Tim Tate

Author, Film-Maker & Investigative Journalist

There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit at a typewriter and bleed.

— Ernest Hemmingway

Books

I have been incredibly privileged. Since 1988 publishers – both British and international – have commissioned books I have proposed and occasionally asked me to ghost-write the (true) stories of others.

I am also very fortunate to be represented by the best literary agent in the business – Andrew Lownie. Below is a piece I wrote for his website which explains what passes for my technique.


2015 — Elliott & Thompson (UK) Penguin/Random House (USA)Buy online

Hitlers Forgotten Children

Blood runs through this story. The blood of young men spilled on the battlefields of war; the blood of civilians that ran through the gutters of cities, towns and villages across Europe; the blood of millions destroyed in the pogroms and death camps of the Holocaust.

Extract:

But blood, too, as an idea: the Nazi belief – absurd as this seems today – in ‘good blood’, precious Ichor to be sought out, preserved and expanded. And with it, the inevitable counterpart: ‘bad blood’, to be ruthlessly eradicated.

I was born in 1941 in the depths of the Second World War. I grew up in its wake, and under the shadow of its brutal progeny, the Cold War. My history is the history of millions of ordinary German men and women like me.

We are the victims of Hitler’s obsession with blood, as well as the beneficiaries of the post-war economic miracle that transformed our devastated and pariah nation into the powerhouse of modern Europe. Our story is that of a generation raised in the shadow of infamy, but which found a way to struggle towards honesty and decency.

But my own story is also that of a much more secret past, still cloaked in silence and shrouded in shame.

I am a child of Lebensborn.

Lebensborn is an ancient German word meaning ‘fountain of life’, twisted and distorted by the word-smelters of National Socialism. What did it mean in the madness of Nazism? What does it mean today? My search for the answers – to uncover my own story – has taken me on a long and painful road: a physical journey that has led me across the map of modern Europe. It has been an historical expedition, too: an often uncomfortable return to the Germany of more than seventy years ago, and into the troubled stories of those countries overrun by Hitler’s armies.

The journey has also forced me to make a psychological voyage into everything I have known and grown up with: a fundamental questioning of who I am, and what it means to be German. I will not pretend that this is a simple story: it will not always be easy to read. But neither has it been easy to live.

I am not, by nature, overtly emotional. The expression of emotion, such a commonplace thing in twenty-first-century society, does not come easily to me. I have spent my life attempting to suppress my inner self, to subordinate my feelings to the circumstances in which I have grown up, as well as to the needs of others.

But this is a story which, I believe, needs to be heard. More, much more, it needs to be understood. It is not unique, in that there are others who have endured much of what has shaped my life. But while I share a common thread with thousands of others who passed through the vile experiment of Lebensborn, to the best of my knowledge no one else shares the particular twists of fate, history and geography that have defined my seventy-four years on earth.

Lebensborn. The word runs through my life like the blood coursing through my body. To see it, to understand it, demands much more than a superficial examination. The search for the roots of this story requires a deep and intrusive investigation of the most hidden places.

We must start in a town and a country that no longer exist.


2015 — John Blake PublishingBuy online

Yorkshire Ripper – The Secret Murders

In 1981, Peter Sutcliffe, the ‘Yorkshire Ripper’, was convicted of thirteen murders and seven attempted murders. All his proven victims were women: most were prostitutes.

Extract:

Astonishingly, however, this is not the whole truth. There is a still-secret story of how Sutcliffe’s terrible reign of terror claimed at least twenty-two more lives and left five others with terrible injuries. These crimes – attacks on men as well as women – took place all over England, not just in his known killing fields of Yorkshire and Lancashire.

Police and prosecution authorities have long known that Sutcliffe’s reign of terror was longer and far more widespread than the public has been led to believe. But the evidence has been locked away in the files and archives, ensuring that these murders and attempted murders remain unsolved today.

As a result, the families of at least twenty-two victims have ben cheated of their right to know how and why their loved ones died, while the plight of other who survived his attacks has never been officially acknowledged.

Worse still, police blunders and subsequent suppression of evidence ensured that three entirely innocent men were imprisoned for murders committed by the Yorkshire Ripper. They each lost the best part of their adult lives, locked up in stinking cells for more than two decades.

This book, by a former police intelligence officer and an award-winning investigative journalist, is the story not just of those long-cold killings, of the forgotten families and of three terrible miscarriages of justice. It also uncovers Peter Sutcliffe’s real motive for murder – and reveals how he manipulated police, prosecutors and psychiatrists to ensure that he serves his sentence in the comfort of a psychiatric hospital rather than a prison cell.


2014 — Metro Books/John Blake PublishingBuy online

For Team and Country

This is a book about The First World War. It is a book which tells individual stories of remarkable sportsmen – men who were heroes in a way that their counterparts today have, perhaps, forgotten how to be.

Extract:

Imagine the reaction – your own as well as that of newspapers and television – were the most prominent stars in sport to exchange their football or rugby shirts for army uniforms; if Wayne Rooney, Jonny Wilkinson, Andy Murray and Graeme Swann volunteered to serve indefinitely in Afghanistan or Iraq.

A century ago the brightest sporting stars of their generation did just that. Hundreds of thousands of sports stars rallied to their country’s colours: many never returned from the mechanised carnage of The Great War. The names of Walter Tull, Edgar Mobbs, Tony Wilding and Percy Jeeves are unfamiliar today – lost in the terrible lists of the dead of World War One. But they belong among the pantheon of true British sporting heroes. All were – quite literally – at the top of their game: all made the ultimate sacrifice in ‘the greatest game of all’ – war …

Their stories are told here, their sacrifice pulled from the fog and pain of world war to represent the heroism of all those who gave their lives – but in particular all the sportsmen who heard the final whistle in the terrible carnage of that conflict.

But there is a deeper story, too. A story of how sport was, for Britain at least, a defining metaphor for the duty of war; a story, too, of how sport was the first and most vital recruiting sergeant for the British Army – and yet also became a lightning rod for wider anxieties about the war, its conduct … and the class divisions which it began to expose.
Just as no sector of society was left unscathed, so no sport was left unmarked by the slaughter that claimed so many young and vibrant lives. But just as the war changed – perforce – sport in Britain, so too did the role of sport and sportsmen shine an uncomfortable light on the society which produced them. From that day, the fourth of August 1914 when Britain declared war on Germany, nothing would ever be the same again.


2013 — John Blake PublishingBuy online

Slave Girl – Return to Hell

This book began with an e-mail and a letter.

Extract:

The e-mail came from a reader of Slave Girl­, the book which told Sarah Forsyth’s story of being tricked into international sex slavery and her difficult, often flawed struggle to break free of its tentacles.   Had we, the e-mail asked, stopped to look at the wider picture ? Did we know that there are, even by conservative estimates, 27 million slaves in the world today – more than twice the number of men, women and children who were snatched and transported from Africa over the entire 350 years of the historical international slave trade ?

The answers were – to my shame – no on both counts … Those unanswered questions led me to devote an entire year of my working life to investigating modern slavery in all its forms … The result was an eight-part documentary series, broadcast throughout the world, which told the stories of modern slaves in countries as diverse as Brazil, Pakistan, India, Haiti, Thailand and China …

The letter arrived while I was making the slavery series. It was from Sarah, and it spoke for itself ..

“Hello Tim. I thought it was about time I wrote and apologised for my terrible behaviour you had to endure while working with me on our book. From what I can remember – and believe me that’s not a lot – I know I must have been awful …

“A lot has happened since then. I am finally free of drink and drugs – even the medication I was taking. I am no longer addicted to anything and, for once in my life, I am in total control …

“I feel so lucky to have escaped from the sex industry. How many women like me has it consumed: ensnared, chewed up, spat out ? How many women this very day and this very moment are still trapped within it – in Britain, in the Netherlands, anywhere, somewhere in towns and cities across the world ? …

“So, Tim, is there something we can do to change that? So many readers of our book have written with such kindness: they have given me the strength I need to be who I now am.   But there are countless women like me who need that support right now. Is there some way we could together do something – anything – to give them help ?”


2013 — John Blake PublishingBuy online

Diamonds at Dinner

The gateway loomed before me. Beautiful and soft-seeming in the summer sunlight, but solid and strong and – from where I sat in the front seat of the little blue car – forbiddingly tall. I glanced at the older man in the driver's seat.

Extract:

He smiled, reassuringly: but I felt the butterflies growing more frantic in my stomach.

We had been driving for what seemed like an age. From Worcester railway station we quickly left the town behind, following small and empty country lanes as they wound past fields and dense woodland.

I had no idea what direction we were going in – north ? South ? – I couldn’t have told you, much less where exactly we were going to end up. We seemed to be travelling mile after mile, ever deeper into the very heart of England. For a young town girl like me the endless rolling landscape felt alien and somehow frightening. I had never seen so many fields, so much open country.

I pushed myself down lower into the car’s seat, thinking of the cosy little cottage I had left behind me, of my little sister and brother, and of Mum and Dad who I had left – for the very first time – so many hours before. Had I ever even sat in a car before ? Certainly not alone with a man and an older man to boot. I had never been so far away from home or felt so alone and isolated.

With a start the car slipped under the imposing stone arch and slowly picked up speed along a narrow and winding driveway. Huge swathes of open parkland slipped past, with a wide and sluggish watercourse running through it: did these people have their own private river ? In the distance I saw stone buildings – some of them looked like the ancient Greek temples I had seen in schoolbooks – scattered randomly across the never-ending acres of the estate.

The driveway seemed to go on forever, and then, as we rounded a last bed I saw it: a huge stone mansion squatting, impassive, in the middle of the park, and bathed in the soft afternoon light. It had two impossibly tall wings on either side of central entrance which was flanked by round pillars, each at least 20 feet tall. A third massive wing – almost as big as the others, and very clearly a separate courtyard with stables – was joined to the left hand side of the main building. I had never seen anything so big, so grand in all the nineteen years of my young life.

This, then, was Croome Court. This vast and magnificent house was to be my new place of employment, and my new home. I should have felt excited, astonished or grateful for the chance to live in such a wonderful place. Instead, as the car pulled up on the crunching gravel, I felt as if I’d gone to prison.


2013 — John Blake PublishingBuy online

Girls with Balls – The Secret History of Women’s Football

Boxing Day, 1920, Goodison park, Liverpool

Extract:

Everton football ground is filled beyond capacity. Fifty-three thousand men, women and children pack its stands and draughty terraces. A further 14,000 would-be spectators are locked out of the ground and line the nearby streets. The 22 players need a police escort to get into the changing rooms. Pathé News cameras patrol the touchline.

These extraordinary crowds – the biggest Liverpool has ever seen – have come to watch two local rival teams play a match for charity. But this is no normal derby match, much less a standard charity fixture. Eleven of the players are international celebrities: their team is the biggest draw in British – and world – football.

Yet they are all full time factory workers – amateurs in an increasingly professional sport – and they are women. The Dick Kerr’s Ladies of the Dick, Kerr & Co Ltd munitions works in Preston. The male football establishment is terrified by them. And so it resolved to abolish women’s football: forever …

This is the story of the longest-running secret in British football: a rattling yarn of determination and guts as well as jealousy, prejudice and betrayal.

It is the story of devious men … and girls with balls.

Review:

Tim Tate’s witty, well-written and deeply sympathetic book is a fitting monument for … all the intrepid women who turned out to play the beautiful game in the teeth of male scorn.

Jane Shilling, Daily Mail


2009 — John Blake PublishingBuy online

Slave Girl

The horrific story of Sarah Forsyth – a young British girl, tricked and trafficked into sex slavery in Holland’s red light districts, has been on the best-sellers lists for more than three years. It has sold in excess of 300,000 copies and been published in four countries.

Extract:

It has also attracted almost 1,300 individual reviews on Amazon – almost all of them favourable, but with a handful refusing to believe (despite the conviction of her trafficker) either that Sarah was an unwilling victim or that she could not have escaped.

When we wrote the book, Sarah was still in the grip of addictions to drugs and alcohol – both of which began during her time as an unwilling prostitute in Amsterdam.

Extract:
More than anything it was the dogs.

There were two of them – bull mastiffs, sat on the other side of the door, day and night. I was locked in anyway, but if I even tried the handle the dogs would bark wildly and I knew that within seconds someone would be there to check on me. I was scared of the men who came running to the door of that shabby, dirty, miserable flat, but most of all I was terrified of the dogs. I knew what they could do – would do, given the chance – if the men let them at me.

Afterwards, that’s what no-one seemed able to grasp. ‘Why didn’t you run away ?’ they asked. ‘Surely you must have had some chance to escape ?’

But the dogs were always there. Between them and the men – and the drugs they fed me day in, day out till I didn’t know which way was up and I’d reached that terrible place where I needed them as much as I hated them – there wasn’t a hope, really.

They knew that, of course. They’d worked hard to get me like that: to get me hooked on crack cocaine. That, and scaring me beyond belief by blowing a young girl’s brains out in front of me.

I staggered through those days, weeks and months, each day the same: men and drugs, more drugs and more men. My life was ebbing away as slowly as the water in the dirty brown canal which oozed towards the North Sea. How many men paid their 150 guilders for a few minutes of rough and selfish relief ? I couldn’t tell you: by the time I might have thought to keep count, I wouldn’t have been able to …

No, there wasn’t any escape from that hell. Not until that day when through the haze of my addiction and desperation I saw half a slim chance and somehow found the courage to snatch at it …


2008 — John Blake PublishingBuy online

Roger Cook’s 10 Greatest Conmen

There’s something about a clever con. In the anthropology of criminal activity, the confidence trick is a long-term survivor: for more than 500 years con artists have been creating ever more inventive ways to part gullible victims from their cash.

Extract:

The scams they have created have proved universal and remarkably adaptable: they cross language and national boundaries with some ease and even the extraordinary seed of modern communications has made little impact on the essential elements of the con.

A variant of one of the very first ever confidence tricks – the Elizabethan-era Spanish Prisoner Letter scam – is alive and thriving today in the instantly connected age of e-mail, text messages and video conferencing.

And the public at large seems to have a sneaking respect for the twisted genius of some of the more intricate scams. This is despite the fact that the crooks who perpetrate these scams are typically unrepentant rogues, arrogantly living the high life of fast cars, and extraordinary but undeserved luxury – while their victims lose their savings, their homes, their self-respect and sometimes their free will and even their lives. Nevertheless, it is also true that there is a certain guilty pleasure to be had from hearing about a well-worked con …

Writing their stories has been an interesting project involving, as it did, a determined attempt to separate myth from fact. Some of the cases we had dealt with personally and could write about from first-hand knowledge. In other cases we faced the uphill task of evaluating swathes of contradictory documentation and sometimes trying to create something factual but original from multiple sources that repeat each other, almost to the word …

We hope that we’ve succeeded in our efforts and that you ‘enjoy’ the results.

Just not too much.


1995 — PenguinBuy online

The Murder of Childhood

This book told the story of Robert Black, a child sex killer. It did so using more than 40 hours of interviews with him, recorded on audio tape, by the late Ray Wyre, Britain’s leading expert on sexual offenders.

Extract:

Despite the fact that Black had asked Ray to work with him and had agreed – in writing – that the audio tapes could be published, and despite the fact that he was already serving a life sentence for his crimes, he obtained an injunction (using tax payers’ money) to block the book and a documentary film Ray and I made for Channel 4.

It took several months and a substantial legal bill to overturn this injunction and ensure that both book and film could be published.

This is the story of Britain’s worst serial child sex killer and the process by which he came to talk candidly about his crimes for the firs time in thirty-five years of offending. It is simultaneously the story of the process of entering the killer’s mind for the first and only time in all those years.

It is not an easy story to read. It has not been easy to write or to publish. From the outset it aroused strong emotions both in ourselves and in those to whom we spoke. Sexual crimes, particularly crimes against children, arouse intense emotions within our society and yet are profoundly ill-understood phenomena.

We did not enter this project lightly. We have written, broadcast and lectured extensively on paedophilia, child pornography and the policing of sexual abuse. Nonetheless, from the first page we each examined our motives in writing the harrowing pages that follow …

The story of Robert Black’s assaults on very young children exemplifies – magnifies in grim clarity – many of the major issues of how society sees, understands and deals with men who abuse. His offences stretch across thirty-five years. There is no authoritative estimate for the number of his victims: we can only guess, based on what he himself now says, that he molested hundreds of young children and abducted dozens. At least eight of them may have died.

Men who abuse children, especially if more than one child is involved or if a disturbing degree of violence is used, tend to be dismissed as ‘beasts’, ‘monsters’ or ‘madmen’. These terms offer a convenient dustbin into which ordinary people can hurl their disgust and anger. Convenient, understandable even, but dangerously wrong.

The first purpose of this book is to highlight and challenge this knee-jerk response. Men who abuse may commit monstrous crimes, but they are not recognisably monsters. They do not have two heads, sloping brows and deep-set eyes. In the street, in the pub or at work they are not noticeably different from the rest of us …


1992 — MethuenBuy online

Murder Squad

Why murder? What is it about the taking of a life which simultaneously so fascinates and revolts?

Extract:

From Marple to Morse, Poirot to Wexford, the act and detection of homicide has attracted a loyal following amongst consumers of detective fiction. And with fiction, so fact. ‘True Crime’ books are amongst the most popular of all non-fiction published today. Inevitably murder – the gorier the better – is the most common theme.

When we were approached to write this book – itself a companion to a television documentary series aimed squarely at a popular audience – we both had, in different ways, some experience of the reality of murder.

As a probation officer and later a therapist, Ray had worked – and indeed still does – extensively with some of Britain’s most notorious killers, from the gangland brutality of Reggie Kray to the child-killer Colin Evans.

Tim, as an experienced journalist, had seen and reported a number of cases from the other, more public side. He had also worked closely with a number of police forces both in London and throughout Britain on cases concerning child pornography and extreme sadistic abuse.

What struck us both was that the public perception of murder, influenced perhaps by its fictional representation, was almost completely the reverse of reality … Our primary goal, therefore, was to portray the business of murder as it actually is in Britain today, whilst attempting to steer clear of prurient and gratuitous reporting…

The Metropolitan Police … agreed to allow both authors and film-makers unprecedented access to a working ‘murder squad’. For ourselves, we were assured that there would be no closed areas, no subjects ‘off-limits’ and no control over what we eventually wrote. And so it proved: doors and, more crucially, filing cabinets were opened for us, with no attempt to hide what lay behind or within them.


1991 — MethuenBuy online

Children for the Devil: Ritual Abuse and Satanic Crime

This book brought me the dubious honour of being sued for libel. A police officer referred to in its pages alleged that readers could draw an inference from four paragraphs (in a book of almost 100,000 words) that he was corrupt.

I had not intended any such inference, for the very good reason that the officer was not corrupt. The book was certainly critical of his handling of a controversial case of alleged ritual sexual abuse of children, but neither I – nor the very experienced libel lawyer who checked the manuscript for problems before publication – believed that an inference of corruption could or should be drawn from the text.

But libel law – particularly where inference rather than an outright defamatory statement is alleged – is a very difficult business. In this case, the problems were exacerbated by the employer of key defence witnesses, whose criticisms of the detective were quoted in the book: this organisation refused my publisher’s lawyers access to the employees to take pre-trial statements.

The publishers were left with little choice. They settled the case before it went to trial. They – and I – issued a full public apology to the police officer and paid him a substantial sum in damages.

I do not blame the officer for bringing the libel action. He believed, quite genuinely, that the ordinary reader would draw a damaging and false inference about his honesty. I repeat: I intended no such slur.

But I do regret the outcome. No other book – before or since – has attempted thoroughly to investigate – with an honest, secular and open mind – the claims and counterclaims of those who argue that ritual abuse is a widespread phenomenon and those who insist that it does not exist at all.

The book answered the latter question definitively by detailing a series of successful prosecutions – here, in Britain – of adult men and women for the sexual abuse of children during what courts heard and accepted were satanic rituals. It also showed that many of the more dramatic claims made by those convinced of an international conspiracy of satanic abusers were often either driven by their own religious position or stemmed from amateurish and contaminated questioning.

The result has been that, ever since, ritual abuse has been “the third rail” for anyone tasked with investigating or therapeutically helping victims of sexual abuse: touch it, and – professionally, at least – you die.

The book is still findable on Amazon and in libraries. I urge anyone interested in the protection of children to read it and to make their own minds up about this most intractably difficult issue. But if you do, please bear in mind that you should draw no inference from it about the police officer – because none was, or is, intended.


1990 — MethuenBuy online

Child Pornography – An Investigation

This book is about the most callous, long-lasting crime adults commit against children: child sexual abuse. But it focuses on a hidden corner of the problem – child pornography.

Extract:

Many millions of words have been spent on child sexual abuse without ever considering the importance of child pornography. And yet there can be no real understanding of paedophilia without a corresponding grasp of child pornography, and certainly no examination of child pornography can take place outside the confines of paedophilia.

The phenomenon of adults sexually abusing children has existed for centuries, but until recently was a taboo subject. Now that taboo is beginning to be broken. Victims and abusers alike are starting to break the vicious circle of silence that surrounds child sexual abuse.

Child pornography, however, is protected by another taboo, deeper and more mysterious. Like child sexual abuse it has existed almost as long as the written word. But it remains a secret problem, shrouded in shame, fear and an unaccountable official complacency …

As a result child pornography has inherited a spurious aura of titillation – an impression bred in ignorance and fed by our society’s suppressed fascination for sex – and an aura of harmless ‘naughtiness’ …

Child pornography is not pornography as that is understood by the ordinary man and woman in the street. It is not the glossy centrefolds of Playboy, nor even the tawdry gynaecology of hard core sex magazines. Pornography is the wrong word, but one we are stuck with. That makes proper understanding even more crucial …

The greatest single obstacle to the fight against child pornography is that too few people ever see it …

Reviews:

“It is not pleasant to imagine what the journalist Tim Tate must have endured while writing this book …. Tate’s approach is rigorously unsensational. Only once or twice does controlled anger seep through prose that is clear and level-headed and cumulatively merciless in its condemnation of a trade most people do not wish to know about”
Bel Mooney, Sunday Times

“Tate’s research is thorough, his arguments forceful”
Helen Birch, The Listener

“I shall press this book on teachers and fellow parents”
Libby Purves, The Times


1988 — MethuenBuy online

Whats Wrong With Your Rights?

This book reveals the real situation regarding your rights. Roger Cook and Tim Tate, from Central Television’s investigative series The Cook Report, dissect our legal system to show how our traditional ‘rights’ – if they ever existed – are constantly being eroded or threatened.

Extract:

Did you know that:

  • An Englishman’s home is not his castle – dozens of people have the right to enter your home without permission ?
  • By the end of the century a policeman on the beat will have instant access to all your medical, social services, criminal and financial records at the touch of a computer button ?
  • An unmarried father has no legal rights to his child ?
  • We have no statutory right to freedom of speech ?

This book reveals the real situation regarding your rights. Roger Cook and Tim Tate, from Central Television’s investigative series The Cook Report, dissect our legal system to show how our traditional ‘rights’ – if they ever existed – are constantly being eroded or threatened.

Drawing on a wealth of case histories and personal tragedies, What’s Wrong With Your Rights ? is a searing indictment of the way government, local councils, the law and big business can legally ride roughshod over the ordinary citizen who pays for their very existence

Reviews:

“Roger Cook and Tim Tate vividly describe the gap between the freedoms which are cherished in theory – and the assaults made on them in practice. Their book should be read – and used – by everyone concerned about civil rights”
Rt. Hon. Neil Kinnock (then) leader of The Labour Party

“What’s Wrong With Your Rights ?” represents an accurate and far-sighted account of the situation now. It also illustrates quite dramatically how the State has leapt forward and also often stepped back some way when considering the rights of the individual. It successfully identifies areas where the law needs changing to benefit our citizens”
Rt. Hon Paddy Ashdown, former leader of The Liberal Democrats

“An excellent compendium of oppression”
Literary Review

“A grim case-study of how fragile our rights are”
Sunday Express

How I Write

Two acquisitions are crucial to my writing life. The first is a second computer screen; the other, a commercial espresso machine.

I began writing, as a cub reporter, close to 40 years ago. My technology then was an ancient typewriter: steam-driven, as we then called them to distinguish our battered beasts from the fancy electric machines used by the bosses’ secretaries along the exclusive management corridors known as “carpet kingdom”.

To celebrate my first book commission I bought an early model computer and learned the art of juggling between the 5” floppy discs containing word processing software and the ones holding a couple of precious chapters each.

Now, 12 books later, I can no more write longhand than I can understand quantum theory: I need the feel of a keyboard under my fingers for my brain to produce anything coherent.

Is this a right brain, left brain thing ? Dunno: but right screen, left screen is unquestionably key. My books are research-heavy and the left-hand monitor is crowded jumble of open files and images. The right hand screen, however, is an oasis of calm: the sole preserve of my manuscript.

But I suspect that, if forced, I’d sacrifice all the computer technology for my espresso machine. I eke out my ration of six to eight cups of thick, creamy strong coffee from early morning to the close of writing. They are both fuel and reward: completing a strong or pleasing section earns me a five minute fix of caffeine and tobacco.

I set no daily targets for word or chapter counts: writing, for me, is too organic a process to constrain it with artificial demands. I do, though, treat it as work and put in a solid eight hours. But even this is not a deliberate attempt to mimic the routines of a ‘real job’: it’s simply that there is no greater pleasures than the feeling of words being born, sentences coalescing and shape-shifting, as my clumsy fingers hammer life into (and from) this keyboard.

Except for coffee. Obviously.