A thriller on the 7.46

THE SUITS

If Keith Michel lived in the United States he might be as rich and famous as Scott Turow or John Grisham - lawyers who have enjoyed lucrative second careers as thriller writers. Instead, the City solicitor specialising in maritime law must content himself with the admiration of friends and colleagues and modest sales resulting from reviews in the specialist press.

But then he is probably too busy even for that. As well as writing three thrillers (the latest, Caracara, is published by Ashford, Buchan & Enright on 27 April) and working as a partner at Holman, Fenwick & Willan, one of London's leading international admiralty and maritime firms, Mr Michel (below) is a keen sportsman with a passion for wildlife conservation and interests in history, calligraphy and collecting lead soldiers.

The books, he says, grew out of the trend a few years ago for lawyers to write more articles about their work. "I was involved in a couple of interesting maritime cases which people thought would make good stories," he adds.

The first two - both with titles consciously beginning with the letter "c" - were written between 12.30 and 1.30am, after his wife and son had gone to bed. The demands of his son's homework led the latest to be created mostly on the 7.46am commuter train taking him from his Surrey home to his office. Notwithstanding this punishing schedule, 47-year-old Mr Michel is planning a fourth novel with a yet-to-be-decided title beginning with "c".

In the meantime, he is not missing out on his sport. A Cambridge football blue who was a member of the combined Oxbridge side that visited Japan in 1969, he still turns out regularly - most recently in the first over- forties Varsity Match. And when not playing football - or travelling all over the world - he is running.

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