Gazelle in the Shadows follows Elizabeth as she navigates a dangerous web of lies, betrayal and murder. What was the inspiration for the setup to this intriguing novel?
The inspiration for this book came many years after the events happened in my life. Over the years, I rarely spoke about my former life as a diplomat in Yemen during the Iraq/Kuwait war nor my student life in Damascus but to those I opened up to, I was encouraged to write a book. Then in 2011, the civil war in Syria began and I felt a conviction to let readers know about the traditions and kindness of the Syrian people and the history and beauty of the country I had witnessed before the devastation.
Elizabeth is an interesting and well developed character. What were some driving ideals behind her character?
Elizabeth’s driving ideals are to make her father proud by proving herself to him and to find love. Once a daddy’s girl, her relationship with her father deteriorates in her teenage years as her father implements stricter rules on her than on her older brother. She had always been an avid reader, dreaming of traveling to foreign lands. Her travels help her to escape her father’s harsh judgment and provide her with an opportunity to prove her worth to him and to herself. Because of her sheltered life, first with a Catholic upbringing and then in a diplomatic bubble, she is both emotionally and physically unprepared for her journey to Syria. She is remarkably naive and trusting of others and lacks rudimentary information about the country in a pre internet era. Her journey opens her up to the harsh realities of life where people are not always as they appear and after a series of innocuous and seemingly unconnected events, she not only discovers love but betrayal too. Facing many dangers, her strengths and courage are put to the test and ultimately she comes to appreciate her family and herself in new light.
You are a former employee of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in London. How has your experience helped you write this book?
I worked in the Foreign Office between 1986 and 1991, initially in London and then in the British Embassy in Sana’a, Yemen Arab Republic. My experiences undoubtedly helped me to write my novel as the genesis of the story was born from my three years serving in Yemen. As told in the book, I unwittingly met the infamous George Habash, the founder of the PFLP, in Aden. This actual encounter played a crucial part in the story. Other true stories from my service involving MI6, the British secret service and foreign diplomats helped to create the twists and turns in the story arc.
What is the next book that you are working on and when will it be available?
After graduating from Durham University, I went to work in Dubai, UAE for an oil shipping company. As I like to write fiction based on reality, the sequel is based in Dubai and my experiences working there. I am currently writing a story which follows Elizabeth who enters the ranks of the MI6. She is sent undercover to Dubai where she unearths an Iranian plot to undermine British and American interests in the region. The question is, will she meet Hussein again?
In the mid 90s, Elizabeth Booth is a young British college student studying Arabic at Durham University. With some travel and work already under her belt, she excels at her studies and is sent to Damascus to immerse herself in the language. Taken aback by the generosity and kindness of the people there, she easy slips into a life in the ancient city. She has friends, her studies, and even a handsome boyfriend. But things aren’t always what they seem. Soon, in a world where mistrust and disloyalty are commonplace, Elizabeth finds herself navigating a web of lies, betrayals, and even murder involving MI6, deadly terrorist factions, and the shadowy Syrian secret police.
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The Misplaced Man follows Sam who becomes the target of the company he works for as he tries to uncover the truth behind their technology. What was the inspiration for the setup to this intriguing novel?
Technology is moving at such a fast rate, and I remembered an old English space comedy called Red Dwarf, where they used Dream recorders. And with Mobile improving year on year, it has to be only a few years away till you can down load your dreams.
Sam is a memorable character that was both witty and interesting. What were some driving ideals behind his character?
Sam Blades is a mixture of myself and my brothers qualities. Good and bad.
I find that, while writing, writers sometimes ask questions and have the characters answer them. Do you find that to be true? What questions did you ask yourself while writing this story?
Will we get arrested for this?
What is the next novel that you are working on and when will it be available?
Trying to finish the Misplaced Man Trilogy, hopefully by August 2019.
When Sam Blades starts work at Shimmering Dreams, he hopes to climb the promotional ladder and bring security for himself and his girlfriend. Hailed as the greatest invention of its age, he would be working on new technology that downloads your dreams to your phone.
But, unbeknown to him, somebody behind the scenes is pulling the strings.
What lengths will someone go to when they are forced to repay a debt? Is Sam being set up as the fall guy to take the blame for dreams being used for nefarious activities? Who ends up taking matters into their own hands with drastic consequences?
Follow Sam’s tongue-in-cheek journey through a world of industrial espionage where he blindly battles against an alcohol-fuelled boss, a corrupt copper, a revenge-seeking hitman and a tone-deaf busker.
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In a world of espionage, deception, betrayal, terrorism, and murder, Dydre uses the next assignment Zsigmond gives her—the deliverance of new technology to terrorists—to escape his merciless grip.
Dydre, a single mother, is caught up in a world she doesn’t want. Her boss Clayborne Zsigmond—a black market arms dealer—uses her six-year-old son as a pawn to keep her in line. Visitation is a reward for her obedient behavior.
Forced to deal with the worst terrorists and dictators around the world, she uses disguises and a deadly poison to give her an edge in dealing with those that want to kill her. To stay alive she has honed her skills that few could defeat.
When an opportunity occurs to break free from Zsigmond, she moves fast but the risks she takes puts her on the firing line when her plan goes deadly wrong, and success looks bleak. Those she thought she could trust betray her. Not only is her life in jeopardy but also her son’s as she finds herself pitted against Zsigmond, his mercenaries, a double-crossing businessman, terrorists, the FBI, and a man from the Department of Defense.
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You know you’ve started a good mystery story when within the first few pages you’re hooked and questions are flying. Ben is eagerly awaiting a trip to Morocco that he has been planning to undertake for some time when he’s given an offer. From here the book takes the reader on an exploration of how money is used around the globe to sponsor terrorists and undermine countries. The pace picks up quickly, and the intrigue is built up well, making the book hard to put down.
Author James Christian’s career as a university professor at universities around the world shows as he builds up the different locations in the novel. I really felt like I was being taken across the world as I was zipped from the United States to Morocco. The writing style is clean and descriptive. It’s clear that Christian really understands how to pull together an engaging plot and create characters that feel real and easily pull the story along.
From the very beginning of this book, I found myself questioning everything. Government employees, a secret offer, an international trip, and add to that the mysterious title of the story. I was sucked in and was captivated beginning to end. This has an exciting plot that really makes you think about the world around you. Christian was very successful on this front as he was able to deliver a clear message with a thought-provoking plot while never sounding preachy.
The story is action packed and full of fun twists and turns that kept me on my toes. I really liked Ben as a character. He’s smart and dedicated to his job and shows a lot of passion. He’s a great vessel through which to enter into this story. If you like international mystery stories, or political corruptions and espionage stories, then I would definitely suggest that you pick up this book. A unique and wonderfully written story.
Pages: 258 | ASIN: B0794ZKBHH
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Raven Gone Rogue follows Raven as she tries to find the truth behind her uncles death and needs to go against her former employer to do it. What was the inspiration for the setup to this exciting novel?
Raven Anderson is a very determined character who will stop at nothing to accomplish her goal. She knew The Foundation would never let her take out her uncle’s killer because he was a source of vital information, so she went rogue to hunt down the man who changed her life forever. As the author, I knew this was a natural story that would make a great plot for Raven Gone Rogue.
Raven is an intriguing character that I enjoyed following. What were some driving ideals behind her character development?
She was thrown into the agent lifestyle because of her uncle’s death, thus giving me a perfect character to develop. In the first book Raven and the Panther, Raven went from a teenager to a highly skilled assassin trained be her uncle and the Panther. In Raven Gone Rogue she had to leave The Foundation to accomplish her goal. This also set up conflict with her love Naci Vacara, grandson of The Foundation matriarch Amelia Vacara. The Foundation placed a target on her back.
I enjoyed the balance between action and exposition which kept the novel on a steady pace. Was there a balance you tried to strike, or did this develop organically while writing?
I wanted the story to follow a deliberate course to keep the reader engaged. I knew Raven needed to get back in the graces of The Foundation. Something drastic needed to happen in the plot so Raven could work her way back into The Foundation. It’s all in the book and the reader won’t be disappointed.
Where do you see this series going in future novels?
Raven will continue to rid the world of evil. She and her love Naci along with The Foundation will take on several more adversaries with a whole host of challenges. The next novel, Raven and the Code Book, deals with something that will change the world forever. Again, Raven Anderson meets her adversary head on and fulfills her duty to mankind.
Raven teams up with world renown assassin Morgan to seek revenge on her former employer, The Foundation, for not letting her bring closure to her beloved Uncles death. The Foundation put Raven in their sights because she went rouge, a policy that her lover, Naci, tried to change. Morgan and Raven organize an auction that bring together world leaders and a rouge scientist, Falcon-X, who will sell to the highest bidder, an advanced breakthrough in travel. Things don’t go as planned at the auction, Raven must protect Falcon-X and hide him. During their travels to Raven’s bunker, Falcon-X reminds her of something very important. Raven’s uncle Bill, although passed, sent her a signal in old film clip that saves her life. She must protect herself and all those around her, after the devastation Morgan creates in her life. Raven must find out the reason for her uncle’s death and who’s really on her side. She, along with her deceased uncle, put an end to, Raven Gone Rouge.
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Raven Anderson is a bad ass femme fatale secret agent detective killer who uses her skills, intelligence and sex appeal to get answers. This woman is not to be messed with or it may be the last thing you do. Raven was born into the life of a trained killer and secret spy working for an agency known as The Foundation. This is the third book in the Raven Anderson series and she is back to kick ass and take names. If you haven’t read the other two books, you will be fine with the brief synopsis at the beginning of this book. Soon you will get to know Raven very well!
Together with her friend Naci, she is given the mission to protect Professor Raymond Steele until he can reveal his groundbreaking solution to the world’s biggest issues, a solution, apparently, that has the big powers of the world scrambling to shut it down for fear of threats to power. Raven takes on the challenge with determination and killer instinct. It doesn’t take long for this mission to become intense. The Professor is in danger before Raven can get to him and his wife has been taken as a way to get the code book. From here, this book is a non-stop thrill ride punctuated by violence and sexiness, but also some light-hearted humor and interesting relationships. Its great fun as the author takes the reader all over the world, almost like getting to be a Go-Pro attached to an international spy! She goes up against some pretty rough characters, like the thuggish Boris Alexi, who is desperately seeking the code book. This story has a great arch with an exciting ending.
I quite liked the Naci Vacara character and thought that she balanced Raven’s character. Raven is a character that is intriguing because she is so well developed, nuanced, and dynamic. This is a labor of love and a truly enjoyable read that is both quick and fun. This is perfect if you are looking for something a little edgy but easy to digest.
Pages: 328 | ISBN: 1730750575
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The Chosen by Ray Corbitt is an interesting that is perfect for the fans of the political thriller genre. It’s substantially deep and entertaining.
A program is put into place to create a pool of leaders who are trained from a young age with certain values not easily found within the societies they are destined to lead. The children are from a variety of backgrounds, but they all share the fact that they are highly intelligent and display the potential necessary to lead.
There are many positive aspects of The Chosen but the one that strikes the loudest is the realism that is interlaced with imagination. The people, the places, and even the situations are all believable to the point that it really doesn’t take much work on the part of your reader to picture everything being described as if it were news of some real event. The lives seem real, the pain and suffering feel authentic, and the author does a fantastic job leading the reader through the lives on display.
I felt that the character introductions, while well described, could have been a bit less formulaic. I would have appreciated more variety with the character introductions. That said, the characters were very well developed and varied making them both believable and easy to form relationships with. Creating characters that seem as though they have been plucked straight out of real life can be a bit of a challenge for even the most seasoned authors but Corbitt certainly has a talent for it.
The only other complaint is more of a preference issue than anything else. The descriptive style employed by Corbitt for The Chosen strays a bit from the treasured ‘show, don’t tell’ philosophy that controls how the writer’s world opens itself up into the readers mind. I would have preferred more contextual clues to the straight descriptions offered.
For a short read directed squarely readers begging for a good suspense novel, The Chosen deserves four out of five stars for its originality and ability to bring readers into the writer’s world.
Pages: 182 | ASIN: B0794Y4WLD
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Raven Gone Rogue is the second book in John Fennel II’s series which follows on from Raven and The Panther. It picks up the story with Raven, an agent, who is relaxing in her Florida hideout when her colleague Morgan tells her that they’ve been found and need to escape. Bullets come coursing through the air from a familiar enemy, The Foundation. Raven recognizes the enemy agents attacking her and the tension builds from there.
This confrontation leads to a fast-paced boat chase with the two Foundation agents frantically pursuing Raven. But Raven confidently takes control of the situation. She trusts in her abilities and decides to show off her innate skills and her specialist training. Ultimately Raven is a highly skilled and therefore very effective agent. This makes her a formidable enemy.
The prose is rich with onomatopoeia and vivid descriptions making it easy for the reader to visualize the chaos, be it a spray of bullets or a shower of shrapnel. The reader thus engages with the various elements of the adventure as it unfolds. Each scene plays out like a movie. In one instance switching between Morgan and Raven, keeping the flow of the action and constantly building tension and suspense as the reader follows both of these integral characters.
Despite the desperate and often critical situations, Raven is consistently calm and collected, always analyzing the situation and preparing her next move. Furthermore, the relationships that the characters build carry with them a sense of realism which at points – particularly at moments of remembering past trauma – communicates the feelings and motivations of the characters well.
The book comes with a brilliant energy. An impetus that moves through the first book and into this one, which is always forwarding the narrative and taking Raven into new situations.
Therefore, I give this book a four out of five for its in-depth development of its protagonist. Raven is such an interesting character to follow as she always seems prepared and she has an interesting approach to her line of work. Her confidence pervades every move that she makes, she knows she’s good at her job and she is not afraid to show off her talents. I would recommend this book to people who enjoy fiction that includes secret agents going off grid. The twists and turns in the narrative means that this book may appeal to those who enjoy some mystery mixed in with the action.
Pages: 231 | ASIN: B07M8PC5H1
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Friends of the Tsar, by Jon de Graaff, is a story about the author’s “Aristocratic Grandparent’s harrowing escape from the Russian Revolution of February 1917.” The story starts near Petrograd, Russia in 1916 with Vera and George, with George and his mother, Adelaide, saving Vera from a wolf attack. They are at the country estate of George’s father, Baron Alexander Zuckschwerdt. Adelaide and Alexander are very much aristocrats. Vera and George are not on board with the aristocratic ways of their parents. Vera, who also came from an aristocratic family, started rejecting her parents’ ways after Bloody Sunday when even children were killed during a protest.
Vera has ten sisters. Three of them come to stay with her. Monica is 16. Mary is 15. Natty is 10. Vera often gets strong premonitions when something bad is about to happen. Blue is Alexander’s friend. He is an Australian cattle breeder. He comes to stay as well. Blue saves Natty from choking. He learned how to do it on a chance visit with friends. Vera sees it as meant to be. Blue tells story after story of things that happened that seem to have a lot of coincidences. Vera does not see them as coincidences at all. He dismissed them as being luck in the past. He now thinks differently.
The family finds itself in trouble. The country is in trouble. Their money is not worth as much. The people in the country are starving. The family decides that they need to leave. Blue offers to let them stay with him in Australia. Alexander books passage for himself, George, Blue, Vera and the girls for February 27, 1917. The story goes on from there to cover how they escaped and the challenges they faced as they did.
I felt that the story could not decide on what the book was going to be. As I went from chapter to chapter, I felt like many of the chapters could have been stand-alone chapters and were not connected very well. It lacked continuity. There are different stories being told that don’t seem to reach any conclusions. At first, I thought the book was going to be a love story about Vera and George. After the first chapter or so, they seemed forgotten and the book focused on Blue’s stories. Then it would jump to near misses while trying to escape and spy stories. I found myself confused a few time. The language seemed a bit stilted and formal and did not flow like normal dialogue in places.
There is a good story in the book though it would benefit from a bit more organization. The author writes well. Some of the stories were definitely interesting. Some of the story lines had definite possibility and begged for further development as the characters were intriguing and were usually placed in exotic locations.
Pages: 126 | ASIN: B071ZQ6CG8
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The Incidental Jihadi follows Len as he begins to realize there is a complicated game being played between the communist and the west. What was the inspiration for the idea behind this thrilling novel?
Back in 2012 the coverage on the Syrian crisis was quite rampant on the news with the images of high profile Caucasian victims in orange being executed by the vanguard in black. Around that time after a few freak clicks on the web I came across the recorded brutalities against Syrian civilians on what was surely an underground website. There lay cataloged in various categories the shootings, be-headings and post bomb blast videos taken in Aleppo, Idlib and a few remote unnamed Syrian villages.After confirming the authenticity of the videos and their location a few times(which was probably the most shocking and challenging research I had ever done) those unknown victims begged to be heard. I realised that no one was truly reporting the situation on the ground and ‘the news’ is not just about facts like the body count! The news broadcasters were just screening out the details to reduce this ongoing tragedy to a mere topic for the fortnight. No one wants to see a beheading while shoveling food in their mouths and I get that. But we must make room in people’s minds on the actual impact of any war for that matter and that needs to be done with realism which is on the ground and preferably not censored. This formed an idea to read beyond the news and perceive it’s reality and the inspiration stayed throughout till I completed the novel.
Len is an interesting character that is motivated by his family and their safety. What were some themes you wanted to explore with his character?
Len could be anyone of us who is physically able and a well educated immigrant living in a country where his efforts pay him excellent results. However none of us are actually ever prepared for what the future holds for us and what choices we make if we are faced with distressing situations beyond our control mould us as a human being. Far from being perfect and having a slightly sycophantic bend
he will do what his superior asks him to do even if it seemed ethically wrong and this trait is quite human especially in ambitious individuals. Len is reckless in his ambition and he makes the mistake
of involving his wife Sara in a project that had a warning light beeping on it from the word ‘go’. He descends into rage anger and depression as they are marooned in the remote city of Qatmah, this is
again a denial in his own mind of the rash choices he had made to appease his superior and endangered the one person he loved. Wave after wave of shocking transformation in Len(his acceptance of a life in Qatmah, the change in his identity, his family’s abduction) and how he chose to accept it as a man shows how his character metamorphosed from someone in denial to someone who takes responsibility and acts appropriately and this is where Naim seems to be his alter ego but they are really the same person. I was hoping to show that come whatever a situation in life, the man who survives the longest is the one who does not live in denial of the responsibility of his actions. I wanted to explore his ability to keep doing the right thing even in the face of inevitable catastrophe.
The story is vivid and detailed in it’s account of people and places. What research did you undertake for this novel?
Besides the research into the distressing underground video material on the executions, I started reading up on the Middle Eastern conflict to understand it’s origins starting right after the end of the Second World war particularly around the time when the United States started exerting it’s political clout over Britain and France back in the fifties. That was just for historical perspective though as my perception changed after I met a few of the Syrians who had come to London to take refuge( we would never call them refugees, it just seemed a derogatory term to use). Their stories told in straight english sentences was as heartbreaking as it could be and the videos, the history and their accounts all tied together with the information I gathered from Arabic and African news journals. This was a point of view that people seldom saw and that is what I brought into the novel. In terms of geographical locations, names and places mentioned throughout the novel, they are all actual places and the actual novel gets more gripping when you lookup the places on, say, google maps and find that every bit of the descriptions including terrain, the people and even the castle. They are wonderful examples of actual places that are existing on the edge of the war and peace that keeps waxing and waning over the region.
What is the next book that you are working on and when will it be available?
I don’t believe I have completed Len’s development yet and there was a huge though entirely unintentional open end in this book: that of the fate of his wife. Len and Sara have a way of staying in my head, so there will be a final conclusion on their fate in my next book. I learnt a few lessons from my first novel, The Incidental Jihadi and this time I want to do justice to Sara and Len and the people they
have known and cared about. For this reason this is going to take at least a year in development and a year in editing. I just want it to be perfect.
Twenty-nine year old geologist/surveyor, Len Berkowicz has everything to live for: a wonderful companion and a successful career working for a major oil exploration company when his career mentor and friend, Eric decides to send him to a risk prone oil exploration project in the Golan Heights.
In his journey he assimilates the true nature of the ‘holy war’ through the eyes of his comrades, realising that a far more complicated and subtle ‘game’ played between the communist and capitalist powers on the ground.
Will Len succeed in his mission that seemed doomed right from its inception?
Can those of us living in the West be able to keep the dust at bay on our home turf when we decimate every Arabian state to rubble?
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