Fact and fiction: thriller by ex-head of Special Branch up for award

Fact and fiction: thriller by ex-head of Special Branch up for award

The third novel in a best-selling thriller series written by former Commander of Special Branch, Roger Pearce, has been nominated for the prestigious Ian Fleming Steel Dagger award from the British Crime Writers’ Association.

Like its well-received predecessors, Javelin, which was published in October, draws heavily on Roger’s inside knowledge of counter-terrorism and national security matters.

His second career as a successful writer took off in 2012 after Agent of the State, his first book about Special Branch officer John Kerr, was published. The next in the series, The Extremist, came out the following year. Reviewers praised not only the fast-paced plots laced with “high-octane action” (as long-established crime writer Peter Robinson put it), but also the authentic detail, with the Daily Mail describing The Extremist as “terrific…vividly written and delivering a glimpse of what counter-terrorism feels like”.

Since then, Roger (OE 1961–1969), a former School Captain, has been the subject of numerous media interviews and has appeared at literary events including Scarborough Book Festival.

The books relate the adventures of Detective Chief Inspector Kerr, a complex, independent-minded character with a strong sense of mission coupled with an ability on the one hand “to do the right thing” whatever the cost, and on the other, to use deception without hesitation in order to get at the truth.

Roger, of Underne House, was at the School during the headmastership of Tim Edwards; John Pearce (no relation) was his Housemaster. After graduating in Theology from St John’s College, Durham University in 1972, Roger married Margaret, a former pupil at Queen Elizabeth’s Girls’ School, whom he had met when both were sixth-formers. Roger had intended to become ordained as an Anglican priest, but instead joined Durham Constabulary in 1973 and transferred to the Metropolitan Police in 1975.

Within a year Roger had applied to join Special Branch at New Scotland Yard. He also began an external LLB Honours degree from London University by private study and in 1979 qualified as a barrister-at-law at the Middle Temple.

Formed in 1883, the Branch’s mission was to gather secret intelligence against terrorists and extremists. It conducted sensitive assignments here and abroad and was also responsible for the protection of the Cabinet, of visiting heads of state and of VIPs. Roger became the head of Special Branch in 1999 and also served as the Met’s Director of Intelligence, authorising surveillance and undercover operations against serious and organised crime. He held both posts until 2003. The Met’s Special Branch was merged with the Metropolitan Police Anti-Terrorist Branch (SO13) to form Counter Terrorism Command, or SO15, in 2006.

In his last months of service, Roger was approached by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office to take up the newly formed post of Counter-Terrorism Adviser, where he worked with government and intelligence experts worldwide in the campaign against Al Qaeda. In 2005 he was hired by GE Capital in London as managing director of European security.

Roger and Margaret have two sons, both former QE pupils: Andrew, a composer, and Matthew, an airline pilot. Their daughter, Laura, is a personal assistant.