I first came across Paul Johnston on a memorable evening at the Law Society in Chancery Lane – was it as long ago as 1997? - on the occasion of the CWA Awards Dinner. I was there, among other reasons, because I’d edited an anthology which yielded a couple of candidates for the short story Dagger. That evening, one of those writers, Reg Hill, won the Dagger for his brilliant story ‘On the Psychiatrist’s Couch’, while Paul won the John Creasey Memorial Dagger for his first crime novel, The Body Politic.
In those days, Paul was published by Hodder, a company to whom I’d just moved, when they acquired The Devil in Disguise as the first instalment of a two-book deal. Our paths crossed a few times after that, and I remember a very agreeable Hodder authors’ dinner in Manchester which we both attended, during a Dead on Deansgate conference.
Paul’s early books featured Quintilian Dalrymple, and later he wrote about a half-Greek character, Alex Mavros. But he, like me and a number of others, parted company with Hodder, and he had to cope with serious illness – he’s come through two unconnected bouts of cancer in the past five years. Fortunately, he came back triumphantly with an interesting newish publisher, Mira, who specialise in mass market thrillers. He now divides his time between Athens and the UK and I bump into him occasionally at conventions.
His latest book, Maps of Hell, is the third mystery starring Matt Wells, who first appeared in a dynamic thriller called The Death List, which was all about payback, in more ways than one. It is published by Mira on 6 August, and it will be worth watching out for, because Paul Johnston is a writer of genuine quality.