“If you thought of the guy you know who would be least likely to be a spy, he would be the best man for the job.”
Generations of MP Miles’ family are from the same small town in north Dorset. They were farm workers not farmers, an important distinction in the Blackmore Vale, and the keepers of small shops. Mark was sent thirty miles away to a boarding school, Thomas Hardye’s in Dorchester, but regularly escaped at dead of night, walking home until captured by the police. To give him a fighting chance the school persuaded his parents to send him somewhere closer to home and mysteriously MP Miles sneaked into the local Grammar.
Aged eighteen Mark went to South Africa to stay with a cousin and ended up walking home alone through Africa. The journey through Africa as taken by the boy Ralph in Shelter Rock is exactly the route taken by Mark back in 1982. On his return, Mark joined the British Army but decided it wasn’t for him, although he enjoyed all the walking. It was his own fault. He recoiled like his self-loading rifle from the chummy group camaraderie essential in army life – a little bit of a loner, more squash than rugby.
Returning to his family’s roots MP Miles studied Agriculture in Shropshire for four years. Once described as Harper Adams’ answer to Bob Geldof he became a politically active student; President of the Union and he likes to think notable for representing the students to the college rather than the college to the students.
His first job was shepherd. Back in Dorset Mark happily walked alone up and down the countryside near Dorchester with self-trained sheepdogs, thinking he was Gabriel Oak. A ‘Farmers Weekly’ job advert then took him abroad to the rural Alentejo, a world away from the tourist hotels of the Algarve, to show the Portuguese how to farm sheep and grow vegetables. They were impressed only with his dogs.
MP Miles returned to the UK, initially to the Isle of Wight to grow sweetcorn and garlic but ending up in Cambridgeshire buying the same vegetables from other farmers all around the world and selling them to UK supermarkets. Weird things often happened. Occasionally a man would sit next to him on the Friday night Easyjet and ask him to describe the garlic salesmen he had done business with in Malaga; or a man who worked for a London based vegetable importer that was not in any directory would persistently ask him to go and visit a Turkish leek grower with land inside the perimeter fence of a new military airport, a business trip difficult to explain to his boss as Mark didn’t buy leeks; or a woman in his local pub would smilingly befriend him and was curious about his recent trip through the Israeli desert looking at sweetcorn. All this and more happened to Mark as he travelled around the world buying fresh produce.
Looking for new challenges Mark ran away to sea and became captain of a charter yacht called Pacific Wave, spending his time between home in England and sailing people around the beautiful British Virgin Islands. He wasn’t that busy chartering, which gave him plenty of time to write. Previously, Mark had written book reviews and yacht test reports for sailing magazines. Shelter Rock is MP Miles’ debut novel.
Mark speaks Portuguese, loves to fly small aeroplanes, teaches scuba-diving, and has a Ships Master’s license for global ocean passage making on commercial vessels up to 200 tons. And he writes, and walks a big brown dog called Rum, and writes, and walks, and writes….