Michael, aged 78, said: “I started this book eighteen months before I finally published it. There were all kinds of reasons why it took that long, but I finally cracked it. I could see that the majority of thrillers that sold in big numbers were series thrillers, and for that reason I decided to bring Marcus Blake back who had appeared in two previous thrillers of mine.
“I came across a video on BBC iPlayer about the county line drug gangs and decided to write a crime novel on that theme.
“It was difficult because I usually write from inspiration rather than be directed into a story. I wanted to set the story locally, and it was the beach-side homes in Pagham that intrigued me, largely because, as a kid from London, we had a holiday in a railway carriage at East Wittering, and I was fascinated to see they were still in use (not the one we stayed in).
“Because Marcus Blake ran an agency in London, I had to begin the story there and bring it down to the south coast. It’s always difficult to come up with a theme that hasn’t been used before, and most of us either watch TV dramas or read thrillers that use the same subject time and time again.
“But it works, so I decided to kidnap a young woman. But while I was writing the book, I realised there was an element missing, and it wasn’t until I had almost come to the end of the story that I realised it didn’t look right.
“So I introduced another character, although that is not strictly true; the character was already in the story but barely mentioned.
“So I wrote a short synopsis on this character and introduced her a piece at a time, managing to fit her in seamlessly. It worked for me and meant I was able to complete the full length novel. I think the book will appeal to local people because of its location and that the action also occurs in the surrounding area and Southsea.”
Michael always says he was born with a pen in his hand.
“When I was at Southern Grammar in Southsea (later along the Eastern Road), I used to write hookey notes for my mates because I had an adult hand and could spell words like diarrhoea etc. I would get a cigarette for that which meant I was earning royalties even then.
“Inspiration first came from all the authors I read as a young boy — names like Charles Dickens, Mark Twain, Enid Blyton etc.
“Later I graduated on to Mickey Spillane and writers such as Denis Wheatly, Hammond Innes, Geoffrey Jenkins. Lots of them: that’s where the inspiration came from.
“I believe the kind of readers who would like my books are those who do not necessarily stick to a series character, but are happy to read stand-alone novels providing they trust the writer.”
Michael added: “I am a traditionally published writer. My first book, North Slope, was published by Macmillan in 1978. It was inspired by the discovery of oil in Alaska in 1968.
“My second, Shadow of the Wolf, published by Robert Hale, was a war story set on a fictitious island off the north coast of Scotland in 1943. The old whaling community on the island, where the war had literally passed them by, was invaded by a body of Nazi storm troopers who were looking for the secret of centimetric radar that was destroying the Nazi submarine wolf packs in the Atlantic.
“Hell’s Gate, inspired by the building of the railway line from Mombassa to Lake Victoria, was set in 1898 and drew on true, historical events. A must for Wilbur Smith readers.
“Then came The Eagle’s Covenant, a thriller with cyber warfare and terrorists set in Germany at the turn of the century (2000).”