No Ordinary Day by Matt Johnson (with John Murray)

Writing.ie | Magazine | Interviews | Memoir | Non-Fiction
No Ordinary Day

By Matt Johnson

Matt Johnson on the writing of his explosive new book, No Ordinary Day . . .

On 17th April 1984, I was a police officer driving a traffic car in central London when I was sent to escort an ambulance from Charles II Street to Westminster Hospital. Although I was unaware of it at the time, that ambulance contained two friends of mine, WPC Yvonne Fletcher and PC John Murray.

Many will recall the shooting of Yvonne Fletcher as one of the greatest tragedies in UK policing history. It was followed by the longest siege and one of the greatest mysteries: why were her killers allowed to go free?

The idea behind this book came about a few years ago when I was invited to meet former colleagues to record a programme for the Victoria Derbyshire show. John Murray, the former PC who held Yvonne as she lay dying and who promised her he would not rest until he’d achieved justice for her, had been campaigning for over three decades to have her killers brought to justice. John was a fan of my novels and was aware I had dedicated my first, Wicked Game, to Yvonne’s memory. During the day, we visited Yvonne’s grave at Semley Church and it was on the train that the idea of a book was first muted. I agreed that I would try and, although I knew it would probably be the toughest writing challenge I had ever undertaken, I began almost as soon as I arrived home.

I soon began to realise I was in uncharted territory, exploring and researching a subject that would take me into the dark world of our secret services and the equally duplicitous world of UK politics. To begin, I conducted interviews with people who had been present on the day of the shooting and this led to invitations to meet with others who had been involved in the siege and subsequent criminal enquiry. I spoke to journalists, former members of the secret service – including cream-tea with John Le Carré in his home in Cornwall – and others who suggested avenues of research they thought might prove productive. Many, but not all, were prepared to talk, particularly when they learned of my connection to Yvonne. My best witness, by far, was John Murray himself. I found him to be modest, self-effacing and humble but, at the same time, determined and very, very brave. His is a story of sacrifice and loyalty to a friend, and to that promise he made to her is an incredible one.

Over the next two years, a complicated picture began to emerge that revealed a story far more complicated, and sinister, than I had expected. I spent many hours at the National Archives viewing and reading Government papers, telex messages, records of meetings and other documents that I followed with several Freedom of Information requests, all of which were delayed and challenging to progress. Eventually, I realised I had something in my hands I felt was worthy of being read.

When I first outlined the story to Broo Doherty, my literary agent, I saw her jaw visibly drop as I outlined the secrets I had discovered and the reality of what had been going on behind the scenes in the UK of the 1980s and 90s, and how the aftermath of the Libyan Embassy siege had, effectively changed our Secret Services and shaped the future of UK policing for the next four decades. We realised this was a significant story that would need to be handled by a publisher with the skill to do so. Tentative enquiries with publishers soon produced a result, but it was not the one expected. An executive producer from TV production company was interested. He asked for a copy of the manuscript, it was sent, and within a short time the TV/Film rights were sold, even before the book rights. Not long after that, I was introduced to Duncan Proudfoot from Ad Lib publishers and we knew then we had found the right home for the book.

And now No Ordinary Day is out there. It is a story that has been described by Lee Child as ‘An important book, especially now – both an intensely personal story, and a sober analysis of a political scandal’ For some, it will be a very uncomfortable read. For many, it may confirm what they already suspect, that we, the public, know very little of the decisions being made by our elected representatives and the actions taken by official bodies, supposedly in our best interests. Professor John Grieve CBE, former head of the Anti-Terrorist Squad described it as ‘a clever book, beautifully written.’

17th April 1984 was no ordinary day. It was a day that changed the future of UK policing, and not for the better. Having read this book, you will understand how UK policing arrived at the place it finds itself today. And only by understanding history will those charged with re-building our police service recognise the mistakes made and have the knowledge to ensure they are not repeated.

(c) Matt Johnson

About No Ordinary Day:
No Ordinary Day

On 17 April 1984, as demonstrators gathered outside the Libyan embassy in London, two gunmen lay in wait inside. At 10.18 a.m. automatic gunfire rained down on the protestors and WPC Yvonne Fletcher fell, mortally wounded.

As his friend lay dying, PC John Murray made her a promise that he would not rest until those responsible had been brought to justice. Thirty-seven years would pass before he was able to fulfil that undertaking.

While researching this moving account of one man’s dogged pursuit of justice for a murdered colleague, Matt Johnson uncovered secret-service deals and government duplicity, all part of a plan to force an end to the National Union of Mineworkers’ strike. He discovered the real reason Yvonne’s killers were allowed to go free and how events that day led to thirty years of growing political control of policing, resulting in the disarray increasingly evident today.

This compelling account pulls seemingly unconnected threads into a coherent – and shocking – whole. It provides startling insights into how decisions taken by our politicians and the actions of our intelligence agencies, supposedly in our best interests, may be anything but.

Behind one of the greatest tragedies in UK policing history lies an incredible political scandal
‘An important book, especially now’
Lee Child

‘Espionage, betrayal, terrorism, corruption and murder. All the ingredients of a Le Carré novel, only it’s real’ Matthew Hall

‘A powerful and timely account’ John Sutherland

Order your copy online here.

About the author

Matt Johnson served for twenty-five years, first as a soldier then as an officer in the Metropolitan Police. Forced to retire as a result of PTSD, while undergoing treatment Matt was encouraged to write as part of his therapy. The result was his 2016 debut novel, Wicked Game, which was nominated for a Crime Writers’ Association Dagger Award. This was followed by Deadly Game and End Game. Matt’s fourth novel, Crow 27, was published in late 2022. No Ordinary Day is his first non-fiction book.

Retired police officer John Murray worked closely with Yvonne Fletcher and held her as she lay dying. For 37 years he has campaigned and fought resolutely to bring her killer to justice.

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