaded into an artificial body, and live to 80 (an Android); remain as you are, with no guarantee of when you will die (a Worker); or share your body with four other people, and live to 142 (a Commune).
The story follows five members of a Commune. When one of then disappears they realise that someone - possibly one of them - is plotting to kill them. It is really an old-fashioned murder mystery, albeit in a slightly futuristic setting.
Are you working on something now?
I am in the middle of structural edits on my second novel, Black Lake, to be published by Viper in 2022. It is set in a remote mansion on Vancouver Island, owned by a tech billionaire. The story starts with a shipwreck around 1800. This time the twist is that certain descendants of the sole survivor of the wreck discover that they have the ability to turn back time - but only once in their lives - by six hours.
The story then moves to twenty years in the future, when a murder takes place in the billionaire’s mansion. Every time the investigating officer gets close to a solution, time is unwound. She starts again, with no recollection of her previous investigations.
Which six books will you take to the Island?
An Instance of the Fingerpost by Iain Pears
Four witnesses - and potential suspects - tell their stories of a murder. Each makes you realise that the last narrator was not entirely reliable. It’s skilfully done, with the characters interacting with real-life figures from Oxford University in the 1660s.
Use of Weapons by Iain M Banks
I love the complexity of the book, and that you don’t really understand what is going on until near the end. There are two narrative strands, one going forward in time, the other backwards. It seems an incredibly brave book to have written, but it works. There are some heartrending moments - particularly when you discover the reason for the title. I could happily re-read this several more times.
The Stone and the Flute by Hans Bemmann
This is fantasy, but not in the usual sense. It tells the story of a young man who does something terrible, and spends the rest of his life trying to come to terms with it, and find redemption. It has a particularly poignant ending, about the transition from life to death being almost joyful. The first time I read it was almost thirty years ago, around the time my father died - and I remember finding it a real comfort at the time.
We can remember it for you wholesale by Philip K Dick
This is a short story that most people know as the movie Total Recall. Like many of his works, it plays with reality and memory. What is real? And can we trust our own memories? Dick’s stories are brilliantly imaginative and inventive, and this is just one of several that I could have chosen. He is the writer who made me realise that science fiction is not about rockets and robots - it asks questions about us as humans, and makes us consider how we would react to twists in reality. There are (I hope) some echoes of Dick’s ideas in Five Minds.
Blind Corner by Dornford Yates
Published in 1927, this is a story about a hunt for buried treasure in a fictional European country. Some of Yates’ views (in his other writing) would not stand up well to modern scrutiny. However, it is the first book I can remember: my father read it to me as a child, and I have re-read it several times since. It is a cracking read. There are mysteries to solve, excellent villains, and the pace never drops.
What disc will you take to the island?
Whilst I’m happy to be on my own, even I might get a bit lonely on a desert island, so I would want a song to raise my spirits when needed. When writing Black Lake I got into German schlager music, which features in the first chapter - the sort of songs they play in the clubs in Mallorca. I think I would take the slightly absurd ‘Wie Heist Die Mutter Von Nikki Lauda’ by Almklausi - ideally with the video as well, so I could feel part of it.
What luxury item will you take
I am hoping the island would be big enough to make my running shoes worthwhile. Running is my way of relaxing, and thinking through problems, so I would probably need it.
Which fictional character will you meet?
I would like to say Cyrano de Bergerac, but since he is based on a real person, I probably wouldn’t be allowed him. So instead I would like to meet Berry Pleydell. As well as writing thrillers, Dornford Yates wrote a series of humorous books, with Berry being the central character. Some of the humour has dated, but there are still laugh-out-loud moments, usually with Berry complaining about his latest predicament. I suspect that he would be tiresome to live with long-term - but four hours of his take on being stuck on a desert island would be welcome relief.