Research and writing have always been important to me; firstly as a biological research scientist, and most recently as a historian. The discovery of a Victorian hat-box full of family correspondence and photographs prompted me to explore my family history and to undertake research on, amongst others, the lives and experiences of my great-great-grandfather, Detective Chief Inspector George Clarke of Scotland Yard, and my grandfather Charles Frederick Payne, a clerk in the City of London before his conscription into the Army during the First World War.
My fascination for these topics is in the analysis of how 'ordinary' individuals face 'extraordinary' situations in their lives. George Clarke, at the age of 59 in 1877 after a distinguished Scotland Yard career, found himself in the dock at the Old Bailey, charged with perverting the course of justice. The background and outcome to these events is described in my first historical book, 'The Chieftain', published in October 2011. In 1916 Clarke’s grandson, Charlie Payne, was conscripted into the British Army and soon found himself on the Western Front facing the dual threats of the German Army and the great influenza pandemic. I am now writing a book about his experiences, which has the working title 'Charlie Payne's Hatbox'.
I was born in Kingston-on-Thames and educated at Bexley Grammar School and Wadham College, Oxford University. I pursued a career in virus research, working at the University of Otago, New Zealand, before joining the Unit of Invertebrate Virology, Oxford, and later moving to the Glasshouse Crops Research Institute, Littlehampton. Between 1983 and 1999, I held several senior research-management positions, including 9 years as Chief Executive of Horticulture Research International. I was Professor of Horticulture at The University of Reading for four years from 1999, before becoming self-employed. During my scientific career I have been an author of about 90 scientific publications in books, journals and technical magazines. I received the OBE for services to horticultural science in 1997.
I am a member of the Crime Writers' Association, the Police History Society, the Friends of the Metropolitan Police Historical Collection and the Western Front Association, where I am Chairman of the Cumbria Branch. I am married to Meg, and live in Arnside, Cumbria, UK.