Robert Wilson: Why I Wrote Stealing People

Robert Wilson, author of the acclaimed Charles Boxer novels, relates how his wife’s battle with cancer influenced the latest in the series, Stealing People.

I wrote Stealing People in a state of wanting to live more than ever before in my life. It came after a nine-month break from work after looking after my wife who died from leukemia. Watching her battle for life was a powerful inspiration. I’d asked her if there was anything she wanted me to do for her and she’d said, simply: ‘Keep writing.’ So I did.

The book was written at a time when inequality was widening at an alarming rate. Graphs were being posted daily showing what people thought was the state of the poor, the middle class and the rich while others showed the frightening reality. More people were falling into poverty, the middle was being painfully squeezed, while the wealth amassed by a few was burgeoning astronomically. I also discovered that London had the largest number of billionaires of any city in the world.

I hit on the idea of reversing these roles and putting the extremely rich in the disempowered state of the utterly poor. So I arranged for six children of very wealthy people from all over the world to be kidnapped in London over a thirty-two hour period. The kidnappers didn’t ask for a ransom they asked merely for ‘expenses’, but these ‘expenses’ amounted to £150 million.

As the kidnap unfolds my hero, Charles Boxer, who, as well as being a kidnap consultant, also runs a foundation for finding missing persons, is asked by a woman to find her father who has gone missing in London.

Meanwhile the most powerful member of this wealthy group of parents, head of an American company called Kinderman, has, through his connections, been able to appoint their own man, Ryder Forsyth, to act as consultant in the multiple kidnap.

Boxer’s ex-partner, Mercy Danquah, of the Met Kidnap Unit, is given the task of coordinating the Special Investigation around the multiple kidnaps. She discovers that Boxer and Forsyth used to be in the army together. She also establishes a link between the kidnaps and Boxer’s missing man. This brings Boxer’s talents and an enviable freedom from the constraints of the authorities to the game. The result is a fast-paced thriller with plenty of twists and turns from which no-one emerges unscathed.


Robert Wilson has lived and worked around the world, including spells in shipbroking, tour-guiding and exporting bathrooms to Nigeria. Eventually he settled in Portugal and turned to writing novels. Since then, he’s written many acclaimed crime novels including the CWA Gold Dagger award-winning A Small Death in Lisbon and the Falcón series, recently adapted for television. His first novel featuring Charlie Boxer, Capital Punishment, was shortlisted for the CWA Ian Fleming Steel Dagger award and his latest in the Charlie Boxer series, Stealing People, is out now. Find out more at Robert Wilson’s website or follow him on Twitter.