Article published on July 6, 2017.
I have always been an avid lover and reader of books and from an early age harboured ambitions of becoming a writer. Encouraged to think I might have a little talent by some of my English teachers, as a teenager and a young man I essayed a number of short stories along with a half-written novel or two. However, as with most aspiring authors, life intervened. I went off to study law at university before qualifying as a barrister, and thereafter my writing tailed off as the pressures of working life grew.
After a period practising at the bar, I went into business, initially working for other people and then, in my late thirties, for myself. With a friend I started a computer services business in a small office by the Thames in southwest London. We were lucky to be in the right business at the right time and ten years later we had built it into a multi-million pound group with offices throughout Europe and a public listing on the NASDAQ stock exchange. We then received an attractive offer from a large American computer manufacturer and agreed to sell the company. Soon after the completion of the sale, I resolved to revive my literary ambitions. I have always loved mysteries and thrillers and chose to attempt a detective series set on the Home Front in World War 2, a period of history which has always fascinated me. And so I created Detective Chief Inspector Frank Merlin, a brave and brilliant half-Spanish Scotland Yard detective, and set him off on his wartime adventures.
Some people find the transformation from businessman into author surprising. The prosaic world of balance sheets and profit and loss accounts seems a million miles away from the creative world and the effective development of plot, heroes and villains in readable style. There are, however, aspects of my business experiences which serve me well in my new career. To build a large and successful company from scratch requires, among other things, tenacity, perseverance, imagination, logical thinking, and organisational and marketing skills. All of these attributes are essential in varying degrees to the process of getting a book down on paper, seeing it published and then selling as many copies as possible. In a way, I am really carrying on in business but Frank Merlin is now the enterprise. My ambitions for him are as great as they were for our computer company, if not greater.
So far there are three Frank Merlin books, the third of which is being published on July 6th. The first is set in January 1940, the second in September 1940 and the latest in June 1941. My plan is to continue to take my detective through the war at the established pace of six to nine month intervals. If I make it, my new business seems bound to occupy me a good while longer than my old one!
About the author
Mark Ellis is a thriller writer and a former barrister and entrepreneur. He grew up in Swansea, under the shadow of his parents’ experience of the second world war. His father served in the wartime navy and his mother witnessed the bombardment of Swansea in 1941. Mark has always been fascinated by World War II and, in particular, the Home Front and the criminal activity which sprung up during wartime. He has written two previous DCI Frank Merlin novels, Princes Gate and Stalin’s Gold and is a member of the Crime Writers’ Association. He divides his time between homes in London and Oxford.
Summer 1941. Four violent deaths, French double agents, daring fraud – DCI Frank Merlin sets out on his most complex case yet.
War rages across Europe. France is under the Nazi thumb. Britain has its back to the wall. In London, Scotland Yard detective Merlin investigates a series of disturbing events – a young girl killed in a botched abortion, a French emigré shot in a seedy Notting Hill flat, a mysterious letter written by a British officer, gunned down in Crete.
With action spanning Buenos Aires, New York, Cairo and Occupied France, Merlin and his team are plunged into a dark world of espionage, murder, love and betrayal.
Merlin at War by Mark Ellis, published by London Wall Publishing on 6 July, 2017, in hardback
Tank Action: An Armoured Troop Commander’s War 1944–45 by Captain David Render and Stuart Tootal
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