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Friends And Traitors by John Lawson
Inspector Troy series
It is 1958. Chief Superintendent Frederick Troy of Scotland Yard, newly promoted after good service during Nikita Khrushchev’s visit to Britain, is not looking forward to a Continental trip with his older brother, Rod. Rod was too vain to celebrate being fifty so instead takes his entire family on ‘the Grand Tour’ for his fifty-first birthday: Paris, Siena, Florence, Vienna, Amsterdam. Restaurants, galleries and concert halls. But Frederick Troy never gets to Amsterdam.
After a concert in Vienna he is approached by an old friend whom he has not seen for years – Guy Burgess, a spy for the Soviets, who says something extraordinary: ‘I want to come home.’ Troy dumps the problem on MI5 who send an agent to debrief Burgess – but when the man is gunned down only yards from the embassy, the whole plan unravels with alarming speed and Troy finds himself a suspect.
As he fights to prove his innocence, Troy discovers that Burgess is not the only ghost who has returned to haunt him…
Introducing Troy by John Lawton
I first thought of Troy (although at that point he was nameless) when I was living in and killing time in Spain in 1983. The Russian aspect was directly inspired by Gorky Park, and the WW2 setting very much by reading Angus Calder’s The People’s War. Knowing some Russian helped.
I dreamt up Black Out as a screenplay. The following year, back in England,
my agent told me “Forget it. Too damn costly.” This was long before CGI, and, as a friend put it, meant ‘taking down half the TV aerials in London.’
I began to think of it as a novel. And I thunk and thunk and thunk.
In 1987 for no reason I can think of I sat down and typed (on an old Olivetti, this was just pre-Mac) two chapters which Hodder declined.
In 1992 I wanted a year off from the day job at Channel 4. I finished Black Out in about 9 months, gave it to Ion Trewin at Weidenfeld (the same editor who had turned it down at Hodders) and he ran with it. Then I buggered off to Palestine to make a short film for Channel 4.
Ages before publication it became clear Weidenfeld expected a sequel.
I’d gone back to the day job, and was working in Washington DC for ITV.
I had not a shred of an idea for a sequel. What I had was a large cast of characters — a modus operandi that seems to be my norm, and, as such, infinitely mineable for that bit more. I was not going to write about WW2 again. What I needed was a date and a subject, a canvas big enough for Troy, Rod, Onions and Wildeve to strut across.
Cut to the second bottle of champagne in the Willard hotel. I am competing for the Nobel prize in futility, ie. trying to drink Gore Vidal under the table. As bottle #2 goes nose down in the bucket he says, “Suez. That has to be your next subject.” He was right. 1956 it was. I called the book Wild Again which didn’t hit the mark at Weidenfeld so it became Old Flames.
That led, almost logically, to 1963 for A Little White Death … and my rep company grew and grew. The audio versions are read by the Canadian actor Lewis Hancock (the few that aren’t were voiced the late Sara Coward, to whom Friends & Traitors is dedicated). Lewis e-mailed me from Montreal a few weeks before recording one book with, “I’m only two thirds in and you’ve already got me doing 73 different voices.” Never counted, but I believe him. I am unlikely to write a chamber piece and seem stuck with Troy concertos.
To roll Troy forward into the sixties was not what I wanted to do. Ariana Franklin said, “The way you write is bloody infuriating … a bit here .. a bit there … never A-Z, but you could apply that to the series. Start filling in the gaps.” I’ve been doing that ever since — 1959, 1948, 1940, 1941 and so on, up to now when I’ve hit 1958 with Friends and Traitors — and if I were to be asked what I’m doing I might reply: “I write about a far from typical London copper. A devious bastard with criminal tendencies and the conscience of a steppen wolf. As such crime and solution were never going do the trick … Troy’s cases always lead him into the spook world. Usually as their nemesis. The Troy novels are historical, romantic, spook novels liberally splashed with a coat of noir.”
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