A mysterious object. A glamorous woman. Secret agents. These elements make up thousands of thrillers. But the thrillers written by Sam Bourne are a bit different. His first novel, The Righteous Men, was set within the Orthodox Jewish community in New York City. The second, The Last Testament, includes biblical archaeology and peace negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians. And all are written under a pseudonym; Bourne is actually Jonathan Freedland, one of Britain’s most respected political journalists and commentators.

With his second novel due out in the United States this May, Freedland spoke to Nextbook’s Hugh Levinson about the origins of his pen name, looters in Mesopotamia, and a postwar assassination plot you want to know more about.