• France
  • Germany
  • Italy
  • The Netherlands
  • Spain
  • Brazil

Early Novels

The Big Needle

Apples loves money and beautiful women – and he has plenty of both. With his young daughter dying from a heroin overdose, Apples does not take on the local pusher – that’s not his style. He takes on the top man, Mr Big H and his brutal, multi-million pound drug racket. Apples encounters violence, sex and intrigue in London and Marseilles in this knife-edge thriller of relentless revenge… That’s his style.

Published as

The Big Needle by ‘Simon Myles’ — Everest Books, London 1974. Published in the USA as ‘The Big Apple’ and later reissued under its original title under the name of Ken Follett.

Listen to an excerpt of The Big Needle

The Big Black

A pornographic photograph of Apples and his lovers; a blackmail threat to a key Common Market negotiatior. Two mysteries leading Apples, the relentless avenger, through a web of intrigue from Brussels to the New York empire of power-crazed Joshua Hind, The Big Black. Can the unstoppable Apples hoodwink his way into the Big Black’s 13th floor lair before the crucial European vote? A pacy sequel to The Big Needle.

Published as

The Big Black by ‘Symon Myles’ — Everest Books, London 1974.

Listen to an excerpt of The Big Black

The Big Hit

Winston Divine is a star – a brilliant, successful musician. Tycoons fight to manage him; girls and critics love him. So why is he acting so scared? He rings an old friend, Apples Carstairs, and dies minutes later. Apples wants to know why – and uncovers a web of bribery, blackmail and corruption extending throughout the music business. At its centre is a fat spider. Apples treads on the web. The spider pounces. Third and last in the Apples Carstairs series.

Published as

The Big Hit by ‘Symon Myles’ — Everest Books, London 1975.

Listen to an excerpt of The Big Hit

Ken’s view on the ‘Big’ novels

The Big Needle was my first novel and the other two are sequels. They all feature a character called Apples. I was trying to write a big best seller by creating a hero that would captivate the readers of the world. The ‘Apples’ books fell a long way short! Looking back, they seem trashy and full of gratuitous sex and violence. But I was doing my best. Every one of my early books was the best book I could write at the time.

In those early days, I didn’t do much research. Instead, I used backgrounds that I knew. Apples lives in London and knows neighbourhoods, like Wapping and Bethnal Green, that I had been to as a reporter. He comes across the kind of villains I had seen in court rooms.

My agent suggested I use a pseudonym because, she said, “you might want to write better books later”. Boy, was she right. I chose the name Symon Myles. Unfortunately, The Big Needle has since been republished under my own name in the US. It’s not available anywhere else and I plan to keep all three of these books hidden away.

Listen to Ken’s view on The Big Needle, The Big Apple and The Big Hit

The Shakeout

Roper is an industrial spy – a brutally ambitious and effective infiltrator, working for a man known only as ‘Palmer’. He takes on a rival spy network to manipulate a major takeover. But he finds more than he bargained for among the bitter politics and infighting. And all his plans are threatened when one his chosen pawns, a beautiful and clever woman named Ann, break down his defences and he falls in love.

Published as

The Shakeout by Ken Follett — Harwood-Smart, London 1975.

Listen to an excerpt of The Shakeout

Ken’s view

Listen to Ken’s view on The Shake Out

The Bear Raid

Industrial super-spy Piers Roper takes on a Wall Street raid. But who is calling the shots? Leaving the job to sharp young executive, Clayton, Roper lifts the lid on a savage Mafia scene, is framed for a brutal murder and is then betrayed by the beautiful Louise. Clayton reveals a secret Government deal that almost defeats Roper. But Roper is a winner. The dynamic sequel to ‘The Shakeout’.

Published as

The Bear Raid by Ken Follett — Harwood-Smart, London 1976. A sequel to The Shakeout.

Listen to an excerpt of The Bear Raid

Ken’s view

Looking for a new twist on the traditional spy story, I wrote two books about an industrial spy, Piers Roper. It seemed like a good idea but industrial secrets aren’t very interesting, and once again I failed to set the book world alight.

Both these books are out of print and I intend for them to stay that way.

Amok: King of Legend

Harry staggered back – the tree had moved. In wave of horror, he understood what he was seeing. The ‘tree’ was a huge, fur-covered leg. He stared up into a huge, distorted, almost-human face. A great paw the size of an automobile swooped down. He had found the Amok, and the first thing to do was to get himself and Purity out of danger. But the beast had vanished. And so had the girl.

Published as

Amok: King of Legend by ‘Bernard L. Ross’ — Futura, London 1976.

Listen to an excerpt of Amok: King of Legend

Ken’s view

Amok: King of Legend arose rather curiously at the time of the re-make of King Kong in the late Seventies. Every publisher wanted the book of the film but there was some doubt about who owned the copyright of the Edgar Wallace story. There’s no copyright in giant ape stories themselves (Jonathan Swift wrote the first). So a shrewd publisher commissioned me to write a giant ape story under a pseudonym.

I think I got £1,500 for it and it took me about four weeks to write. The publisher was very pleased. And this kind of hack work was good for me. Like an unknown rock band touring the provinces and playing little clubs night after night, I was getting better by working all the time.

Listen to Ken’s view on Amok: King of Legend

Capricorn One

Capricorn One: the first manned flight to Mars. The countdown has already begun when the life support system fails so NASA plans a 30 billion-dollar fraud. The ship blasts off on schedule, but the live footage of the landing comes from a film set deep in the Arizona desert. When the capsule burns up on re-entry, NASA is left with three live astronauts who they want dead fast.

Published as

Capricorn One by ‘Bernard L. Ross’ based on the screenplay by Peter Hyams — Futura, London 1978.

Listen to an excerpt of Capricorn One

Ken’s view

Capricorn One was a science fiction film about a faked moonshot. A publisher commissioned me to write the novelisation of the screenplay. It was a bit of hack work, but at the time I was very grateful for the money. I think I did a pretty good job, but I don’t recommend it. I think I called myself Bernard L. Ross for this one.

Listen to Ken’s view on Capricorn One

The Heist of the Century/The Gentleman of 16 July

This book was, and is, a nightmare. But it does merit some explanation, which you can find here.