Thursday, 13 July 2017

On Her Majesty’s Secret Service with Matthew Richardson

It was in March that I had a quiet chat with Publisher and Writer Rowland White at Penguin-Random House’s Crime & Thriller party. I’ve known Rowland for many years, as we were both Undergraduates from Liverpool, though Mr White is much younger than I and he went to the University while I went to the Polytechnic. But more importantly we share a common interest in thriller fiction. I asked my usual question when surveying the upcoming offerings from publishers; a question I know is one that rattles within the industry –

“So Rowland, what have you got coming that is new, fresh and vibrant in your thriller list?”

Rowland, smiled “I think you’ll like this debut, it’s very special, from a young writer named Richardson, Matthew Richardson” a name that meant little to me “it’s titled ‘My Name is Nobody”, he continued thrusting a review copy into my hands.

I have enjoyed much of what Rowland White and his colleagues at both Penguin-Random House / Michael Joseph as well as his own imprint have recommended – especially when it comes to espionage thrillers.

So Rowland described MY NAME IS NOBODY

'I know a secret. A secret that changes everything . . .'
Solomon Vine was the best of his generation, a spy on a fast track to the top. But when a prisoner is shot in unexplained circumstances, and on his watch, only suspension and exile beckon.

Three months later, in Istanbul, MI6's Head of Station is violently abducted from his home. With the Service in lockdown, uncertain of who can be trusted, thoughts turn to the missing man's oldest friend: Solomon Vine.

Officially suspended, Vine can operate outside the chain of command to uncover the truth. But his investigation soon reveals that the disappearance heralds something much darker. And that there's much more at stake than the life of a single spy . .

Espionage thrillers are a particular interest of mine, as anyone sharing time in a bar with me will attest to, so broke the spine of the debut and found myself reading long into the night.

Our reviewer Amy Myers concurred that this debut is indeed one to grab as she wrote –

My Name is Nobody is a spy thriller based around the machinations of MI6 in London. Despite the activities of our security services being deeply cloaked in shadow;
Richardson makes the activities on display appear truly authentic; and frighteningly so.

Read the Full Review HERE

So as MY NAME IS NOBODY hits our bookshelves today, Shots Magazine tracked down Matthew Richardson as we had a few questions to ask.

Ali       So firstly Matthew, can you tell us a little about where the fascination to write an espionage thriller came from?

Matthew        The first books I really remember reading for fun were Agatha Christie novels. So when it came to writing a book of my own I was in no doubt that I wanted to write something that was story-driven. My first interest in the world of politics and espionage came about through reading the works of le Carré and Frederick Forsyth, so having a go at a spy thriller of my own seemed the logical next step.

AK       So tell us about your early reading, and which books made an impression

MR      It was The Ghost by Robert Harris that really made me want to write thrillers. I was already interested in politics, but the novel showed how politics and espionage are inevitably interlinked. Harris also manages to write sentences to die for while never compromising on narrative drive. Much harder than it looks.

AK       Specifically, what authors do you read currently, and why?

MR      I like reading broadly across all genres. John Grisham is a real favourite. Robert Harris, as mentioned above. Otherwise an eclectic mix: Ruth Ware, Frederick Forsyth, Sebastian Faulks, William Boyd, Hilary Mantel, David Baldacci. For sheer fun, I still don’t think many can beat Dame Agatha.

AK       Tell us a little about your first writings, and what inspired you?

MR      I wrote a lot through university, honing the structural and stylistic side of things but searching for a story and an angle on the world. It was only when I started working in Westminster that I felt I had found a story to tell.

AK       I see you were in academia for a period in Durham and Oxford, could you tell us a little about that time, and what it brought to your writing?

MR      I think my time studying English at Durham and Oxford allowed me to read enough to understand the basics of style and character. The sheer volume of material to digest makes you very comfortable with the written word.

AK       And at Oxford, you didn’t get a tap on the shoulder from Her Majesty’s Secret Service…….laughing….?

MR      No. I was too busy trying to become a writer……laughing…..

AK       And where did the idea for ‘My Name is Nobody’ spring from?

MR      I started working in Westminster as a researcher and speechwriter and soon discovered that Westminster is much smaller than it looks on TV. People call it the Westminster Village, almost like Midsomer with the nuclear codes. I thought it was the perfect setting for a spy thriller. It started with setting and then moved to character. But just walking the streets of Westminster during my lunchbreaks was enough to get inspired.

AK       I see you are represented by Euan Thorneycroft, so tell us how you found your debut novel in print; and the journey to Penguin-Random-House?

MR      I seem to be one of the few people who got my foot in the door through the slush pile. I submitted three chapters to Euan and everything went from there.

AK       So was it the plot or the character of Solomon Vine [your protagonist] that helped shape the narrative?

MR      The plot changed across the various drafts, but the character of Solomon Vine stayed the same. He was the one constant from beginning to end. So definitely character.

AK       And did you plot heavily or rely on an outline and just follow the muse?

MR      A mix of both. As it went through the various drafting stages, the plot and back story began to get progressively more complicated. By the time I reached the final draft I needed a proper plan to make sure everything fitted together.

AK       And tell us about your work in political journalism as your debut is hugely topical in these days of perplexing geo-politics?

MR      My work has mainly been in speechwriting and research. Working in politics has certainly given me an insight into what goes on behind the scenes and how disorientating it can often feel when you’re in the trenches as these things are happening around you.

AK       And what’s next for Matthew Richardson?

MR      Book two is going through the editing stage now. It should be out in summer 2018. Watch this space!

AK       Thank you for your time

A         Thank you.

Shots have copies of this remarkable debut available from our bookstore HERE and it comes highly recommended. 

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