Oh, this isn’t easy, is it? Ten things I want people to know about me that won’t result in a spell in prison or the cancellation of a writing contract. Mmm. Well, here goes...
I am partly metal. I broke my right leg seven years ago. It was Boxing Day and I slipped on the cellar stairs while taking a load of turkey meat down to the fridge. Nineteenth century stone steps and thin legs don’t mix well and so I ended up with my fibia bone sticking through my skin, which was covered, by that time, in turkey. The repair necessitated having my bones hammered onto metal plates. I now set off metal detectors in airports.
When I write, I fly by the seat of my pants. When I start a new book I have an idea, a beginning and, sometimes, an ending. The rest of it is a mystery to me.
I used to work in a psychiatric hospital. I was a professional patient advocate in an old fashioned psychiatric hospital. It was so run down we used to play with cockroaches to ease the tension. I also worked on a medium secure unit for mentally disordered offenders where I was known by one inmate as ‘The Tattooist’. I still have no idea why.
I write in total chaos. My office is an outrage of disorder and mess, usually with a cat or two involved. I can’t think straight around tidiness, it makes me nervous.
Ups and downs. Like Daniel Craig, I have been on the roof of the Grand Bazaar in Istanbul (but without a motorbike). I have also been inside one of Istanbul’s little known Byzantine cisterns. I was lowered down by a policeman who held my wrists while I looked at the fabulous ancient architecture with a torch in my mouth.
I’ve slept in Agatha Christie’s bedroom. Room 411 in the Pera Palas Hotel, Istanbul. In exchange for a talk about my books in the bar, I was allowed to sleep where Agatha slept and where she wrote at least part of ‘Murder on the Orient Express’.
Green hair. When my son was born in 1981, I had green hair. I love green and, as a nod towards the fact that for me Punk will never die, I’ve just had green streaks put in my hair.
Gaslight. The London Borough of Newham, where my Hakim and Arnold books are set, is where our family home was when I was a child. Because my grandparents were afraid of electricity the flat was lit by gas lamps. We may well have been the last people in the country to use gas for lighting.
The Yezidis. Long before the Yezidi people of Sinjar in Iraq were subjected to an horrific attack by ISIL forces in 2014, I had outlined many of their problems in my 2001 crime novel ‘Arabesk’. At that time, some people didn’t even believe that they were real. They thought I’d made them up.
Celebrity fan. Yes, I have a celebrity fan! And she’s really cool, and bright and fiercely intelligent. She is Chelsea Clinton and I am so grateful she’s gone on record to say how much she gets out of my books.
So that’s it. Ten things about me and not a criminal offence in sight.