Stuart Field, real name Phil Syron-Jones, was born in Telford, Shropshire. He joined the 1st Regiment Royal Horse Artillery at the age of seventeen in 1988 and went on to serve in Germany, Bosnia, Kosovo and the Gulf. Phil retired from the army in 2010 and took a security job in Germany, where he still lives and works. Phil decided to try his hand at writing. An idea came to him and he just went with it; Steel and Shadows, his first novel, was born:
“When I left the army in 2010 I joined a security firm in Germany, the German Guard Service, for five years, guarding the bases and I was bored at work one day. This story popped into my head. I wrote it down and showed it to someone and they said it was good and it built up from there.” (Shropshire Star, 2/10/18)
Phil decided to self-publish and met with some success. Under the pen name Stuart Field he later secured a publisher for that first novel, Steel and Shadows (Crime Scene Books, 2018). As Phil was already publishing his own work, there are already five more Steel stories ready to go. Publishing details are currently being worked out for the next in the series, Hidden Steel. Phil is currently working on a new stand-alone novel.
Despite his time in the army, Phil says that there are “absolutely no similarities” between his life and the life of his main character, John Steel:
“The story is a lot more fun than your usual crime thrillers. Usually they’re very dull and this is a bit more of a cross between James Bond, Castle, Jack Reacher and it’s a lot more fun.”
The knowledge and experience gained through a long military career do go towards the credibility of the novels though.
Here’s a little info about Steel and Shadows:
No-nonsense NYPD detective Sam McCall is investigating one of the deadliest and most complex cases of her career when the mysterious, yet infuriatingly intriguing, John Steel insinuates himself into the department.
What appears at first to be the work of a serial killer soon encompasses a cast including violent Russian gangsters, creepy psychiatric doctors, the homeless community and ghosts from the past for both McCall and Steel.
This debut novel keeps the reader gripped from start to finish with a breathtaking joyride through a wild series of unexpected twists and turns.
And here’s Paul Burke’s review:
Steel and Shadows is a no-nonsense action crime thriller that hooks you in from the first page. Field notes that Steel is more James bond than squaddie, but there’s a wealth of detail here that comes from a man who knows what he’s talking about, the attention to detail is impressive (tackling an opponent, setting up an operation, surveillance techniques, military bearing, patience etc.). That knowledge colours the novel but it never slows the pace. The plot twists like a corkscrew, and shifts in ways you just don’t see coming, and that’s the gripping aspect of Steel and Shadows. This novel is a lot of fun but there is also an interesting dynamic between the two main characters, Steel and McCall. John Steel, the mysterious Brit in New York, and Sam McCall, the strong focused NYPD detective, eventually work very well together. Although in the beginning Sam hates Steel and his interference in her case. This is the kind of relationship an author can hang a series on, it will be interesting to see how this develops.
Steel and Shadows opens with a group of heavily armed men stealthily approaching an unnamed target. We don’t have to wait long to find out what it is. The novel quickly cuts to a posh party at a secluded country house. Elizabeth and her daughter-in-law Helen are debating whether it was a good idea to arrange a surprise welcome home party for John (Helen’s husband). They are relying on his CO to send him home when he gets back to the UK. The guests are milling around chatting and the children are playing, John is expected any time now. John’s father can’t wait, he’s proud of his son, he addresses the crowd. John’s latest mission was a roaring success. The speech is interrupted by an Eastern European and a gang of mercenaries, the guests are now hostages, the place is surrounded. Things escalate immediately and the leader loses control of his men. People start dying. As John arrives he sees the chaos, he mounts a desperate solo mission to rescue his family and the guests . . .
A few weeks later – a plane has crashed into the sea just off Margate, Thomas Barryman has taken it hard. He has failed, time for fresh blood. He calls his friend to fix a meet for 4am, Hyde Park. His friend is late but Barryman is not alone, a man out looms out of the darkness and shoots him. His friend arrives as Barryman is dying, he just has time to get his friend to promise to go to New York, to find the woman in the picture . . .
Karen Lane of Bradford, Lane & Stewart is working late. She gets in her car but a dumpster is blocking the garage exit. As she gets out she grabbed by a man . . . John and Sue Mitchell duck down the alley for a bit of fun, they will never forget what they find . . . Cue NYPD’s Sam McCall and the hunt for a brutal killer who likes to gruesomely display his victims.
The case leads back to both Sam’s and Steel’s pasts, the plot is as slippery as an eel. Steel and Shadows is violent and fast. Action man meets serial killer, crazed doctor and some seriously nasty gangsters. More like Greg Hurwitz or Jason Matthews than a standard cop and buddy thriller. It’s fun, peppy, knockabout. Honestly not something that will stay with you but entertaining. Field is good on plot ideas and he hit on something with:
“John Steel is working with a female detective who doesn’t like him and he has involved himself in the case. With the character, you don’t quite know whether he’s a goodie or a baddie” (Shropshire Star, 2/10/18).
If your ever in this kind of trouble (God forbid!) John Steel is the guy you want by your side. If you’re looking for that light read, a relaxing action thriller that will keep you turning the page, you could do a lot worse than Steel and Shadows.
Paul Burke 3/3
As a bonus, we asked Stuart to write a short piece on the Theakston Old Peculier Crime Writing Festival 2019 from an author/fan perspective:
“The Theakston Old Peculier Crime Festival was met with mixed weather. Everything from sunny skies to quick showers. But, regardless of the changing heavens, the crime-loving hordes gathered outside and within the fantastic Old Swan Hotel. This crime festival is mostly about talking to authors, publishers, readers. It is a fantastic networking station for the crime novel world.
We laughed and cried at what the guest authors had to say (mostly tears of joy I might add). James Patterson, Ian Rankin, Jeffery Deaver, Jo Nesbo and the delightful M.C. Beaton were among the guest speakers, bringing the crowds in their droves into the hall to watch.
The festival was and is a great place to be. Not just because of the famous author you may get a selfie with or get to have your book signed, but because it has a casual feel to it. You aren’t rushed into being in a certain place at a certain time. You can relax, chat and drink with people you have known for a while or just met.
The Theakston Old Peculier Crime Festival is a must for anyone who loves to read or write crime novels. The people are lovely, the location is fantastic, and who knows, you may get that selfie with that author you’ve admired for so long.”
Our thanks to Stuart for taking the time to describe his experience of the festival.