Putting Authors in the Picture #5: James Deegan

I love this blog feature, the photos chosen have real meaning to the author and there is always a surprise waiting to be discovered. Our author in the picture for January is James Deegan, his debut Once A Pilgrim was one of my star books for 2018, and his stunning follow-up The Angry Sea is out on 24 January 2019. If you haven’t yet joined the party, then let me introduce you, James Deegan spent five years in the Parachute Regiment and seventeen in the SAS, retiring as Regimental Sergeant Major. He was described by his commanding officer as ‘one of the most operationally experienced SAS men of his era’. He has turned his hand to writing and the result is an absolute fire-cracker of a reading experience. I read a proof copy of Once A Pilgrim back at the end of 2017 and immediately knew I had a hit in my hands, so apparently did the reader in the first photo, and oh my, what a photo! 

A book photo which makes me beam with happiness.

Got to be this one, which Tom Hardy posted on Instagram reading my first book. I love how he brings the characters he plays to life, in my opinion the greatest British method actor of his generation.

What is your favourite book cover to date?

I loved the concept for the cover for Once A Pilgrim when I saw the proof copy. However, I didn’t like the cover. It was great to work with the publisher to come up with the final cover for Once A Pilgrim and see how that has carried on with The Angry Sea.

Most memorable book event.

I went to the launch of my friend Stuart Tootal’s book The Manner of Men it is about a heroic mission seen pivotal to the success of the D-Day landings, carried out by men from The 9th Battalion The Parachute Regiment an astonishing feat of arms. Several of the men who fought as part of the operation were in attendance, I asked them to sign my book. One asked why do you want me to sign it? I am not special, how wrong he was, truly humbling. We owe them much. I am proud to have served in a unit that was part of that legacy. 

The book that made you want to become an author.


I don’t have one, but a book that I read which was probably the first I ever read that told a story that I could relate to and was quite influential was Trainspotting by Irvine Welsh. He captures so well the Edinburgh of my era, I know the characters in the story, not literally but people like them, I have all his books, I buy them religiously. The pic is the paperback a friend sent me from Leith, the primary area the book is set and he said 'you need to read this it’s brilliant', it was and 25 years later it’s still on my book shelf.

What is your most beloved book?

that’s far too difficult a question to answer I have lots. However Cross of Iron for me is a classic. It brings to life the reality of life and death in combat so vividly, and to an extent the futility of war. Men just trying to survive. Brought to life on the big screen in the 1977 movie of the same name. I think that’s why it sticks with me so much. I think the first war movie in which the combat looked real and visceral that’s probably why as a book it has stuck with me as a favourite.

Which bookshelf do you come back to?

Some of my favourite authors here, Scarrow, Cornwell, Iggulden, McDonald-Fraser. Note the slight OCD with them all in rows where I can... my shirts are the same in my wardrobe and colour coordinated.

If you enjoyed this, take a look at our other Putting Authors and Illustrators in the Picture features.

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