My earliest memories – apart from crashing a car when I was two and a half – are of scrambling around the mountains and stony bondu on the Mediterranean island of Cyprus. It was a slow and sleepy place to live back then, and I chiefly remember lying on the hot stones of ruined Greek, Roman, and crusader buildings watching geckos lick their eyeballs to the sound of dozy cicadas.
Twenty years later, I went to Oxford and the Sorbonne to specialize in researching the knights of the crusades – the people who had built the castles I remembered so well.
My first book, Knights of the Cloister, is what came out of that time. It’s a history textbook on the Knights Templar and Knights Hospitaller – the most iconic of all the crusaders. I don’t recommend the book as light relaxing reading. It’s more for people who want names, places, and dates of real Templars and Hospitallers living in their heartland of Southern France. It covers how they attracted new members, built fortified monasteries, transformed the countryside, made friends and enemies, developed expertise in banking, and focused all their efforts on sending fresh knights, horses, weapons, and money to their garrisons fighting the crusades in the Holy Land. I loved every minute of the research – rummaging through ancient chests in old French churches and working in some of the world’s most beautiful libraries reading priceless illuminated manuscripts.
When the research was finished, I went to London and became a barrister (court room attorney) – quickly getting thrown into everything from murder and terrorism to kidnapping and international contract killing. I gave it up in the end, but I wouldn’t swap those years for anything. It was an enormous privilege being permitted to defend people whose freedom was on the line.
Since then I’ve done a lot of things. A series of coincidences brought me to live and work in the Middle East. It was here, looking out over the azure waters of the Persian Gulf (with geckos and cicadas for company again), that my first thriller novel was born. The Sword of Moses is a fast-paced story of international espionage, ancient cryptic clues, biblical archaeology, violence, and – of course, the Knights Templar. I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I did writing it!