March 7, 2024

My debut novel A Reluctant Spy acquired by Headline

Image of announcement on The Bookseller websiteImage of announcement on The Bookseller website

I am delighted, excited and frankly still a little stunned to announce that my debut novel, A Reluctant Spy, has been acquired by Headline Fiction (part of Hachette Publishing Group) in a one-book deal. For those who subscribe to my newsletter or saw various cryptic posts on social media, this is what I’ve been calling PROJECT ALTHROP. You can read more about it in The Bookseller.

I’ve been dreaming about writing these words since approximately 1994, when I first sat down in front of the enormous beige family PC and wrote my first novel’, approximately 14,000 words of extremely derivative space opera. A lot of words have been written since that first effort and I am so, so happy to have achieved one of the defining goals of my life - to become a published novelist. Read on for (a lot) more details.

Wait, you wrote a book?

Yes, several, in fact! I started publishing short fiction in 2021, but I’ve been writing since my very early teens, writing novel-length work since 2005, got an agent in 2021 and since being agented I’ve written several more books. This is my debut novel, but it’s my eighth completed novel-length work.

What’s it about?

A Reluctant Spy is a contemporary spy novel (the clue is in the name, haha) about a young man who agrees to lend his identity to SIS (aka MI6) in return for a helping hand through life, but gets far more than he bargained for. Here’s the pitch:

Jamie Tulloch is a successful exec at a top tech company, a long way from the tough upbringing that drove him to rise so far and so quickly. But he has a secret…since the age of 23, he’s had a helping hand from the Legend Programme, a secret intelligence effort to prepare impenetrable backstories for undercover agents. Real people, living real lives, willing to hand over their identities for a few weeks in return for a helping hand with plum jobs, influence and access.

When his tap on the shoulder finally comes, it’s swiftly followed by the thud of a body. Arriving at a French airport ready to hand over his identity, Jamie finds his primary contact dead, the agent who’s supposed to step into his life AWOL and his options for escape non-existent.

Pitched into a deadly mission on hostile territory, Jamie must contend with a rogue Russian general, arms dealers, elite hackers, CIA tac-ops and the discovery of a brewing plan for war.

Dangerously out of his depth, he must convince his sceptical mission handler he can do the job of a trained field agent, while using his own life story as convincing cover. 

Can Jamie play himself well enough to avoid being killed — and to avert a lethal global conflict?

That sounds awesome! When can I get it?

A Reluctant Spy will be published in hardback, ebook and audio on Thursday September 12th, 2024 (yes, a mere six months from now!) with paperback following approximately six months later. I’ll post pre-order links and details as soon as I have them.

Where can I get it?

A Reluctant Spy is a traditionally published novel, so it will be available from online retailers like Amazon and, as well as in bookshops like Waterstones, Foyles, Toppings and local independents. You should get it wherever is best for you, but if you want to help support a thriving local book culture, I recommend ordering it through your favourite independent bookshop. They can usually get orders in really fast. And you get to hang out in a bookshop.

What’s happening right now?

We’re at the proofs stage, which is when myself, my editor and a proofreader comb forensically through the typeset manuscript looking for those last few typos that may have escaped the previous stages of drafting and editing.

This is also the stage where we send the manuscript to other authors in hopes of a blurb. If you’re an author who would like to read the book and possibly blurb it, you can use my contact form to get in touch. We will also be providing electronic Advance Reader Copies through NetGalley before the book’s release.

Wait, I thought you were a science fiction writer?

I am, but I also write lots of other things! I’ve been fascinated by spies and spy fiction for decades (my undergraduate dissertation was about paranoia in the works of Graham Greene and John Le Carré). And I’ve been reading and writing science fiction for just as long. My hope is to work in multiple genres across my career as an author, including science fiction and thrillers.

So are you working on another book?

I’m never not working on a book, to be honest. But yes, right now I’m putting the finishing touches to a science fiction novel (tentatively titled Chronocosm) and after that I will likely be pitching and writing another spy or thriller novel.

I like the cut of your jib - how can I keep up with your career?

Why thank you, I see you are a person of taste and refinement. I write a monthly newsletter (which is cross-posted to this website) and I’m active on Bluesky, Instagram and Twitter. I post regular blog posts and threads on craft and publishing, and I will be documenting my experience leading up to publication day in detail. You can also subscribe to this blog in your RSS reader.

You must be pretty happy right now…

Yes, I really am. As I said at the top of this post, I’ve been dreaming about this for nearly thirty years. And it still doesn’t feel quite real. But as of today, I can finally shout about it. It’s a strange and wonderful feeling to achieve a goal like this, but my hope is that it’s just the start - being a working novelist is what I’m aiming for and I have many, many stories still to tell.

If this is the first time you’ve checked out my website, hello and welcome. And if you’ve been reading my stories, my blog posts or my newsletters over the last few years, thank you for your time and attention. I really appreciate every reader and I hope you’ve enjoyed my work.

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