Thomas studied Modern Languages at Oxford University and holds a Postgraduate Diploma in Law from City University, London. His first novel in the lawyer Spike Sanguinetti series set on Gibraltar, Shadow of the Rock, was shortlisted for a Dagger award in the UK for best new crime writer of 2013. The sequel, Sign of the Cross, was shortlisted for the eDunnit award in 2014. The third, Hollow Mountain, was published in the UK in April, and has already been called 'a classic detective story' by The Sunday Times. Thomas lives with his family in London. www.thomasmogford.com, #ThomasMogford
Welcome, Thomas. And thank you.
‘As safe as the Rock of Gibraltar’ – or so the saying goes. For centuries Gibraltar has been a symbol of impregnable strength, its silhouette still used today as the logo for one of the largest American insurance companies.
But the strange truth is that the Rock of Gibraltar is not solid at all. Its Latin name is ‘Mons Calpe’, ‘Hollow Mountain’, as its interior is honeycombed by hundreds of natural passageways and caves. One of these, Lower St Michael’s, is so large it contains an underground lake, which the Romans associated with Charon the ferryman, believing that Gibraltar marked the entrance to Hell. Interlinking these caves are thirty-three miles of hand-bored tunnels, built to provide defence against the besieging Spanish. There are more miles of road inside the Rock of Gibraltar than out. In World War II, further caves were constructed inside the Rock to house the entire civilian population should Hitler decide to invade (he didn’t – his greatest tactical mistake, according to Goering). Hospitals, bakeries and warehouses lie eerily rotting inside. The mighty 1400-foot high limestone mountain has a hollow belly.
What about the military? The sight of the Rock as you approach could hardly be more pugnacious – rearing like a lion against the Strait of Gibraltar and the flat Spanish plains beyond. Comprising just two and a half-square miles – the same size as Hyde Park in London – but as tight and compact as a prize-fighter. The flanks of its bone-coloured limestone are pockmarked with cannon embrasures; the street names of the city which clings to its side bristle with military history – Horse Barrack Lane, Devil’s Tower Road, Casemates Square. On closer inspection, though, the barracks and depots have been converted into offices and luxury apartments. The King’s Bastion that once protected the seaward approach to the Rock is now a leisure centre, complete with bowling lanes and ice rink. Since the end of the Cold War, the military have scaled down, and Gibraltar has had to find income from other sources. Taxes have been lowered, high finance has arrived, and the city now swarms with lawyers, hedge fund managers and online gaming firms.