Saturday, March 29, 2008

Famous Spy Novelist Dies Suddenly

The Raleigh Chronicle 21.MAR.08

Author Andrew Britton with one of his best-selling novels in Raleigh.

DURHAM - Friends, family, and fans mourn the loss of 27 year old spy novelist and military veteran Andrew Britton. Described as "the next Tom Clancy" by some literary critics, his New York Times best-seller books were translated into many languages around the world and his popularity was such that his untimely death was announced on the BBC evening newscast.

According to his family, Andrew was found at his apartment in Durham on Tuesday, after he had apparently passed away from a heart condition that was previously undiagnosed. Britton passed peacably in his sleep, said his mother Annie Nice.

"He just went to sleep and never woke up," she said.

Andrew Britton leaves behind his brother Christopher, his sister Roxanne, his mother Annie Nice, and his girlfriend Valerie, all of whom live in the Raleigh and Durham areas. He also leaves behind many family members in Ireland and Great Britain including his aunt, uncle, grandmother, and two nieces, whom he adored says his family.

A special memorial service will be held at the Unity Church (Longview Center) on Hargett Street next to Moore Square at 2pm on Tuesday March 25th. The family says that there will be a service with a video showing photos, bag-pipes, traditional music, and a celebration of the young man's life.


Before he was known to readers around the world, Andrew's experiences growing up would later contribute to his writing.

Although he was born in Peterborough, England, Andrew grew up in the United States and graduated from Leesville High School in Raleigh.

Right out of high school, Britton joined the United States Army, serving three years with the 1st Engineer Battalion, 1st Devil Brigade of the 1st Infantry Division (mechanized).

"He was so proud to wear the uniform," said his mother. "You could tell that just by looking at him."

During his tour of duty, Britton served at Fort Riley in Kansas and also in Korea. During his military service, Britton developed a camraderie with his fellow soldiers and had unique experiences that helped to contribute to the realism of his books which he would write later, said his mother.

After earning awards for outstanding behavior, Britton was honorably discharged but was on reserve status until 2006.

"He told me he would have gladly gone back [to serve] if they recalled him," said his mother, Ms. Nice.

PHOTO: Andrew Britton serving as a comat engineer. Photo from Britton family.


Although still a young man, Britton knew he wanted to write books for quite some time.

While growing up, his mother introduced him to such fiction writers as Jack Higgins, who wrote "The Eagle Has Landed." The novel, later made into a movie, was set in World War II and was a spy-thriller where German agents were trying to infiltrate Great Britain.

"After that, you couldn't feed him enough books," said his mother. "That was his first bite."

After his US Army service and before he started attending classes at UNC, Andrew worked blue collar jobs to make ends meet, but never complained and thought of others before himself, says his family. Ms. Nice said that even while her son was making $6.50 an hour at a gas station in Durham, he still sent members of his family checks to help them make ends meet.


However, with his love of books and writing, it didn't take long for Andrew to land his first book deal. His first book "The American" was signed in a publishing deal when Andrew was only 21.

The novel about international espionage received good reviews and has now quite literally been printed around the world, translated into Japanese, Arabic, Russian, and other languages. The book was originally a hardback, but has now been published in paperback form as well.

On the heels of that success, Andrew wrote two more books, "The Assassin" and his most recent book "The Invisible." He was working on a fourth novel when he passed away, his family said.

His second book, "The Assassin" was first released in hardback last year and was recently printed in paperback, allowing it to climb all the way into the top 25 books on the New York Times bestseller list. Only a couple of weeks ago, the book was still on the list at number 32.

Critics hailed Andrew as a new face in the espionage-thriller genre, following in the footsteps as such greats as Tom Clancy and even Ian Fleming.

"Like Tom Clancy, [Britton] has produced a thriller that makes current terrorist threats all too real," said the Library Journal in a review of "The Assassin" last year.

"I'm looking forward to more from Britton...he has a knack for incorporating technical detail, from performing makeshift surgery to carrying out a nighttime ambush. And in this age of terrorism, his plots seem to jump straight out of the headlines," said a reviewer for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch newspaper. "He may well give Tom Clancy a run for the money."

His novels thrilled readers with a sense of realism and Andrew took great pains to research details. He wanted to make sure that his novels seemed to jump off the pages into real life for his readers.

"Nothing annoys me more than reading a book that obviously hasn’t been researched at all, especially when the book in question...requires, by its very nature, a thorough understanding of the content," said Andrew in a posted interview on his website.

To gain knowledge for his books, Andrew often traveled to interview people across the globe.

"He loved to read and he loved to travel," said his mother, who said that he especially loved travelling to Ireland where his mother is from and where he still has relatives.

For research on his novels, Andrew also interviewed local law enforcement officers in Raleigh and Wake County, including members of the Wake County Sheriff's Office, who he thanked in one of his forewords. His dedication to his craft made many fans who eagerly awaited his new novels.

"Andrew was a rising star on the literary scene and there was talk of making one of his novels into a movie," said a friend of the family. "He had a knack for putting you there and he had a tremendous talent."

PHOTO: Andrew Britton celebrated the paperback debut of one of his books with family and friends just last week in Raleigh. Photo by The Raleigh Chronicle.


Although his novels had brought Andrew fame and monetary success at early age, people who knew him said he was more of a minimalist, choosing to focus on his family and his love of books. Unlike some young adults who find early success, Andrew didn't go overboard with spending and in fact, his family said he was quite the opposite.

"He hardly had any furniture in his apartment," said Ms. Nice. "It was wall to wall books."

His mother added that Andrew liked nothing better than spending the evening with a book or a movie or hanging out with his brother, sister, mother, and his girlfriend with whom he was all quite close.

"He was always a wonderful son," said his mother. "He was never too old, too manly, or too proud to give you a hug and say 'I love you.'"

Although a quiet man, Andrew also had a sense of humor that everyone in his family seemed to enjoy.

"He had a very dry wit, he was always the story teller," said his mother. Once his mother asked him while he was on a deadline if he was too busy for her to bring over some sausage rolls, which he loved. He texted back that he was not busy anymore.

Andrew was also a very good listener, say his friends, which allowed him to collect people's various experiences and interesting details and use them later in his novels.


Beyond his literary success, everyone who knew Andrew seems to convey that he was, above all, a conscientious man who was always thinking of others. Friends and family say that he always was very concerned with the well-boing of those around him, sometimes even to a fault, and as a result, he was always thought of highly by everyone.

As a testament to the respect for this young man, many people who knew him were flying in from around the United States and even overseas to be with his family and to attend the memorial service next week. The British Broadcasting Company (BBC) even made an announcement on its world-wide newscast that Andrew had passed away, to mourn the loss of the prominent author.

For his immediate family, it was not the loss of Andrew, the world-wide author that hurt them but the passing of the young man behind the novels.

It has been very hard for them to lose Andrew Britton, the young, outstanding gentleman, the quiet warrior who loved those dearly around him.

"It was the hardest thing I've ever had to do," said his mother, about having to tell her other children of Andrew's death.

Although Andrew died at a young age, his family takes solace that they were blessed to know him for 27 years and that he was able to accomplish much during his life.

"He did a lot in his life," said his mother. "He fit a lot in."

For his part, Andrew not only leaves behind his family, friends and fans, but also the characters in his books. Created in Andrew's creative genius, he endowed them with their own existence as they live on in his reader's own imaginations.

"For me, the best part about writing is developing characters; creating life out of thin air. Even if it's just on paper, it's an amazing thing, indescribable, almost," said Andrew in an interview on his website.

"I also enjoy incorporating fiction and real life. I'm always searching for ways to blend fiction and fact, and when it works well, it turns out seamlessly, adding a sense of realism to all aspects of the story. In short, the fiction very nearly becomes fact."

ON THE WEB: Andrew Britton's website

1 comment:

Annie Nice said...

I look at you so alive and vibrant at your last book signing, and I want to be able to reach in and touch you, feel the warmth and joy of that day. No way knowing it was our last. To be able to relive that last hug you give me when you left.To have held onto you even for just a few more minutes that day. We always ended each visit, each call, with a hug a kiss and I love you. I thank God now that we had those moments. I miss and love you so very very much Andrew. I pray that you are happy in your new life and I will see you again.
Love always Mom