This is me...

 

I HAVE a passion for thrillers. I love reading about men and women facing the ultimate test under fire - and I love writing about them. It must be in my blood. 

 

Born in Dover, Kent, and raised in various outposts of the world while my father served in the Royal Navy, I grew up hungry to become a writer.

 

I worked for many years as a national newspaper journalist. But I always dreamed of switching to novel-writing - and on moving to Norfolk in 2007 I found the perfect spot to achieve my ambition. There is no great rush here. You have time and space to think, to chat and to imagine.

So why thrillers? Well, it might have something to do with my family history.

My generation of the Clements clan is the first since the Crimean War not to have seen active service in a branch of the military, and I feel extremely fortunate that this is so. While my father, grandfather and great-grandfather survived fierce and deadly fighting in three major wars, I fear I would not have measured up. Psychoanalysts might wonder whether I am trying to make up for this by weaving stories around those with more courage than myself - and they might have a point.

Either way, I believe my history has given me a keen understanding of valour and the stoicism of those in peril - whether from enemy agents, at sea, in the air, or in the battlefield.

These are the essential qualities of my protagonist Tom Wilde, a Cambridge history professor. He may spend much of his life with his nose buried in dusty archives or in the lecture hall, but when he is called on to act, he does so without question.

     These are my forefathers...

This is my great grandfather George William Valentine Clements, a captain and quartermaster in the Royal Dragoons. A carpenter's son from Norwich, he signed up aged 15 in 1846 and fought in all four major battles in the Crimean War, taking part in the Charge of the Heavy Brigade and winning promotion to officer. He died in March 1916, aged 85, having come out of retirement because he didn't want to miss out on the First World War. Although he did not see action, he was considered the oldest soldier ever to have died on active service and his grave is still tended by the War Graves Commission in Earlham Cemetery, Norwich. In the second picture, he is the one seated in the centre with the shiny high boots and whiskers. It seems to me that they all look very pleased with themselves.

My grandfather George Weston Clements fought in the First World War and won the Military Cross in the Middle East. The citation says he led a small party of men, cutting the wire under heavy fire. He proceeded to capture an enemy machine gun and killed two enemy with his revolver. On Armistice Day, I find myself thinking about those two unnamed men. They, too, were fighting for their country.

My father, Noel Clements served in the Royal Navy in the Second World War. He was torpedoed in the battleship Ramillies by a Japanese mini-sub. His two brothers were also Navy officers - George serving in Naval Intelligence alongside Ian Fleming. Brian, the youngest, was killed aged 22 while second-in-command of the submarine Turbulent, winning the DSC. The skipper Tubby Linton was awarded the VC.

Lord Mounbatten, left, inspects a line of officers, including my father Noel, right

...and these are my female forebears

This is my great grandmother Jane Elizabeth Weston, the second wife of George William Valentine Clements. She died long before I was born but I see a lot of the present generation in her features

Mary Enright was my father's mother. She died in 1924 giving birth to her sixth child, John, who also died. Men went to war but women faced dangers of their own.

My mother's names were Jean Margaret. The picture, left, shows the typical 1940s glamour shot, while on the right she wears her Women's Royal Naval Service uniform. 

My maternal grandmother Margaret was a tennis champion in the Far East in the 1920s and worked as a teacher