John Templeton Smith is one of that rare breed - a world-renowned author freely willing to admit he had a lot of help getting started from someone else.
"someone else" was of course Desmond Bagley.
met Bagley while he was living on Guernsey. Reading the
publicity information given at Amazon.co.uk offers up some
intriguing facts. John served in the RAF before becoming a
commercial airline pilot. During this period he held the
fastest solo trans-Atlantic crossing time. He lectures in
America on creative writing and flies aircraft from their
manufacturers across to their customers in Europe.
Apparently it is during these long flights that John gets
stuck into his writing. Thank goodness for the
is clear that John has taken to heart Bagley's insistence
that thorough research into a given subject is the only way
to be able to talk authoritatively about it, and to this
end he has traveled to all points N, S, E and W. However
while writing John does the same as Bagley did and locks
himself away in a room with as few distractions as possible
until the job is done.
involves writing through the night if the creative flow is
on track and taking breaks only when nature insists enough
is enough. Like Bagley John is fond of classical music and
often writes to its accompaniment. Being a visual writer
means that he has to "see" or "hear" his characters in
action. (Incidentally this reminds me of the Jack Lemon
film How to Murder
Your Wife where
the actor plays a famous cartoonist who is renowned for
testing in real-life what his character subsequently does.
When he kills off a character he becomes the chief suspect
in a real disappearance... Obviously John doesn’t go so far
but his past experience of military covert ops is of
writing process takes between three to six months, though
the research done beforehand has taken a lot longer. At the
time I spoke with him he was finishing his latest book
"Then a Soldier" over here in England, but as John splits
himself between time in the US and on his travels doing
research he is rarely in one place for very long.
tales John has to tell of Bagley and his work make for very
interesting listening. Bagley didn't have an agent and
approached his first book publisher direct, telling him
that he wrote stories like the already famous Alistair
MacLean. Surprisingly this tactic worked, though the free
and easy attitude of publishers wasn't to last for long.
Some time in the sixties, John estimates, publishers began
to rely more and more on agents, preferring to concentrate
on the one or two big authors already on their books - a
carrot to the up and coming - but to the detriment of less
well known ones.
is a list of John's major publications to date:
John Smith -
(1983 H/B Century - 1985 P/B Corgi )
VOLUNTEERS (1984 H/B Century - 1986 P/B Corgi
THUNDER (1986 H/B Century-Hutchinson )
John Templeton Smith -
FIFTH FREEDOM (1988 H/B Michael Joseph 1989 P/B Sphere
LIE (1999 Pocket Books P/B )
EXPRESS (2000 Pocket Books P/B )
to be released -
A SOLDIER (2002 Pocket Books P/B )
any reader will note there is a large gap between 1988
and 1999, a time when John was working hard on a novel that
never made it to the bookshelves. This probably due to the
contentious nature of the story. There seems to be a point
at which people are willing to publish and read any kind of
horror or violence, but beyond which they will suddenly get
cold feet. This may be when the author chooses to probe a
little deeper into his subject. Is there a point at which
it can be said there is too much research done? A good
question, but for the average man (or author) in the street
it should be said there can be no such thing.
back on track again though, with the completion of a
trilogy featuring his serial "hero" John Winter.
Templeton Smith's style reminds me a lot of Craig Thomas,
that stalwart of the grand military/political adventure
whose own serial hero has been played by Clint Eastwood in
the film Firefox. Read "Winter Hawk" to get a feeling for
what I mean.
well as being a world-class author, John also writes for
Pilot magazine and in his spare time is working on the
screen-play for a new television series.
a conversation I had with Joan Bagley she summed-up this
friend of her husband's thus: "A very nice man - but tough
man of great energy and brim-full of splendid stories to
tell. Read him.