Interview with author Ben Westerham


Welcome Readers to another installment of our author interview series. Today we have the pleasure of chatting with Ben, author of two mystery series.

JMR-Welcome to the Books Delight, Ben. Tell our readers where you live, what you do for fun and what does the perfect day look like?

BH- I live in a village of about 1,500 people in the English Midlands about 100 miles north of London. My wife and I moved here 26 years ago and have raised our two boys in the village. It’s a lovely part of the country, where we have some wonderful friends, access to lots of beautiful countryside and just enough partying opportunities to stop us from falling into an endless slumber.

Since last Autumn I’ve been a full-time author, so I now have almost complete control over my days and I’ve wasted no time making the most of this. A typical day, Monday to Friday, sees me take a short walk first thing, breakfast then get down to writing for up to three hours. I would prefer to write in the evenings, being a night owl, but that doesn’t fit with family life. After lunch I get on with the marketing and business side of being an author. I love the balance this approach brings, exercising both the left and right sides of the brain.

Because I love what I do so much it took a lot of effort, at first, to stop myself from working into the evenings and at weekends, but I now routinely keep those times free for the family and the silly number of hobbies and interests that I have, including gardening and family history research.

JMR-What’s your favorite historical time period? Why?

BH- That’s a tough one, not least of all because I’m a history graduate and I love all periods and places in history. I suppose, at a push, I’d opt for the nineteenth-century. I like periods of great change and this was certainly that. Sticking to just life here in the UK, there was major change across all aspects of life, economic, political, social and cultural. I read hordes of history books and yet still often find myself surprised at how little I, in fact, know about the nature of these changes, be it their drivers, their impacts or even the part they played in developing the life we lead today.

JMR-Who is your favorite historical figure? Why? If you could ask them one question, what would it be?

BH- I’m going to cheat here because I really don’t have a single favourite figure from history. I can remember early last year being asked which three characters from history I would invite to dinner and why. My answer was Oscar Wilde, Benjamin Disraeli and Winston Churchill. I doubt conversation and opinions would be hard to come by and it would have the added benefit that all three were writers, as well as other things.

As for a question, I would like to ask each of them what makes them happy.

(By the way, do any of your readers know what the connection is between Oscar Wilde and Benjamin Disraeli)?

JMR- How did you come to be a writer of historical fiction?

BH- Tech. This might sound ironic, given that I worked in the I.T. industry for over three decades, but, as an author, I hate feeling hemmed in by the presence of technology in modern life. Whenever I do write stories set in the here and now (which are, to date, always short stories) I feel the constant need to have the characters reaching for their phones or looking something up on the internet or dodging CCTV cameras. It’s a blessed nuisance. Don’t get me wrong, I love tech. I’m into blockchains, NFTs and A.I. and I read sci-fi and articles on space travel, but keep it away from my writing, if you please.

I realised this as soon as I set out to write the first book in my David Good private investigator series. I wanted the focus to be on the people and keeping tech out of the picture helped with this. I opted, in this case, for the 1980s and London because it is a period and place I know from experience.

I loved writing those books and the experience gave me the confidence to then move on to a period a little before my time, setting my Banbury Cross mystery series in the early 1960s. Again, it’s the relative simplicity of life and absence of modern-day tech that has helped me to keep the focus on the people. I chose to set these books in the small market town of Banbury in Oxfordshire, which is about nine miles from where we live, and it has been great fun, as well as very informative, researching life in and around the town back then.

JMR- We are all affected by the highs and lows in our lives. How has your lived life informed your writing?

JG- I like to think I have enough life experience under the belt now to have shaken off the arrogance that is a part of being young and to have developed a far wider tolerance of people and things, beliefs and actions that are not in tune with my own. This gives me a much wider outlook.

In truth, my writing is in part an escape. I tend, with my novels at least, to steer away from a great deal of darkness. There are exceptions, certainly in my David Good books, and saying I largely avoid the darker parts of life when I write stories in which people are invariably bumped off might seem a bit confusing, but I limit what you see.

My sense of humour also tends to show through in my writing. That’s sometimes just the way I am but it can also be a good counter-point to something darker.

Certainly, my writing would not be what it is without the experiences, good and bad, that I have encountered as part of life’s journey.

JMR- Did you visit anyone of the places in your book? Where did you feel closest to your characters?

BH- The settings for my stories are a mixture of real-life and creations from my imagination. The cities and towns are real, but villages and individual properties are sometimes real and sometimes made-up.

The character I feel closest to is David Good. Partly that’s because I wrote those stories in the first person but also because he inhabits a time and place in London which I experienced myself. Let’s just say there are one or two pubs and parties I frequented that acted as models for equivalents in these books.

JMR- Ben, tell us about your book, The Meyer Hoffman Affair.

BH- Two of my all-time favourite books are The Thirty-Nine Steps by John Buchan and The Riddle of the Sands by Erskine Childers. The latter would make my ‘three books for a desert island’ list.

I long harboured a desire to write a story in the style of these two early-nineteenth-century espionage books but held off because I simply couldn’t see there being anyone interested in reading them. But eventually I decided to indulge myself and write The House of Spies purely for my own pleasure, without any expectation of people paying money to read it.

I absolutely loved writing that book, which sees my hero, trainee solicitor Alexander Templeman, take on a dastardly agent of an overseas power. I went all in, doing my best to reproduce not only the sort of story and setting you get in a Buchan but also the language. It was a sheer joy to write. Then I put it up for sale and was taken aback to see people start buying it.

Well, I was hardly likely to pass up an excuse to write another one, so that’s precisely what I did. In The Meyer-Hoffman Affair, Templeman has now been signed up by the recently launched British Secret Service and is sent off, with a more experienced agent, to escort to London a German scientist with crucial skills in the development of new weapons. Needless to say, all does not go according to plan, after all, the Germans are hardly going to give the man up without a fight.

Hopefully, I have again captured the flavour of these old-style espionage stories. I also indulged myself further by setting the second-half of the story in the tiny, ancient port of Rye, which sits on the south coast of England overlooking the English Channel and still has its cobbled streets and red-brick buildings from centuries gone by. It’s an utterly beautiful place and one I know well. I only hope I’ve done the town justice. The book is out at the end of January 2024.

JMR-What projects do you have in the pipeline?

BH- The biggest problem writer me has is that he comes up with way too many ideas for things he’d like to do. I just love to create. Mostly that’s with words, but I’m starting to turn my mind towards some multi-media projects I’d like to give a go. Nothing is firmed up yet but I will definitely get at least one of these off the ground this year.

I think the opportunities authors have with blockchains and NFTs are astonishing, especially for those who want to do multi-media work. Add A.I. into the mix and we really are entering a period of utter joyous delight for creatives. I feel so incredibly lucky.

I’m trying to find time to grow my audio output because readers are now asking for it more and more often and I always aim to please. It does seem to still be a growth area.

Aside from that, there will be another book in my Banbury Cross mystery series this year, several short stories and, possibly, another Alexander Templeman book, just in time for Christmas shopping.

JMR- Tell our readers how to find you on social media and the web.

BH- They can find me on X @benwesterham, Facebook and in Web3.0 land on Hive @benwesterham.

JMR- What question were you hoping I’d ask but didn’t?

BH- Easy, who is your favourite author? A terrible question to ask anyone! Anyway, my answer changes so frequently it is almost meaningless. At the moment I am reading Death in Hallowed Places by PD James and, since it is very good indeed, today she is my favourite author.

JMR- Thank you, Ben, for stopping by. Your books look really great! Readers, I’ve included a link to Ben’s book below. Please be sure to check it out.


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