At the gate of hell in Turkmenistan

Oliver Dowson: A Literary Journey from Business to Thrilling Espionage

Exploring the World through Entrepreneurship, Travel, and the Intriguing World of ‘The Repurposed Spy’ Series

Exploring the World through Entrepreneurship,

Travel, and the Intriguing World of ‘The Repurposed Spy’ Series

PHOTO: Worlds Unveiled: Oliver Dowson, Author, Entrepreneur, and Explorer Extraordinaire

Oliver Dowson was born in Lowestoft, England. After studying mathematics, statistics and computer science at university, he spent a long career building a multi-national business from scratch, exploiting his love of foreign travel, cultures, languages and food. He has visited nearly 150 countries for business and pleasure – and tries to add at least another new one every year!

Oliver is no stranger to writing, having been editor of both Imperial College and University of London Union newspapers in his youth, and writing many articles throughout his business career. Trapped by the pandemic, he wrote his first book, a travelogue “There’s No Business Like International Business”, published in 2022 to critical acclaim. Now, Oliver has turned to fiction. “The Repurposed Spy” was published in March 2023, and the sequel, the second in the series, “Spies on Safari”, in November 2023.

Oliver is also a podcast host and mentors and supports several new young ambitious entrepreneurs. When he’s not away adding new experiences further afield, he lives in North London and Oviedo Spain.

What’s the last great book you read?

“This is the night they come for you” by Robert Goddard. It’s not only a compelling story blending political intrigue, corruption and murder, moving from Algeria to Paris to England, it also provides a remarkable history lesson about Algerian independence in the 80s, 90s and up to date (although I assume the plot itself is pure fiction). Algeria isn’t one of the 150-odd countries I’ve visited, and whilst the book didn’t encourage me to add it to my bucket list, I did feel transported there. However, even those who have no interest in history will find this book a remarkable and very different crime novel

Which writers — working today do you admire most?

Mick Herron – for me, his Slough House novels are the new gold standard for spy fiction. I don’t find the plots convincing, but the characterisations are amazing and I just love his style of writing. Of all the authors writing today, Mick Herron is the one I crave to emulate and be compared with.

MW Craven – I do enjoy a good crime novel, and there’s no better living writer of the genre than MW Craven. In Poe and Tilly he’s invented characters that are both utterly convincing and not like any heroes of other novelists. The plots stretch credulity, as they should, but not too much, and his prose is so well-constructed and a pleasure to read.

What do you read when you’re working on a book? And what kind of reading do you avoid while writing?

For bedtime reading I stick to my usual diet of thrillers and crime novels. But when I’m fully conscious, I read travel guides and recipe books! I set my novels in places I’ve travelled to myself, but like to re-read the guidebooks to refresh my memory and make sure I don’t confuse places and names. My anti-hero Ronald Jones is also something of a gourmet, and I want to remind myself of the local dishes he would enjoy and their ingredients. I’ll then cook them myself to check!

What kind of reader were you as a child? 

Voracious! I remember spending many happy hours in Lowestoft library as a child. By the age of 6 or 7 I’d exhausted the children’s section, and started on the adult novels. My father encouraged me to read the classics, but I also explored further – I discovered The Lord of the Rings and finished all three volumes about a decade before it became widely-known and popular.

What do you plan to read next?

Another book by someone I’ve never heard of before! Over the last year I have made it a mission that at least 50% of the books I read should be by other self-published authors. Sadly, three of them were poorly written and I couldn’t even finish a couple of others, but more than half of them were really good. I make a point of posting reviews because we authors need all the ones we can get!

What inspired you to start writing novels?

I wrote my first book, a travelogue (“There’s No Business Like International Business”) during the lockdown period of the pandemic, really just to entertain myself. Friends encouraged me to publish it, which I did, and I was very pleasantly surprised by the reaction and sales. Several people asked “when are you going to write a novel, then?” – so I did. When I started, I had no preconceived plan. The plot only came to me after writing the third chapter!

Why spy novels?

The espionage element of my books is different to most spy thrillers, which relate to the CIA, KGB, SIS or other government agencies. Mine revolve around industrial espionage, arguably a far bigger current danger – and something that I learnt quite a lot about during my business career.

Where’s the action?

For realism, I like to locate the action in places that I know (a benefit of all my international travel over the years), so even though the story line is pure fiction, the settings are authentic! The Repurposed Spy’s mission revolves around several cities and countries in Latin America. “Spies on Safari”, is based in Africa. I’ve just come back from Central Asia – Kazakhstan, Kyrgystan, Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan – and that’s where I’m basing the third book in the series, “Spies on the Silk Road”. I like to weave my love of good food into my books too!

“The Repurposed Spy is a testament to Dowson’s storytelling prowess, plunging readers into a realm of subterfuge, disguise, and unexpected turns. For those with an affinity for espionage or simply a love for gripping narratives, this book is an unmissable treat.” 
-Literary Titan

“British-American author and journalist, Christopher Hitchens, famously said: “Everyone has a book in them, but in most cases that’s where it should stay.” Oliver Dowson has proved he is one of the exceptions.” 
– Yorkshire Times


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