MARK ELLIS: My Insipiration for MERLIN AT WAR

Written by Mark Ellis

Mark Ellis is a thriller writer and a former barrister and entrepreneur. He grew up in Swansea, under the shadow of his parents’ experience of the Second World War. His father served in the wartime navy and his mother witnessed the bombardment of Swansea in 1941. He is a member of the Crime Writers’ Association. He divides his time between homes in London and Oxford. @MarkEllis15

Merlin At War is the third in my series of detective thrillers set in World War Two London and featuring Scotland Yard detective Frank Merlin. The war is a period of history which fascinates me, in particular the detail of life on the Home Front. My father was in the Navy and my mother was a teenager in South Wales during the war years. Stories of their experiences first inspired my keen interest in the subject. I learned early that while the nation was engaged in its epic struggle for survival, ordinary life, in all its varieties, naturally went on. Conditions may have been difficult but people lived, loved, married, brought up children, committed crimes, argued about football and politics, drank, played, smoked, went to the pictures and so on. Later in life when I took up writing, it seemed to me a great period in which to set a detective series.

Most of the inspiration for Merlin’s adventures comes from the historical reading I do before I start writing. I research intensively the exact timeframe in which the story takes place. For my first book, Princes Gate, that was January 1940, during the period known as the Phoney War. For the second it was September 1940, with the Blitz and Battle of Britain in full flow.

The new book is set in June 1941, just after the Battle of Crete and just before Hitler’s invasion of Russia. The story ideas for my books have all emerged during the research process. In Princes Gate, a story about murder at the American Embassy was prompted by reading about Joseph Kennedy, the roguish founder of the Kennedy clan and wartime American Ambassador. A key element of the plot in Stalin's Gold, the search for Spanish gold stolen en route to Russia during the Spanish Civil War, followed a discovery in a footnote in an old history book in Kensington library. The story in Merlin At War revolves around a letter left by a soldier killed in Crete, espionage and skullduggery amongst De Gaulle’s Free French, and murky machinations in Vichy France, all plot lines suggested by historical events.

Now I am beginning to research Merlin 4, which I plan to set in December 1941, around the time of Pearl Harbour. To what I glean from the sources I shall add a little imagination and, hopefully, I'll have my plot!


Merlin at War by Mark Ellis is out now (Hardback £12.99, London Wall Publishing) 

Summer 1941. Four violent deaths, French double agents, daring fraud – DCI Frank Merlin sets out on his most complex case yet

Praise for Mark Ellis

“Traditional well-plotted whodunit with a protagonist you will believe in and a plot that’s fresh and satisfying. A real treat.” – Oxford Mail

“Superb entertainment” - Eurocrime

“Nostalgia, sex and intrigue all rolled into one – great!” - 50Connect

“An interesting character and era… I'd like to read more” – Shots Magazine

“A real treasure” - Yorkshire Gazette


Mark Ellis

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