Timothy London (born Tim Brinkhurst in 1960) is from Essex. He left school at sixteen to play punk rock and since then has had a long career as a musician, songwriter, music producer and music manager. And now he writes books.
On the creation of Stephen Smith:
‘I realised long ago that just about every thriller, action, adventure, crime story was written from the perspective of people who were on the right. Even if they consider themselves or their characters to be apolitical or ‘anti-establishment’, they tend to be killing foreign terrorists or cartoon baddies, just as they do in Hollywood films. Think of the big heroes. They might be chasing down rogue elements in the CIA but they are generally patriotic. They might have discovered a plot by unscrupulous politicians to do something deadly but they end up answering to MI5 or the police.
And the ubiquity of the various official secret services and police organisations, or invented, super-spy, parallel organisations leaves me bored.
When I started thinking about writing these books in 2009 I decided my hero would be psychotic, but left wing or anarchist, someone who honestly enjoys violence and prefers that there is some dubious, honourable way of being violent, who works for but hates the kind of people who benefit the most from and are the most effective at violence. Sanctioned criminals. Those with power desperate to hang on to their power.
Smith is ever-so loosely based on a musician I knew who was also a Chelsea supporting football hooligan. The Chelsea ‘Headhunters’ were notoriously fascists but my acquaintance was not. Somehow he managed to justify to himself joining them for organised fights with other football firms. He enjoyed the violence and thought it was a fair match, between people with a similar predilection. And he would, equally, battle fascists in the context of a demo or at a gig infected with nazis. For him, fighting was fun.
The reasons why people get involved in politics or war have been interrogated over centuries but I believe the biggest reason, that, (for them) it’s fun, is often overlooked. In the Smith series it’s clear that those with power enjoy themselves and that those who hurt other people see the acts of violence and intimidation they indulge in are perks of the job. Our armed forces, our politicians, our police, many are sanctioned criminals, just a PR campaign away from being just criminals. They are driven by the need for fun at any expense. Just look at the current crop in charge of the Tories.
What’s left wing about Smith? Let’s see. He prefers to hurt bullies and he hates sadists. He doesn’t enjoy the idea of violence and is always shocked he gets away with it. He encourages ordinary people to think for themselves – he thinks, if he can do it, so can they. He likes action. He enjoys ‘the game’ because he’s good at it. He has a very low opinion of himself and would make a good martyr, if only his enemies could catch him in their sights. He’s not interested in the power or the money. He wants to flatten everything, so that everyone has the same chance at life, even if it’s on a blasted battlefield. If he’s not left wing, as such, he’s definitely an action hero I can get behind for the length of a book.’