This Book Is Not About Vladimir Putin.

Cold by John Sweeney is the 1st Joe Tiplady thriller (Available July 1, 2016).

Cold is a made-up story inspired by things I’ve seen with my own eyes and whispers I’ve picked up in Russia today. It’s dedicated to three people I had the honor of meeting but who are now dead: Anna Politkovskaya, shot dead in her Moscow flat in 2006; her great friend, Natasha Estemirova, found with bullets to her head not far from a road in Ingushetia in 2009; and Boris Nemtsov, shot dead within 100 metres of the Kremlin in 2015. There’s a character in the book called Zoba, who is the Russian strong man, but he, like every other character, is a work of fiction. Let one thing be absolutely clear: Cold is not about Vladimir Putin. 

The novel looks hard at Russia, but it has other themes too: the un-brainwashing of terrorists; removing oneself from religious purity, or the false ideal thereof; the madness of ideological supremacy; and the never-ending struggle to uphold human decency. My hero is called Joe Tiplady, and he’s based on someone I met in a bar in Belfast. He was an IRA man who went to North Korea to learn how to kill the British. He hated North Korea and realized that they were brainwashed—that however bad the British and the Protestant ascendancy treated Irish Republicans in the North, it was nothing like as bad as how Kim Il Sung’s regime treated its own people. Once he worked that out, he began to realize that he, too, was a victim of IRA brainwashing. And so, he stopped killing. 

The thrill of writing a novel is simple: you create a made-up universe, but one made built out of known particles. Much of it is pure invention. But, I did make a film about the Yellow Faces, Russian teenagers whose faces went yellow when they drank bootleg alcohol, ostensibly medicinal handwash, which poisoned 10,000 and killed around 1,000. And, the general does bump into the crew of a missile launcher in Ukraine shortly before a foreign airliner is shot down by mistake. And, people who challenge power in Russia die, inexplicably. But, to repeat, Cold is not about the rule of Vladimir Putin. It’s just a story I made up. 


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John Sweeney is an award-winning writer and broadcaster. As a reporter, first for the Observer and then for the BBC, Sweeney has covered wars and chaos in more than eighty countries and has been undercover to Chechnya, North Korea and Zimbabwe. He has also helped free seven people falsely convicted of killing their babies in landmark legal trials in the UK. Sweeney became a YouTube sensation in 2007 for losing his temper with a senior member of the Church of Scientology. His first novel, Elephant Moon, was published to much acclaim in 2012. His hobby is falling off his bike on the way back from the pub.

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