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Q&A with Jack Higgins

Published in the Sunday Times

The Midnight BellThe Midnight Bell
Jack Higgins, HarperCollins

Which book changed your life?
As a child, Oliver Twist and in my teens, The Great Gatsby made me think I had to be a writer.

What music helps you write?
All types of music.

What is the strangest thing you’ve done when researching a book?
Exploring wrecks at depths in the Virgin Islands when researching U-boats.

Do you keep a diary?
No, but I do keep a day book which is different because it handles truth and can’t be escaped.

Who is your favourite fictional hero?
As a child, Errol Flynn. Saw his Robin Hood lately and it was still wonderful with Claude Rains as King John.

Which words do you most overuse?
Others would have to tell.

What books are you embarrassed not to have read yet?
The Harry Potter series.

Has a book ever changed your mind about something?
Quite a bit of what Winston Churchill wrote, covering the nature of war and the bravery of ordinary human beings.

You’re hosting a literary dinner with three writers. Who’s invited?
Frederick Forsyth, Agatha Christie and Alistair MacLean, a genuine friend who gave me great encouragement.

Do you finish every book that you start? If you don’t, how do you decide when to stop reading?
No, I stop reading a book if it is boring the hell out of me!

What’s the best book you’ve ever received as a gift?
A copy of The Distant Summer, written by my eldest daughter, Sarah Patterson, when she was 15. A World War 2 story set in a village in England close to a Lancaster bomber station where a 16-year-old vicar’s daughter falls in love with a young rear gunner whose burned hands have ruined his future. A heartbreaking, wonderful book. You’ll cry.

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