So David, let’s get straight to the point and discuss the book that everybody seems to be talking about at the moment; The Theseus Paradox. Tell me all about it.
My debut thriller is set in 2005, against the backdrop of the 7/7 London bombings. I worked on the police investigation, Operation Theseus, for five years. I was a lead detective on the intelligence cell and the case took over my life.
Now the tagline to this is, “I can’t tell you the truth but I can tell you a story.” However there are some strong rumours that say this story might not be so far away from the truth. What do you have to say about this, is it close?
In many ways, the bombers’ families and the victims’ families became more important than my own. In numerous sections of the book, the lead protagonist, Detective Inspector Jake Flannagan, goes it alone. There’s a good reason for that. Only I know what's true and what is fiction in those parts of the story. Even colleagues I worked on the case and my editor don’t know exactly which bits are real and which are poetic license. You will have to make your own mind up about what really happened...
Now, as to the lead character, Jake. As far as main protagonists go you’ve certainly broken a few moulds with this one. Tell me more about Jake and how he came about?
My books are all written from personal experience. The lead, Detective Inspector Jake Flannagan is based on me in terms of the professional experience - and I guess in an emotional sense too. The book condenses all my experiences of the 7/7 London bombings investigation into just a few short months and shows what happens when bereavement and PTSD can affect an officer’s wellbeing. Obviously there are some things that Jake does which are not very nice or very legal…but I can’t tell you what’s fact and what’s fiction – only the reader can decide!
I write for readers who want to have their eyes opened to how things really worked back then in the face of a national emergency. The aim is to paint a very vivid and realistic picture of the pressures on our police and security services and what goes on in the seedy underbelly of crime. To catch the bad guys you have to think like one of them – and that’s why the best detectives always have a dark side.
When people imagine heroes, they think of goody two shoes, Clark Kent, who has super human powers or someone who plays by the rules, has a tidy desk and a stable personal life. Jake is none of these things. He's very human; vulnerable and needy with low self-esteem. He is utterly broken from losing his mother and grandmother in a very short space of time, from the pressures of the job and from the trauma of the attacks.
He also has a plethora of personal and psychological problems which go back many years. His personal life is a total shambles and he’s no stranger to drink and drugs. But, those faults, problems and issues are what drive him. Those are what make him stronger and more resilient than any of his contemporaries. His faults and problems give him an entirely different perception of the world. It's not a simple case of good versus evil for him; failure at work will destroy the very last thing that he holds dear to him in his life. His job. Jake has to win - at all costs to prove his own worth to himself.
Apart from Jake tell me what you love; or hate about the other characters. Oh and of course are any of them based on anyone you know?
All the characters contain elements of people I know or have met. I love Lenny, Jake's partner in the book. He is based upon a real person whom I worked with during the investigation and is the perfect opposite of Jake in lots of ways, but they do share some of the same views and support each other.
Kate, the girl from GCHQ, is a really dark horse – a temptress and the cousin of Jake’s girlfriend, Claire. I intended on Kate only playing a small part in the book, but, as her character grew, she became more coercive and sinister with what she wanted from Jake; he struggled to deal with her desires. I re-examine those issues in the next book.
I know that you were heavily involved with the investigation of the London bombings and with this you are obviously in a great position to write about this subject. However, what other research went into this book?
I wanted to create a book in which it would be very difficult for people to distinguish fact from fiction. This meant a tremendous amount of research on top of the work I had already done on the investigation. Things like weather conditions on certain days, the phases of the moon, what was in the news on particular days and even tidal times were all thoroughly researched.
Of course I certainly don’t want to give away any of the story but what I will say is that there seems to be some unfinished business to take care of. So with this in mind tell me about what comes next?
Jake’s journey of discovery about himself and his relationship with the security services have a long way to go. He has a lot of work ahead to try and find out what makes him truly happy, to understand his girlfriend and her background - and to work out what he really wants from life.
Now for everyone that hasn’t read The Theseus Paradox. What would they gain from reading it?
I think the media and the general public have a very one dimensional view of what terrorism is. I hope The Theseus Paradox gives an opportunity for people to examine the different dimensions and drivers behind what is often just written off as ‘fundamentalism’ or ‘extremism’. It’s not as simple as that at all. I hope that I can enlighten people whilst also keeping them thoroughly entertained. It also gives us an opportunity to examine our own prejudices and ideas from other people's perspectives.
When you first started writing this; did you plan it first or did you just get straight into the writing.
The main bulk of the story has been in my head for some years. But, when I started writing it, I found that the story was very difficult to explain so I had to streamline and cut out a number of characters; it was a fairly organic process.
Did you ever have any concerns or second thoughts about writing this book?
The 7/7 bombings are a sensitive subject and one very close to my heart. I had to be sure that I was going to do the right thing by writing this book, both for the police and for all those caught up in the bombings and its aftermath. For that reason, I have worked with charities such as The Police Dependants’ Trust, which deals with the mental health needs of officers after a terrorist attack, and the 7/7 Memorial Trust.
If you were to change anything, what would you change?
My youngest daughter was born a month before the bombings in 2005. I made the decision to focus on the investigation and lived away from home for a number of years. I missed lots of special moments with both of the children and my wife, which I can never get back.
If I could go back in time I would stop the bombings; fifty-six people would still be alive and I’d spend time at home watching my children grow up.
When time travel is invented – I’m getting a ticket back to 2004 to change these things.
In terms of the minor things, I've heard some people say that the references to terrorism on the book’s cover puts them off, but then when they’ve finished reading it, they express who they’ve loved it. I want the book to be accessible as possible to all - so I'm considering changing that.
Now then, I understand it’s not just the readers that gain from this book as some of the proceeds go to a certain charity. Tell me a bit more about this charity.
Sales of the book will support the Police Dependants’ Trust’s National Welfare Contingency Fund, which helps officers with their mental wellbeing after a major national incident such as a terrorist attack, mass shooting or plane crash, for example. The fund will allow all affected officers to have a personalised care plan, which will include assistance such as counselling and talking therapies.
Whilst this book is about a significant national event, every police officer will have dealt with incidents during their career which will have impacted upon their mental wellbeing. All the training in the world cannot prepare you for dealing with unexpected emotions that are attached to suicides, murders, traffic accidents or incidents involving children, for example. Police officers deal with unsociable hours and shift patterns, plus a roller coaster of emotions all the time, and that’s one of the things that I wanted to capture in this story. Overall, The Police Dependants’ Trust do some amazing work to assist both the physical and mental wellbeing of officers in whatever line of duty they’ve been involved in.
What are your future plans as a writer?
I have firm plans for at least another two books with Jake, both covering significant events and acts of terrorism – but all based around real-life cases and using my own insider knowledge and experiences.
Would you ever consider writing in another genre?
I'm a firm believer that people should write about what they know and know what they write. What’s the point of buying a recipe book that’s written by a plumber? Or a DIY manual that’s been authored by a chef? Unless I become an expert in something else, I don't think so.
I think this storyline would make a fantastic film, simply because of the drama. If this was to happen and for whatever reason there had to be many changes that altered the story or the feel of it, would you still be happy to do it?
I'm very visual and I love films – sometimes I watch the same one over and over again. It would be fantastic to see my story on a big screen. Would I be happy with lots of changes? Several publishers wanted me to tone down Jake’s character in exchange for a big publishing contract, but I wasn't prepared to fully remove his poor discipline and rough behaviour. I write things how they are so I'd be disappointed if this happened in a film. Historically in the police, a lot of stuff such as mental health issues and the causes of bad behaviour are glossed over and hidden under the carpet. Now I’ve got my chance to tell my story – why whitewash this stuff from history all over again?
What would you say was the most satisfying moment in the journey of writing this book?
Having my editor press that first paperback into my hot and sweaty palm, was a feeling I will never forget. I just kept wandering around with it in my hands for hours, saying to random people, ‘Look – I made a book!’
The most satisfying feeling of all though, has to be hearing people say that they love what they've read and that it has made them think differently about things. That’s an incredible feeling. The other day an avid reader described how they had a ‘book hangover’ after finishing it, because they were struggling to pick up another title or get into anything else. And another fan said they’d given it five stars but wanted Amazon to allow them to give it ten! Those moments are the ones I really cherish and why I won’t give up writing any time soon.
David, it has been an absolute pleasure doing this interview with you. I wish you the very best of luck and success with this one and of course the other books to follow. I can't wait for them to be on the shelves and I'm sure this goes for many other reader out there also.
P.S If you want to know more about David or his book click on the relevant boxes near the top of this page.
“I went out to work one day and came home two weeks later wearing the same clothes and with fifty-six people dead.”
With twenty years’ policing experience, including counter-terror operations and organised crime, David was a lead Met detective on the intelligence cell in the investigation that followed the 7/7 London bombings.
His debut thriller, ‘The Theseus Paradox’ is based on the events of that time. Its secrets were probed by the UK’s leading investigative journalist, Andrew Gilligan, and featured in the Sunday Telegraph, the Mirror, The Sun and on ITV News. The book topped its Amazon category within a month of launch and was acclaimed by numerous independent review websites - five of which listed it in their top books of the year.
Whilst a Scotland Yard investigator, David chased numerous dangerous criminals, searched hundreds of properties and interviewed thousands of witnesses. Now a security consultant for high-net-worth individuals, he’s also a regular commentator on crime and terrorism for the BBC and other media outlets.
There are good books and there are great books. The Theseus Paradox, in my opinion fits into the latter category without a shadow of a doubt. As a matter of fact I've already put it as one of my all time favourites. The author is a man called David Videcette. He can't tell you the truth but he can tell you a cracking story. Let's see what he has to say for himself but before we do here's a short bio.