Seymour, Gerald 1941–
Seymour, Gerald 1941–
(Gerald William Herschel Kean Seymour)
Born November 25, 1941, in Guildford, Surrey, England; son of William Kean (a bank manager and poet) and Rosalind (a novelist) Seymour; married Gillian Mary Roberts, May 3, 1964; children: Nicholas, James. Education: Attended Kelly College, Devon, England; University College, London, B.A. (with honors), 1963. Hobbies and other interests: Walking dogs, float fishing, and watching rugby.
Home—Bath, England. Agent—Michael Sissons, PFD, Drury House, 34-43 Russell St., London WC2B 5HA, England.
Writer. Independent Television News, London, England, staff reporter, 1963-78.
Edgar Award, Mystery Writers of America, 1976, for Harry's Game, 1977, for The Glory Boys, and 1994, for The Journeyman Tailor; Pye Award, 1983, for television play.
Harry's Game, Random House (New York, NY), 1975.
The Glory Boys, Random House (New York, NY), 1976.
Kingfisher, Collins (London, England), 1977, Summit Books (New York, NY), 1978.
Red Fox, Collins (London, England), 1979, published as The Harrison Affair, Summit Books (New York, NY), 1980.
The Contract, Collins (London, England), 1980, Holt (New York, NY), 1981.
Archangel, Dutton (New York, NY), 1982.
In Honour Bound, Norton (New York, NY), 1984.
Field of Blood, Norton (New York, NY), 1985.
A Song in the Morning, Collins (London, England), 1986, Norton (New York, NY), 1987.
An Eye for an Eye, Morrow (New York, NY), 1987, published in England as At Close Quarters, Collins (London, England), 1987.
Home Run, Collins (London, England), 1989, published in America as The Running Target, Morrow (New York, NY), 1990.
Condition Black, Morrow (New York, NY), 1991.
The Journeyman Tailor, HarperCollins (London, England), 1992, HarperCollins (New York, NY), 1993.
The Fighting Man, HarperCollins (London, England), 1993.
The Heart of Danger, HarperCollins (London, England), 1995.
Killing Ground, HarperPaperbacks (London, England), 1997.
The Waiting Time, Bantam (London, England), 1998, published as Dead Ground, Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 1999.
A Line in the Sand, Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 2000.
Holding the Zero, Transworld (London, England), 2000.
The Untouchable, Bantam (London, England), 2001.
The Unknown Soldier, Bantam (London, England), 2004, Overlook Press (New York, NY), 2005.
Traitor's Kiss, Corgi (London, England), 2004, Overlook Press (New York, NY), 2006.
Rat Run, Bantam (London, England), 2005, Overlook Press (New York, NY), 2007.
Harry's Game, Yorkshire, 1982.
The Glory Boys, Yorkshire, 1984.
The Contract, Yorkshire, 1988.
(With James McManus) Red Fox, LWT, 1991.
A Line in the Sand, Anglia, 2004.
The Informant was adapted by Nicholas Meyer, Showtime, 1997; The Waiting Time was adapted for television by Patrick Harbinson, Carlton, 1999; Holding the Zero was adapted for audio cassette, read by Sean Barrett, ISIS Audio Books, 2000.
Gerald Seymour, who spent fifteen years as a staff reporter for London's Independent Television News (ITN) before turning to writing fiction full-time, has become a successful suspense novelist. Often grouped with such writers as Graham Greene, Charles McCarry, and John Le Carre, Seymour uses his understanding of covert government operations to create believable characters and cinematically energized action. Herbert Mitgang in the New York Times called Seymour "one of Britain's most authoritative thriller writers."
Seymour's parents were both writers, as were his godparents, James Hanley and James Hilton. Seymour initially wanted to be a journalist but turned to reporting after a successful stint with ITN. Seymour told Nicholas Wroe in the London Guardian that "ITN took me on a three-month trial, and because I was tall and had a nice speaking voice I was sent off to be a reporter." His television reporting background ultimately provided creative material on which he would draw for his novels. As a reporter, he covered such events as the Great Train Robbery, the military conflict in Cyprus, the Vietnam War, the conflict in Northern Ireland, and the activities of the Palestinian Liberation Organization. He often reported on military conflicts from the front lines. Seymour noted in an interview with David Freeman in Guardian Unlimited Online however, that there are advantages to working as a fiction writer, stating: "Because I now don't have to stick a microphone up somebody's nostril and I don't have a camera lens behind my shoulder, I think people talk to me in a much franker way."
Seymour sets his thrillers in trouble spots throughout the world, including the grim confines of war-torn Belfast, political instability in the Middle East, and in the Afghan hills during the rebel struggle against Soviet occupation. In a review of Field of Blood, New York Times Book Review contributor Robert Cohen noted that Seymour utilizes his first-hand experience as a world reporter to make Belfast more than a mere backdrop to the action: "What distinguishes this novel is neither the driving, unilinear plot nor the prose…. Instead, the power accrues through short takes of the gray, brooding city itself, and from the harsh, slangy music of its voices."
Seymour's sharply rendered settings are echoed in his realistic depiction of characters, who often face internal as well as external struggles. Reviewing The Running Target in Chicago's Tribune Books, Frederick Busch wrote: "Seymour's focus has always been on the moral imperative—on men and women gripped by their conceptions of duty and honor…. This novel is a moral as well as a physical adventure." Mitgang noted that "Seymour proves that a writer with opinions and ideas can handle a difficult subject and rise above the thriller genre." One illustration of Seymour's "opinions and ideas" becomes evident through his unique portrayal of women, Mitgang wrote, for "the female characters are not just adjuncts to the main action but very much a part of it. Few male writers take the time, or have the ability, to give women in suspense novels lives of their own."
Some critics have compared Seymour's fictional vision to that of author Graham Greene. Karl G. Fredriksson wrote in the St. James Guide to Crime and Mystery Writers: "Seymour's special historical and philosophical vision—or perhaps even outlook on life—contributes to the sense of reality in the novels. These individuals are all fighting heroic combats for their countries, their political beliefs, their fellow human beings. But Seymour shows us that all their heroics are futile in the end. The ‘heroes’ are only puppets, manipulated by the puppet-masters, puppets in a cynically written play where they never know the whole script or the whole cast." In the same vein, a Publishers Weekly critic described The Heart of Danger, set in war-torn Bosnia, as "a harshly detailed novel about a dirty little war, peopled with a wide variety of deeply etched characters and suffused with a nearly palpable sense of despair and weariness." The Heart of Danger "is a deeply affecting, provocative look at the innate cruelty of man, the horrors of war," observed Booklist critic Emily Melton.
By offering more than the usual fast-paced action of a thriller, Seymour invites his readers to think about their own conceptions of society, country, and government. Reviewing The Harrison Affair in the Washington Post Book World, Stanley Ellin predicted that "most readers will emerge from it as I did, with a headful of troubled thoughts and the sense of having undergone a journey of discovery through strange and alarming territory."
In Killing Ground, Charlotte (Charley) Parsons, a young British schoolteacher, finds herself torn between friendship and duty. Feeling stifled in her small town, Charley accepts a job in Palermo as a nanny for Giuseppe Ruggerio, the brother of Sicilian mob boss Mario Ruggerio. Charley is soon contacted by Axel Moen, an American drug enforcement agent based in Rome, who recruits her to spy on Mario. Though a Publishers Weekly reviewer faulted the novel's dialog, the critic described Killing Ground as "a well-researched story." According to Melton, "Seymour's latest is possibly his best yet—a gripping thriller that leads to a shattering climax."
Espionage and revenge are at the heart of Dead Ground, "a dark novel filled with well-drawn characters doing evil things," observed Booklist contributor Budd Arthur. Tracy Barnes, a corporal in the British Army, lands in the brig after she attacks Dieter Krause, a visiting German dignitary who once served as an officer in the Stasi, the notorious East German police force. Convinced that Krause killed her lover years earlier, Barnes travels to the former East Germany to uncover evidence of his guilt, accompanied by the law clerk who freed her, ex-intelligence officer Josh Mantle. "Mantle and Barnes are an oddly assorted pair, driven by very different motives and a sense of mutual dislike, and are in turn the pawns of a divided intelligence establishment with mixed priorities," observed a contributor in Publishers Weekly.
A man's past returns to haunt him in A Line in the Sand. A former spy for the British government, Frank Perry helped thwart the production of chemical and biological weapons in Iran. When Perry, now living in a small town under an assumed name, inadvertently reveals his whereabouts, Iranian agents dispatch an assassin to kill him. Though British officials alert Perry to the threat, he refuses to seek refuge, placing his fellow villagers in danger. "Seymour's depiction of village life … is drawn in such fine detail that the provincial milieu becomes a fascinatingly appropriate setting for a showdown between international combatants," observed a Publishers Weekly reviewer.
Holding the Zero is set in the Middle East during the Gulf War. Told from multiple viewpoints, it details the activities of two battling snipers. Kliatt critic Mary I. Purucker called Holding the Zero "a well-told tale," and noted that Seymour "keeps the complex, fast-moving plot on an even keel." "Seymour is best at delineating the complicated and contradictory motives of all parties," observed Michael Adams in Library Journal. The Untouchable follows a London gangster who is being tracked by a former customs agent as he enters war-torn Sarajevo to bargain with other drug dealers. The work impressed Times Literary Supplement reviewer Sean O'Brien as "a howl of rage against crime, exploitation, the arms and drugs trades and the short attention span of the West."
The Unknown Soldier focuses on British-born Caleb Hunt, an Al Qaeda operative captured in Afghanistan who convinces intelligence specialists at Guantanamo Bay that he is nothing more than a taxi driver. Upon his release, he returns to the Middle East to plot a devastating attack. A critic in Kirkus Reviews described the novel as a "thoroughly fascinating look into the making and pursuit of the most frightening kind of terrorist, one of our own."
In Traitor's Kiss a group of exiled British commandos attempt to rescue a Russian double agent trapped in Kaliningrad. "Seymour's genius is for dropping captivatingly flawed characters into taut adventures fraught with tragic heroism," observed David Wright in Booklist, and Jon L. Breen, writing in the Weekly Standard, remarked that the author's "complex and conflicted characters commend him to readers of masters like Eric Ambler, John Le Carre, and Graham Greene." Rat Run concerns Malachy Kitchen, a disgraced former intelligence officer who moves into a gang-infested London housing project and uses his skills to track down a local drug lord involved in terrorism. "The pursuit story is intricate and suspenseful," wrote Booklist contributor David Pitt, who called Rat Run "a thriller with a human side."
Asked to describe what he enjoys most about the writing process, Seymour told an interviewer on the Transworld Publishers Web site: "The chance to open the door and enter a world of fantasy, and walk with the characters that I can create and the situations they find themselves in; they give me a privileged freedom. It is an ‘alone’ existence, but not a ‘lonely’ one. I am very lucky to have that chance. I feel today, and after thirty years of writing, that the cliff I am trying to climb is getting steeper and the rock I am trying to carry to the top is ever heavier, but bringing my characters alive is very much part of the love affair."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
St. James Guide to Crime and Mystery Writers, 4th edition, St. James Press (Detroit, MI), 1996.
Booklist, November 1, 1995, Emily Melton, review of The Heart of Danger, p. 456; April 15, 1997, Emily Melton, review of Killing Ground, p. 1411; April 15, 1999, Budd Arthur, review of Dead Ground, p. 1485; June 1, 2000, George Needham, review of A Line in the Sand, p. 1864; February 1, 2006, David Wright, review of Traitor's Kiss, p. 34; December 1, 2006, David Pitt, review of Rat Run, p. 29.
Critic, winter, 1975, review of Harry's Game, p. 86.
Entertainment Weekly, March 4, 2005, Jeff Jensen, review of The Unknown Soldier, p. 77.
Guardian (London, England), September 15, 2001, Nicholas Wroe, "A Life in Writing: Escape from the Newsroom: Journalist Turned Thriller Writer Gerald Seymour Talks to Nicholas Wroe," p. 11.
Kirkus Reviews, December 15, 2004, review of The Unknown Soldier, p. 1162; February 1, 2006, review of Traitor's Kiss, p. 109; November 15, 2006, review of Rat Run, p. 1152.
Kliatt, May, 2001, Mary I. Purucker, review of Holding the Zero, pp. 50-51.
Library Journal, June 15, 2000, Ronnie H. Terpening, review of A Line in the Sand, p. 118; March 1, 2001, Michael Adams, review of Holding the Zero, p. 152; February 1, 2005, Ronnie H. Terpening, review of The Unknown Soldier, p. 70.
New Yorker, September 16, 1985, review of Field of Blood, p. 124; March 1, 1993, review of The Journeyman Tailor, p. 115.
New York Times, August 2, 1985, Herbert Mitgang, review of Field of Blood, p. 17.
New York Times Book Review, October 5, 1975, review of Harry's Game, p. 7; October 17, 1976, review of The Glory Boys, p. 38; March 5, 1978, review of Kingfisher, p. 14; May 27, 1984, review of In Honor Bound, p. 16; October 6, 1985, Robert Cohen, review of Field of Blood, p. 28; September 4, 1988, Burt Hochberg, review of An Eye for an Eye, p. 16; March 11, 1990, Newgate Callendar, review of The Running Target, p. 33; April 25, 1993, Newgate Callendar, review of The Journeyman Tailor, p. 22.
Observer, January 2, 1983, review of Archangel, p. 46; March 24, 1985, review of Field of Blood, p. 26.
Publishers Weekly, October 16, 1995, review of The Heart of Danger, p. 44; March 10, 1997, review of Killing Ground, p. 49; May 10, 1999, review of Dead Ground, p. 55; June 19, 2000, review of A Line in the Sand, p. 57; January 10, 2005, review of The Unknown Soldier, p. 37; December 18, 2006, review of Rat Run, p. 40.
Times Literary Supplement, December 9, 1977, review of Kingfisher, p. 1437; December 26, 1980, review of The Contract, p. 1458; June 5, 1992, Patricia Craig, review of The Journeyman Tailor, p. 21; October 12, 2001, Sean O'Brien, review of The Untouchable, p. 22.
Tribune Books (Chicago, IL), February 18, 1990, Frederick Busch, review of The Running Target, p. 7.
Washington Post Book World, February 17, 1980, Stanley Ellin, review of The Harrison Affair, p. 12; September 22, 1985, Carolyn Banks, review of Field of Blood, p. 6; August 4, 1991, review of Condition Black, p. 6.
Weekly Standard, June 5, 2006, Jon L. Breen, review of Traitor's Kiss.
BookEnds,http://www.bookplace.co.uk/ (May 30, 2002), Harry Doherty, "Gerald Seymour."
Guardian Unlimited Online,http://www.guardian.co.uk/ (November 8, 2001), David Freeman, "In Conversation: Terry Pratchett and Gerald Seymour."
PFD,http://www.pfd.co.uk/ (May 29, 2002), "Gerald Seymour."
Transworld Publishers,http://www.booksattransworld.co.uk/geraldseymour/ (March 1, 2007), "Gerald Seymour."