Henry Porter tells Andrew Ffrench how he longed to write a novel set in Berlin after watching the infamous Wall being demolished.

When Henry Porter and Andrew Morgan were starting out as reporters on Merseyside in the mid-1970s, they shared a flat in Toxteth, one of the toughest places in Liverpool to get a story.

Now, more than three decades on, both still work as journalists, and Porter has started an impressive second career as an author of spy novels.

Morgan lives in Wootton village near Woodstock, where a project is under way to revamp the village hall, and he has asked his old flat-mate to help with the fundraising by giving a talk about writing thrillers.

Last year, Morgan and other villagers came up with the idea of staging a series of talks, and he has used his connections to help line up a stellar cast of guests to appear in the next few months.

They include Mark Damazer, controller of Radio 4, Ian Ritchie, chief executive of the All England Lawn Tennis Club, and Lord Howe.

The idea has already proved a success, with a well-received talk by Boris Rankov, professor of ancient history at the University of London, who spoke last month about the construction and trials of a Greek wooden warship.

On January 23, it will be Porter's turn at the village hall, and he told The Guide he was looking forward to the opportunity to meet his readers in a slightly unusual location.

Speaking from his home in the capital, Porter – who is also the London editor of Vanity Fair – said: “I haven't written the talk yet, but I expect I will be speaking about how you can blend fact and fiction when you write adult fiction.

“My adult novels do have a great deal of reporting in them.

“I was there when the Berlin Wall came down 20 years ago, and I was always dying to write about what I saw, which is how the novel Brandenburg came about.

“At the time I was in my thirties, thinking ‘I am actually watching history’.

“I found it was a very moving story, that question of what happened to East Germany for 40 years – it was the continuation of a dictatorship.

“The most moving thing was seeing the sheer delight of people as they walk though Checkpoint Charlie on that night.

“People were moving from dark into the light and I shall never forget it.”

Porter says he spent a ‘fantastic amount of time’ for Brandenburg finding out how the Stasi operated – right down to the finer details of how cactii were placed in the windows of interrogation cells, with lino on the floor.

The heart-rending attempts of Dr Rudi Rosenharte to save his brother from the clutches of the Stasi are so convincing that Brandenburg won the Ian Fleming Steel Dagger for best thriller.

His other spy thrillers are Remembrance Day, A Spy's Life and Empire State, and last year the author added to his repertoire with a children's story, The Master of the Fallen Chairs.

Porter spoke to The Guide on the day he finished revising his latest novel, which may be called Deep Truth.

The first instalment of a trilogy, this time the story is set in Britain in the near future, and is due out in the autumn.

Deep Truth is not a radical dystopian vision like Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four, explains Porter, but it does examine the issues of civil liberties our nation will face in a few years' time.

Porter has his own website which monitors the erosion of civil liberties and, like the award-winning Brandenburg, one of the key themes of Deep Truth is certain to be our freedom.

l Henry Porter is appearing at Wootton-by-Woodstock village hall on Friday, January 23, at 7.30pm. For tickets costing £5, telephone 01993 810937 or 07966 286487. See also www.woottontalks.co.uk