An American Baptism

baptism_USJohn Godey’s The Taking of Pelham 123 was an influence on Baptism only in as much as I knew that if I was going to create a story about a hijack on the London Underground, there were going to be comparisons. But I also knew that the similarities would be superficial because – while I had always loved the 1974 film adaptation starring Walter Matthau – the story that I wanted to create was very different from the story of a gang of criminals who wanted to hold New York City to ransom to the tune of “one million dollars”.

Baptism is very much a London story and one that is decidedly post 9/11 – and post 7/7 for that matter too. It was inspired in part by my experience of being trapped on the Tube train behind the one in which Jean Charles de Menezes was mistaken for a terrorist and shot by armed police officers in 2005, a couple of weeks after the 7/7 bombings, and the day after another four bombers had failed to detonate their explosives on Tube trains. Sitting there in a crowded Tube carriage for nearly an hour as the driver of the train tried to keep the passengers calm, while clearly nervous himself at what might be taking place further up the tunnel, was something that I knew I would want to write about at some stage. Perhaps subconsciously influenced by watching The Taking of Pelham 123 as a child, I had always thought how easy it would be to hijack a London Tube train. But why would anyone want to? The rail network beneath London is housed in some of the deepest narrowest railway tunnels in the world. Escape would be impossible. Wouldn’t it?

At the time that I ended up trapped on that Tube train in 2005, I was already writing a story featuring hostage negotiator, Ed Mallory. It wasn’t a bad story but I knew that a hostage crisis on the London Underground was going to be an altogether more scary proposition, playing on people’s primal fears and claustrophobia. So I set about writing Baptism. It took a while. The characters and plot changed quite a few times before the final draft was complete. And now I’m pleased to see the book published in the US and hope that American readers will enjoy a story that takes them to a dark nerve-jangling place deep beneath the streets of London and keeps them guessing right up until the final page.

Baptism is published in hardback by Quercus USA.

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