Along Came a Spider…

When I was younger, I used to watch a programme called London’s Burning.  Carrie, a resident of these here parts, actually believes London did burn and she’s the only survivor.  Carrie, of the red hair, red eyes and ready for anything, isn’t entirely wrong, thanks to the latest person to wander into the recreation room…


Ey up, there.  What’s your name? 

Stephen Leather.


Hello Stephen.  Where are you from? 



I’ve been there a few times for concerts and flights, and almost moved close by for work.  Do you like living there?  If not, where would your favourite place to live be?  Is yes, where would you least like to live? 

I don’t live there anymore. I’m in Bangkok most of the time, which is pretty much my favourite place, though I’m a big fan of London, LA and Paris.  I have lived in Bath, Exeter, Glasgow, London, Hong Kong, Paris, Baltimore and Dublin.  Where would I least like to live? Somewhere cold and rainy, I think. Which I suppose would be Manchester!  I much prefer warm sunny places. But having said that I would love to spend some time in Alaska.


Alaska would be cool – literally!  Is this why you write thrillers?  They’re actually autobiographical and you’ve lived so many glamorous places because you’re a spy on the run?  Is being a writer is this your ‘day job’?

Oh yes, and has been for almost twenty-five years.  Before that I was a journalist with staff jobs on the Glasgow Herald, The Daily Mirror, The Daily Mail, the South China Morning Post and The Times, so I have been writing professionally for more than thirty years.


That sounds like a dream job.  I know someone who’d love to be able to do that.  Tell me about your latest project.

I am working on the 11th Dan “Spider” Shepherd book, which will probably be called White Knights. It’s set mainly in Pakistan and will hopefully be action-packed. I plan to do many more stories about Shepherd. He has his own website at


My new book in the Jack Nightingale series is published on January 16.  Nightingale is a supernatural detective investigating mainly occult cases and they are fun books to write.  This one is called Lastnight and someone is murdering Goths!  I spent a lot of time hanging out with Goths for research.

I like Spider already.  I actually have my own blog and twitter account, though I prefer to hijack Mr. Allan’s nowadays.  It’s a guilty pleasure of mine – plus it winds him up.  I wonder what Goths are like to hang out with?  Dark and mysterious?  The same as us ‘normal’ people?  How do you feel about bacon?  A crazy person once said it was the food of the gods.  OK, I admit that person was myself…

I love bacon. It is probably my favourite food. I am highly suspicious of any society that forbids bacon.


A society could possibly forbid bacon?  That’s crazy!  Trust me, I know!  What is your favourite film?

Buffy The Vampire Slayer, no question.  Not the TV series, that I never enjoyed. The movie is very tongue in cheek and has some great hammy performances by the likes of Donald Sutherland and Rutger Hauer.


Very good choice.  I completely agree with you on their performances.  They must have had a great time doing it.  It kind of gets forgotten that there even is a movie version after the series being so popular.  You’ve written for London’s Burning, the TV show.  I used to love that.  Have you had any pyromaniacal tendencies, wished you had, or written them into your characters?

I did use to set fire to things when I was younger, but I grew out of it. I do remember dropping bits of tissue onto an electric fire to watch them burst into flames.  A piece of tissue dropped away from the element and I used a poker to move it.  The shock threw me across the room.  It was only when I did it a second time that I realised I was getting an electric shock.  There is a fire scene in Lastnight, and a very burned body.  I think there is a great thriller to be written about an arson investigator – it’s on my to-do list.


And would the investigator be the perpetrator?  Oh, if I got a shock like that, it would probably put me off ever doing it a second time.  Does that make you brave or…?  Anywho-be-do.  Have you always wanted to be a writer, or is it something you found yourself doing one day?

Always.  Since I was a kid.  I tried to write as a student but never got beyond a few pages. It was only after I’d worked as a journalist for ten years that I had the necessary skills to write a novel.  They say that it takes 10,000 hours to acquire any skill and I did my 10,000 hours as a journalist.


That Shaun Allan guy is similar.  He’s written since being a child and kept trying to write a novel but only getting so far.  Apparently I started off as a short story!  Can you believe it?  As if I’d shut up after only a few pages!  Do you have so many ideas they dribble out of your nose if you don’t get them down, or do you have to hunt around the floor and the back of your sofa to find where your Muse is hiding?

I have literally a dozen ideas for books that I could sit down and write now if I only had the time. I used to think that creativity was like a well and that if you visit it enough times it will run dry. In fact it’s more like a muscle – the more you use it, the stronger it gets.


That’s well said (no pun intended, honest).  The more you write, the more you practice the muscles and hone the art (I hope).  So, if you were in an asylum, what would your particular delusion or psychosis be?

That the world doesn’t actually exist and we are all in a computer simulation a la Matrix.


Are you saying that’s not the case?  I ponder the same thing in my second ‘memoir’.  If you killed your mother in such a world, would it be ‘matricide’ or ‘matrixide’?  What genre(s) do you write?

I have written thrillers and occult stories, but also war stories, science fiction and erotica.  I am also planning a Western.  The great thing about ePublishing is that you can write in any genre you want – you don’t have a publisher telling you that they want the next book to be similar to the last one!


Too true.  You’re your own boss.  I’ve never read a western, but enjoy the films.  I somehow doubt yours would be run of the mill, though.  That’s a wide range of books.  What genres(s) do you read?

Biographies, mainly.


I’ve only ever read one.  It was Michael McIntyre’s.  Very funny.  I’ve not been tempted by any others, though.  If these are the same, what attracts you to them.  If they’re different, why do you think that is?

Once you start writing thrillers it’s hard to read them for pleasure. A similar thing happened to me with newspapers. When I was younger I would devour them, and spend all day Sunday reading them.  But once I became a journalist reading them became work and now I rarely read a newspaper. If I do read one it’s with a critical eye, looking for mistakes and typos. I am a huge TV watcher but having written for TV (London’s Burning, The Knock, Murder In Mind) I find that I can’t watch TV for pleasure.  Once you know that most shows are filmed with a single camera it really does spoil the enjoyment.  I look for continuity errors and always spot when an actor emphasises the wrong word.  The same has happened with books. I almost never read a thriller for fun. I know that if a gun goes into a desk drawer in chapter three, it’ll be used to shoot someone before the end of the book.


I know a few people who do that with films – work out the end or why, where and how.  I don’t.  I switch off all that and enjoy the ride.  But, if it’s actually your job anyway, I’m sure it would become something of a chore.  I thought I’d tire of pretending to be crazy, being one of the only sane people in here.  It seems I can’t leave though…  But, bacon – just cooked or crispy?

There’s nothing worse than undercooked bacon. Horrible.  And I really don’t like it crispy. It has to be just right. Well cooked but not crispy. And never smoked. Bacon shouldn’t be smoked. And best back over streaky, every time. And whoever thought that bacon sandwiches need lettuce and tomato really should be in the asylum.


A man after my own heart attack.  That’s exactly how it should be, though I like a bit of crisp.  And I think there’s a few like that in here now – though they won’t know what bacon is anymore.  We’re not sure what any of the food is anymore!  Now you’re in the asylum with me, how do you aim to get out?  Do you have an escape plan?

I have a number I can call in case of emergencies such as this. A highly-trained team of armed men will come for me.  I have never had to use the number so far, but I am assured that it works. I also have a Breitling Emergency watch which will, when activated, result in a helicopter coming to pick me up. That’s what I’m told, anyway.


They’d have to get through Claire on reception first.  Good luck with that.


Well, that was certainly a pleasure.  I think Stephen fits in quite well here.  I hope, if his helicopter does drop by, he takes Mucous Mickey with him.  Mickey has always wanted to ride in a helicopter.  He’d need a long roll of tissue though.  The high altitude would play havoc with his sinuses.







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