The boy on the escalator: respected local spy writer sets himself a serious problem in his first psychological thriller
Jon Stock's new book is a psychological thriller called Find Me. It was launched at Marlborough's White Horse Bookshop on Thursday (February 16.)
Jon Stock was there but so was 'J.S.Monroe' - that is the pseudonym he has chosen to write Find Me under - to mark his switch from spy thrillers to psychological thriller. The 'J.S' is for Jon Stock and the 'Monroe' is a variation of his mother-in-law's surname.
Following a successful career in journalism, Jon Stock's writing career took off with his spy trilogy. It was published between 2010 and 2012 and is known either as the 'Daniel Marchant Trilogy' - after its hero - or as the 'Legoland Trilogy' - after the nickname spies give to MI6's Lego-like HQ beside the Thames.
The opening book of the trilogy - Dead Spy Running - was optioned by Warner Brothers. What followed has been a typical Hollywood saga of re-writes and changed minds: "If it happens, it happens - great. We've just parked it in a box." The latest news is that it may become a television series.
The other books in his trilogy are Games Traitors Play and Dirty Little Secret.
Jon Stock worked for The Daily Telegraph as a foreign correspondent with a long stint in India. And then as the editor of their Weekend Section - part of the paper that was then much envied on Fleet Street. He has now left journalism and is a full-time writer.
Why, Marlborough.News asked Jon over a cup of Food Gallery coffee, the switch of genres for Find Me? "It's really in the territory of Gone Girl and The Girl on the Train - I really enjoyed reading them - and wanted to try writing one in that genre." He smiles: "Find Me still has some espionage elements."
It opens with a young Irish writer, Jar, dashing down a London Underground escalator and spotting his old girlfriend. The problem is that five years earlier she had jumped to her death off Cromer Pier.
Jar comes to believe she is still alive: "I like digging a big hole at the beginning of a book and seeing how I can get out of it." Is she really still alive or is Jar suffering from post-bereavement hallucinations?
We are not getting into spoiler territory - but we can just say that Find Me's subtitle is Before they do. No secret there - it's on the cover.
Jon says that the second part of the book gets into some pretty dark areas - of the 'dark web' and of the psychological experiments on which the CIA based their 'enhanced interrogation' techniques that a U.S. Senate Committee branded as 'torture'. But he adds: "Ultimately it's a love story."
Find Me will be launched in London next Wednesday (February 22) and signed copies are already on sale at the White Horse Bookshop. It took three years to write and he was a little perplexed but then very delighted when a friend said she had read it right through at one sitting - three years' work packed into eight hours!
Jon Stock and his wife Hilary (who is a photographer) have lived in Great Bedwyn for fifteen years. The have three teenage children.
His next book is something quite new - a spy novella. It was commissioned when he was writer in residence at The Nare Hotel on Cornwall's Roseland Peninsula and will be given to the hotel's guests. It is 45,000 words long and is set in and around a Cornish hotel: "It's been huge fun to do."
It is called To Snare a Spy and will be published at the end April. Then Jon Stock or J.S. Monroe will begin to write another book.
There is more information at www.jsthrillers.com
A review of Find Me will appear on Marlborough.News as soon as possible - but not, we are afraid, in eight hours' time.