My father had a novel published in 1957 entitled Many Bridges. It was based on the continuing Czech resistance after World War II when, in his words, "the double-edged ' liberating' sword of Communism swept into Czechoslovakia to add further iniquities to the Nazi defilement of this beautiful country". So I suppose writing is in my blood. His father was Czech by birth — my maiden name was Zenker — and that nation has a tradition of story-telling. I can remember Grandad telling me stories when I was a child — he died when I was in my early teens — that always seemed to involve dark castle corridors, ghostly footsteps and guttering candles that were suddenly blown out. Marvellous stuff.
A career in the Civil Service followed, first the Inland Revenue in Sussex and then the Ministry of Defence in Bath. That lovely historic city is used as a setting for some of my novels. I now live in Devon, on the edge of Dartmoor, a place that has its own stories that reach into the distant past. I will leave it up to readers to decide which of the two places has the darkest secrets.
I read somewhere that those with an urge to write create the books they cannot find to read. I started by writing Science Fiction, which at that time — in the days before fantasy became a cult genre both in book form and on television — was really in the hands of a few highly successful American authors. These were not my sort of fiction at all although I loved the basic idea. I wrote three novels which agents and publishers liked for the writing style but shook their heads over the subject matter, a prison satellite where the inmates were kept in check with mind-control. I could not stop writing, I had too worthwhile a central character, someone who was by that time too much a part of my life to try to forget about. So I brought Patrick Gillard back into the twentieth century and turned him into an army officer trying to pick up the pieces of his life after serious injuries while on special operations. The first of the series, A Murder of Crows, came out in 1987.
There are five other novels, three concerning James Carrick, my Scottish DCI in Bath, eventually to be brought, together with Joanna Mackenzie, into the Patrick Gillard and Ingrid Langley series. The two stand alone stories are Man of Blood and Corpse Candle.
I have been a member of the Crime Writers' Association since 2003.
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