Tade Thompson: The Nigerian Crime Thrilling Writer At Dawn And A Medical Doctor By Day

by Duke Magazine

Tade Thompson is a Nigerian-born medical doctor who writes crime thrillers, science fiction, and fantasy that have received huge reviews and prizes. To maintain his full-time job as a hospital psychiatrist, Thompson writes in the early hours.

Asked how he juggles so much, he said: “Very strict time-management.” But he cannot imagine leaving medicine: “The hospital work is a calling. I help people.” He wakes up at 5am, writes for about an hour before going to the hospital, and then resumes writing late at night.

Thompson has been described as one of the most talented sci-fi and thriller writers, whose narratives emphasize solely on identity, alienation, one’s place in the world, and being one’s own worst enemy.

“He never writes straight genre, he bends it, always subverting things. Is what we’re reading true or not?” Luke Speed, his film and TV agent at Curtis Brown said.

His writing reflects his interest in people. “If you’re writing science-fiction, often people are expecting astronomy and space ships,” he said. “I’m more interested in the human being who has to go up in a rocket. What does the loneliness do to him? How does he keep his head together while he’s in orbit? What really interests me are human emotions.”

Born in London, Thompson grew up in Nigeria. He returned to the UK in 1998. He studied medicine and social anthropology in both countries, before specializing in psychiatry in the UK.

His love for reading and writing started at a tender age, probably owing to the fact that he had access to books from his father’s library. His father was a lawyer. At age 14, Thompson reportedly wrote a James Bond pastiche, which his classmates enjoyed, and he found himself trying to write novels.

Image credit: Fictitious Podcast

He submitted a crime novel to a small US publisher, winning an award and recognition that led to major publishers acquiring the rights to his earlier books. In 2019, Thompson won the UK’s most prestigious prize for science fiction novels, the Arthur C Clarke award for his sci-fi novel “Rosewater”.

Rosewater is a part of a trilogy set in a mid-2060s Nigeria, where alien animals and bacteria are unleashed. It also won the Nommo Award, and was a finalist for the John W. Campbell Award.

His Molly Southbourne novellas, a nightmarish psychological story about a girl who, when she bleeds, creates duplicates of herself who want to kill her is on its way to being transformed into a multi-season television series in collaboration with Netflix, and Thompson is executive producing it.

According to The Guardian, Thompson is developing a revenge thriller with the actor, Dev Patel based on ‘The Apologists’, his sci-fi short story about aliens who accidentally destroyed the human race. 

Also, ‘Making Wolf’, his novel about a London supermarket store-detective who returns to his West African home country and pretends at a party to be a successful homicide detective only to find himself having to investigate an actual murder is being made for Sky. Making Wolf is a Kitschies Golden Tentacle Award-winning novel.

Even while working at Portsmouth’s St James’ hospital where he specializes in mental illnesses, Thompson said he is about to deliver his next novel.

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