I always wanted to write spy novels, but didn’t just want to write about plots to steal a particular document or piece of equipment, with artificially loaded tension, and frantic car chases, and mass slaughter. I felt that I needed to give the reader something more.
I wanted my readers to enjoy the thrills and spills, but I also wanted to make them think about the reality, rather than merely breathe a sigh of relief when the hero finally triumphs and then saunters off into the sunset.
I also wanted to steer clear of gimmicky equipment and fantasy worlds and stereotypical Russian baddies and western goodies. John Le Carré brilliantly captured the grim reality of espionage at the coal face, with The Spy who came in from the Cold. Le Carré later developed Smiley and Lacon, a higher political level, but again the perspective was solely western and the plots more concerned with fire-fighting then strategy.
Not that I am in any way decrying or comparing myself to Le Carré. The man is one of the all-time great writers, and I am a major fan. There are relatively knowledgeable people who actually believe that ‘Moscow Centre’ and ‘The Circus’ existed, and that is a tribute to Le Carre’s storytelling genius, but for me to succeed, as a new and independent author in an already cluttered genre, I had to come up with something different.
Neither did I want to do an all-action tale. I accept that action and suspense are essential parts of any espionage thriller, and The Folks at Fifty-Eight offers its fair share of both, but it would be difficult for anyone to introduce a new Cold War action hero who didn’t in some way reek of James Bond, or a blunt instrument who didn’t remind us of Len Deighton’s Harry Palmer.
And so I decided to do espionage in a different way. I decided to write about the immediate post-war period, before grubby spies and the infamous KGB became ‘fashionable’. I also decided to introduce readers to the reasons and characters that brought about the Cold War, rather than the physical, Checkpoint Charlie, barbed-wire stand-off that it became.
In short, I wanted to write spy novels that both entertained and, at the same time, told something of the shocking reality behind the perceived glamour.
And so I hit on the idea of a trilogy that looked at the Cold War’s origins and escalation from both east and west perspectives. I decided to show both points of view, and employ a more thoughtful and realistic approach to plot construction and character motivation.
And so The Etzel Trilogy was born; with plots and characters mirroring real, but little-known, people and events, and with the fictitious thread of each story carefully woven into a factual backcloth.
The Folks at Fifty-Eight is the first part, and largely views the escalation from an American perspective. Hierarchies of Greed, due out in 2014, will largely view the conflict’s origins from the Soviet Union’s perspective, and The Dreams of Etzel, due out in 2015, will complete the trilogy and show something of the British role and perspective.
Each can be viewed as part of a trilogy or as autonomous novels, and each will tell true, but little-known, stories from the early Cold War. Each will provide all the action, intrigue, sex, and suspense, expected of the genre, while making it difficult for even aficionados and modern history buffs to identify exactly where fact ends and fiction begins.
I very much hope that you will read and enjoy.
Have a good one.