Smirnoff I Used to be a very civil servant

How retirement feels

Leigh Turner
Leigh Turner

How retirement feels: writing full time may not be for everyone. But it can be a relief, as well as offering unexpected opportunities and challenges.

‘So,’ the glamorous woman asks me. ‘What do you do?’

‘I’m a writer based in Vienna, London and Amsterdam,’ I say.

‘Oh.’ She looks at me blankly and walks off.

The leading gallery director standing with me grins. ‘That was a cool reply you gave, not mentioning that you were the British ambassador until a few months ago,’ she says. ‘But you see the result. No-one’s interested in the arts.’

I collected daft ads in the ’70s and framed this one after I joined the Foreign Office in 1983

Retirement to write full time

Retiring to write full time, after decades as a diplomat and an ambassador, reminds me a bit of when I stopped work to look after the children from 2002 to 2006 (links in bold italics are to other posts on this site). The typical British ambassador or diplomat benefits from an assumption of mysterious brilliance, based on the nebulous genius of his or her predecessors over the centuries.

Step out of the system and those benevolent assumptions evaporate. It’s a bit disconcerting.

But who wants to introduce themselves with “I used to be”?

Post-diplomatic life?

Based on the first week after retirement, I note:

  • It’s good not to be on call 24/7. I have mixed feelings about removing from my wallet the First 15 minutes Crisis Leader Checklist that has nestled there, often disturbed, since 2008. But on balance, it’s a relief;
  • As illustrated by the chilling yet fascinating Alan Clark Diaries, being retired does not necessarily mean you have a lot of extra time spare;
  • I miss my brilliant colleagues. British civil servants and diplomats don’t get a great press but many of them are wise, stimulating and cool;
  • So far, many people are inviting me to do interesting things over the coming months. The extent to which this continues will be a key variable.

For reflections on my decades as a diplomat, see my “Diplomatic lessons” posts on LinkedIn.

How retirement feels: next steps

Many thrilling tasks loom:

(i) first priority is to complete the editing process for my new Istanbul thriller PALLADIUM, to be published by Immortal Works in the US in May 2022. I completed this week what may or may not be the final proofread. I’ll be talking more about PALLADIUM over the months ahead (I completed this job in September);

(ii) I am revising my sci-fi thriller CORONA CRIME. I’ve had some great feedback. A (very) top politician told me it was the best and most entertaining analysis of the unsustainability of capitalism and inequality he’d ever read. Several others called it a gripping thriller. But some told me the title was off-putting after the ghastliness of COVID, which the novel is not about. (I completed a thorough revision in November, and republished it as Eternal Life – my first book under my own name);

(iii) my three “Angus” novels await completion. This suite of stories about hopeless British diplomat Angus Fairfax, and his incredibly high-achieving British diplomat wife Rosie Lewis is set against a background of contemporary British political life. I have completed the first two novels, set mainly in London, Cologne, Dresden and Berlin. The third, set in Vienna, is a work in progress. Again, I expect to be talking more about these novels over the next year or two;

(iv) I have a new, exciting commission to write a punchy, fun book called “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to Diplomacy”. More on that later;

(v) I shall keep up this blog. Please subscribe (a form is at the bottom of the page) if you have not yet done so!

Robert Pimm or Leigh Turner?

I introduced my pseudonym of “Robert Pimm” in 2014 to separate out more clearly my professional and writing personas. That requirement has lapsed with my retirement. Choices are:

(i) to keep Robert Pimm as my writing name;

(ii) or keep Robert Pimm as my writing name for existing books, but publish new books under Leigh Turner – or R Leigh Turner to distinguish myself from another Leigh Turner who has published an erotic book on Amazon;

(iii) I could use Robert Pimm for thrillers and Hotel Stories but use R Leigh Turner for the Angus novels;

(iv) or I could change everything to Leigh Turner, or R Leigh Turner.

Following lots of suggestions, I am converting my writing persona to “Leigh Turner”.

How retirement feels: books so far

To explore all the books I have published so far, do explore my Amazon Author Pages:

US: Amazon Author Page US

UK: Amazon Author Page UK

Austria/Germany: Amazon Author Page Austria/Germany

Don’t ask me why the books on each page are in the (inconsistent) order they are. Ask Amazon.

Write a review

If you have read any of my books, do write a short review. I’m keen to reach 50 reviews per book – nearly there with Blood Summit!

Listen to the podcast

You can get a good sense of how retirement feels by listening to my podcasts here, or on your Apple or Spotify account. Do sign up to hear future podcasts!


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7 Responses

  1. Hi
    Congratulations on joining the ‘I used to be’s’. Welcome to the the new world without status.
    I would not change the name from pseudonym because Robert Pimm has already made himself a name in the literary world. This person is kind of mysterious and suggests that there is someone else behind it. Unless of course you want to be mistaken for that Lee Turner with the erotic book on Amazon and boost his sales by mistake. R Leigh Turner is American so pls think about the consequences of being invited on a book tour to the US!
    Good luck
    Maria from the Reding Circle; Innsbruck

    1. Dear Maria,

      Lovely to hear from you! I have been thinking I should do another reading in Innsbruck, before the lockdown struck. But perhaps in the New Year? Best wishes,


  2. Congratulations on your retirement, or should I say welcome to the next phase of your life – as a full time author. You have a very strong and loyal following as Robert Pimm, so I would stick with that. You are right that it there is an unfortunate connection with Leigh Turner; I’ve never come across his books, but the genre sounds to be awful! Simply adding an ‘R’ in front of his name might not be sufficient to distance you from his work. I look forward to reading your blogs and your books. All best wishes for the future.

  3. Saw you on IM ZENTRUM this evening. Interesting discussion. I also live in Austria, but only wish I could speak German as well as you do!

    Did you ever get to Tristan da Cunha and Pitcairn during your time looking after the British Overseas Territories? I’ve been to both.

    Until the arrival of Covid, travel (combined with amateur radio) was my main interest, with 180 countries visited, including nearly all the BoTs, with the exception, of course, of Chagos!

    Best wishes,

    Nigel Cawthorne

    1. Dear Nigel,

      Glad you liked the Im Zentrum discussion. I’m jealous of you having visited Pitcairn and Tristan – never been to either. I did get to BIOT, though.

      All best and other comments on the blogs always welcome.


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