Meet A Welsh Author — Phil Rowlands recalls childhood bedtime favourites
My latest guest in the Meet A Welsh Author series is screenwriter and novelist Phil Rowlands. In an earlier life he was a television and film actor but changed course to become a producer and writer for film, drama and documentary. He has since published three novels and co- founded Diamond Crime — an indie publishing house.
Earliest Reading Memory
Probably Robin Hood. My mum used to read it to me at bedtime and when I was ill. It was the first book I read myself when I was probably about four. The ending where Robin shoots the arrow and says to bury him where it lands always made me cry. Still does! The Children of the New Forest was also a love when I was ten. I used to imagine being part of the family and sharing their adventures.
The Author Who Changed My Life
Charles Dickens enthralled and excited me — taking me into another time, another world, as did, later, Mickey Spillane, Dennis Wheatly, John Le Carre and Mark Twain.
A Christmas Carol was the first book given to me to cherish. It was leather bound in white, and small, about half normal hardback size. The text was dense and the font tiny, but with young eyes and a strong torch, that wasn’t a problem after lights out. It still resounds now, even more so given the crisis we are going to face. Some lessons are never learned.
The Book I Keep Returning To
There are several but one of the most frequent and comfortable is Cider with Rosie by Laurie Lee. I followed it with As I Walked Out One Midsummer Morning and A Moment of War. I’m also including A Tale of Two Cities for its political intrigue and adventure and its contemporary mirror.
An Unexpected Pleasure
On a holiday trip to Barcelona my wife (a painter), introduced me to the work of Antoni Tapies. I loved the use of nature in his work and the colour palettes he used. It was a great moment of joy to discover him. At the Tapies Museum, I sat and watched the great man on video discuss his life and artistic choices.
Most Recommended Book
James Lee Burke’s Every Cloak Rolled in Blood.
I discovered Burke about fifteen years ago when I read the first of his Dave Robicheaux series The Neon Rain. The latest, the twenty third in the series, is A Private Cathedral. I was stunned by the depth, colour and shape of his prose. I wanted to breathe the same Louisiana air as Dave, his buddy Clete and the people and places that inhabit their world.
I have read them all. Burke thinks Every Cloak Rolled in Blood is his best book… and I, with humility, agree with him.
You Won’t Find Me Reading …
There’s not much I won’t read but I gave up on The Idiot by Fyodor Dostoevsky when I was about eighteen and have no urge to go back to it.
My Favourite Writing Place
The Shed at the bottom of my garden — shown here during the height of summer.
The Last Book I Bought
A Marriage of Lions by Elizabeth Chadwick. I felt a need to slip into the world of medieval marriage, monarchy and madness. I love the escape and insight that good historical fiction creates. At the same time to balance it I bought HER LAST CALL TO LOUISE MACNEICE by the wonderful Irish crime writer, Ken Bruen.
I Would Love To Have Dinner or Drink With …
James Lee Burke, Nora Ephron, Francis of Assisi, Katherine Hepburn, Lee Miller and if there was a spare place, Scott Fitzgerald.
I Wish I’d Written …
Under Milk Wood by Dylan Thomas.
The Author Behind The Name: Phil Rowlands
Originally from Pembrokeshire in West Wales, Phil has been what he calls a ‘safe pair of hands’ actor. In his later career as a freelance scriptwriter and producer he has written feature films, TV and radio dramas, documentaries and animation series and worked on productions as a script doctor and consultant.
In 2009 he was one of the co-founders of Funky Medics, a production company focussing mainly on innovative health education. Its projects have included heart disease, diabetes, smoking and drug abuse.
He currently has four screenplays under option, one of which is slated for production in 2023.
His third novel TimeSlip, was released in late March 2022.
You can follow Phil via his website and at Twitter @PhilRowlands2
Time Slip: Synopsis
Ian Chambers is in trouble and under pressure, guilt ridden and struggling to complete the first draft of his novel.
On a stormy night on a Yorkshire beach, he experiences something so terrifying that he questions his sanity.
In a desperate search for a rational explanation, he risks losing not only reality as he knows it… but his very existence.
9 thoughts on “Meet A Welsh Author — Phil Rowlands recalls childhood bedtime favourites”
This author sounds very interesting and I am very envious of his garden shed and the surrounding plants.
It’s gorgeous isn’t it – I could easily spend all day in that shed
Interested in John le Carré? He seems to have affected many people’s lives and on the subject of spies, traitors et al, if you’re as interested as we are in the Secrets of Spies you are going to love this non-promotional anecdote. Real spies are our daily bread: Aldrich Ames, John le Carré, Kim Philby’s Cambridge Five or Six (Anthony Blunt, Donald Maclean, Guy Burgess, John Cairncross and Roger Hollis), Oleg Gordievsky, Oleg Penkovsky, Pemberton’s People, the Portland Spy Ring et al. So whether you’re a le Carré connoisseur, a Deighton disciple, a Fleming fanatic, a Herron or Hastings hireling or a Macintyre marauder you should love this anecdote and if not you might learn something so read on! It’s a must read for espionage cognoscenti.
As Kim Philby (codename Stanley) and KGB Colonel Oleg Gordievsky (codename Sunbeam) would have told you in their heyday, there is one category of secret agent that is often overlooked … namely those who don’t know they have been recruited. For more on that topic we suggest you read Beyond Enkription (explained below) and a recent article on that topic by the ex-spook Bill Fairclough (codename JJ). The article can be found at TheBurlingtonFiles website in the News Section. The article (dated July 21, 2021) is about “Russian Interference”; it’s been read well over 30,000 times and is very current: just ask people you have heard of like Boris, Dominic and even Donald.
Now talking of Gordievsky, John le Carré described Ben Macintyre’s fact based novel, The Spy and The Traitor, as “the best true spy story I have ever read”. It was of course about Kim Philby’s Russian counterpart, a KGB Colonel named Oleg Gordievsky, codename Sunbeam. In 1974 Gordievsky became a double agent working for MI6 in Copenhagen which was when Bill Fairclough aka Edward Burlington unwittingly launched his career as a secret agent for MI6. Fairclough and le Carré knew of each other: le Carré had even rejected Fairclough’s suggestion in 2014 that they collaborate on a book. As le Carré said at the time, “Why should I? I’ve got by so far without collaboration so why bother now?”
A realistic response from a famous expert in fiction in his eighties but maybe there was a deeper hidden reason. Maybe because Pemberton’s People in MI6 even included Roy Astley Richards OBE (Winston Churchill’s bodyguard) and an eccentric British Brigadier (Peter ‘Scrubber’ Stewart-Richardson) who was once refused permission to join the Afghan Mujahideen. All this is explained in a fascinating news article published on The Burlington Files website on October 31, 2022 entitled Pemberton’s People, Ungentlemanly Officers & Rogue Heroes.
Philby and Gordievsky never met Fairclough, but they did know Fairclough’s handler, Colonel Alan McKenzie aka Colonel Alan Pemberton CVO MBE in real life. It is little wonder therefore that in Beyond Enkription, the first fact based novel in The Burlington Files espionage series, genuine double agents, disinformation and deception weave wondrously within the relentless twists and turns of evolving events. Beyond Enkription is set in 1974 in London, Nassau and Port au Prince. Edward Burlington, a far from boring accountant, unwittingly started working for Alan McKenzie in MI6 and later worked eyes wide open for the CIA.
What happens is so exhilarating and bone chilling it makes one wonder why bother reading espionage fiction when facts are so much more breathtaking. The fact based novel begs the question, were his covert activities in Haiti a prelude to the abortion of a CIA sponsored Haitian equivalent to the Cuban Bay of Pigs? Why was his father Dr Richard Fairclough, ex MI1, involved? Richard was of course a confidant of British Prime Minister Harold Macmillan, who became a chief adviser to JFK during the 1962 Cuban missile crisis. So how did Greville Wynne and Oleg Penkovsky fit in? You may well want to ask John Profumo but it’s a tad late now. Nevertheless, Max Hastings’ Abyss The Cuban Missile Crisis is worth a read but do bear in mind at the time that Philby was advising the KGB while Penkovsky was advising MI6 and the CIA!.
By the way, the maverick Bill Fairclough had quite a lot in common with Greville Wynne (famous for his part in helping to reveal Russian missile deployment in Cuba in 1962) and has even been called “a posh Harry Palmer”. As already noted, Bill Fairclough and John le Carré (aka David Cornwell) knew of each other but only long after Cornwell’s MI6 career ended thanks to Kim Philby shopping all Cornwell’s supposedly secret agents in Europe. Coincidentally, the novelist Graham Greene used to work in MI6 reporting to Philby and Bill Fairclough actually stayed in Hôtel Oloffson during a covert op in Haiti (explained in Beyond Enkription) which was at the heart of Graham Greene’s spy novel The Comedians. Funny it’s such a small world!
Well, here’s another author whose wok I don’t know. Thanks for widening my education!
So sad that many good authors never seem to get noticed
I guess it’s not surprising in a crowded field.
That’s true – there are so many crime writers
That *is* a pretty shed!
Wish mine looked half as pretty