A few years ago, my wife Jane and I paid a visit to the beautiful city of Paris and made a pilgrimage to see what is probably the most famous painting in the world - Da Vinci's masterpiece - the Mona Lisa - in its hermetically sealed display cabinet, behind two sheets of bulletproof glass.
Having the sort of mind I have, I immediately thought how someone would ever go about stealing it, and what a great novel that might make. The result of these musings is the novel 'Masterpiece - which is timed for publication in June this year around the anniversary of the first successful theft of the Mona Lisa from the Louvre in Paris in August 1911.
Masterpiece explores the global threat of nuclear smuggling, the intricacies of art theft and forgery, and energy politics around the oil fields of the Caspian Sea. It also delves into the human motivations behind terrorism and the awful effects it has, not only on its victims, but on those who perpetrate it through the eyes of:
Gabrielle Arnault - a resourceful and deeply damaged female police officer committed to her dead fiancée's vision of COMMETT - a European task force dedicated to the understanding of the terrorist mind and its ultimate defeat.
Damien Flynn - formerly of the Irish Republican Army and now a world-class expert on the origins and motivations of terrorist activity - a man deeply scarred by his own actions and seeking redemption.
Jean-Jacques Sabaut - who masterminded the second ever robbery of the Mona Lisa to avenge the death of his artist wife at the hands of the art 'establishment'.
Masterpiece is a great 'travel novel' - to take on planes and on holiday - especially is you are visiting any of the locations where the book takes place - Paris, Barcelona, Madrid, London. You can go to the exact locations mentioned in the book and imagine that you're there in the book as if it was a huge movie film set.
Two years ago, on the 26th October 2012, my fourth novel 'Fire & Ice' was launched at the prestigious Hughes & Hughes book shop in Dublin's Dundrum Town Centre. This novel, which was timed to appear on the 50th anniversary of the Cuban Missile Crisis, is based on real events when four diesel-powered Russian submarines, each armed with a nuclear-tipped torpedo, were hounded by US destroyers and forced to the surface.
What the captains of the US destroyers did not know was that each Russian submarine captain has the authority to fire his atomic weapon without orders from the Kremlin. This lead to a hair-raising situation which was only revealed recently and which I adapted to the premise for 'Fire & Ice' - What is a Soviet nuclear submarine, with far greater speed and endurance that a diesel driven sub, thought it had authentic orders to sink the flagship of the US fleet with its atomic-tipped torpedo?
I first took up writing while job-hunting in 1977 as a fledgling marine scientist on the dole in Lowestoft, Suffolk. Then my luck changed and I moved to Ireland in 1978, where I met my wife Jane in Cork while leading a field course on marine science and went on to be presented with the Glaxo EU Fellowship for Science Writers by An Taoiseach Mr. Jack Lynch for a series of articles on marine biology that I wrote for the magazine "Diving Ireland".
Shortly after we were married in 1980, Jane and I embarked on a charity mission to Egypt where we were both awestruck by the mystery of the Great Pyramids outside Cairo. Drawing on my scientific writing, I created the romantic techno thrillers of The Virtual Trilogy - Virtually Maria, A Matter of Time and Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow. These books centre around the quest by computer billionaire Theo Gilkrensky to save his beloved wife Maria from death by manipulating the fabric of time using mysterious forces focused by the Great Pyramid and other ancient sites around the world.
Virtually Maria was selected as "Book of the Month" by the Easons book shop chain in August 1998 when it was published by Poolbeg Press, along with A Matter of Time. However, the third book Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow was however never published by Poolbeg. Since then, in response to the many emails I've had asking me "when is the third book coming out", I have published "Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow", along with the other two books in the trilogy, through my own imprint - Spindrift Press, Dublin.
This now makes all three of The Virtual Trilogy books available to readers worldwide for the first time via the Amazon websites.
One unique character in The Virtual Trilogy is Minerva - an artificially intelligent laptop computer that Gilkrensky has programmed to appear and act like his late wife Maria. As the quest to save Maria unfolds, Minerva begins to develop a personality of her own, acting like a rebellious electronic Tinkerbell who finally becomes a rival for Theo's love.
I've also written the Captain Cockle series of books for children, which were published by Poolbeg Press and will be re-released by Spindrift Press in the near future. I'm a regular contributor to trade magazines on marine science and was the founder and editor of the magazine Aquaculture Ireland. I have also won an award for my cartoon illustrations, an contribute a full page of environmental cartoons on marine science to the publication "Sherkin Comment".
As a development of the cartoon pages in "Sherkin Comment" I've developed the "Black John the Bogus Pirate Cartoon Workbook of Marine Beasts" - a 20-page workbook that teaches children (of all ages) about marine biology through the medium of cartoons. This little book has been used to great effect at such prestigious events as the Volvo Ocean Race, Sea2Sky, Science Week and Science Festival events in Galway and was featured at the Dublin Book Festival in November 2012. You can read more about it on the Spindrift Press website in the children's section on http://www.spindriftpress.com