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Transforming years of global work experience into a thrilling spy novel!

Alumni Stories.

Inspired by his successful career in the high technology industry, involving years of travelling the world, author Richard (Rick) Marshall (Applied Physics, 1967) swapped his corporate suit for an author’s pen. His first novel Kuskovo, is a story of ruthless Russian espionage set at the height of the Cold War in the 1970s, and is available on both Amazon and Kindle. In Kuskovo, Rick tells the story of Alex Zoravar, who embarks upon an action-packed, transatlantic trail of intrigue in his search for the truth behind an accident involving his colleague and lover Dr Samantha Endel. At stake is the safety of the world.

Find out more about Rick and his journey into writing his own spy novel here:

Can you tell me about your time at City?

In 1963, when I started at City University, it had just been converted from being a College of Advanced Technology and before that, Northampton College.

I did a ‘college-based’, 4-year ‘sandwich’ degree with four industry-based periods of 6 months interspersed between periods at university. My industry periods were with Edwards High Vacuum in Crawley, Sussex (where I put my name to a published research paper), Hilger & Watts in Camden Town, London (analytical instrument development), UKAEA Reactor Fuel Element Laboratory in Preston, Lancashire (X-ray crystallography), then Hilger & Watts again (4-circle, single crystal, X-ray spectrometer development).

What happened after you graduated?

I joined Hilger & Watts full-time as an Internal Sales Specialist for X-ray Analysis Instruments, then after a year moved to Instron Ltd. in High Wycombe, Buckinghamshire, a world-leading manufacturer of materials testing machines.

Over the course of 13 years there I progressed from:

– UK Sales/Service Engineer

– to Export Sales/Service Engineer

– to Export Sales Manager

– to General Sales Manager

I then moved to Multitone Ltd (Radio Paging Systems), in London to take up the post of Group Sales Director.

4 years later I moved to Varian Associates Inc. (Analytical Instruments), first as Operations Director for Europe, based in Switzerland, then as Global Operations Vice President, based in California, USA.

Moving back to the UK, I became Managing Director of Chubb Fire Ltd then Group Managing Director for the European operations of the American fire detection company, Notifier.

In 1999 I ‘semi-retired’ as a management consultant for the European Performance Institute (EPI) in Brussels, before setting up my own management consulting company, Marshall Associates, retiring completely in 2008.

How did your idea and career come about?

I progressed into my career probably from a realisation that I was not cut out for work in research, twinned with a desire to travel/work internationally, yet stay in the technology sector.

When it comes to my book, I have always nurtured a desire to write, and in my retirement, thought I would try my hand. Initially, I had no idea what to write about, but one day, I mentioned it to my daughter-in-law, who said, ‘why not write about your interesting life?’ So I did – not an autobiography; more a memoir of all the strange and funny things that had happened to me over the years. From this, I hoped that an idea for a novel would emerge… and it did. So Kuskovo involves technology (ICBM’s), Russia (I spent more than 18 months of my life there), America (I lived there for 4 years), and romance (I am still in love with my wife of 50 years!).

What has been the most rewarding experience?

As for my career, turning around and growing international technology-based businesses by re-organisation and team building.

As for my book, realising that I can, and enjoy to, write.

What has been the biggest challenge with regards to your idea?

Concerning Kuskovo, I have been asked, ‘How on earth do you write a novel?’ Well, I suppose it’s different for different people and the type of novel. I can only answer for myself:

First, you must have the desire.

Second, you must find, or make, the time.

Third, you must have the idea for the main theme.

For the last of these, I have always enjoyed the work of Frederick Forsyth – international espionage/skulduggery – so I set out for this genre. The main theme idea came to me, I don’t know how, to build a story around a Russian attempt to steal Western technology, with a bit of romance thrown in. From this trunk, branches grew; and finally, leaves. It was not straightforward and involved an enormous number of re-writes (pruning) – some self-generated, others from comments of friends who read early drafts. The writing was, for me, the easy part – probably only 10 – 20% of the time. For this type of book, the rest was spent in research (made incomparably easier by the internet – saving me numerous trips abroad and interviews of experts), editing (I could make another book out of the back-stories I cut!) and publishing.

For me, this was a work of love and I did not slavishly force myself to work at it when I didn’t feel like it. I guess from start until now, it took some 3 years.

As a side benefit, promoting it has brought me back into contact with many friends and associates I had lost contact with.

Do you have any advice for anyone looking to follow in your footsteps?

  1. Do something you love; you will spend half of your waking life working.
  2. Be patient: there are not many naturally good businessmen out there. If you’re good, you will succeed.

If you are interested in finding out more about Russia in the 1970s, Rick is available for talks where he dives deep into his travel experiences, revealing the situation and the quality of life there during those times… augmented by some curious and amusing stories. Find out more and contact details for Rick by clicking HERE!

Thank you Rick for sharing your story! If you would like to find out more about his journey, please email: rickmar001@aol.com.

 

 

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