Sunday 22 October 2017

Write-side with 'Philomena' author Martin Sixsmith

Author Martin Sixsmith
Author Martin Sixsmith
Kim Bielenberg

Kim Bielenberg

Martin Sixsmith on 'Philomena', his new book 'Ayesha's Gift' and falling out spectacularly with Tony Blair

One of your earlier books tells the story of Philomena Lee, whose child was sold for adoption, and it was turned into a film. How did you come across her story?

I was at a New Year's Eve party. A woman said to me, "You're a journalist, aren't you? Well, I've got a story you really need to write". She took me to meet Philomena's daughter. The reason I did it was because I liked Philomena so much. You could sit and listen to her all day.

How did Philomena's story lead you to write your book about Pakistan, Ayesha's Gift?

When Philomena came out, I got a lot of letters not only from Irish mothers, but also from Pakistani women about what had happened to them. I began to research stories from Pakistan. Ayesha's Gift is about a daughter finding out what happened to her father who was murdered. It's like a detective story.

You spent many years in Russia for the BBC. What drew you back home?

I came back in 1997 when Tony Blair became prime minister and I went to work for him (as a spin doctor). Then we fell out quite spectacularly in 2002, and I haven't heard from any of the New Labour people since. Since then, I have been sitting in my front room writing books.

You have written a lot about Vladimir Putin. What do you think of him?

I am not a kneejerk denouncer. I can see his bad sides, but he is incredibly popular in Russia. When he annexes Crimea, he gets a big thumbs up. He has re-established Russian pride.

Were you surprised by reports that Putin's people had an, ahem, compromising tape of Donald Trump?

The KGB definitely collects 'compromat' against people who come their way. So I wouldn't be surprised if there was a tape of Donald Trump and ladies of the night doing all the stuff the dossier says he did.

He denies it, Those are 'alternative facts' and he says he's a 'germophobe'.

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