If I could have picked a time and a place to be born, I probably wouldn’t have opted for Belfast, Northern Ireland, 1955. This fate ensured I spent my teenage years dodging various forms of sectarian fuelled ordnance that flew between the combatants, across what euphemistically became known as the peace line. Still, you have to play the hand of cards you’re given and the deal wasn’t that bad. I still live in the province and my only real scars are the ones visible in my writing; others weren’t so lucky.

There were so many times I wanted to up sticks and leave but I stuck with it, graduating from a local university in 1976. It was there I also met my wife, so even if the education contributed little to my future, the experience led to a wonderful and supportive family that grew to include a son and daughter.

The idea that I could write came from a walk through a graveyard, outside the town of Varenna, on Lake Como. It wasn’t the usual sombre and gloomy setting; if anything, exactly the opposite, and I left with a fully formed story in my head. There’s a little of that original story in the Fratellanza Contract, along with other memories harvested from peripatetic wanderings through Italy. Venice provided the real inspiration however, and I’m still drawn back there when my creative juices need a top up. Of course, sipping Bellinis alongside a canal in Cannaregio also helps.