Andrew Taylor: From Boatbuilder to Revered Novelist

The Last Protector is the next thrilling instalment by one of fiction’s most celebrated historical and crime novelists

His career spans more than 45 books; an editorship at The Author; a crime fiction reviewer post at the Spectator; has won numerous industry awards including the Crime Writers’ Association Diamond Dagger for his captivating tales; and contributes reviews to The Times, among other publications.

But the journey to building his admirable career wasn’t a straightforward process for Taylor, 68, “I decided I wanted to be a writer when I was about 12”, says Taylor. “It was never one of those things that quite went away.” He followed in his uncle’s footsteps with the path of higher education by studying English at Emmanuel College, Cambridge and was then awarded a master’s in library, archive and information science from University College London. After graduation, however, he fell into all kinds of jobs from his work building boats, as well as becoming a teacher and a wages clerk, “I realised that I would be failing myself if I didn’t at least make one serious effort to write a novel”, says Taylor. “So that’s when I blundered into doing what turned out to be my first novel.”

Decades on, notable works such as The American Boy (2003), Bleeding Heart Square (2008) and The Anatomy of Ghosts (2010) have also helped Taylor to earn the CWA Historical Dagger award on three occasions, the only author to do so, “I’ve made a living doing this for 40 years”, says Taylor. “It may not always be a very affluent living, but I’ve made a living. I know I’ve been incredibly lucky. It’s not all down to me; I just provided the work. I really think we should never underestimate the role of luck in life.” 

Fallen Angel, a television series broadcast on ITV in 2007 and starred Charles Dance and Emilia Fox, was based on Taylor’s The Roth Trilogy, four books released from 1997-2002, “The production company were really, really nice”, says Taylor. “I talked a lot with the screenwriter, a number of the actors about the characters. They were very happy to involve me, but as the author of the original book, it’s like the Queen. We have the right to be consulted, but we have absolutely no power.”

Taylor’s latest creation, The Last Protector, which is available for pre-order and will be released in April, is set in seventeenth century London and is the fourth installment of The Sunday Times Bestseller List series based on the lives of James Marwood and Cat Lovett.

The series follows Richard Cromwell, Oliver Cromwell’s son, who has returned to England after abandoning his exile and Marwood is instructed to discover what Cromwell’s motives could be. Lovett, the daughter of the regicide, knew Cromwell as a child but seems to be holding back her own family secret. Placing themselves in significant danger, both are now embroiled in a secret assignment in the Palace of Whitehall and could even be punished for treason themselves.

So what is the reason for writing the fourth book? “Everything I do is under contract so they [the publisher] pay in advance”, says Taylor. “The other thing is, I’m as interested in their stories as any reader, I hope. I want to find out what happens next to them. I’m just curious, really.” 

Now as a father of two children, he writes ferociously from his home in the Forest of Dean, an area where he has lived since 1982 with his wife, Caroline. His career as a full-time writer began in 1981, and passion for the craft has certainly not diminished, “Writing fiction for me is somewhere between an obsession and a financial necessity”, says Taylor. “The obsession would continue even if the financial necessity were not there. I’d feel I wasn’t quite there if I wasn’t writing.” 

So, what’s next for one of the publishing’s most celebrated crime and historical novelists? Plenty. He’s currently working on the follow-up to The Last Protector and is about one-fifth of the way through, “I don’t know if I’ll actually write another one”, says Taylor. “I’m already beginning to think ‘how am I going to end this; do I end it in a way that will allow me to carry on, or do I bring it to a closure?’” But there are no set plans for what Taylor will be working on afterwards, aside from one or two ideas; anything is possible, “I don’t know what’s going to happen after the book that I’m writing now. It could go on, or it might not. I just don’t know.” 

The Last Protector is available for pre-order at Waterstones for £14.99.