Mick Herron takes that premise and shatters it. His spies are flawed, human they have to be to arrive in Slough House, the dumping ground for the british secret service. Dead Lions, the second in the series won a CWA Gold Dagger. Mick, born in Newcastle, now living in Oxford and working full time in London has an English degree from Balliol College. He admits to knowing nothing about spying and is a firm adherent of the school of Making Stuff Up. He may take the train to work every day but has never written any part of his novels whilst on the rails.
Here is Mick's week in his own words.
I’ve long admired Thomas Perry’s Jane Whitefield novels, but a recent exchange with my friend Chris Ewan (Long Time Lost) reminded me I wasn’t entirely up to date with them. So this week started with Poison Flower, which turned out to be one of Perry’s most alarming thrillers, with his heroine hurled into and out of danger at satisfyingly breakneck speed.
Big read of the week, though, was Bring up the Bodies, Hilary Mantel’s sequel to 2009’s Wolf Hall. With the country still reeling from the recent catastrophic referendum, and leading politicians of both major parties responding in their usual dignified fashion with an orgy of backstabbing and recrimination, it was a relief to spend a week in Tudor times, when the politics were every bit as vicious, the outcomes even more deadly, but at least – in Mantel’s version, anyway – there was elegance and wit among the carnage. In this riveting novel, the author continues her examination of Thomas Cromwell, and his painstaking attempts to solve Henry VIII’s marital problems and uphold the rule of law, whatever he decides that to be. Early in the narrative, he, Cromwell, muses: “Who can doubt that everything would be different and better, if only England were ruled by village idiots and their drunken friends?” Be careful what you wish for.
I usually have a collection of verse on the go, and for quite some while this has been Matthew Francis’s Mandeville, an absorbing volume inspired by the tales of the eponymous fourteenth century “traveller” (who almost certainly never went anywhere, and made his stories up). Francis is an extraordinary poet, and his beautiful, absorbing fables have huge imaginative clout.
After Mantel, I decided to stick with the historical novel, and picked up Wesley Stace’s Misfortune again. I say “again”: I’d been reading this some while ago and set it aside, not because I wasn’t enjoying it, but because I was starting to find the trials endured by the protagonist too distressing. In retrospect, the title should have been a clue. Anyway, I returned to it and was glad I did. Stace is an underrated talent, and should be far better known than he is.
Spook Street will be out in hardcover Feb 2017 9781616956479