Thursday, 30 December 2010


By Peter Stuart Smith

OK, let's start with a confession - not to Matt Lynn and the other members of the Curzon Group, who already know which way is up - but to everyone else. Back in November, Matt introduced three new members: James Barrington, James Becker and Max Adams, all writing thrillers, but in three very different genres. And the thing is, not to beat about the bush, they're really all me.

We wondered if I should blog as three different people, but I think it would soon have become kind of obvious that these three authors shared some kind of bizarre - and possibly illegal - relationship, because they would always seem to be in more or less the same place at pretty much the same time. In the end, it seemed easier and probably more sensible to come clean straight away.

My real name's Peter Stuart Smith, currently writing under three noms de plume, as our French neighbours phrase it. So am I just wildly schizophrenic, or is there some half-way good reason for these multiple identities? There's a perception in the world of publishing that an author's name which begins with letters at the beginning of the alphabet is more likely to be found by a casual browser, so clearly the ideal name for any author is Aaron Aardvark, except that nobody would take him seriously. Anyway, I liked the name 'James Barrington' and the first few books I wrote came out under that name. Then my agent suggested a new genre, and that meant a new identity, and so 'James Becker' was hatched, or whatever the appropriate term is. Finally, 'Max Adams' emerged as a writer of WW2 thrillers.

A bit of history, just to complete the introduction(s). I spent about 10 years trying to knock my first book into a publishable shape, and then started banging (metaphorically) on the doors of every literary agent in the book. Finally, in 2003, I was taken on by Sheil Land Associates, and they flogged Overkill to Macmillan after a short auction. That was followed by Pandemic, Foxbat, Timebomb and Payback. Then Penguin wanted a ghost with a military background, and the result of that was Joint Force Harrier, a non-fiction book about Royal Navy operations in Afghanistan, also written as 'James Barrington'.

My agent is Luigi Bonomi, now the boss of LBA (Luigi Bonomi Associates). He reckoned there was still some mileage in 'Brownian' thrillers, and sold the idea to Transworld, where I became 'James Becker', with three books out so far: The First Apostle, The Moses Stone and The Messiah Secret. Finally, Macmillan wanted somebody to write WW2 thrillers, and so after a short gestation period 'Max Adams' emerged blinking into the spotlight as the author of To Do Or Die. All three of my alter egos have books out next year - Manhunt ('James Barrington'), The Nosferatu Scroll ('James Becker') and Right and Glory ('Max Adams').

This first post has been somewhat delayed, for which I apologize. We had a fairly dramatic domestic crisis, even now only partly resolved, and then I got stuck in New York because of the snow at Heathrow after a speaking engagement on board the Queen Mary II, and that sort of delayed things as well. But I'll do my best to contribute something each week from now on.

Finally, and just getting over jet-lag, I had a bit of a shock when I walked into the local W H Smith to find my face staring at me from the front cover of the January 2011 edition of Writers' Forum. An interview I'd almost forgotten about, brought vividly back to life! Still a shock.

But it's a real pleasure to be here, and out of the closet, so to speak.

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