I have always dithered between being an artist or a writer. In the end I went into writing because it offered a path to money and travel. Being an artist didn’t. albeit I did get on the first rung a few years ago when I went to De Montfort University in Lincoln, UK. to study art but when someone offered me money to write a daily Internet news report I was seduced again.
I have been writing for money for longer than I care to remember, first as a reporter, then as a feature writer, then foreign political correspondent and war reporter in all parts of the world. In between I gained ambition and became news editor, assistant editor and finally editor of two fine newspapers, the tabloid Daily Telegraph in Sydney, and The Australian, my country’s only national daily broadsheet and at that time the flagship of Rupert Murdoch’s newspaper empire. (Then he bought The Times and I was back trying to find new adventures.)
Being a journalist took me to every continent in the world, paid for me to see places the average tourist can’t reach, opened up more than fifty countries to me, allowed me meet with people lots of the general public can only see on television, or read in newspapers. I interviewed a number of the famous. Most of them were only famous because of being born into fame, or having some entrepreneurial agent or manager thrust upon them. But I genuinely liked spending a day in Calcutta with Mother Theresa in the early 1970’s before she became famous world wide; I found Henry Kissinger interesting because of how he acted, rather than what he said, and I will never forget Vanessa Redgrave because I spent hours with her while she was canvassing as a candidate for the Workers Revolutionary Part in the ’70’s and she was inches taller than me, walked as fast as a steam locomotive and trod me into the ground in ten minutes.
I wrote my first novel when I was 22. It was rejected. Decades later, and more than 500 rejections slips added to the pile, the former Emma Dunsford, then editor of Jane Gregory’s agency, pulled my latest offering out of the slush pile and liked it. The book, called Matrioshka, was also rejected by but in 2007 she singled out Tattoo as the one that she would get published. Three years later, Emma – now married – made it happen, along with Jane’s encouragement.
I remember when Matrioshka came along Emma and Jane both said I wrote like John Le Carre but unfortunately Le Carre was now passé and so would I be if I didn’t get rid of the lovely but long winded poetic descriptions of places, drop an emphasis on weather, and get to the point quickly, tell the story and then get out.
I have been long winded in this biography. I have skipped most of the story but now I should get out.
For the sake of statistics I am ancient, I have a much younger wife, a son in Scotland and a daughter in Sydney, a black Great Dane who in relative terms is even older than I am (and twice as grumpy) and a white mixed breed (mostly Iberian Mastiff) who is bigger than the Dane. I live in Southern Spain. I have also lived in Catalunya, the UK, Virginia in the United States, Mexico, Australia, South Africa and sundry other places. I am a culé, an ardent supporter of Barcelona Football Club. My wife is a merengue – a fan of Real Madrid. I live in a village where 98 per cent of the men (and women) support Madrid. Such is the story of my life.
Tattoo is published by Piatkus