WHEN the unwelcome ring of the telephone interrupted his bedtime preparations one night last August, Ross Leckie had no idea that his life less ordinary was about to take a distinctly unusual and rewarding turn.

Leckie, one-time internee in Idi Amin's Uganda, oil rigger and (three-time) failed Conservative party election candidate, now fund management spinmeister and part-time novelist, needed an early night.

He found himself listening to a disembodied transatlantic voice offering to connect him to somebody called Vin Diesel, the action film star whom Leckie had no reason to know was one of Hollywood's biggest names.

''I said, literally, 'Vin who?'. Then this gravelly voice came on and he was very direct. He said he had been on holiday in a hotel in the Maldives that had a copy of my novel Hannibal which he couldn't put down and asked had I sold the film rights,'' recalls Leckie.

''Two days later I got a message from him with some very insightful views on the novel and a first-class return air ticket to Los Angeles.''

A year after that first visit to the capital of the film business, 46-year-old Leckie has had to conquer his fear of flying to cope with regular trips between his Edinburgh home and California. In addition to being a director at Edinburgh fund manager Martin Currie, he is happy to be doubling as a special adviser on the film version of Hannibal, the biography he penned eight years ago of the Carthaginian ruler who crossed the Alps on an elephant.

With Diesel both producing and starring in the film, which has a budget of $200m, Leckie can be confident a few million people will learn more about the classics he adores when the film goes on release next October.

He is looking forward to an undisclosed percentage of the "box office" and associated merchandising income, while the expected boost to sales of his books will help fill the coffers. Already the break has helped fund a move from a handsome square to a splendid street in the Festival City, where he lives with his second wife, Sophie, and their three young children.

Leckie has taken a crash course in the movie business that could have defeated a soul not toughened by the Scottish boarding school system.

In the hours spent with scriptwriter David Franzone he has seen ''great liberties'' taken with his baby. However, any damage to his ego has been fleeting, not least because of the excitement of working with a team of ''committed, passionate and energetic'' film professionals.

''It's just been a wonderful experience to do it once. It's been very enriching,'' he says, as a man whose own life might not be out of place in a novel.

The son of missionaries who spread the good word in the Americas, his early days have Dickensian undertones. Years spent from the age of four in a Kincardineshire prep-school were followed by secondary education at Fettes College. Housemates at the Edinburgh school included prime minister Tony Blair, on whom Leckie will not be drawn.

Leckie's curiosity about the Greeks and Romans was sufficiently piqued by inspiring schoolteachers to encourage him to study classics at Oxford. His desire to learn more about them remains undiminished.

Six weeks in an enclosure in Uganda under Amin while on placement with Voluntary Service Overseas was a grim business, but it did not have as much effect on his life as a serious smash on an under-insured, borrowed Ducati motorcycle. The huge debt he was left with sent him offshore for stints on North Sea oil rigs, where he learned lots about team work and had time to start writing in earnest.

''It was real Wild West stuff and I loved it. It gave me such an opportunity to think and to meet and work with people who were utterly devoid of affectation.''

Egalitarian influences notwithstanding, he went on to stand three times for election as a Conservative MP in hard-core Labour seats before the controversial Community Charge put an end to his admiration for Margaret Thatcher.

He spent more than a decade combining work on the family farm and teaching with writing books, including the Bluffers Guide to the Classics, and articles for newspapers and magazines. His efforts as a novelist were finally rewarded with the publication of Hannibal in 1995.

The six months he spent finishing the first part of what has become a trilogy, however, taught him full-time writing was not for him.

''It is extraordinarily draining and extraordinarily lonely. One needs enormous reserves of self-discipline and either a big bank balance, which I don't have, or an ability to live on bread and water.''

So when Martin Currie gave him the chance to make a living from an occasional interest advising fund managers on writing, he took it.

He has enjoyed watching the massive changes the company has undergone, galvanised by the shake-out in the fund management industry since markets peaked.

Sitting in his office in the lee of Edinburgh Castle he reflects sadly that it has also involved the departure of many long-standing colleagues. However, the new world of flat management structures and focus on high-yielding products like hedge funds that has replaced the old ''patriarchal plutocracy'' running plain vanilla portfolios is one he is excited to be a part of.

''I will go, of course, but I won't go yet because I'm still enjoying it and we've all put in an enormous amount of work in the past three years for relatively little reward. I really believe over the next two or three years this will pay off.''

When the day comes to go, however, Leckie is certain he won't be forsaking Edinburgh for Hollywood.

''I'm not interested in sitting in a jacuzzi in a Beverley Hills hotel with babes and celebrities. They're surrounded by sycophants (in LA) and it's horrible I love it here; I love the people, I love the buildings, I even love the weather.''


1957: Born in Irvine, Ayrshire.

Education: Drumtochty Castle Preparatory School, Kincardineshire; Fettes College, Edinburgh; Corpus Christi College, Oxford University; Royal Agricultural College, Cirencester.

1974-76: Volunteer teacher in Africa.

1981-95: Farming, oil rigging, journalism, teaching.

1995: Joined Martin Currie.

Biggest break: Having my first novel, Hannibal, accepted by Canongate, although one agent sent it back as ''unpublishable''.

Ambition: To write as good a novel as I can before I die.

What drives you? The many things I cannot understand.

What vehicle do you drive? A BMW R100RT motorcycle.

Ideal job as a child: Farming, after spending holidays on the family farm in the days before agri-business.