Her father was the last man out of Crete as a soldier in 1944, drawn at random for the final berth on a plane bound for the pyramids of Egypt.

On such moments of good fortune are lives saved – and babies subsequently born.

And when that little girl grows up to become a novelist, what better inspiration to draw on when you sit down to write a fast-paced, edge-of-seat James Bond-style thriller called The Politician’s Daughter.

At the heart of the story is Petra Minx, a Marine unit sergeant with the Royal Canadian Mounted Police.

When a high-flying Toronto politician’s daughter called Emily Mortlake goes missing after taking a holiday job on board a mega yacht called Titania, the youthful Minx poses as a student and joins the crew.

With nobody denying Emily was on board, but with so many accounts of the “truth”, the relentless searches for answers by Minx draws her into the world of Titania’s ruthless and charismatic owner, Don Léon.

If you wouldn’t know that Marion was a Brummie from her accent, that’s because she used to have elocution lessons in Gravelly Hill

But her more ribald passages are very Ian Fleming in their directness: “(Monica) was a whore and a bitch, but a turn-on nevertheless”, for example.

Marion’s plans to write another novel were put on hold in the summer when she slipped in a restaurant and broke the radius bone just above her right (writing) hand which was then in a cast for six weeks.

But every cloud has a silver lining, so she used the time to catch up on a lot of reading she wanted to do, reading novels by the likes of James Patterson, Susan Griffin and Birmingham-born Lee Child.

Marion left the city herself in the 1970s, heading to Indonesia with VSO and then moving on to Canada after two years.

Today, she lives in Spain, west of Puerto Banus on the Marbella Coast.

“It’s a very cosmopolitan place with Scandinavians, Germans, Dutch and French,” she says.

“We’re like resident tourists living there for four to five to six months of the year to get out of our respective winters.”

If Marion stands up in her ground floor apartment then yes, she can see the sea.

And she can hear it, too, from a raised terrace.

The downside in winter is that the building can be really windswept.

A running theme in the background of Marion’s life is engineering.

Her father Gordon died recently aged 93. Her mother Dorothy is an 89-year-old former primary school teacher.

Gordon was the managing director of a small, light engineering company in Aston.

Marion’s own daughter Emma, 28, followed mum to Oxford University and studied engineering science.

In the summer, Marion takes to the sea herself with her South African-born second husband, Peter.

The couple have a 63ft Viking motor yacht which has sailed along North America’s eastern sea board as well as across some of the great lakes – where they’ve experienced fear-inducing 12ft waves.

Generally, though, Marion’s own idea of plain sailing is to stick to a steady 10 knots (15mph) to remain “fuel efficient” in an age of high prices.

“As an author, I want to use my experience of a lot of different cultures and people,” she says.

“Men have enjoyed the book, but women are the great readers and it appeal to them more.

“Sixty to 80-year-olds raise their eyebrows, though, at some of the things that happen.

“My idea was to have Petra going into places around the world where Canadians had got into trouble.

“My third novel will be set in South Africa, Dubai and Geneva and she might just have a cameo in that.

“I’d like to set part of it in the West Midlands, too.”

If she can follow Lee Child’s example, Petra Minx will become a movie character, just like Jack Reacher played by Tom Cruise.

Who would she fancy playing her?

“I do like Jennifer Lawrence,” she says of The Hunger Games star who won this year’s best actress Oscar for Silver Linings Playbook.

“When I’m writing, I picture the scenes in my mind and have to see things in my head.

“That comes out in the book.

“I’d like to see Antonio Banderas as the anti-hero, especially as he’s doing quite a lot of work in Spain now.”

To play Mercutio who arrives from the past, she’d like a star we haven’t seen a lot of in recent years – Hugh Grant.

“In my first career, as a translator of French and German, I didn’t have a lot of time to go to the movies,” Marion says.

“I’ve always just loved reading.

“I liked the Brontës, but wasn’t that keen on Jane Austen and I find it hard to understand why she is so popular.”

Marion uses a PC, not a Mac, and, from her translating days, Word is her software of choice.

“I love to sit down in front of a blank screen,” she says.

“That starts the process and if I can’t think of sentences I just use keywords.

“And I’ve always got my trusty Oxford dictionary next to me.”

I suggest it must be a wonderful feeling to have a novel that you’ve written finally arrive in your hands.

“Yes,” she says. “But it was when you get the page proofs back that it really feels like a book.

“Even when you print it off yourself it doesn’t feel like a book.

“I think 100,000 words is the length of the average novel, so I write about 30 chapters of some 3,000 words each.

“With the first novel I had the basic plotline and chapter outline and it changed.

“For the second novel, I wrote a complete synopsis first – but I don’t know if it was better or worse!

“In this book, Don Léon is a larger than life, ruthless guy.

“The trouble is that he’s the baddy and the dichotomy is that he’s attractive to women... and to Petra.

“He’s the sort of guy who, as a woman, you know you shouldn’t like...”

* The Politician’s Daughter by Marion Leigh is out now (Rudling House, £8.99).