Robert Harris ought to be happy, but he is not — and that’s just as well because it means Britain’s most accomplished thriller writer still has something to get off his chest.

When he greets me off the train from London it is hard for me as a fellow political journalist who writes books not to feel a pang of envy towards the man who wrote columns for The Sunday Times and The Observer before penning a dozen bestsellers. Harris, 62, is wearing a Martin Bell-style white linen jacket and not-quite-matching trousers, highlighting his tan of gently polished teak. Just up the canal towpath is his Victorian rectory. In the drive sits an Aston Martin and round the corner is a perfect country pub, sun dappling through the trees, where we find a table in the beer garden. There is a tremor of recognition from some of the other diners, but, in that very English way, no one stares as we both order crayfish cocktail and chicken and ham pie. I recall the instructions of my editor: “Just get him talking about politics. Ask him why he’s not doing what you’re doing any more.” Well, probably the 25m book sales have something to do with it.

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