SAS hero and author Chris Ryan tells how Sunderland readers made him become a Black Cats fan

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ONE of Britain’s toughest men is a Black Cats fan.

SAS hero-turned-novelist Chris Ryan, who hails from Rowland’s Gill near Gateshead, says his books have proved so popular on Wearside that he’s become an SAFC supporter.

Speaking to the Echo, Chris, who became famous for being the only member of the eight-man SAS mission Bravo Two Zero to escape during the First Gulf War, said: “I don’t get back to the North East as much as I’d like as I spend most of my time in America.

“Between Newcastle and Sunderland, I only get 10 per of the crowd in Newcastle that I get in Sunderland.

“The first time I did a signing at Waterstones in Sunderland, I thought it was going to be a quiet one, but I ended up having to stay an hour later than planned because of queues.

“The publisher couldn’t believe it.

“I’ve been going there for three or four years, and I’m a SAFC fan now because of the response I get.”

Chris, will be heading back to Sunderland next month for a book signing to coincide with his new release, Masters of War.

Set against the backdrop of war-ravaged Syria, it introduces a new series character – SAS trooper Danny Black.

Chris, who crossed the Iraqi border into Syria to avoid capture during the Gulf War, said: “I had a meeting with the publisher last year, and we had a discussion about where to set it, and Syria came up because of the conflict there.

“The most difficult thing in writing these books is getting the timing right. Because of the nature of the genre, if that conflict had come to an end after a month, the book would be dated. But from my experience of being in that country, I knew it wouldn’t be over that quickly.”

Chris wrote about his experiences in the bestseller The One That Got Away and, since then, has written three other works of non-fiction, 17 bestselling novels and a series of children’s books.

Speaking about his latest character, he said: “The publishers wanted a new character who could possibly run for four novels. So I made him a young guy with a back story and set him up.

“Danny Black starts off as a clean-cut hero, but as time goes on I want him to become disillusioned with the system.

“When you think of Tony Soprano, he’s a despicable gangster, but you feel sorry for him. That’s what I try to achieve with these characters. He may be morally corrupt, but at the end of the day, he does what he does for the better.

“He starts off as a young naive soldier and then becomes darker.”

Chris was awarded the Military Medal for his involvement in the longest escape and evasion in the history of the SAS.

But the 52-year-old, who now juggles writing with being a bodyguard, says he doesn’t miss military life.

“It was my time to leave,” he said. “I don’t miss it, especially after these past two campaigns. My youngest brother is still in the Army, and for him and his colleagues, it’s been 15 years plus for them. The tours the infantry are doing are pretty tough.”

l Masters of War by Chris Ryan is published by Coronet on August 29, priced £18.99.

Chris will be signing copies at Waterstones, The Bridges, at 4pm on Tuesday, September 3.