Name Tony Levy
Where are you from Tottenham London England
A little about your self `ie your education Family life etc. I was educated to the English O’level standards but most of my school time was spent playing football (soccer) I am now 62 and have been married for 20 years on the 10 December which funnily enough is the same date as my book A Turnkey or Not? was released. I have two step daughters and four grandchildren who I love dearly. These are most important things in my life my wife, my step daughters and their partners, my grandchildren and my family. After spending 25 years in the UK’s prison service, and having become increasingly disillusioned with stifling modern prison service politics and practices, in 2008 I took my pension pot and ran, moving to Spain to spend my early retirement in the sun. My wife and I, however, have now moved back to the UK temporarily due to the current economic climate. This autobiography about my prison service life and is my first book.
Fiona: Tell us your latest news?
Well my latest news is being involved in the project with seven other great international authors of our book Eight ‘Til Christmas We all contributed a chapter or short story and the book is now out in e format and hardcopy with all the proceeds going to Save the Children charity. I am so honored to have been invited and it sort of makes me feel accepted as an author amongst my peers
Fiona: When and why did you begin writing?
I suppose I started writing when I was in my teens but only seriously started with my book A Turnkey or Not? Back in 2008
Fiona: When did you first consider yourself a writer?
I am not sure I actually consider myself a writer to be brutally honest, but when a group of my peers asked me to join their charity project and then accepted my contribution to Eight ‘Til Christmas did I really consider that I might actually be a writer.
Fiona: What inspired you to write your first book?
Ha ha easy the rubbish on TV that portrayed my profession of Prison Officers As I state in my book I was fed up with the press/TV/radio/politicians portraying prison officer and the prison service always in a negative light, and I had always said I would write a book and tell the truth, but never did. Then there was a (I think) Linda LaPlant thriller on the TV about a prison that was so way off reality that it made me so angry I was fuming. The next day at work I was still fuming and one of my colleagues said to me that I should write my book. I had previously said I would write a book about my time in the service, so this was the inspiration.
Fiona: Do you have a specific writing style?
In a way I would call myself a writing raconteur
Fiona: How did you come up with the title?
I was at work and the publisher said I had to provide a title for my book and it just came to me A Turnkey or Not? The question mark making the book different
Fiona: Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?
Yes Prison Officers do a fantastic job under incredible pressure in appaling conditions working with the dregs of society, under constant political pressure, a job that nobody else would do or understand yet they still try to be great professionals. I just want some recognition for the work we do and not the constant critisism
Fiona: How much of the book is realistic?
Every bit of it really happened
Fiona: Are experiences based on someone you know, or events in your own life?
Every part of this book is based on my real life experiences and what happened during my 25 year career
Fiona: What books have most influenced your life most?
Sir Winston Churchill’s History of the English Speaking People Heavy going I know but that’s what my influence was.
Fiona: If you had to choose, which writer would you consider a mentor? Oh very difficult question but again probably Sir Winston Churchill
Fiona: What book are you reading now?
I am actually not reading any book at present but am building up my library for my next break from work AM downloading the new Jack Reacher book from Lee Childs
Fiona: Are there any new authors that have grasped your interest?
Every author has some interest for me whatever the genre I am willing to read it; I might not like it but will try to read it
Fiona: What are your current projects?
I have an idea at present of a follow up to my autobiography, a series of one chapter true stories of working at one of the busiest airport in the world. Again this will be anecdotal about the passengers and how they react good or bad to being at an airport with all the modern security measures they have to go through, how the staff behave and how management deal with security, so it will be in three parts.
Fiona: Name one entity that you feel supported you outside of family members.
A colleague at work who was the one when I was ranting about the TV program that was so inaccurate about prison officers who said to me why don’t you write that book you go on about
Fiona: Do you see writing as a career?
No but I can dream
Fiona: If you had to do it all over again, would you change anything in your latest book?
Good question and yes I would probably speak more about how prisoners reacted to the staff and the interactions between the two
Fiona: Do you recall how your interest in writing originated?
Yes back in 1967 I won a writing competition in my local paper the Tottenham Herald We had to write about our favorite player in our local football team (soccer) Tottenham Hotspur who had just one the FA Cup here in the UK I wrote about one of the unsung heroes of the team Frank Saul and won the competition.
Fiona: Can you share a little of your current work with us?
My chapter in our charity book Eight ‘Til Christmas is based on my observations at work and this is the sort of thing that will be in the book except of course the book will be again all true stories, like the man who argued with me and told me I was a complete idiot to tell him that water was a liquid as I took it off him at the airport, you are only allowed 100ml and he had a litre bottle of it. Or the story of George Clooney’s PA and my taking the marmite which was oversized of her and her rant and swearing at me, telling me I was a f…… Idiot and what would George say when he found out. You get the idea I hope
Fiona: Is there anything you find particularly challenging in your writing?
Just my memory or rather making sure my memories are accurate, I make notes as incidents at work set up an idea for a chapter for the new book
Fiona: Who is your favorite author and what is it that really strikes you about their work?
Very difficult question as I have such a diverse reading library, but I suppose it would have to be Sir Winston Churchill. Mainly because I am really into my history of the world
Fiona: Do you have to travel much concerning your book(s)?
Only from prison to prison whilst working as a Prison Officer and my book details all the different prisons I worked in
Fiona: Who designed the covers?
It was the publishers Apex Publishing that gave me the cover. And I really liked it as soon as I saw it.
Fiona: What was the hardest part of writing your book?
Thinking of different nicknames to give my former colleagues instead of the ones they actually had and making the new one’s appropriate to the person, for instance we had a colleague whose nickname was mogadone because he was so laid back it was like he was on tranquilizers so I had to think of a different nickname but still meant the same thing so he became Prozac
Fiona: Did you learn anything from writing your book and what was it?
Funnily enough it was the fact that not only could I write, but what I thought was a dull boring career was actually a very funny action packed incident filled daily routine, that (I thought) others might be interested in, I have been totally surprised by the good comments about the book I have received not just from my peers but from everybody who has read it. I also thoroughly enjoyed the whole experience, surreal but enjoyable, never thought it would be.
Fiona: Do you have any advice for other writers?
I never thought I could write a book so my advice would be Do It and when it’s finished you need to re read it and re read it and you can never re read your book enough and get others to read it, you can always find mistakes.
Fiona: Do you have anything specific that you want to say to your readers?
Prison Officers are just ordinary people doing an extraordinary job that many people could not do. We are not there as an easy target for anybody that wants to have a verbal go at us; we are not allowed to defend ourselves. Would you want to work with the dregs of society and still be ostracized for whatever you do? Wow.
Fiona: Do you remember the first book you read?
Yes it would be Enid Blyton’s The Secret Seven Its a children’s adventure book
Fiona: Other than writing do you have any hobbies?
Sport mainly, love eating out and entertaining with good friends and lots of wine.
Fiona: What TV shows/films do you enjoy watching?
In my present job I don’t get a lot of time to watch TV but my favorites are mainly UK based comedies Faulty Towers, Only Fools and Horses, Monty Python. I watch a great film the other day The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel what a great film, Schindlers List, Saving Private Ryan again as long as it has a good story I will like it
Fiona: Favorite foods / Colors/ Music
Oh that is so difficult I love Tapas, Chicken in wine my wife’s cooking, favorite colour is Blue and my musical taste are very diverse ranging from Classical, to Opera, Frank Sinatra to Adela, the Beatles to Oasis, so as you can see I love all music but the lyrics have to be good
Fiona: If you were not a writer what else would you like to have done?
I would have loved to be a professional footballer but never had enough talent
Fiona: Do you have a blog/website?