2004 | Thriller | 496 pages
A Family Reunited
A Brewing Storm
A House Under Siege
Christmas Eve, 1 A.M
Two tired men looked at Antonia Gallo with resentment and hostility in their eyes. They wanted to go home, but she would not let them. And they knew she was right, which made it worse. All three were in the personnel department of Oxenford Medical. Antonia, always called Toni, was facilities director, and her main responsibility was security. Oxenford was a small pharmaceuticals outfit – a boutique company, in stock-market jargon – that did research on viruses that could kill. Security was deadly serious. Continue reading
A lot of wartime secrets came out in the mid-Seventies. I read a number of nonfiction books about intelligence and espionage in World War Two. One was Bodyguard of Lies by Anthony Cave Brown, about how the Allies deceived the Germans into deploying their resources in the wrong places.
In particular, there was a fascinating, amusing and very elaborate deception for the D-Day Invasion. The Allies created an entire phoney army in East Anglia, including inflatable tanks, cardboard Spitfires and barracks with roofs but no walls. It was created only to be photographed from the air by German reconnaissance planes. The aim was to fool the Germans into thinking that the army was building up in the east, indicating that the invasion would come across the narrow part of the channel at Calais. And it worked!
The Germans left the beaches of Normandy weakly defended and allowed the Allied invasion forces to get a toehold. My idea was simple. If one German spy had seen the inflatable tanks, the cardboard Spitfires and the whole mock-up from the ground and got back to Germany with the information, then the Germans could have been prepared for the D-Day landings at Normandy and history might have taken a different course.
This was the best story idea I had ever had and I had also reached a breakthrough point in my development as a writer. I planned the book carefully and wrote a detailed outline. I researched the period thoroughly and I put a lot of the detail into the story. It gave the book a feel for the grain of every day life, something that my work had never had before. The richness of detail slows the writing down, but that was what my work needed. My early books were all too brisk and things happened too quickly. With Eye of the Needle, I got the pace right for the first time. The reader doesn’t want you to be too brisk, especially in a tense, dramatic situation.
The spy, Die Nadel, has got the crucial information, he knows how important it is, and he has to get home. But he has got to travel the length of England to rendezvous with a U-boat in the North Sea. In the early days, I would have had him make that journey in a few pages and there wouldn’t have been any suspense. By the time I wrote Eye of the Needle, I realised that the reader wants a tense situation to go on for a long time. The writer has to keep on thinking of new things that could go wrong.
Even before I finished it, I knew Eye of the Needle was much better than anything I had done before. My ex-wife remembers me sitting at the typewriter saying, “this is absolutely terrific.” My agent, Al Zuckerman, also realised how good it was. After years of telling me my books weren’t good enough to sell on the American market, he said, “this is going to be a huge international best seller and you are going to have tax problems.” He was right.
It came out in 1978 and did well all over the world. The British publisher, who had commissioned it on the basis of a short outline, did not see the potential, and it was published in a low-key way in the UK. Twenty years later, Eye of the Needle is still selling in 25 or 30 languages and new editions are published constantly. It would take an accountant a week to work out the exact numbers, but it has sold about ten million copies.
"Undeniably suspenseful.” - Entertainment Weekly
“Scary . . . provides a rush of fear.” - New York Post
“Almost nonstop action with a plausible and sufficiently frightening plot . . . a page-turner, pure and simple.” - The Tennessean
“Follett goes down a high-concept road. . . . [He] handles the tension of the circumstances nicely.” - San Francisco Chronicle
“A literate, plausible, suspenseful tale that keeps you turning pages well past bedtime.” - The Raleigh News & Observer
“A new breed of thriller . . . an agonizingly protracted, nail-biter ending drags readers to the very edge of their seats and holds them captive until the last villain is satisfactorily dispatched.” - Publishers Weekly