Author of Alex Rider, Foyle's War, Sherlock Holmes, James Bond, TV and film writer, occasional journalist.


My first boss

Originally published in The Guardian
My first boss

You could write a book about my first boss. His name was Don White and I worked for him as an advertising copywriter at Benton and Bull's, where he was the creative director, and then later at McCann Eriksson.

Don was famous in his time. He was very flamboyant, witty and intelligent. But he was also an outrageous homosexual who chased young men all over London and around the world. My first encounter with Don was when I met him at the agency bar. I was only 22, very immature and unsure of myself. He was short, curly-haired, always smoking and drinking champagne, but a brilliant conversationalist.

To my great consternation, I went to my office the next day and found an envelope on my desk with a first class return air ticket inside for a weekend with Don in New York. I freaked out - I didn't know what to do. I was a very junior writer and he was the creative director. I sent it back with a frightened letter of apology.

But Don didn't stop there. He pursued me for the next five or ten years. I was ill in bed one day and he turned up at my house with champagne in a shopping bag full of ice. I'm not gay myself, but he was wonderful company and I had a certain sort of fondness for him. He was a very generous, kind man always full of grand gestures.

Don taught me to write quickly, which I still do. He was one of the fastest writers in the business and his inspiration was instant. I learned from him how to get energy and put your energy into your work. Don represented the dying days of glamour and extravagance in advertising. He was extravagant in every sense.

I'd advise anyone who's just entering the world of work to take a lesson from Don and remember that enjoyment is the most important thing in your life. You've got to enjoy what you're doing otherwise don't do it.