Now that election is all over I can mention politicians, a group of people who play important, if sometimes secondary, roles in my books. From Arnold Donaldson in The Last Dance to Sir Arthur Lacey in A Set of Lies via Tim Johnstone in Her Parents’ Daughter none of them are particularly likeable characters. No, delete ‘particularly’, there is little to be said for any of them other than that they were ambitious and hungry for political power (especially Sir Arthur).
My spooks tend to be much more sympathetic.
Sir Bernard Lacey (A Set of Lies), Richard Mackenzie (Her Parents’ Daughter) and David Redhead (Walking Alone and Runaways) are particularly nice (if ambiguously painted) people – well, at least, I like them.
And the ones you cannot be sure of (could what they did be called espionage?) are people whose motives are generally good. Elizabeth and Jane (Her Parents’ Daughter) may just have been caught up in the lives of those close to them; Max Fischer, the central character in all three volumes of The Iniquities Trilogy, may just have been a man of his time (the 1930s) in his place (middle Europe).
I have lived with some of these characters for getting on for fifteen years and have got to know them well. Carl Witherby, for example (he is an academic neither a politician nor a spook – though he influences other characters who are) spans my books from almost the first chapters of The Last Dance to the last page of A Set of Lies and I think of him every day. There is so much to these people I write about that cannot be included in a book, however long it may be, and much of their personality and character must lie in the imagination of you, the reader.
I wonder whether you see them the same way as I do?