Ian Sutherland, a young lawyer, is asked to write a death-bed Will – simple enough, but he has no idea that the dying man, John Field, had been a Royal Marine sniper in the Second World War, and that this will lead to a thrilling journey for him. Having shot an SS officer during the Battle of the Bulge, Field removed a Luger pistol, a rare Rolex watch and a wallet from his corpse. Now, his dying wish is that Sutherland returns the watch and the wallet to Fuchs’s family. The journey takes him to Munich, where plenty of secrets lie hidden, and with threat never far away, Sutherland fights to hold onto his integrity even at the risk of his own life.We spoke to William Kinread to find out just where he found the inspiration for Luger.
In fact, his journey into writing started long before the creation of Luger. William was born in Ripon and went to Sedbergh School, where he found an interest in writing that has continued throughout his life. He won a national prize for writing in a Barclays bank competition when he was 18 years old, which took him on a tour around Europe. The short story he had written for that competition was sent to the editor of HarperCollins Publishers. ‘He looked at my short story and said, you’ve got an obvious talent for writing, but you need to get more experience of life,’ William recalls. After going to university, he qualified as a solicitor and worked in the profession – always locally in Leeds, Harrogate and Ripon – until he was in his late 50s. It was then that he began working for the family business, TopSpec Equine Ltd, which he says gave him more time to think – leading to the birth of his first novel.
‘I thought I’d go back to writing because I really feel writing is who I’m meant to be,’ William explains. ‘I have a wealth of stories inside me because I’ve been a private client lawyer all my life. You tend to think of solicitors as hard-nosed lawyers but a private client lawyer is more about helping people with their Wills, buying their first home and developing their business. What I found was, when people came to make their Will, they often had their own story to tell.
‘The book is set in the late 80s, which is when I started practicing, and a lot of the people who were making Wills at that time had either fought in the Second World War or had been affected by it in some way – and I found that a really interesting topic. So, a lot of Luger is true in so far as I actually did have a client and I was called to his death bed in hospital. He had been a sniper in the Second World War and he had taken a Luger from an officer's body – which is apparently quite common – so actually the first five or six chapters tell more or less how it happened.’
Of course, some of the story has been fictionalised, but throughout the book there are true events.
‘Ian, the young lawyer, has a fight in Germany and that is based on a true event, except it actually happened in Corfu,’ William laughs. ‘There’s a dramatic car chase ending in a crash and I’ve actually driven that, and in chapter 13 there’s a bit of a twist regarding MI6 – you read it and think “that’s a bit far fetched” but a lot of it is actually true. Truth really is stranger than fiction. The plot holds together well because it’s as it happened, and the reader will be able to imagine how it could easily happen to anyone.’
Since his book was released earlier this year, William has received some great reviews and says Luger has been described by some people as ‘James Bond-like’ because it has both action and romance, as well as a gripping story. His fans from our region have also been pleased by the way he has shown his love for the North – but they may not realise how much it helped him in coming up with the story.
‘I’m a Northerner and I’ve always lived in the North,’ William says. ‘I take my dog on long walks around Studley Rodger and Fountains Abbey and we live in such a beautiful part of the world, so I gain inspiration from going on these long walks through the countryside. As I’m walking, I work the plot out in my mind and go over various things. I use all these places that I’ve lived and worked – like Bettys of Harrogate or Fountains Abbey – and I put them in the story, and Northern readers have enjoyed that is it set here because so many stories are set in America these days.’
We’ve also got some good news if you’ve read Luger and you’re waiting on a sequel. William revealed that he’s already begun writing his second novel, following on from the first.
‘I have more stories in me,’ he says. ‘Initially, the publisher had asked for a trilogy so I’m actually writing the second book at the moment. It has the same hero, but it’s a different setting and a different story. Again, there’ll be a lot of truth in it. A couple of people who read it said you could do 20 of these – but I don’t know how many I’ve got in me. I don’t just spit them out. I have to think of the plot very carefully and make sure I leave no gaps. There’s a lot of thought that goes into it.
‘My book is more conversational than most novels. I read a lot of Shakespeare at school, and I wanted to develop the characters through conversation so that the reader can work out what they are like. Feedback has been that it could make a good film. A famous script writer is actually looking at it but unfortunately I’m not allowed to give his name. It would translate to a film more easily because it has so much conversation in it. It could even make a good BBC drama.’
William also let us in on another exclusive. Without giving away any spoilers, the second story is set to move forward to 1989 and will feature the fall of the Berlin wall.
Lockdown has led to many people embracing their creativity and William is keen to share his advice with others.
‘The Covid-19 restrictions have been really saddening because I’m really looking forward to going to book festivals and meeting people. One of the things I want to do is encourage other writers. My advice would be to just do it – start writing. Especially during these terrible times when people are stuck at home more and maybe suffering, I do think writing is very therapeutic. Join a book club and chat to other people about how they find it – and read books that you enjoy.’