Please welcome my guest today, author Tony Bassett, who has joined me to answer a few questions about himself and his books.
Let’s start with you telling us a little about yourself
Thank you for showing interest in me and my novels. I’m originally from Tonbridge in Kent. I first became interested in writing at the age of nine when I co-edited a school magazine called The Globe.
While studying History and Politics at Hull University, I edited the university newspaper and was fortune enough to win a Time-Life magazine student journalism award.
I then worked as a journalist on local and national newspapers (mainly the Sunday People) until I started writing novels five years ago.
My first book, published in December 2018, is a crime thriller called Smile Of The Stowaway, which concerns a Kent couple called Bob and Anne Shaw.
They befriend a stowaway found hiding beneath their motorhome. After finding him work, he is accused of murdering a colleague and the pair work tirelessly clear their friend’s name.
My second novel, The Lazarus Charter, features the same Kent couple – this time running in pursuit of Russian agents.
I have five children who are grown up and live in South Wales. A life member of the National Union of Journalists, I live in North Kent with my partner, Lin.
How did you get into writing?
I first became interested in the idea of a writing career at the age of nine when I began receiving top marks for English essays. But after university, novel writing seemed precarious and I trained to be a journalist.
For several years, I was part of the Sunday People’s investigations team. Once a criminal tried to convince the department head that he had broken into the judge’s chambers at the Old Bailey. So to satisfy the newspaper’s lawyers, I had to do the same thing myself before the story could be run. I also spent time undercover in order to catch a fraudulent MOT seller.
Later, in the 1990s, I helped return an escaped gangster to prison. The gangster had been temporarily taken out of prison, in order to receive surgery – but bolted after the procedure. But the fugitive’s girlfriend wanted him to finish the short sentence he had left, so she contacted me. I met up with the felon in a pub in Islington and a photographer and I drove him back to Long Lartin Prison, where the gangster handed himself in.
I was only able to turn my hand to writing novels full-time when I became semi-retired five years ago.
I have written five books so far, two of which have been published. I was very fortunate to find a willing publisher fairly quickly. James Essinger, the talented director of The Conrad Press in Canterbury, was keenly interested in publishing both Smile Of The Stowaway and The Lazarus Charter.
It has astonished me how different novel writing is from newspaper reporting. It’s a craft which takes a while to learn. I’m part of a creative writing school in Dartford run by Sunday Times bestselling author Elaine Everest, where I have learned a lot about fiction writing and the publishing industry.
Please tell me about your second novel, The Lazarus Charter
The Lazarus Charter is my second novel. It features the couple who appeared in my first book, Smile Of The Stowaway – teachers Bob and Anne Shaw.
In this sequel, the pair become immersed in a world of espionage as they struggle to understand how a Government scientist friend has come back to life five weeks after his funeral.
As the story progresses and the Shaws learn some dangerous secrets, they are forced out of their home and are confronted by ruthless enemies — whose identity is, for a while, shrouded in mystery.
I felt compelled to write the novel partly because of the growing dangers posed in this country by foreign agents who seem to believe they can act without regard for the law.
Like so many people, I have been outraged at the way these agents have been free to smuggle deadly, unstable poisons into Britain and then use them to eliminate lives.
For more than a decade, there have been a spate of deadly incidents. One was the polonium poisoning of British-naturalised Russian defector Alexander Litvinenko, aged 44, on November 23, 2006.
In more recent memory comes the attempted murder with novichok of former Russian military intelligence officer Sergei Skripal on March 4, 2018 in Salisbury – which led disgracefully to the death four months later of an entirely innocent party, Dawn Sturgess, also 44.
Since the novel concerns Russian agents, I thought it would be useful research for the book to contact Alexander’s widow, Marina, and the parents of Dawn Sturgess. All three have been very helpful. I also feel strongly that these victims of an enemy power have been rather overlooked. So the novel is dedicated to Dawn and Alexander.
Do you base your characters on people you know or strangers you see in the streets?
My characters are not intentionally based on anyone I know. However, I have met tens of thousands of people as a journalist and, inevitably, facets of some of their personalities must have had an effect on my writing.
I think aspects of teacher Bob Shaw’s character may have unconsciously been derived from those of teachers I knew at my school in Tunbridge Wells.
Lastly, where does your writing career go from here?
I’m currently writing a psychological thriller with a completely fresh set of characters. It is set in the beautiful city of Sydney, which I visited ten years ago. My sister has a home over looking the harbour and is helping me by carrying out some of the research for me!
Thank you for taking time to answer my questions and look forward to hearing more from you in the near future.