Former head of Brighton CID draws on his experiences for lockdown novel

The crime novel A Secret Existence is the lockdown project from Horsham-based George A Smith, a retired detective chief inspector and former head of Brighton CID.

George A Smith
George A Smith

George also worked on counter-terrorism and was a member of MI5.

As he explains, the novel involves investigations into terrorists and counter-espionage.

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“Ben Swan is a detective chief inspector seconded to the UK Counter Terrorism Command when he is recruited by MI5.

“He is given a new cover identity. He is not permitted to tell family or friends of his new role. In accordance with MI5 policy, all members operate with a cover identity. His role involves tracking down terrorist groups intent on initiating a major bombing campaign and investigations into the activities of international criminals operating in the UK involving ex-KGB personnel.

“With this dangerous work he relies on the professionalism and trust of his fellow officers. Yet, he knows nothing about their true identities, families or background. He finds the anonymity of his existence difficult to accept. This is the theme that runs through the novel. Hence the title A Secret Existence.”

George will be donating all royalties he receives from the sale of the book to St Catherine’s Hospice, Crawley.

George said the idea to write the book had been in his mind for several years but, until lockdown, he never found the time. Following his retirement, he says he had no interest in writing a book. Then several years ago his mother (now deceased) telephoned to say she had been at a Women’s Institute committee meeting to consider future speakers when she suggested her son would, no doubt, be willing to talk about his police career

George ended up undertaking a 60-minute presentation entitled My Life of Crime. He enjoyed the research and preparation so much it sowed the thought of writing a novel.

Another trigger was involvement in the Shoreham Lighthouse Club Triple Murders and his contribution to the book Death Comes Knocking.

The Shoreham Lighthouse Club Triple Murders were the brutal murders of a husband, wife and young son. At the time, George was DI in charge of Shoreham CID and was responsible for arresting, interviewing and charging the suspect who was found guilty on all counts at Lewes Crown Court,

With more than 30 years police service, George was for five years head of Brighton CID. He owns and manages, as a hobby, a 22-acre woodland on the outskirts of Petworth. In the novel the main character’s house is located within a woodland.

As a detective inspector for two years, George held the position of director of detective training. He qualified as a national trainer on the new HOLMES (Home Office Large Major Enquiry System) and introduced the system into the Sussex Force. Later, as a detective chief inspector he continued to lecture to detective courses on major crime investigation and homicide.

As a DI for 18 months, he was seconded to the Force Review Team with specific responsibility for reviewing the working practices of the CID. George was also the first serving UK police officer to be seconded to the Security Service (MI5), which required special dispensation signed by the Home Secretary. He spent two years in the counter-espionage department, including working in the USA with the FBI. As a career detective, he was appointed to the CID at the young age of 23 years. During his career he worked on numerous murder investigations: first as a DC, then DS and then later as a DI in the position of office manager and in charge of outside investigations. As a DCI, George was senior investigating officer for 16 murder investigations.