This Day In Writing History
On June 5th, 1949, the famous English 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. He attended 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 Rose 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, is about the title group, a cult of psychotic neo-hippie radicals led by an illiterate Manson-like leader called Priest.
When the California state government plans to build a dam on their land, the Hammer of Eden, with the help of a bitter young seismology student, steals a seismic vibrator truck from an oil company and threatens to use the machine to unleash a massive earthquake unless the governor agrees to abandon the dam project.
Ken Follett is without a doubt one of the world's great suspense novelists. His latest novel, Fall of Giants, was published in 2010. A work of historical fiction set between 1911 and 1924, its story is set around the famous events of the time, including the first World War, the Russian Revolution, and the struggle of women for their right to vote.
Follett has a new novel due for release this year called Winter of the World. A sequel to Fall of Giants set around World War 2, it follows the characters from the rise of the Third Reich through the detonation of the atomic bomb, first by the United States, then by the Soviet Union.
Quote Of The Day
"The research is the easiest. The outline is the most fun. The first draft is the hardest, because every word of the outline has to be fleshed out. The rewrite is very satisfying." - Ken Follett
Today's Vanguard Video features Ken Follett speaking at the 2010 National Book Festival. Enjoy!