Updated: Dec 26, 2022
If anyone is qualified to write a compelling international thriller series, it’s Humphrey Hawksley. And as the world desperately seeks peace and diplomacy for Ukraine, this is where his new thriller, ICE ISLAND, begins—at an international peace conference of the coast of Finland. But that’s where things also unravel, hurling superpowers towards a nuclear confrontation when a Russian delegate is murdered, and the daughter of Japan’s most dangerous crime family is implicated.
Hawksley, BBC foreign correspondent, and acclaimed author has traveled the globe reporting on international conflicts which have shaped history and re-defined borders. He was expelled from Sri Lanka, opened the BBC’s television bureau in China, and initiated a global campaign against enslaved children in the chocolate industry with an award-winning documentary.
In this interview with The Big Thrill, Hawksley shares his thoughts on Putin’s war, his path to journalism, and his latest novel, ICE ISLANDS, a fast-paced, geopolitical thriller and the fourth in the Rake Ozenna series.
This week, Britain recorded the hottest day in recorded history, surpassing 40 degrees Celsius or 104 degrees Fahrenheit. How are you and other Londoners coping with the heatwave?
Here in Britain, we’re not used to extremes of anything. The infrastructure tends to crumple if it gets too much rain, or it gets too cold or hot. We’ve had railway lines buckling, and one of the main London airports was closed because one of the runways melted. And we don’t have air conditioning. So I fled London to the Suffolk on the East Anglian coast with its wild sea and cooler wind.
In addition to being a successful novelist, you’ve traveled the world as a foreign correspondent for the BBC. What is a foreign correspondent?
The life of a foreign correspondent is twofold. One, the phone will ring in the middle of the night, and someone will say that so and so has been assassinated or there’s been an earthquake. You grab your go-bag, meet up with your camera crew, hit the ground running, and report what you see. Then, a week later, you’re back home again after seeing the most dreadful things and talking to the most desperate people. Two, there’s the documentary side of the business where you take a deeper look at major news story, like when we filmed in Ohio to talk with people in the heartland about the Iraq War. Because America is the world’s most powerful country, many global issues are predicated by what grassroots voters in the US are thinking. And that is how democracy is meant to work—except, of course, those impacted outside the country do not get a vote.
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This article is part of the interview, first published in the magazine The Big Thrill.