Simon Michael’s Legal Thriller Novels have given him a reputation as the “British John Grisham.”
Tell us a little about yourself.
I’ve been a barrister (trial attorney) for most of my life, prosecuting and defending murderers, armed robbers, rapists and conmen, and in that time I’ve made the acquaintance of dozens of evil, mad and wonderful people. Some of the cases made headlines and some just involved vulnerable people making terrible mistakes. When I first started at the Bar, London was ruled by gangsters such as the murderous Kray twins and by the institutionally corrupt Metropolitan police. Over my years of practice, I accumulated a cast of characters and cases that I knew would make wonderful legal thrillers and I thought that if John Grisham could do it for US trial attorneys and Michael Connelly for US police forces, then I could do it for trial attorneys with a peculiarly British slant. I’ve since got a bit of a reputation as “the British John Grisham”.
I have three grown-up children and live on the edge of the beautiful High Peaks in northern England. As I write this I look out onto a green valley, Canada geese on the lake and trees covered in frost.
Do you have a “real” job other than writing, and if so, what is it? What are some other jobs you’ve had in your life?
My family was poor, from the East End of London, and to get my degree and qualify for the Bar I had to work part-time in all sorts of capacities, including manual labourer, driver, gardener, youth worker, and once I had my law degree, laws lecturer. You can imagine how that background was received in the highly class-conscious British “Establishment”!
Have you always wanted to be a writer?
I have been writing stories and plays since I was a child. By the time I was twenty, my desk was full of notebooks, scraps of paper with snatches of overheard conversation, ideas and half-started novels. While working sixteen hours a day as a lawyer I managed to write a couple of books which were published in the US and Europe in the 1980s, but three young children and a big mortgage forced me back to full-time legal practice. Once the kids were grown and the mortgage paid off I was able to retire early to take up writing full-time. That was seven years ago, and I suppose because the creativity was bottled up for so long, I have written ten books in that time, seven legal crime thrillers published, the eighth hopefully coming out this year, and two very different novels, one speculative fiction set in a post-globally-warmed world, and one literary fiction set in the 1960s.
Tell us a little bit about your book/s. What is the title?
My crime series features Charles Holborne, born Charlie Horowitz, a lad from the wrong side of the tracks who gets a scholarship and becomes the first member of his family to go to university. They are all legal thrillers, based to a lesser or greater degree on the cases I tried as an attorney, weaved into the historical headlines of the day. They all include a courtroom drama and are all stand-alone novels, so you don’t have to read them in order to understand them. The most recent, The Final Shot, came out on 19 January 2022 and concerns a true-life assassination carried out by the Kray twins of one of their own lieutenants. It is set on the day of the 1966 World Cup soccer final.
Of all the books in this series, I think my favorite is The Waxwork Corpse. That also includes a true-life case which made all the headlines in the UK when a woman’s body surfaced almost a decade after having been dropped into the deepest lake in Britain, Wastwater. Due to a combination of weird circumstances her body was almost completely preserved, so she was easily identified. The trial of her husband at the Old Bailey for murder was one of the biggest cases of the 1970s, and was known over here as the case of “The Lady in the Lake”.
Are you currently working on any writing projects our readers should watch for release soon?
I just completed writing book 8 in the crime series. Usually, I take a break between books, but MGM is looking at them with a view to a TV series, and they wanted to know how the series ended, so that got me working!
Have you ever won any writing awards? If so, what?
Last year my first literary fiction novel, The Semi-Detached Women — which is still seeking a publisher — was shortlisted for the PageTurner Award.
How did you feel the day you held the copy of your first book in your hands?
Pride and disbelief. It really was quite like having my first baby in my arms, a moment I had dreamt about for years but was never quite sure would actually occur.
The main characters of your stories – do you find that you put a little of yourself into each of them or do you create them to be completely different from you?
If ever I am asked if the Charles Holborne series is autobiographical, I always say no. The cases are ones in which I had some involvement, but Charles isn’t me. But then most of my friends and relatives disagree!
Location and life experience can sprinkle their influence in your writing. Tell us about where you grew up and a little about where you live now – city? Suburb? Country? Farm? If you could live anywhere you want to live, where would that be?
I’m a “big city” boy, born and bred in London. Like Charles, I know the city like the back of my hand and it’s in my soul. Having said that, two years ago I moved into this beautiful 200-year old farmhouse 200 miles north of London, smack in the middle of the countryside, and I am loving it! I can imagine nowhere else I’d rather live.
What is your main goal or purpose you would like to see accomplished by or with your writing?
We are dust. Very few of us make any long-term mark on the world. Leaving aside world or religious leaders we’re lucky if anyone after our grandchildren even remembers who we were. The waters close over our heads as if we had never been. I would like the characters I create to have a life after my own, for readers still to think of them after they close the final pages of my books. That’s a sort of immortality.
You can find my books on Amazon or Goodreads, but here’s my webpage: www.simonmichael.uk and I love hearing from readers, satisfied and otherwise! I always respond, whether to praise or to constructive criticism.
Thanks for a great interview, Simon,