Edward Wilson (novelist)

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search

Edward Wilson is a British writer of spy fiction. A native of Baltimore, Maryland, United States, he emigrated to the United Kingdom after serving in the Vietnam War, renounced his US citizenship to naturalise in his new country, and after three decades as a teacher chose to quit to devote himself full-time to his career as a novelist. He has written six novels, all published by Arcadia Books.

Personal life[edit]

Wilson was born in Baltimore, Maryland. His Anglo-Indian-descended father, a merchant sailor, died when Edward was just six months old, leaving Edward's mother to raise him and his two brothers. He did his secondary education at the Baltimore Polytechnic Institute before going on to the University of Virginia on a Reserve Officers' Training Corps scholarship.[1] He was shipped off to the Vietnam War in the aftermath of the 1968 Tet Offensive as a member of a Special Forces unit; he stated that "I didn't think it was right to stay at home, plus if you were an officer there was only a one in ten chance of being hurt", but the experience sharpened his opposition to the foreign policy of the United States.[2] For his actions in the war he was decorated with the Bronze Star Medal and the Army Commendation Medal for Valor.[3]

After the war, Wilson travelled in Canada and later spent time in Bremen, Germany as a language student.[2] In 1976 he settled in Suffolk, England, where he worked as a teacher for three decades.[4][3] He naturalised as a British citizen in 1983 and renounced his US citizenship.[4]

Politically, Wilson is a socialist and a supporter of trade unions.[2]


A River in May[edit]

Wilson's debut novel A River in May, published in 2002, was based on his experiences in the Vietnam War. As he stated, the book "expelled my battlefield demons".[5] It was shortlisted for the Commonwealth Writers' Prize.[6]

The Envoy[edit]

The Envoy is set in Britain in the 1950s, and discusses an American plot to sabotage USSR–UK relations. Its protagonist is Kit Fournier, the Central Intelligence Agency station chief at the Embassy of the United States, London.[7] It was the first book in what was originally intended to be a trilogy of spy novels, but later had a fourth book added to it with the publication of The Whitehall Mandarin. The book introduces characters who would go on to play a larger role in Wilson's later novels, including William Catesby [no sign of this character in the Kindle version of The Envoy], a native of a Suffolk fishing village who fits in poorly with either his old neighbours or his government colleagues, and his boss Henry Bone.[4][8] A running joke in the series describes how Catesby's alleged ancestor Robert Catesby planned the Gunpowder Plot of 1605.[9]

The Darkling Spy[edit]

In Wilson's 2011 novel The Darkling Spy, the year is 1956, and Catesby is serving under official cover at the British Embassy in Bonn. Kit Fournier from The Envoy appears again, but in this book he has fallen in love with an English woman who serves as a spy for Moscow, and is considering defection. Publishers Weekly compared Catesby to the John le Carré character George Smiley, and stated that he "will delight those readers looking for less blood and more intelligence in their spy thrillers".[10]

The Midnight Swimmer[edit]

The Midnight Swimmer, published in 2012, is set against the build-up to the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962.[8][11]

The Whitehall Mandarin[edit]

The Whitehall Mandarin, was published in May 2014. The launch was held at Hatchards bookshop in London.[2] The title is a reference both to bureaucrats and to China, and the question of how China was able to develop thermonuclear weapons so quickly plays a role in the novel.[4] Paul French reviewed it favourably in The Los Angeles Review of Books, stating that: "Finally Edward Wilson is garnering the praise and readers in England he's long deserved, but it is to be hoped that America can discover him too".[4] Denis MacShane expressed similar sentiments in his review in Tribune magazine.[2]

A Very British Ending[edit]

A Very British Ending is published on 14 April 2016. It takes Catesby's story into the 1970s.[12]


  1. ^ "About Edward Wilson". edwardwilson.info. Retrieved 13 July 2014.
  2. ^ a b c d e MacShane, Dennis (4 June 2014). "The spies who couldn't come in from the cold". Tribune. Retrieved 13 July 2014.
  3. ^ a b Clifton, Jay (16 October 2011). "Interview with Edward Wilson, British Novelist". Ace Stories. Archived from the original on 14 July 2014. Retrieved 13 July 2014.
  4. ^ a b c d e "Paul French on The Whitehall Mandarin: The Exile and the Spy". The Los Angeles Review of Books. 3 July 2014. Retrieved 13 July 2014.
  5. ^ "The Whitehall Mandarin: Edward Wilson Talks To Crime Time". Crime Time. 7 May 2014. Retrieved 13 July 2014.
  6. ^ "Arcadia Books". United Reggae Magazine. Retrieved 13 July 2014.
  7. ^ Yager, Susanna (16 March 2008). "Cynically exploitative and utterly ruthless". The Telegraph. Retrieved 13 July 2014.
  8. ^ a b Kaveney, Roz (17 January 2012). "The Midnight Swimmer, By Edward Wilson". The Independent. Retrieved 13 July 2014.
  9. ^ Paine, Andre (7 June 2014). "The Whitehall Mandarin". Crime Fiction Lover. Retrieved 13 July 2014.
  10. ^ "The Darkling Spy". Publishers Weekly. 30 May 2011. Retrieved 13 July 2014.
  11. ^ "The Midnight Swimmer". Publishers Weekly. 12 March 2012. Retrieved 13 July 2014.
  12. ^ Amazon page

External links[edit]