Author Derek Thompson was inspired by his childhood in Leyton for his Spy Chaser series.

Although he now lives in the West Country, he has never forgotten his roots and chose to base the main character in his thrillers, Thomas Bladen, in Walthamstow.

The 53-year-old explains why east London seemed the perfect location for a photographer with a double-life…

Can you tell our readers more about the Spy Chaser series?

Thomas Bladen is a photographer for the UK government’s Surveillance Support Unit. The Unit assists other departments, including law enforcement and intelligence services. You could say Thomas is the opposite of James Bond; he’s not suave or sophisticated and the Unit assigns its people to the dead-end jobs no other department wants to do – one of the reasons others call them floaters. Each book includes a standalone espionage mystery and the threads of an overarching story that spans the series.

What is Standpoint about?

Standpoint is the first book in the series. After witnessing a shooting at Harwich, during a routine Customs operation, Thomas begins to realise that there is another agenda within the Surveillance Support Unit and that it is an organisation riven by factions and divided loyalties. Thomas’s other challenge is coming clean to his girlfriend and her family about what he actually does for a living – something he managed to keep hidden for two years.

Why did you place Thomas’s flat in Walthamstow?

Although I grew up in Leyton, I spent a lot of time in Walthamstow. Lloyd Park and the William Morris Gallery, Wood Street, Forest Road and Hoe Street were frequent haunts of mine. Walthamstow always struck me as a vibrant part of Waltham Forest with its layers of social history still present despite the inevitable tide of development. As soon as I started writing Standpoint I knew Thomas would live near Winns Avenue, a quiet spot for a photographer with a double-life. Walthamstow is also conveniently places for the North Circular, Dagenham and Bow – which are important locations in the book.

How is work on book five going?

I can confidently say that book five is progressing. I have the whole plot worked out and it takes into account threads from previous books (Standpoint, Line of Sight, Cause & Effect, and Shadow State). Several thousand words in, the threads are coming together nicely. This book has taken more consideration than previous books because it takes place after a real and tragic event – the 2005 London Bombing – that still has repercussions today. More recent outrages have made the themes and issues in this book as topical as ever: democracy, freedom, security, diversity, terrorism and surveillance.

Have you ever been involved in surveillance work and the other topics in the books?

Not directly. I’ve researched the topics in each book, used my imagination and spoken with one or two people who have. I have also drawn on my own experiences – I made work trips to Belfast in the past, once helped someone who was being blackmailed, and was a casual victim of gun crime back in London the 1980s (wrong time and wrong place when an armed gang raided a workplace). Most writers are like magpies – collecting ideas, dialogue and even characters from the people they encounter, even if a lot of it never ends up in the final book.

The Spy Chaser series is available on Amazon.