Andrew was born in London and studied Philosophy, Politics and Economics at Trinity College, Oxford. After two years of studying law, he eventually decided to become a barrister. “I spent twelve years defending people on every charge from murder and terrorism down to assault. Addressing juries and getting results was very satisfying; but in the end, the need to write was stronger.”
By now Andrew had visited most countries in the Middle East, and become fascinated with the region’s dramatic history. In 2008, frustrated that his busy career stopped him writing, he gave up his practice at the Bar, left England, and moved to Siwa Oasis in Egypt’s Western Desert, to write Blood of Kings, his first novel.
Spiders, Snakes, and a Revolution
His life changed overnight, swapping a smart flat in central London for a mud brick house with a palm thatched roof. “There were spiders the size of my hand running along the walls, scorpions dropping through the ceiling, and more than once I found a viper curled up among my clothes. The scene in the book where the viper fights with a desert cat was from first hand experience. As was the scorpion sting!”
Why travel so far to write a book? “I came to Siwa because this is where the central events actually happened in real life. I wanted the setting to be as authentic as possible.”
Occasionally, Andrew’s quest for realism went further than planned. “In 2011, just as I was writing a scene about Egypt revolting against Persian King Cambyses, with soldiers manning barricades and masked youths throwing stones, Egypt rose in revolt for real. It was a shocking parallel, which took me completely by surprise.
My only source of news was the Internet. When that went down I spent 10 days alone in my remote desert house, with no idea what was happening. A nearby German archaeological mission packed up, hired armed guards and made a dash for Cairo airport 850km away. I was left virtually the only Westerner for hundreds of kilometres around.”
Then things went from bad to worse. “The oasis was 40 kilometres from the Libyan border, and most of the Siwans had family there. When British bombs started falling on Colonel Gaddafi during the civil war, things here were very tense.”
Andrew stayed for another 8 months before being forced to leave. “Thanks to the British Embassy I got out in one piece, but for a while it was scary. I kept a hammer by my bed and a knife under my pillow. The desert nights were sweltering, but I had to sleep with my doors and windows bolted. One night rocks were thrown through my window at about 3am. Another time I had broken glass thrust at my face.”
Packed full of dramatic and authentic battle scenes, Blood of Kings vividly captures both the atmosphere of the oasis and the austere beauty of the surrounding Sahara desert. The novel will appeal not only to fans of blood-and-guts ancient warfare, but also to lovers of exotic Greek historian Herodotus, whose characters it brings back to life after 2,500 years.