Spies, lies and Swedish ties

Spies, lies and Swedish ties
The Local's Laura Xiao meets Stockholm-based novelist Jeremy Duns to catch up on the recent publication of the first part of a thrilling new Cold War trilogy.

Spy games, political assassinations, and betrayal of one’s country. These are just a few of the thoughts constantly running through Jeremy Duns’ mind.

Duns is a British spy thriller novelist living in Stockholm who recently released his first novel called Free Agent. The novel is the first part of a trilogy of spy novels set in 1969 about a traitorous British agent during the Cold War. The book was published in the UK in May and the US in June and has been described as a “cross between Jason Bourne and James Bond.”

Although his current home is in Stockholm, Duns has had a diverse upbringing, living in Africa and Asia as a child and then moving around in Europe as an adult. He first got into writing when he became a journalist, but he says his goal was always to be a novelist.

“I wanted to be a novelist from a very young age, but I didn’t really know what I wanted to write about,” Duns says. “I just knew that I wanted to write fiction.”

Duns did not discover his niche until he moved to Brussels, where he came upon a certain genre of storytelling that would inspire him to write his first novel.

“There are a lot of second-hand bookstores in Brussels,” he recalls. “For some reason there were a lot of spy thrillers from the 70s and 80s, and I started buying them and became quite obsessed with them.”

Duns did intensive research about World War II and the Cold War and then spent seven years writing his novel. He says it was important for him to catch up on his history to make the content of the novel more credible.

“I knew I wanted to write something set in the 60s but I wasn’t born until 1973,” Duns says. “I really wanted to make sure that I got the feel of the time and the details of the time right.”

After a total of eight years spent on his debut novel, Duns says he feels as if a huge weight has been lifted off his shoulders. The widespread positive feedback he’s received helps. Duns says he is pleased with all the positive feedback he has got on the novel, but the most flattering reaction is one he received from a fellow author.

“David Morrell is the creator of the character Rambo and a legend in the world of thriller novels,” Duns explains. “He has quite a big fan base, so his positive review may cause some of his readers to consider reading my novel.”

The past few months have been exciting for Duns not only because his first novel was published but also due to his completion of the second part of the trilogy. Unlike the first novel, which was written both in Belgium and Stockholm, his second novel was written entirely in Sweden. Duns has lived in Stockholm with his Finnish wife and two children for over two years, and he finds the environment here benefits both his everyday life and his writing process.

“I think generally there’s a very good way of life here. It’s a very comfortable and privileged placed to live,” he says. “It’s a very calm city, and that helps. I think it’s helpful or can be helpful for a writer to be settled and have a calm atmosphere to work in.”

While he believes Stockholm is the perfect city to settle down in, Duns adds there is one setback to living in Sweden.

“I’m being published in the UK and the States for my first novel,” he explains. “Perhaps if I was living in London, for instance, I would be more in touch with my publishers, and it would be easier for me to do certain promotional things.”

Despite a few difficulties with living in Sweden, Duns says the benefits unquestionably outweigh the loss of a few promotional opportunities, especially when it concerns his family.

“I think Sweden is a fantastic place to bring up children,” Duns says. “My impression is that children are really very, very central to the way of life here. Although it may be a bit dangerous to generalize, I would say Sweden is a very safe place for families.”

Duns’ long-term stay in Sweden has also influenced his writing. His final installment of the trilogy will introduce a Scandinavian location that he has grown to love.

“My wife is from a place called Åland which is an archipelago between Finland and Sweden. And that had quite an interesting story during World War II, which I want to use a bit of in the third book. I’m planning that the third novel will actually end in Åland.”

With a well-received first novel published and two more to come, Duns says he has big plans for the future.

“I’m quite ambitious. I want to be a best-selling author and to be up there with other major thriller writers.”

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