Sam Alexander (Paul Johnston)

Sam Alexander (Paul Johnston)

Paul Johnston was born in Edinburgh and educated there, at Oxford and at St Andrews; he was recently awarded a PhD in Creative Writing (crime fiction). He spends much of his time in Nafplio, Greece, with his Greek wife and Scottish-Greek children. After working in shipping and journalism, he moved to a small Greek island and spent seven years teaching English and writing unpublished and unpublishable literary novels, before finding his niche in crime fiction.

Paul’s first novel, Body Politic, set in 2020s independent Edinburgh and featuring the maverick investigator Quint Dalrymple, was a critical and popular success, and won the CWA John Creasey Memorial Dagger for Best First Crime Novel of 1997. It was followed by four sequels: The Bone Yard, Water of Death, The Blood Tree and The House of Dust.

He then started a long-running series starring the half-Scots half-Greek, Athens-based missing persons specialist Alex Mavros. The second, The Last Red Death – highly praised by authors such as George Pelecanos, Jeffery Deaver, Mark Billingham and Peter Robinson - won the 2004 Sherlock Award for Best Detective Novel. The sixth, 2013’s The Black Life, was seen by some critics as Paul’s best book yet – it deals with the Holocaust of the Jews of Thessaloniki and includes scenes in Auschwitz. The White Sea, June 2014, is the latest in the series.

Paul has also written a series with a crime novelist as protagonist and would-be detective. Matt Wells features in The Death List, The Soul Collector, Maps of Hell and The Nameless Dead (2007-11). The last two are set in the US. The Death List was shortlisted for the Barry Award.

Oh, and Paul’s a two-time winner of the Criminal Mastermind quiz at CrimeFest, Bristol. He’s now banned for life, which is a relief for all concerned. Nobody loves a smartarse.

Recently Twitter has been awash with ideas about the identity of Sam Alexander, pseudonymous author of the police-procedural-with-a-difference Carnal Acts, set in north-east England. Paul’s wife is called Sotiria, his daughter Maggie, and his son Alexander – their initials form SAM. Alexander got the surname too (next time, Maggie. Erm…). Some of the suggestions were highly flattering: Kate Atkinson, Ian Rankin, Helen Fielding, Irvine Welsh, Val McDermid, William Boyd, J K Rowling, Agatha Christie (she lives!) and Arthur Conan Doyle (spiritualists never die). Some were deeply horrendous, in particular Jeffrey Archer. But everybody forgot Paul. He’s really very upset… 

Titles by Sam Alexander (Paul Johnston)

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