Rendezvous point: Skype. Time: 1900hrs. Operation: code name 'INTREPID'. Operatives: Lois Lane and Bodie.
Lois Lane presses connect. Interview is GO.
Silence, then giggles from the intensely professional Lois Lane, who can't figure out how the hell to turn on the high-sens recorder on her iPhone. A patient Bodie waits, and attempts not to roll his eyes. Finally she manages it, and the (semi) serious stuff begins.
This was the beginning of my interview with author Chris Allen for my article commissioned by news.com.au in January this year. Thankfully, once I stopped being a complete muppet, all went swimmingly.
Chris is of course the highly successful author of the INTREPID series of thriller/spy novels featuring his Aussie anti-hero, Alex Morgan. Part James Bond, part RM Williams-sporting scruffy larrikin, and part self-destructing saviour, Morgan is a key member of Interpol's fictitious 'black ops' Intelligence, Recovery, Protection and Infiltration Division (INTREPID).
He is now up to book number 4.5 - a novella called RANGER, which follows DEFENDER, HUNTER, AVENGER and HELLDIVER. RANGER is reviewed right here, next article along in Writer's Block.
I am a big fan of Chris' writing, but I freely admit to also being a big fan of Chris. The reason I say this is because in the case of the former, it is driven very strongly by the character of the latter.
Alex Morgan is Chris' alter ego - and often, when you have an ex-military, been there, done that, type of protagonist, it's a case of 'woulda, coulda, shoulda' on the part of the author. With Allen and Alex, it's more a case of 'been there, done that, bought the elite paratrooper turned counterterrorism expert t-shirt'. Because these are the facts, folks. Chris Allen's life is just as fascinating as fiction, and probably quite a bit stranger. He is an ex-military officer. He is a counter terrorism expert. He has done, and does, serve his country with distinction. And he defies the impossible.
"The reason I love the character of Sherlock Holmes, and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's writing so much", Chris said in that long and fascinating Skype conversation, "is the clarity. As Holmes says, once you eliminate the impossible, whatever remains, no matter how improbable, must be the truth. And real life is improbable, there's no doubt about it. The best kind of thriller and spy fiction - like Holmes, like Fleming, like Forsyth - takes improbable yet true real life and heightens it without making it unbelievable."
"The best kind of thriller and spy fiction - like Holmes, like Fleming, like Forsyth - takes improbable yet true real life and heightens it without making it unbelievable."
It's no coincidence that all of the authors Chris admires, much like himself, saw active service of some kind or another in the military. He is of the firm belief this is what gave them an edge in their writing. It's also no coincidence each of them was, in their way, a maverick. This is reflected in Alex Morgan's makeup, as is another substantial influence, and one of my favourite TV characters of all time; William Bodie from the late 1970s British series, The Professionals. Bodie is ruthless as hell, but he is also an outcast, and ex-military. He doesn't play by any known rulebook except his own.
"Bodie", said Chris, "is his own man. Doyle [his partner in the series], despite looking cooler, was the rigid one. I always envisage Morgan as Bodie - to the point of my visual cues".
The news.com.au article, I should add, went a bit ballistic. Not because it was extraordinarily well-written, or anything rubbishy like that. But because of the phenomenal fan base that Chris has. And there's a very good reason for that.
He and his amazing wife Sarah, who drives all his social media and publicity, genuinely care about his readers. He has gone from being self-published, to the force of Pan MacMillan, and along the way has stayed exactly the same person; modest, unassuming, and humble. I know this for a fact, because I first interviewed him five years ago, and I giggled and stuffed up then too, and he was gracious then, and gracious now.
Read the books. They're bloody good. Then, follow what he has to say in his non-fiction writing, and as Ambassador for Veterans Off The Streets (VOTSA).
It's pretty bloody good too.
Lois Lane, thankfully for all concerned, over and out.
chris allen's 'my booky wooky'
FAVE BOOK OF ALL TIME:
The Count of Monte Cristo
Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
AUTHOR YOU HAVE RECENTLY DISCOVERED,
AND LIKE LOTS:
LAST BOOK READ:
Life or Death by Michael Robotham
BOOK YOU HAVE NEVER BEEN ABLE TO FINISH:
Rather not say! (NB: I know - and can be bribed. Kate SM)
IN QUOTATION MARKS:
“Morgan had to push past the current version of Nash as a homeless person, and see the man for who he was at his core. A Veteran who had served his country, risked his life on multiple occasions and would be prepared to do it all again.”
― Chris Allen, Ranger
MY OWN NEXT BOOK IS OUT...
Right now in pre-order!