It was a signpost that gave me the idea – and the title – for this book. I was researching The Loop and had just spent a long day radio tracking wolves with a wildlife biologist friend. I saw a sign on the righthand side of the road that said simply Smokejumpers. At the time I didn’t know anything about these real life heroes who parachute out of aeroplanes to fight wild forest fires. I went back to Montana the following year and got to know them.
Meanwhile the story had brewed. Some years earlier I had made a documentary film about the great movie director David Lean (Bridge on the River Kwai, Lawrence of Arabia, Dr Zhivago). In the last decade of his life he became a friend and mentor and it was he who gave me the courage to start writing fiction. I wanted to write the kind of story that might have appealed to him: a kind of epic story of love and friendship and old fashioned honour. The Smoke Jumper tells the story of two friends who both love the same woman. It’s about wading through the flames to find your heart’s desire.