This Day In Writing History
On June 5th, 1949, the great British suspense novelist Ken Follett was born in Cardiff, Wales. As a boy, his Christian zealot parents forbade him from watching movies and television, so he developed an early and keen interest in reading. An average student at first, Follett eventually buckled down and devoted himself to his studies, attending Poole Technical College, then in 1967, he was admitted to University College London, where he studied philosophy. In 1968, he married his first wife, Mary, and had his first child, a son named Emanuele.
After graduating in 1970, Follett took a post-graduate course in journalism and landed a trainee position in Cardiff as a reporter for the South Wales Echo. A few years later, he returned to London and became a general-assignment reporter for the Evening News. Around this time, he began writing fiction as a hobby. Finding journalism unsatisfying, he quit and embarked on a career in the publishing business, becoming deputy managing director for a small publishing house in London called Everest Books.
At this time, he also became involved in leftist politics and the Labour Party, and met Barbara Broer, a Labour Party official who would later become Follett's second wife and an elected Member of Parliament.
In the early and mid 1970s, Follett wrote several competent novels, (mostly under pseudonyms) but they were undistinguished except for The Modigliani Scandal (1976) and Paper Money (1977) which received minor recognition. He also wrote, using the pseudonym Bernard L. Ross, a novelization of Peter Hyams' screenplay for the 1978 Hollywood film Capricorn One, a suspense thriller about NASA staging a fake Mars landing, then attempting to assassinate the astronauts in on the hoax.
In 1979, Ken Follett would publish his first hugely successful novel, Eye Of The Needle. Set during the last year of World War 2, the novel told the story of Henry Faber, a man whose boat is caught in a storm and shipwrecked on an island off the coast of Aberdeen. Faber is taken in by Lucy Rose, a lonely British housewife whose bitter, crippled ex-RAF pilot husband, David, refuses to touch her or show interest in their three-year-old son. Lucy and Faber embark on a passionate affair. What she doesn't know is that Henry Faber is really the cunning and deadly Nazi spy known as Die Nadel - The Needle.
Eye Of The Needle was adapted as a feature film in 1981, starring Kate Nelligan as Lucy and Donald Sutherland as The Needle.
Follett has since written numerous other bestsellers, including more espionage suspense thrillers such as The Key To Rebecca (1980) and The Man From St. Petersburg (1982) and historical novels, including The Pillars Of The Earth (1989) and Night Over Water (1991). In the late 1990s, Follett ventured into Michael Crichton territory with his suspense thrillers The Third Twin (1996) and The Hammer Of Eden (1998).
In The Third Twin, Follett tells a tale of neo-Nazi conspiracy and genetic engineering technology being employed to create a master race. In The Hammer Of Eden, members of a cult of psychotic neo-hippie radicals (with a Manson-like leader named Priest) called The Hammer Of Eden threaten to use a stolen seismic vibrator to set off a devastating earthquake when the California state government plans to build a dam on their land.
Ken Follett is without a doubt one of the world's great suspense novelists. His latest book, World Without End, a sequel to The Pillars Of The Earth, was published in 2007.
Quote Of The Day
"You can approach the act of writing with nervousness, excitement, hopefulness, or even despair--the sense that you can never completely put on the page what's in your mind and heart. You can come to the act with your fists clenched and your eyes narrowed, ready to kick ass and take down names. You can come to it because you want a girl to marry you or because you want to change the world. Come to it any way but lightly. Let me say it again: you must not come lightly to the blank page." - Stephen King
Today's Vanguard Video features Ken Follett being interviewed on The Book Show, which airs on the Sky Arts channel in the UK. Follett talks about his latest book, World Without End. Enjoy!