Durham University professor turns to thriller writing after being diagnosed with cancer

Professor Robert Williams chats to Chief Reporter Katie Davies following the launch of his thrillers

Robert Williams, professor at Durham University, who has been diagnosed with cancer
Robert Williams, professor at Durham University, who has been diagnosed with cancer

Time is precious and every day is important for Prof Robert Williams.

The Durham University lecturer was diagnosed with prostate cancer in 2012 - later to be told it was incurable.

Despite medics’ words having a chilling impact on his life, he tells me that within weeks he had to accept it and make the most of whatever future life he had left.

Robert, a professor of politics at Durham University, asked himself what he had always wanted to do and thriller-writing came top of a very short list.

Now, following the launch of his two international political thrillers - The Potomac Plot and The Corcovado Conspiracy, Robert has explained how he turned to writing in his darkest hour.

He said: “Writing has always been an important part of my professional life but writing fiction is a very different and quite liberating experience.

“When I was working I used to read a lot of thrillers for relaxation and I often used to speculate as to whether I could produce work of a commercial standard. When I write fiction, I take on a new persona. I am Jack Carey, thriller writer. The names are tributes to my Welsh grandfather, Jack, and my beloved Irish mother whose maiden name was Carey. To my ears, Jack Carey already sounds like a well-known thriller writer.

“Being diagnosed with any cancer concentrates the mind and being told it has spread and is incurable concentrates it even more.

“Time is precious and every day becomes vitally important. Life is not to be wasted so I asked myself what was it I had always wanted to do that I had never done and thriller writing came top of a very short list, so I have given it my best shot.

“I’ve written two books in the last two years, The Potomac Plot and The Corcovado Conspiracy, and I am hard at work on my third thriller.”

Robert has high aspirations and hopes his work can be best sellers.

“Judging by the very flattering early reviews,” said Robert. “I have succeeded beyond my expectations and I am determined to pursue my dream of seeing one of my books appear in the best sellers’ charts.

“When you write exciting thrillers, the world you create and the characters that populate it are under your control. Anything is possible and you are limited only by your imagination.

“In the world of the cancer patient, this is far from the case so thriller writing for me is an escape, a release from brooding on my illness and its inexorable progress.”

Robert taught politics and corruption at both York and Durham University excelling in his field, and travelling as far as Australia, China, Canada and the States to deliver his informative lectures.

He has worked with several governments and international agencies as an anti-corruption consultant, as well as undertaking research in Eastern Europe, Africa and the Middle East.

Robert’s world came crashing down in 2012 when he was diagnosed with cancer. He has undergone seven months of gruelling chemotherapy, hormone therapy, and radiotherapy.

He said: “I can remember the doctor’s words and the chilling impact they had. But, within a few weeks, I had come to terms with it and resolved to accept any treatment on offer and to get on with making the most of whatever future life I have.

“The doctors said that while my cancer was incurable it could be managed and I have nothing but praise for my consultants, Messrs Azzabi and Pedley, and the nurses and staff at both the Freeman Hospital and the Sunderland Royal.

“I am very lucky and all North East cancer patients are lucky to have such excellent people and facilities to treat their conditions.

“Treatment can, of course, be unpleasant and disagreeable but when you are as fortunate as I am in having a loving and supportive family and circle of friends, the side-effects are manageable. My heart goes out to those people who have to face this disease alone.

“We are still far away from a cure but my daughter, Rebecca, who manages an RSPCA animal centre near Chester le Street and my son, Robert, who is a police officer in Western Australia have both run marathons raising money for Prostate Cancer research.”

Roberts books are both available to download now from the Amazon Kindle store and he is already working on his third Jack Carey thriller, The Cape Town Connection, which is due for release next year.

He explains: “My books are exciting thrillers set in exotic locations - ideal holiday reads. When I read a thriller, I like to learn something about other countries and their cultures. I have been lucky enough to travel around the world in my work so I decided to incorporate some of my experiences into writing thrillers. In short, I try to write the sort of books that I like to read

“The Potomac Plot is set in Washington D.C. and tells the story of how a British visitor becomes involved in a terrorist assassination attempt on the American Secretary of State. It poses and answers the question, could you kill an old friend to save the woman you love.

“The Corcovado Conspiracy is a political conspiracy thriller set mostly in Rio de Janeiro. It centres on a plot to overthrow Brazil’s first elected woman President, Rosa Vargas, and brings her into contact and alliance with an expatriate British businessman, John Angell. The fate of the country is decided in a cataclysmic confrontation around Rio’s giant statue of Christ the Redeemer on Corcovado Mountain.

“Readers and reviewers tell me that both my books would make great films. I am open to offers for the film rights.”

Robert’s books are also available as paperbacks from Amazon.

For more information check out his website at Robert-Williams.co.uk or Jack-Carey.co.uk


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