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The Last Line: Debut Noir Thriller

The Last Line, a debut noir thriller by Stephen Ronson

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The Last Line by Stephen Ronson

The Last Line


England, 1940: Sometimes the Greatest Threat Lies Closest To Home.

In Britain’s darkest hour a veteran left behind from the fighting discovers evacuee children haven’t been arriving at their destinations.

May 1940. With Nazi forces sweeping across France, the English Channel has never felt so narrow. But even as the foreign threat looms, it’s rumours of a missing child that are troubling John Cook. A 12-year-old girl was evacuated from London and never seen again, and she’s just the tip of the iceberg – countless evacuees haven’t made it to their host families.

As Cook investigates, he uncovers a dark conspiracy that reaches to the highest ranks of society. He will do whatever it takes to make the culprits pay.

There are some lines you just don’t cross.

To purchase The Last Line, click the following link: Amazon UK — Available soon in the US.

Author of The Last Line, Stephen Ronson

The Last Line is set in 1940. What drew you to that era for your debut thriller?

I’m fascinated by the second world war, especially the early days of it when Hitler was sweeping unopposed across Europe.

When I grew up in the 70s, it was in living memory for so many of the adults, yet in many ways it was a completely different era. Horses were still used just as much as cars. Most people didn’t have electricity, or phones, or fridges. It was really the war that accelerated so much of what we came to know of as ‘modern’.

The war is also one of those few times we can look back to and know that there was an unambiguous sense of ‘right and wrong’.

The Last Line is a noir thriller, what does that genre mean to you?

Noir for me is a book or film where the rules of civilization are seen to be only paper thin.

The hero will likely have to inhabit the underworld, break some laws, break even their own sense of morality, in order to get the job done. I’m a big fan of modern noir. S.A. Cosby is probably the master of the genre, and I love reading the worlds he creates and the character that inhabit those world. I’ve tried to do the same with my book, in that you’ve got a man who disregards the law, who kills people who need killing, and risks his own soul in the process, but ultimately works to his own, very real, sense of morality.

John Cook, my hero, is a man with a strong sense of right and wrong.


The Last Line is set in Sussex, tell us about that environment in 1940. How has it changed in the intervening years?

Sussex was, and still is, a rural county. Stand on top of the South Downs and look north towards London and all you can see is green – fields and trees. Turn around and look the other way, and the English Channel is a very thin ribbon of water separating England from mainland Europe. During the early days of the war, you could hear artillery booming in the distance.

In 1940, when Hitler reached the French coast, and Britain’s army was evacuated from Dunkirk, the south east of England was expected to be the invasion zone. Everyone who lived there expected German Panzers to be rolling up their street in a matter of days.

Even though that’s a long time ago, the history is still there. Walk in the fields and you’ll still find pill boxes – concrete gun emplacements built to defend against the invasion. There’s still graffiti from US troops, who massed in the county as they waited for D-Day.


You live part time in Vermont and part time Sussex – what do you love most about both places? How did you end up crossing the pond?

Both places are the best of both worlds, rural but with easy access to great cities. And they’re easy to get between – a quick drive to Boston and a quick flight and I can be in Sussex.

I came to New England to study at Dartmouth College and loved it. Later on, I had the chance to come back and work there, and jumped at the chance. For somebody who grew up in ‘Old England’, ‘New England’s similar but there’s more open space, more wilderness. I’ve turned into a weekend woodsman, and can be found messing around with a chainsaw or splitting logs. It’s not something you can do so easily in England.

But I still make sure I get back to England regularly, every two or three months, to see friends, family, and get inspired for the next books in the John Cook series.

What’s your routine for writing?

For the longest time, I wanted to write a novel but didn’t get stuck into it. I felt like I needed a large chunk of time, like the author in Misery, hiding away in a log cabin for weeks or months.

A couple of years ago I realized that time would never come, so I made myself a promise – I’ll sit down to write every day, for 20 minutes. No exceptions. No excuses. Well, I managed to stick to it, and really found a great sense of achievement, watching the words pile up. Six months later I had a first draft.

Words of Wisdom for Aspiring Writers

Get it done. The things that separates authors from wannabe authors is the authors got it done.

Once it’s done, you can edit it, you can workshop it, you can see if agents or publishers want it, and you can throw it away if you want to and write the next one. You can’t do any of that until you’ve put yourself in the chair and typed the words, one after the other, all the way to ‘The End.’

When I first got to those words, I cried. I’d wanted it so badly for my whole life and yet I’d waited until I was 49 years old to actually do it. If I had a magic wand, I’d go back and start earlier.

Author of The Last Line Stephen Ronson

Stephen Ronson grew up in Sussex and worked in TV for many years on series for Discovery and UK broadcasters.
He has recently moved to Vermont and works at Dartmouth College.

To learn more about Stephen and his debut, click on any of the following links: Website, X, Instagram.


Elena Taylor/Elena Hartwell

Eddie Shoes

Header Image by Thomas Rüdesheim from Pixabay

Elena Hartwell

Author and developmental editor.

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