I grew up in Wigan and St.Helens in the rugby league heartland of England before escaping to France where I played rugby in Aveyron under the name of Walter Graham. I returned to the London, acquired a Masters Degree in Chinese Economics before becoming one of the last District Magistrates dispensing justice in the Solomon Islands in the Western Pacific.Returning to the UK, I acquired another Masters Degree in Development Economics and joined a Lebanese company specialising in war zones and sampled the delights of Angola, Lebanon and Syria before moving into China in 1984 and Eastern and Central Europe when the Berlin Wall came down in 1989.
Writing to escape
Writing is my passion and in many ways my obsession. It’s my way of escaping into my own secluded world where I can indulge in my fantasies, embark on journeys real or imaginary and reflect on experiences that have had a profound effect on me. I only started writing in my mid-twenties but it has subsequently consumed me, driving me on to further and further adventures.
I started with simple, short stories, moved on to travel writing as my work took me to far-flung parts of the world, and then moved into poetry, playwriting and eventually into screenwriting. A pen and a piece of paper are now as indispensable to me as another person’s mobile or laptop. Without them, I would be cast adrift, cut off from my creativity and my desperate need to record those simple and transitory moments that make like life so fascinating.
Why I write
It was death that started me writing. A sudden, terrible, tragic death on a remote Pacific island with no one to help. No one to breathe life back into my son’s small, limp, body lying naked on the hospital bench. That’s when my world fell apart and I died too, both physically and emotionally. I locked everything away to survive the horrors of what had happened.
I ran to anywhere that would mask my inner despair; anywhere where real fear supplanted my own inner turmoil, my own inner terrors. The Lebanon, exploding in civil strife and barbarity beyond belief; death, destruction and hatred ripping the heart out of a once prosperous country; Angola, torn apart by civil war; refugee camps, villages bombed into oblivion, children maimed by landmines; poverty and destitution everywhere; Syria, exploding as Assad’s regime decimated the ancient city of Hama, the Muslim Brotherhood stronghold. The worse it was, the better I felt. That’s when I started to write.
That’s when I started to put my emotions on paper, indelibly forever. I wrote through fear; I wrote through relief. I wrote to record what was happening around me. So I would never forget. So my emotions could be transferred from my inner soul and compressed into a few short words, a few short sentences, a paragraph or two.
It was a release, a trigger mechanism whenever I felt frightened, alone or horrified at what was happening. I wrote long hand into notebooks; on planes going into war zones, in convoys, in bars, in cafés, in endless hotel rooms.
My writing today
I started writing seriously in 2008 and took Katy Darby’s Short Story Writing course followed by Hannah Robinson’s Screenwriting Course at City University, London. I was awarded a Master of Arts in Creative Writing at Kingston University in 2010 and a Master of Fine Arts in 2011 specialising in screenwriting with the legendary Barrie Keeffe (The Long Good Friday/Sus) as my inspirational supervisor. I have published poetry and short stories, articles and books on African economies and have been shortlisted for numerous screenwriting awards.