Why I wrote ‘Stalin’s Nose’

I like to say that Mikhail Gorbachev had a hand in ‘Stalin’s Nose’ – by knocking down the Berlin Wall. It was only weeks after its fall that I made this journey from Berlin to Moscow. In early 1990 eastern Europe was in a state of euphoria and I wanted to try to catch a sense of that optimistic time. Thanks to my uncle – who had known it during and after the war – eastern Europe was a place which had long fascinated me. I wanted to uncover a little of the other half of Europe and to record something of the deceit and absurdity of Hobsbawm’s ‘Age of Extremes’.

But no matter how fine, intellectual ideas alone aren’t enough to get me out of bed and writing for eighteen months of early mornings. I’ve always needed to work from the heart. So why did I write ‘Stalin’s Nose’? Because of love. And horror. My uncle, the spy who is named Peter in the book, was the man whom I most loved and respected in the world. The book is for him, and for the women whom he loved.

And the horror? This book is also written in memory of the countless men and women who suffered – under first the fascists and then the communists – in the pursuit of flawed ideals.