Jim Naughtie speaks to Mick Herron about his new spy fiction thriller, London Rules.
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Now it's time for Meet the Author.
If you read any of the four Mick
Herron novels you will know what to
expect in the fifth, London Rules.
Skulduggery and streets alive with
terror, a political class that is
self-centred and often corrupt, time
is pressing and the threat real and
the ramshackle outfit, never fleeing
by the rules, has to try and save
the day, welcome.
Jackson Lamb and his many men and
women at a pretty rough lot?
of. They are quite ordinary people
in many ways and I'm quite keen on
these spies having daily lives in
they don't lead gilded lives, they
are not pampered and they are under
enormous pressure with a terrorist
threat in this book and they will go
into that in some detail but not too
much. They are pretty rough in the
way they deal with each other in the
office stop what strikes me is that
very seldom are they really nice to
Very seldom. That
certain bonds between different
characters, not as a group very
much, but there are pairings that
happens the series.
to think in the group seems
particularly, I always have at least
one scene where everybody is their
are all at once, and on those
occasions they reach some kind of
harmony, usually working on the
It may be harmonious in
that sense and they do care about
each other and their situations but
you never get them saying, what are
you really like? They seem to be
driven by a desire not to show too
much of themselves. Do you think it
is a characteristic of people who
find themselves in that world?
may be a characteristic of people
who work in offices and I focus on
the order in this of these people.
-- ordinariness. And they are spies
but to an extent they could be
anything and the relationships are
determined by the fact they are all
frustrated in their ambitions and
clearers and all having to work
together and don't want to.
point is that if we met any of them
in the street from would have no
idea what they do by the way they
behave, which is the point.
looking in the tube on the way in
this morning trying to spot
One of the things, and I
am trying not to give too much away
because it is a tense plot, but
there's a blackmail threats made
against someone and it is made
directly by someone who is quite
high up in the establishment. Do you
think that in that form could happen
is that it clear is that?
A real threat. We have
got this photograph, and we talked
about this beforehand, but we can
see it involves somebody who is
involved in cross dressing and
therefore is going to produce an
embarrassing series of stories in
the papers and the questioners, will
he brazen it out and say, this is
me, or will he fold at the threat of
Part of the reason for
introducing that blackmail was
because I was interested in allowing
this character who is mostly not
pleasant to have some integrity and
bravery so he is facing a challenge
and will he toughed it out Cave, and
so the decision he partly makes to
tough it out indicates that as a
court of integrity.
When you're a
character like that in circumstances
like that, do you try however hard
it might be to put yourself in that
Always, I try to write
characters from the Inside Out. The
only character they don't do that
with is Jackson Lamb himself. You
see what he does and says but never
what he thinks feels.
who hasn't read the four preceding
books and might perhaps pick up this
one and go back, how would you
describe Jackson Lamb?
The best way
of describing him would be to meet
him. To enter his department of the
Secret Service were all the failure
is get assigned. You have to go
round the back of the building
through the door that jams and all
the way up to the top attic and when
you open the door you would find a
very dark room was no natural light
because yoghurt as the blind down,
and you would see a very large man
with his feet up on the desk, the
aid would be noxious because he
smokes and is aggressively
That's a Marxist
territory. -- how he marks his
Do you know Jackson Lamb
well are you still discovering him?
Still discovering him although in
the book I am working on at the
moment that is more revealed about
Are you going inside him for
the first time?
He is seeing things
he has not said before.
What will we
learn about him that we don't know
without giving away the plot.
more about his past. That is really
the core to the character.
sense in which we had always meant
to ask the question, how did he end
up your? We might know a bit of the
story but we don't know the whole
That is partly because I
don't know what either yet.
wasn't deliberate to conceal his
background, just that as you began
to tease out the character you
discovered as well that there was a
mystery about him which is a
mystification use year with the
The character was never
meant to take the central role he
has come to do but as soon as I
started writing I realised there
were opportunities in a way I had
never done before, in order to bring
humour into the books and also that
larger than life character who has a
past cloaked in mystery.
fascinating thing about this story
and it is quite unusual is that you
set it not just in the contemporary
world, in a London principally where
the threat of a terrorist act is
ever present, but you have been very
specific. There has been a
referendum on Brexit, the political
figures who they are not a
resemblance in an imitator of way
but a broad resemblance to
characters we might recognise only
political spectrum, but as
individuals but as people with
points of view. Quite a risky thing
to do, quite bold?
It didn't seem to
me at the time that was the case, I
was simply writing about the world I
find myself in. The novel had been
in preparation before the referendum
and they didn't start writing to
afterwords and it changed a lot of
things. I hadn't foreseen the result
of the referendum, few people had,
but as soon as it happened a lot of
things became clear, clear from the
terrorised reactions from a lot of
the Cabinet ministers who had
organised that, from the cowardice
of the Prime Minister as he realised
what he had done, and the Cabinet of
backstabbing in the leadership
election afterwards, we it was clear
we were in for a long period of
farce and chaos. London Rules is a
thriller and dramatic events happen
but the political backdrop is one we
have all been living through.
other thing finally about this book
is that you resist very deliberately
the idea that on the last page
everything can be neatly tied up, it
is all over. Maybe something has
happened that avoids a cataclysm but
the idea that calm has been restored
is not really what you comfortable
We live in a state of ongoing
tension and it can't be solved the
eye final chapter.
So you say,
prepare to be disturbed and don't
think you can relax when it is over?