James Jackson is a historical thriller-writer and author of novels including Blood Rock, Pilgrim, Realm, and Perdition. He is a former City analyst and political-risk consultant, was a postgraduate specialising in future terrorist trends, was Called to the Bar and is a member of the Inner Temple. His non-fiction writing includes occasional features in the national press and contributions to current affairs websites.
His first espionage thriller – Dead Headers – published in 1997, warned of the threat posed by international terrorism and the need to ‘dead head’ the menace before it proliferated.
They say you are what you eat (ergo, President Assad of Syria must have eaten a lot of arseholes). Then again, you can tell much about a person - tastes, emotional temperature, even sexual orientation - from a cursory glance at a range of indicators.
The figure that crept through the darkened chambers of a Rome apartment made little noise. He knew every inch of the route and expected no interruption. His master was asleep, the servants consigned to their quarters, the guards outside patrolled clueless of events within. He padded on.
Divorced, decapitated, died. The wives of Henry VIII had it simple. For 21st Century forty-somethings - my contemporaries - the litany of woe is considerably more extensive: dull, dumped, divorced, dejected, demoralised, disillusioned, despairing, deranged, drunk, dysfunctional, druggy, dried-out, dried-up and often utterly desperate.
There is nothing quite like it. The hopes and joys and fears and promise, the comedy of errors and clash of class, the mix of characters and range of emotion, the execrable speeches and appalling dancing and the potential for calamitous farce.
I remember a breakfast meeting with a film-maker who introduced himself with a handshake and a 'Hi, I'm an Obsessive Compulsive'. To which I responded 'How d'you do, I'm English'. Mind you, I once sat in on a private Kabbalah session with Madonna, so nothing is too strange.