Bill Vidal was born
and educated in England.
He lived and worked in the USA,
the Middle East,
South East Asia
before settling with his wife and twin children in East
Kent. In recent years he
has slowed down his
business commitments to devote more time to writing and to his lifelong
for aeroplanes. Bill's articles about flying have been published in
newspapers and magazines. The Clayton
Account is his first novel.
I was in my office last week when
popped in. That in itself was not unusual – my office is in
an airport and
since 9/11 anyone involved in aviation is subject to regular scrutiny.
what happened next that
amused me. A visiting friend announced the impending publication of my
novel and the police officers wanted to know all about it, including
inevitable question, did I write it from personal experience?
shall have to be very
guarded with my answer,” was the best way I could put it,
“given that my book
is set in the world of bank fraud, drug dealing and money
produced a few laughs,
and two copies of The Clayton Account
on back order for our plainclothes friends.
imagine that all novels
are a mixture of a writer’s experiences and his or her own
imagination. In a
career spanning three decades in international trade, I lived and
many exotic places where crime – especially large scale crime
- was often so
prevalent you’d have to be blind not to notice and abnormally
insensitive to be
is perhaps the
most evident. The developing world’s wheels will simply not
lubricated by copious quantities of cash. But do not dismiss corruption
third world issue: those paying the bribes usually spring from our side
big sums are paid, banks
come into play: the last place on earth a crook would want to keep his
close to home. So discreet accounts appear in offshore havens where the
community winks knowingly and says “Thanks very
often ask me whether
I used to be a banker and the answer is no. But banks –
public and private -
were my clients. I attended top management meetings and, more
spent countless evenings dining and wining with their directors. I
shake my head in disbelief on recalling some of the stories I have
few years ago I stopped
working – “retired” would be wrong word.
I was in my early fifties and not
about to call it a day. I turned instead to my two passions: flying
and writing. I also started writing about flying and one magazine,
Pilot, gave me the space. My regular Going Places feature focuses on
attractions of individual European destinations and includes technical
information of interest to pilots.
my real interest has
always been the novel. Years jetting about the world in my previous job
stacking up with books at airports.
mainly thrillers and ventured I could write one. Deighton, Le Carre,
Clancy, Grisham. You name them, they kept me company in far-away hotels
long-haul flights. I started to write fiction twice but abandoned both
as life got in the way.
the idea of quitting work
started to germinate I took myself back to college: London University’s Birkbeck College is geared for students in
full-time work and holds its lectures in the
evening: Four years later, I left with a BA in Spanish and Latin
Studies. The course was mostly literature and invaluable. It taught me
understand the novel and its possibilities in ways I may have never
plotted The Clayton Account around
largest criminal activity: the trade in illegal drugs, specifically
The business is so vast that if it were brought to a sudden halt some
countries’ economies would simply collapse. The banking
reeling from the aftermath of their sub-prime adventure, would watch in
as a trillion dollar business vanished from its books.
is the power of the
drug trade that many police chiefs have called for the complete
decriminalisation of drugs as the only way to put an end to an activity
drains away almost half of all law-enforcement resources.
Some years ago I had to
purchase 125 grams of
pure cocaine. Quite legally, with a Home Office licence. I was buying
it for a plastic
surgeon friend in Dubai who used it as a local
anaesthetic. The little
bottle cost me £14. Sold
would have fetched £8,000. The difference between those two
sums is the gateway
to the opulent lifestyle of the drug lord.
occasion, in my travels,
I’ve met “farmers” whose South American
smallholdings – two or three hundred
acres at a time – somehow failed to explain a lifestyle that
cattle baron would struggle to attain. Lavish mansions, cars, boats,
blatantly displayed, the source of funds cleverly disguised by lawyers,
and complicit governments, supported, when necessary, by threats and
known of household-name
companies securing contracts with undisclosed commissions paid through
banks, and learnt of briefcases full of dollars delivered to corrupt
secure the outcome of a hearing.
So, to answer my friends
from Special Branch,
there’s always a bit of personal experience in a novel. But I
assisting you with your enquiries in this instance. I thoroughly
writing The Clayton Account and I
feel very fortunate to have Random House behind it now.
currently working on
another thriller. I don’t want to say too much about it at
this stage. Besides,
I don’t think I can. I’ve created the main
characters, I know what they want
and what they are up against and I know how I would like the story to
I shan’t know the entire plot until I see how the characters
react. I can say
that the story is set in Spain, Russia and Latin America and populated by an
international collection of thugs and criminals as well as, I hope,
likeable individuals. And the historical facts on which it is based are
enough, but if, perchance, the true nature of what happened should
the way I want things to have happened, I shall use the fiction
prerogative: I shall make it all up!
and flying. That’s
my life now. I can’t help feeling guilty when I call it work.
is published by William Heinemann May 2008