News room: CompletelyNovel Elevator Pitch: Tony Judge

CompletelyNovel Elevator Pitch: Tony Judge by Anna Lewis

We’re now up to the forth instalment in our Elevator Pitch series. We took to the elevator with writer Tony Judge who has published Sirocco Express on CompletelyNovel. The idea is you have just a couple of minutes to get over the essentials of your book and sell it to the publisher standing in the elevator next to you. Let’s see how Tony gets on!

COMPLETELYNOVEL: Sell us your book! Can you give us a couple of sentences to sum up the plot of your book that will make us want to hear more?

TONY JUDGE: Adebayo, a young Nigerian man, leaves his home in Lagos to travel across the desert to Europe, in company with people smugglers and fellow migrants. Death is always close at hand: in the desert, on the Mediterranean in small overcrowded boats, jumping onto moving trains.

CN: Who is the main character?

TONY: The main character of Sirocco Express is Adebayo, a young Nigerian student. I have tried
to write him as an Everyman character, inviting readers to imagine how they might react
to the many extreme situations he experiences.

CN: What category would you put your book into ?

TONY: I’m happy to call Sirocco Express general fiction, but it also contains strong elements of
other genres such as literary fiction, crime and travel writing.

CN: What makes your book unique?

TONY: It takes an unsentimental and apolitical view of people who are generally regarded either as monsters or victims. If you tell someone’s story, it helps to de-categorise them. I read so many reports of African migrants arriving at holding camps on the North African coast, or washed up dead on Spanish beaches. As a writer, how could I resist such a wealth of, albeit tragic, stories? Although Adebayo hopes to find work in Europe to help support his family, his principal motivations are curiosity, derived from his wide reading in English literature, and a sense of adventure.

CN: Can you name any other authors or books with an audience who would be likely to enjoy reading your book?

TONY: I hope it appeals to a wide readership, but writers and works that spring to mind are: Khaled Hosseini (The Kite Runner), Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie (Half of a Yellow Sun), Dave Eggers (What is the What), Åsne Seierstad (The Bookseller of Kabul), Chinua Achebe (Things Fall Apart), and anyone who enjoys immersive travel writers such as Wilfred Thesiger and Eric Newby.

CN: What experience do you have when it comes to writing – is this your first book?

TONY: I have written various forms of non-fiction for a living over the past ten years, analysing developments in telecommunications and the internet. Sirocco Express is my first novel. I recently completed a second novel, The Whole Rotten Edifice, which is historical fiction based on the Eastern Front during WWII. I’m currently working on a novella, satirising English country life. I think it’s fair to say that I’m not committed to a particular genre.
I’m a member of the UK Society of Authors.

CN: Have you done any marketing for your book so far?

TONY: I’ve sent my books out for review and had articles about my writing in the local press. Recently, I’ve begun exploring opportunities to do readings. I appeared with some writer friends at the Ledbury, UK Poetry Festival in July this year. I’ve also made some steps into social networking. Sirocco Express has been in the top 50 on the Authonomy site for nearly a year now. I’ve just set up Facebook groups, one for each of my novels, and I’ll soon be pestering online friends to support them. I’ve also tried to push my work into as many other online channels as possible.

CN: Have you had any feedback from readers?

TONY: Sirocco Express has had some excellent, mainly five-star, Amazon reviews (and, no, I didn’t write them!). Readers generally get caught up in Adebayo’s perilous progress across West Africa and Europe. The phrase ‘a page turner’ has often cropped up. I’ve also had compliments on the descriptive passages and the poetic elements of the prose.

CN: Anything else we should know about your book?

TONY: I was concerned that African readers, Nigerians in particular, would question the authenticity of a white English guy writing about a group of black Africans engaged in an illegal endeavour. One of my main concerns was to avoid any element of stereotyping. To date, the West Africans who have read Sirocco Express have commented positively on the setting and characters.

CN: Finally, what is your favourite book?

TONY: Catch 22 by Joseph Heller. It says so much about the absurdity of large organisations and the emotional conjuring tricks that individuals must perform to stay sane in the face of the collective insanity of war. And it’s so darned funny.

CN: Thanks very much Tony! We wish you the very best of luck for Sirocco Express and congratulations on all the good feedback!

Pitch your book on

If you would like to try your hand at an elevator pitch, please email with ‘Elevator pitch’ in the subject line and remember to include a link to your website or page on
You can take a look at our previous Elevator Pitches from Alan Baker, Katherine Dixson and Richard Denning.
If you’re trying to get published, we’d love to hear you pitch your book!

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Written by
Anna Lewis
Published on
Tony judge, Elevator pitch, and Nigeria