My new book is called THE SECRET SPEECH, named after the speech Khrushchev delivered to the 20th Congress of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union. He that speech he admitted to some of the paranoid excesses of his predecessor Stalin’s regime. In my book the speech triggers a wave of vicious reprisals against secret policemen who were responsible for some particularly brutal acts during Stalin’s reign of terror. Among those in danger is Leo Demidov, the reformed security officer with a conscience who tracked down a serial killer in Child 44. In order to redeem his brutal past, Leo has leveraged the official attention he received from catching the child killer to create a specialized homicide unit, something that would have been unthinkable under Stalin. After investigating the death of a former prison guard and having a conversation with a terrified former colleague who also winds up dead, Leo begins to put the pieces together, eventually realizing that those targeted are connected to the case of a dissident priest, a case to which Leo himself was intimately connected. When the danger expands to include the patchwork family Leo has been trying desperately to hold together, he must confront the terrible mistakes of his past to save his adopted daughter.
Writers who inspired me…Joseph Conrad and Robert Louis Stevenson – I love LORD JIM, a man trying to redeem for a terrible act of cowardice, a single, impulsive decision for which Lord Jim spends the entire book trying to make amends. In some ways he’s the fictional template for Leo, not that I knew that when I read Lord Jim. Robert Louis Stevenson – brilliant adventures, a sense of escapism that is exciting and thoughtful.
I suppose one of the most important author growing up was Roald Dahl. I could pick one of his books but it would be a relatively arbitrary choice: I loved everything he wrote. It’s funny and dark and exciting.
Outside of research reading, I read very erratically, leaping from non-fiction to fiction, from different fields – I’ll read any book that someone recommends, or which leap out for whatever reason. Authors recently where I’ve tried to go through every book include Murakami and Philip K Dick.
I would hope my books are exciting. They’re intended as adventures, a journey into a very different world. I also like the idea that you feel sad to leave the characters at the end.
The reader is king! Of course, you can’t write cynically, hoping it will please an imagined reader. You have to love your stories in order for them to have any appeal to a reader.
It’s the last story in which Leo will be the main character, the end of a trilogy that began with Child 44. I’ve only just started it but I guess appropriately for a book that is the end of a trilogy, it is a story about things coming to an end.
The Secret Speech is published by Simon & Schuster