Robert Ryan was born in Liverpool and moved south to attend university. He graduated from Brunel with a M.Sc. in Environmental Pollution Science, intending to go into teaching. Instead, he spent two years as a mechanic for a Hot Rod team, racing highly tuned Fords (“the fag-end of motorsport”, as Bernie Ecclestone calls it) where he became addicted to the smell of Castrol R. Weaning himself off that, he became a lecturer in Natural Sciences in Kent, while dabbling in journalism. His articles on comic (or graphic novels as they were just becoming known) gurus Alan Moore and Frank Miller found their way into Nick Logan’s The Face magazine, which led to work for the American edition of GQ, The Guardian, Sunday Times, Telegraph and Arena.

Eventually he took a position on staff at The Sunday Times as Deputy Travel Editor. It was while on assignment in Seattle that he came across the setting for his first novel, Underdogs – the ‘lost’ city beneath the sidewalks of downtown – that was called ‘Alice in Wonderland meets Assault on Precinct 13’ by Esquire.

While learning to play the trumpet for his third book, Trans Am, Ryan met Guy Barker, who, as well as being a great jazz trumpeter, had worked with Anthony Mingella, notably on The Talented Mr. Ripley. Guy read Underdogs and wrote a ‘theme’ for the book, which opened his Mercury-nominated album Soundtrack. ‘Underdogs’ eventually became a fifty-minute suite, featuring extracts from the book read by RSC actor Anthony Higgins (most recently seen in Michael Dibdin’s ‘Zen’ on BBC), and was performed at The Barbican and the Brecon Jazz Festival and filmed by the BBC.

Ryan’s next book, Early One Morning, broke into the Sunday Times’ top ten bestsellers’ list, and began a sequence of historical dramas set in the 20th century.

He collaborated again with Barker on dZf, a film noir-ish reworking of Mozart’s The Magic Flute, which had its World Premiere at Wakefield Rugby Club and its final outing, twenty performances later, in Hong Kong. It was narrated by actor Michael Brandon (Jerry Springer The Opera, Dempsey and Makepeace, Captain America) and is available on Guy’s double CD, The Amadeus Project.

Ryan’s previous book Signal Red, a novel based on The Great Train Robbery, has been optioned by World Pictures and the writing-production team behind the TV drama United, starring David Tennant.

His latest novel, Dead Man’s Land (Simon & Schuster) takes Dr John Watson to the Western Front of WW1, where he has to solve a crime without the benefit of his old colleague Sherlock Holmes.

He continues to contribute to The Sunday Times and is working on further jazz projects with Guy Barker. He lives in North London with his wife, three children, a dog and a deaf cat.

8 thoughts on “About

  1. Keith Cima

    Robert – very many thanks for a signed copy of Dead Man’s Land – great story. My grandfather was a Sapper on a line waggon on the Western Front. My wife wears the wedding ring from my grand-mother’s first marriage to Pte Harry Knibb of the London Regt killed in the last months of the war. My great uncle was a Sapper in a postal unit.. And my 2nd cousin was Gen Sir Charles Harington – Plumer’s Chief of Staff for Messines Ridge and other battles. All Cima boys – including Edward – have Harington as their middle name! So your book and its historical detail was very apt! Regards Keith C

  2. Christine Gordon

    Dear Mr. Ryan,
    I read your introduction to the Sherlock Holmes collection I downloaded, and was immediately intrigued by your novel, Dead Man’s Land. I was recently in England and purchased a copy at a wonderful independent bookstore in Penzance called The Edge of the World Bookshop, and just completed the novel on my flight back to the U.S. I loved the book–you’ve created a wonderful version of Dr. Watson, and I loved the complexity of the story and its interesting characters (especially the women and the links to the suffrage movement). I look forward to the next book. Thanks for a wonderful experience.

  3. Keith

    Enjoyed”Signal Red” very much. Just a small point re timings on pages 110/111. Seems to go from 9.37 a.m. to 9.40 pm in next section. Is this correct ?

  4. Trevor

    I thoroughly enjoyed After Midnight, it is a superb read; a well constructed and researched story. Night Crossing was also among my favourites. Have now read Dead Mans Land and am looking forward to your next offering. Thank you for many hours pleasure.

  5. John Primm, MPM

    Mr. Ryan, after reading your intro to Sherlock Holmes from the Ibooks collection, I bought and inhaled Dead Mans Land. What a triumph! One of the very best SH stories I have ever read– thank you for this version of JH Watson. Sadly I had to buy it from the UK as you seem unknown in the Washington DC area libraries. Do you know of any US booksellers with any of your works? I used Amazon to purchase DML but had to pay the premium. Any ideas of where you are in the states in terms of sellers or if you are planning to visit the Washington DC area in 2014?
    Thank you and keep up the series!

  6. Neville Jones

    Dear Robert,

    I got into your books by accident. The Blue Noon was one of the few books in English in our Paphos hotel so I started reading it and found it difficult to put down. A really good read and I suppose, like you, I was willing to give the “hero” the benefit of the doubt, a most likeable rogue or “scally”. I have done a bit on my own research but found little to go on. I wonder if you came to any conclusion? I have since read the 3 Watson books, albeit in the wrong order and have today bought the Sign of Fear.

    I will eventually get round to reading the rest of the morning noon and night books so look forward to that. I am still finding my way through Joe Barton’s autobiography and the Casual Vacancy. Needless to say, I live in Liverpool which I love despite being a Manc. I have lived here for some years and have been a keen Evertonian about as long.

    Liverpool gets a mention in the books I have read and I wonder whether you have set any in the city? As a football fan, I do wonder what colour you are, simply out of curiosity.

    Best wishes and keep up the writing,


    1. Robert Ryan Post author

      Neville- Thank you for your comments. I was up in Liverpool recently at Waterstones and spoke about why none of my book are set in Liverpool. I think it is because I didn’t start writing until 15 years after I left, by which time I thought I was out of touch. (Why that doesn’t apply to writing about WW2 I don’t know). At the moment Sign of Fear is the last Watson book – I have been co-writing a series as R J Bailey about a female bodyguard. After that? We’ll see. Glad you liked The Blue Noon – I think Harry was a little ahead of his time as an ambiguous hero/villain. To be honest, I think he was probably pretty bad, but I liked the idea you could put a spin on almost anything. Thanks for reading, best

  7. Simon Catterick

    Hi Robert. Recognising it’s almost 3 years to the day since you wrote that Sign of Fear was at the time the last planned Dr. Watson novel I wondered whether you have plans to write volume 6 and if so when it is likely to hit the shelves? Hopefully the answer is ‘yes’ to the first question and ‘soon’ to the second. Thanks. Simon.


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