Spies & Ciphers: the Poem Codes of the SOE

There was a point in 1942 when the expected lifespan of a radio operative with the SOE was six weeks. They had to have the presence of mind to get complex message encryption right while being cold, hungry and terrified of capture at any moment…

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Digging into the guts: writing into the fire

It’s staringly obvious to anyone who takes more than about three minutes to read the facts of her life that the woman whom we know best as the Maid of Orléans was neither a peasant girl nor a visionary…

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Joan of Arc: who was she, really?

The myth is of a mystic peasant girl, visited by angels and saints, who acted as a standard bearer and morale-booster for the French army to such good effect that they began to win. Here are 5 reasons why this isn’t reasonable, fair or borne out by the truth.

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A Crime Writer’s Dream

Sometimes a character jumps out of nowhere: he or she wasn’t in the outline and didn’t have a key part in the plot – but they arrive and are so alive, so compelling that they take over every scene and muscle their way up to the top of the character tree…

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Mithras and the older gods

It’s that time of year, what my friend John Barratt calls, ‘Mithrastide’: the time of consumerism and consumptionism where affluenza strikes the entire western world promulgated in the name of a child who was never born, in a place that didn’t exist, who grew to be a non-man who preached poverty and compassion and whose followers have spent the past two thousand years feeding instead the god behind the facade with a steady diet of blood, sweat and tears…

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Short Story: What if Boudica had won?

BBC History Magazine has published a short story in which I’ve combined the survivors of the Boudica series with Pantera as he would have been if the Boudica’s armies had won…

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Boudica: 15 years on

On the 11th of June 2015, it’ll be fifteen years since Dreaming the Eagle was first published.  There were no electronic versions then, no Facebook, no Twitter. Email was on dial up, and we waited until midnight to dial in because the lines were engaged through the day. 

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Into the Fire Prize Nomination

Writing is the best fun in the world. It’s an amazing honour and a privilege to be able to sit in my own home making stuff up and have people pay me for it. I do know this, and on the days when the ‘making stuff up’ feels like digging to China with raw fingernails, I remind myself.

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On Praise and Vulnerability

Here’s the thing about writing a book. It’s a deeply personal experience. You sit in your office (or café, or car, or wherever you can best shut out the outside world) and commune with a cast of people who live entirely in your head.  They are all, in fact, a part of you, small split parts of shadow or light, or mixtures of both, capable of greatness and horror, love and grief, murder, mayhem and acts of astonishing compassion.

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