One Minute With: John Simpson

Where are you now and what can you see?

At home, lying on my bed and looking at a really attractive painting that my wife got in South Africa of a street corner which is very resonant.

What are you currently reading?

I've just this morning finished Simon Sebag Montefiore's The Court of the Red Tsar. It's one of those books that gives many new insights into people I had nothing but contempt for.

Choose a favourite author, and say why you like her/him

The author I turn back to is George Eliot. It's comfortable reading her. Part of it is knowing the ending.

Describe the room where you usually write

In a corner of our sitting room. I only seem to be able to write with a giant heap of paper and books around me. It draws criticism from my nearest.

What distracts you from writing?

My wonderul boy who, when I'm at the most intense bit of writing, will want me to watch a DVD with him.

Which fictional character most resembles you?

One of those broken down Graham Greene characters, who have betrayed everyone and are taking too much drink. I'm not a betrayer and I don't drink too much but I'm a little bit frayed.

What are your readers like when you meet them?

I'm rather humbled by them.

Who is your hero/heroine from outside literature?

I have a sense that people are not heroes all the way through but at a historical moment, there are people who behave absolutely rightly. An old man during the 1979 Iranian revolution spoke to troops in bulldozers who'd come to knock down Persepolis. He told them there were sacred pictures in the city and they went away. He was there at a key historical moment.

John Simpson's new book 'Unreliable Sources' is published by Macmillan