Times Online
March 8, 2010

The shadowy world of Andy McNab

He’s the SAS soldier turned bestselling author, and hero to every boy in Britain: but he has never revealed his identity

Next time you’re sitting on a London bus or a Tube train, take a good look at the man sitting next to you because it might just be Andy McNab, one of Britain’s biggest selling authors. His Boy Soldier series has teenagers hanging off his every word — but readers don’t know what he looks like.

Andy McNab isn’t even his real name — it’s a pseudonym.

“I like it because you get the best of both worlds,” says McNab. “I love my Oyster card and go everywhere by Tube. I’ve met people in the limelight and they can’t go shopping or go anywhere by public transport. I can get on with life.”

McNab worked on intelligence-gathering missions as a soldier in Northern Ireland years ago, so if his identity were revealed he and others could be in danger. Writing under a false name can have its funny side. “I once met myself,” says McNab with a laugh. “My wife and I were in a pub and we met a man who said he was Andy McNab. I didn’t let on, of course, and he even bought me a drink!”

McNab’s new book for younger readers is Drop Zone (Doubleday, £10.99 in hardback), a thriller about a teenage boy who gets hooked on the adrenaline rush of skydiving. It’s a subject close to McNab’s heart: he has done about 1,400 skydives as a soldier and skydiving is one of his favourite sports.

The book is filled with nailbiting drama and hard-hitting action, but the author has no doubt that his readers can handle it. “Young people are switched on and you can’t patronise them. Twelve-year-olds are watching the news and programmes such as EastEnders that have their fair share of violence,” he says.

But for McNab, Drop Zone is about more than thrills and spills. When he joined the infantry at 16, he discovered that he had a reading age of 11 — and now he hopes to get every boy in Britain into books, so they don’t find themselves in the same position.

“For me, getting into education was an uphill struggle,” says McNab, who was found abandoned on the steps of a hospital as a baby and adopted. “But once I got it, I realised how important numeracy and literacy are. You need to be able to read, no matter what you’re going to do. Even if you want to be a fantastic footballer like David Beckham, you’ll be given these contracts that are three or four hundred pages long. And if you can’t understand them, you’ll end up opening a Tesco’s every Saturday.”

And with that, Andy McNab slips off into the crowds, anonymous and free as a bird.

Source: Times Online