The Viney Agency


David Downing I grew up in the London suburb of Harrow, then spent four years at Sussex University doing a  BA in Afro-Asian Studies and an MA in International Relations.  Between 1973 and 1976 I worked for one rock magazine and freelanced for several others. In 1974 I travelled overland to India via Iran and Afghanistan.

Between 1975 and 1987 I lived in inner London and my first published book, which grew out of the rock journalism, was Future Rock in 1975.  Since then I have worked as a freelance book writer.  In this period the books mostly alternated between modern culture (rock music and movies) or political/military history, but I also wrote two works of ‘faction’ – the WW2 alternative history The Moscow Option about the forward-looking Russian Revolution 1985.  I made three trips to the Soviet Union.

In 1987 my first real novel – the thriller The Red Eagles - was published in the US.  Over the next six years I was involved in the creation of an environmental centre in north-east London, and undertook two lengthy trips to South and Central America. From 1993 I lived in Boston, Massachusetts with my partner Nancy, who subsequently became my wife.  During five years in America I wrote umpteen SAS/SBS novels for Bloomsbury as David Monnery and a biography of Neil Young.

Since 1998 Nancy and I have lived in Guildford, UK.  I wrote three football books on my return, and then spent several years writing history books for children.  I have written six volumes of the John Russell series of espionage thrillers and a military history, Sealing Their Fate.

David Downing’s Jack of Spies was published to acclaim on both sides of the Atlantic in 2014. The sequel, One Man’s Flag was published in 2015 with the third volume, Lenin’s Roller Coaster published in 2017.

Wedding Station, the seventh volume of the Station series and a prequel to Zoo Station will be published by Soho Press and Old Street in 2020.


His stand-alone spy story The Diary of a Dead Man on Leave will be published by Soho Press in 2019.



Told mostly in the form of a diary, The Diary of a Dead Man on Leave tells the story of Comintern agent Josef Hofmann’s mission to Nazi Germany in 1938.  He has been sent to determine whether there is any possibility of resurrecting elements of the once powerful German Communist party in the strategically important railway town of Hamm.  On arrival he gets a job at the local yard and takes lodgings in a small boarding house run by a young widow.  She has two sons, the older one a member of an anti-Nazi juvenile gang, the younger one in obvious need of a father.

As Hofmann begins his dangerous clandestine work, he reflects on his past life in the Communist movement, on ordinary life in Nazi Germany, and on his own increasing involvement with the people in the house. He develops a particular attachment to the younger son, and when the mother is suddenly whisked off to a concentration camp he assumes responsibility for him and his brother.

As the weeks go by he struggles to reconcile his two lives as a spy and a surrogate father.  Both are fraught.  Re-activating old Communists who may or may not still be loyal to the Party is akin to playing Russian roulette with his own life; on the family front one boy is arrested, the other facing trouble at school.  In the end Hofmann is forced to choose between his mission and them, and after their mother is murdered in prison he resolves to smuggle them out of the country.  Here the journal ends.

Fifty years later it is rediscovered in the wreckage of the demolished boarding house, and the younger boy, now in his sixties, manages to get it published, complete with an account of his and his brother’s escape from Germany, and the price that Josef Hofmann paid to make that possible.

BIBLIOGRAPHY: Lenin's Roller Coaster, (Soho Crime, 2017); One Man's Flag, (Soho Crime, 2015); Jack of Spies, (Old Street/Soho (US) 2013);  Masaryk Station,  Lehrter Station, (Old Street/ Soho (US), 2012/13); Potsdam Station (Old Street and Soho Press, 2010/11); Sealing Their Fate: Twenty-two Days that Decided the Second World War (Simon & Schuster (UK), Da Capo (US), 2009); Stettin Station (Old Street and Soho Pres(US), 2009/10), Silesian Station (Old Street and Soho Pres (US), 2008), Zoo Station (Old Street and Soho Pres (US), 2007;  Republika, (Poland) English v Argentina (Piatkus, 2003; Emecé, 2006); The Best of Enemies: England v Germany (Bloomsbury, 2000), Passovotchka (Bloomsbury, 1999) – history of 1945 Moscow Dynamo tour of UK, Dreamer of Pictures: Neil Young (Bloomsbury, 1994; Da Capo (US); Rittor (Japan); Goldmann (Germany), The Red Eagles (Macmillan (US), 1987), Robert Mitchum (W.H. Allen, 1985), Marlon Brando (W.H. Allen, 1984; Stein & Day (US)), Jack Nicholson (W.H. Allen, 1983; Stein & Day (US)), Russian Revolution 1985 (New English Library, 1983), Robert Redford (W.H. Allen, 1982; St Martins (US)), Charles Bronson (W.H. Allen, 1982), Atlas of Territorial and Border Disputes (New English Library, 1980), Jane Fonda: All-American Anti-Heroine (Omnibus, 1980) (with Gary Herman), The Moscow Option (New English Library, 1979; St Martins (US); Greenhill, 2002), War without End, Peace without Hope: 30 Years of the Arab-Israeli Conflict (New English Library, 1978) (with Gary Herman), Clint Eastwood: All-American Anti-Hero (Omnibus, 1978) (with Gary Herman), The Devil’s Virtuosos: German Generals at War (New English Library, 1977; St Martins (US); Playboy (US)), Future Rock (Panther, 1976).