Page-turning, precision plotted political thrillers
ITN journalist turned bestselling author, Gerald Seymour's spellbinding political thrillers have taken his heroes from the troubles in Northern Ireland, through the turmoil of the Serbo-Croat conflict and into the darkness of a world post 9/11.
It all started in 1975 with Harry's Game and he returns to Northern Ireland with Vagabond, his latest. We're delighted that he's agreed to join us for August and share some of his own favourite titles to boot.
Gerald Seymour on...
A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens
The most important book to me, the greatest influence on my own writing, has to be ‘Tale of Two Cities’. It is a classic novel and also a superb thriller, and it produces the most compelling hero of British literature, Sidney Carton. I am a huge fan of the atmospheric writing that describes the hard, mean streets of Paris at the time of the Revolution, the power and brutality of the mob when passions are let loose, but above all is the Carton character: he is the failed, booze ridden advocate who can dominate a massive court room scene when a life is on the line, win when it matters. The lines at the end of the story as he gives his own life to protect the husband of the woman he has put on a personal pedestal are incredibly moving, and his gentleness with the young girl who will go before him up the steps to the guillotine. Wonderful, and an inspiration.
The Day of the Jackal by Frederick Forsyth
I have big respect for Frederick Forsyth. There have been very few lurches in direction for thriller writers in the last half century. Ian Fleming changed direction with the Bond books, but Freddie set the tone with ‘Day of the Jackal’ and he has had a wheelbarrow load of imitators but no equals. The style demands detail and authenticity but is never mechanical: it is one of those stories that keeps new readers, and the old ones who dip back in every few years to repeat the pleasures, up half the night. A real page turner.
Most Secret by Nevil Shute
The stories of Nevil Shute have a timeless appeal. He was a complete story teller, knew how to put together a beginning, a middle, and an end. The reader is transported by the personalities he introduces us to, and we live with them and care about them. The one most often in my mind is ‘Most Secret’ which tells of a small group of fighting men who convert a trawler into a mini-warship and sail across the Channel to take on naval forces of the German occupation. I usually end up with an unashamed wet eye when I return to the last few pages of this epic. He’s brilliant.
England, Their England by A. G. Macdonnell
And I can also get another wet eye, but this time from laughter, when I take off the shelves the immortal ‘England Their England’ by A.G. Macdonnell. It is a comic spoof story of a journey through the English social whirl between the wars. The chapter that is still hilarious, and true, describes a cricket match on a village green when the young toffs from London come down to play the locals. I used to play cricket for my home village in rural Surrey and I have total empathy with Macdonnell’s writing. Utterly absorbing, well worth hunting out.
The Yellow Birds by Kevin Powers
And I am not totally wedded to nostalgia. Anyone wishing to see fiction’s response to the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan, and be confident that the author knows what he writes of, should get hold of ‘The Yellow Birds’ by Kevin Powers. He was in the US military, was a machine gunner is times of brutal combat. His word pictures of a soldier’s life in a conflict zone are seriously memorable. The images are sincere and sensitive: it’s short and I deeply regretted finishing it, wanted more.
Click here to visit Gerald Seymour's website.
Author photo © Cristian Barnett