Hello and welcome to my day on the Spy Games blog tour. I was lucky enough to be able to ask a few questions of best selling spy author, Adam Brookes, author of Spy Games and Night Heron.
1. Tell us a little about SPY GAMES
SPY GAMES is the second novel in a trilogy that follows the fortunes of a small group of people up to their necks in espionage. Philip Mangan is a journalist who, through his own restlessness and vanity, has allowed himself to become an agent of British Intelligence. Mangan knows China very well; he’s reported from Beijing and speaks the language, and MI6 uses him in its operations against China. His MI6 handler is an ex-soldier named Trish Patterson. Patterson has found her fortunes linked to Mangan’s, and she’s both exhilarated and deeply frustrated by the experience. Patterson, with her starchy notions of duty, is never quite comfortable in her own skin, a fact exploited by her boss at MI6, Val Hopko, who designs and oversees these operations. After Mangan’s searing experiences in the trilogy’s first novel, ‘Night Heron’, he is blown and lying low in East Africa. But Chinese intelligence knows who he is now, and they have plans for him. SPY GAMES tries to look at Chinese power and how it is being projected in the world, and it imagines the shape of factionalism inside the Chinese Communist Party.
2. Everybody loves a spy. I grew up with James Bond and John Le Carre. I think it is an incredibly exciting world to read about. It feels very real in the post Snowden/surveillance society we live in.
What inspired you to write spy thrillers? Have your personal experiences influenced your writing?
I came very late to writing fiction. I only started ‘Night Heron’ after twenty years in journalism, most of it as a journeyman foreign correspondent for the BBC. I had a strange experience in Beijing, where I worked for many years. I was offered secret documents by a man who claimed he wanted to spy for the British. I’m sure it was a provocation, someone in the Chinese security apparatus testing me. But it made me wonder about how espionage works these days, and I started reading and thinking more about it. As a journalist, too, you find yourself brushing up against the intelligence and security services of countries you work in. And people you think are diplomats sometimes turn out to be intelligence officers. So I found myself becoming dimly aware of the scale and scope of this covert world, and I thought perhaps I could put that awareness to some use by writing a spy story. And you are right about the post-Snowden world. Spy fiction has never had a greater opportunity for relevance than it has now. Our whole world is engulfed with surveillance, and the espionage agencies are bigger than ever before.
3. Philip Mangan, journalist turned spy is your main protagonist. In Night Heron, we saw how one man can get drawn into espionage games in China.
How does Mangan develop in the new book? What can we expect from him in the future?
Mangan just can’t stop himself. On one level, he knows he ought to extricate himself from espionage and rebuild his life. But there is a side of him that needs to be spying. It makes him feel powerful and relevant in a way that his life until now has not. He’d never admit it, but he craves the attention and the drama of it. He’s also very good at it. Hopko and Patterson marvel at his ability to think on his feet and to ask the right questions of his agents. At the start of SPY GAMES, Mangan, living a desultory freelance life in Ethiopia, sees his chance to get back into the game. But perhaps we can hope that at some point his self- knowledge will grow to a point where he realises how destructive his choices are becoming.
4. You write beautifully and authentically about China and then in SPY GAMES multiple countries, from Thailand to Ethiopia.
I love reading about Asian countries and their cultures. Which was your favourite place to write about?
China, because I can claim some familiarity with the place, it atmospheres, its seasons, its food, the language. But also Ethiopia, which I did not know at all. I went for a three week research trip and some wonderful Addis Ababa journalists showed me round and gave me introductions. That was a very memorable experience, and trying to transmit it to the page was a very new and difficult writing exercise.
5. Do you read? Who are your favourite authors?
I read in a very disorganised fashion. I’ve just finished ‘Going Clear’, Laurence Wright’s history of scientology. Before that, a biography of Tolkien. I’m also battling through ‘Intelligence Collection’ by Robert M. Clark, a rather technical, but fascinating, catalogue of contemporary espionage practices. And I’ve got Val McDermid’s ‘Forensics’ on the go, too, because there may be poisoning in book three. My go to espionage writers are John Le Carre, Alan Furst and William Boyd. Elsewhere, I live in awe of Hilary Mantel, who, in Thomas Cromwell, has brought us a pretty good spy.
Thank you so much, Adam!
A bit more about Spy Games
Fearing for his life, journalist Philip Mangan has gone into hiding from the Chinese agents who have identified him as a British spy. His reputation and life are in tatters. But when he is caught in a terrorist attack in East Africa and a shadowy Chinese figure approaches him in the dead of night with information on the origins of the atrocity, Mangan is suddenly back in the eye of the storm.
Meanwhile, thousands of miles away on a humid Hong Kong night, a key MI6 source is murdered minutes after meeting spy Trish Patterson. From Washington, D.C. to the hallowed halls of Oxford University and dusty African streets, a sinister power is stirring that will use Mangan and Patterson as its pawns – if they survive.
Deeply steeped in tension and paranoia, Spy Games is Adam Brookes’ follow-up to his award-nominated debut Night Heron and a remarkable, groundbreaking spy thriller.
Adam Brookes can be found on Twitter – https://twitter.com/AdamBrookesWord
Spy Games is here on Amazon from 10th March 2016 Spy Games
Please keep a look out for the reviews of both Adam Brookes spy novels, which will be posted on my blog very soon.
And here is the rest of the tour!