For those in peril on the seas.

During the course of writing my books I have found it necessary to consult experts. The first of these was Lucy Tanner then a watch officer in HM Coastguard.  After making a formal request to the station manager Lee Fisher I was afforded two hours in which to discuss my plot and ask questions. Lucy, also an author, was not only a mine of information but also someone who understood what is was that I needed to know. She also excelled in the skill of imparting information concisely that made it instantly understandable. By putting in one or two anecdotes she allowed me to add something human to what could have been a cold technical passage of the book.

What I also witnessed during the visit was the highly professional way in which those on watch in the station went about their work. I witnessed the calm reassuring response to tense radio messages offering clear advice and guidance and the team bond that existed between the officers on watch, inspiring stuff.

The law.

Asking a British policeman about the weapons he is carrying is something I would be a little reticent about, to do it in Portugal, well that was something I did not relish at all, but it had to be done. I think had I been alone at the time the question would have been met with some suspicion, but fortunately my wife was with me and we could start up a pleasant tourist style conversation before zoning in on the research side of things. Explaining why I

At Camara do Lobos sizing up the landing for al Bashir and Takkal. Shadows in Sunshine.

At Camara do Lobos sizing up the landing for al Bashir and Takkal. Shadows in Sunshine.

was interested was the first angle of approach and he seemed to be amused at being interviewed by an author, then I homed in on the question. For some strange reason I had expected him to remove the Glock 9mm from the holster and actually show me, a prospect that frankly I did not relish. I’ve seen too many guns waved around in my life. Instead he just gave me the name of the maker and size before explaining that Portuguese police have to purchase their own guns and uniform once they have been accepted into the force. Don’t tell George Osborne otherwise it will form part of the next round of austerity measures.

New Sports

Sail boarding is something that I haven’t tried, nor in this English climate felt drawn to so needing to learn something about it quickly I sought out an expert. For anyone thinking of starting up in the sport I cannot recommend highly enough Jon Popkiss of Kai Sports Ltd. His knowledge is encyclopaedic and his enthusiasm great to witness. I sought his advice for a character in my latest book, ‘Shadows in Sunshine’, which I hope to have completed by September. After two phone calls and a comprehensive response to my emailed draft of the narrative I had all I needed to know to avoid looking really stupid. Prior to talking with Jon I had no idea of the wide range of boards and their specific characteristics. Taken to the extreme it is almost as much a science as it is a sport. What was so obvious from Jon’s explanation was the exhilaration enjoyed by the sport’s participants. If only our islands were in warmer seas.



  1. Beth Duff

    Great insight into your writing – and what it takes to ensure the detail is accurate and therefore believable.


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