Most writers can name a particular author who inspired them to write, but I owe a great debt to Robert Vaughn and David McCallum as Napoleon Solo and Ilya Kuryakin in The Man from U.N.C.L.E. Pitched somewhere between James Bond and The Avengers, the show had style and sophistication, due largely to its stars, who could talk into pens rather than write with them, escape killer foam or prevent baddies melting the polar ice-caps as if it was all perfectly plausible. My favourite was Robert Vaughn's suave, unflappable Napoleon Solo. There was never any doubt in my mind that he was the eponymous 'Man' and not his sidekick, and I was so sad to hear of his death on 11th November.
    When I was 11 years old, I wanted to be an U.N.C.L.E. agent, but failing that I invented my own secret organisation of female spies called M.I.S.S. (Master Intelligence Society against Sin, which sounds more like a religious sect to me now), who saved the world from the dastardly B.L.O.W. (Biggest Law Obliterators in the World) in a series of stories. I found them recently, and I'm glad to say my writing's improved since then, although I still harbour an ambition to be a super-spy in my imagination.
    Of course, Robert Vaughn had a successful career before U.N.C.L.E. and gained another huge following with TV series such as Hustle. He could play a good guy or a villain, a hero or a coward with equal credibility. His portrayal of a character always added extra dimensions–remember his gunfighter who had lost his nerve in The Magnificent Seven?
    Without Robert Vaughn's portrayal of Napoleon Solo, I might never have thought of myself as a writer. I might never have written the immortal lines: 'I'm sorry to disappoint you, but you'll have to die.' or 'Oh, Lor! The whole world's future depends on me!' Maybe I'd better leave this there. Good-bye Robert Vaughn, and thanks for everything.