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Geoffrey Archer

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A little about my life:
was born and brought up in North London. Pretty useless at my school studies, as a teenager I devoured the books of Nevil Shute and dreamed of creating adventure fiction like his one day. At school my only real interests were writing for house magazines and acting in school plays. (I got into the National Youth Theatre when I was 16, and had a minor part in a production of Hamlet alongside future stars like Simon Ward and Michael York). After leaving school I had a couple of misguided attempts at careers – engineering, the law – before a lucky break saw me joining a local television station in Southampton as a trainee researcher. I moved on to Anglia TV in Norwich and became an on-screen journalist. Then to Tyne-Tees TV in Newcastle before joining ITN in 1969 as a reporter on News at Ten.

My TV Career:
As a national news journalist I gained my first experience of political conflict on the streets of Belfast in the early 1970s. But reporting for the TV news proved frustrating. The full scope of what a reporter witnesses can’t be squeezed into a short news item. And when I covered the extraordinarily violent events of the civil war in Beirut in 1976, the frustration drove me into trying to turn the drama I’d witnessed into a novel. The book took many years to complete, writing in my spare time, but in the end wasn’t good enough to attract a publisher. But having written one book, I reckoned I could probably write another, so decided to try again.

Into print:
It was in the 1980s, when I was ITN’s Defence Correspondent, that I wrote my first successful book. I’d persuaded the Royal Navy to give me a TV ‘exclusive’ on board a Polaris missile submarine. After two days at sea, I was hooked by the submariners’ secret world and decided this would be the background for my next attempt at fiction. I spun a spy story around nuclear missiles and my agent persuaded Century-Hutchinson to buy it. Sky Dancer came out in 1987. Two more books with naval themes followed in the next six years, the second of which, Eagle Trap, got into the best-seller lists. Later, the war in Bosnia gave me the story for Scorpion Trail, published in 1995. That same year I decided to give up my TV news career to concentrate on writing full time. The themes of my novels moved away from naval activities into the world of the Secret Intelligence Service, MI6. And now, most recently, into a murder mystery set in the past.


Photo: Michael Trevillion

Further biographical material: Interview in The Guardian by Emma Brockes

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