The most recent stamp in Nick Pope's British passport is for Florida, and was gained in March when he attended a UFO conference in a place called Gulf Breeze. Says Pope: "I met all sorts of weird and wonderful people including Whitley Strieber. He is probably the most famous person to have claimed to have been abducted by aliens. He is famous for dark urban novels such as The Hunger and went public with his abduction stories long ago." Apparently Strieber has been abducted frequently since the 1980s. "He doesn't use words such as alien; he calls them 'the visitors' which is a wonderfully politically correct term. His philosophy is that once you get beyond your fear, then you can interpret it in a positive light. But if you are flat on your back in a space ship with somebody performing medical experiments on you, I think it's pushing it a bit to talk about yourself as 'an experiencer' rather than an abductee." Between 1991 and 1994 Pope was responsible for investigating and handling policy on UFOs for the Ministry of Defence and since then he has been invited to speak at UFO conferences all over the world. A trip to Dusseldorf in February remains fresh in his mind. He says: "That was great fun because after the conference our host took us out on the town. Somewhere along the line a full size cardboard cut out of The X-Files agents, Mulder and Scully, was liberated - or should I say abducted - from the conference venue. Every time we went into a club or bar, Mulder and Scully had a place of honour at the table. Of course, everyone that came in did a complete double take." Pope has a limited amount of leave at the MoD and, as most of it is spent at UFO conferences, he has little time for holidays. He explains: "I've been so busy doing effectively two full-time jobs, civil servant and writer, that I haven't had a proper holiday for ages. I went to Greece quite a lot in the late 1980s with friends, and I must say I do love a nice beach holiday where I can just lounge in the sun, eat wonderful Greek food and drink cold beers." Even if he does get the chance to take a holiday, the unexplained will remain on his mind. He adds: "I've never been abducted or even seen a UFO, and every time I'm sitting on the balcony somewhere with a cocktail, every time I'm glancing up at the sky I'm always watching and wondering and hoping."


Nick Pope's new book 'The Uninvited' was recently published by Simon & Schuster (pounds 15.99)