Blog Author Archive: Chris Allen
Alex O’Loughlin as Alex Morgan:
Morgan is part-policeman, soldier and spy – the star agent for Interpol’s black-ops division, Intrepid. In Hunter, his second mission, Alex Morgan is bringing down the last of the fugitive Serbian war criminals when he is suddenly re-tasked with tracking the kidnappers of the talented and glamorous Charlotte Rose Fleming (Charlie), a world-famous pianist and daughter of a presiding judge for the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY). When the action starts, Alex is unstoppable but like the rest of us, he’s not superhuman – he’s resilient, lives by his wits but is prone to deep bouts of melancholy. My current stand-out for Morgan is Alex O’Loughlin who plays Steve McGarrett on Hawaii 5-0: he knows how to play a thinking soldier, and I really like that about him.
Pierce Brosnan as General Davenport:
The chief of Intrepid, General Davenport is old-school and leads the agents through their missions from his secret headquarters near Scotland Yard in London. Davenport is an old-school gentleman and I think Pierce Brosnan would convey that really well. Brosnan has just turned 60 and carries his age, and the integrity and maturity that comes with it, so well. Given that Davenport is a former decorated SAS officer before becoming an expert in the rules of war and humanitarian law, it would be seamless for an audience to associate Brosnan with an action man past given he is the last actor before Daniel Craig to play James Bond.
Emily Blunt as Charlotte-Rose Fleming (Charlie):
Internationally renowned classical pianist Charlie is admired like a rock star and adored the world over for her ability to perform technically exemplary works on the piano combined with her unique performative flair. She is tested when she is kidnapped and used as a pawn in the trial of the Serbian war criminals at the ITCY. Emily Blunt is very English but plays an American really well, which is great because Charlie has an American mother and an English father. The important thing for anyone playing Charlie is that she conveys intelligence and resourcefulness – and Emily Blunt has a strong presence on screen while also being vulnerable.
Olivier Martinez as The Wolf:
The Wolf really is a changeable character in Hunter. He’s the main baddie, heir-apparent to his master, Drago, and commits countless atrocities on behalf of the fugitive war criminals who have been in hiding since the Bosnian genocide. The Wolf is a key player whose identity is at the heart of the story. The reason I envision Olivier Martinez to play The Wolf is because he needs to be someone who is really appealing on the surface while also having a very dark side. He is able to flout the law by presenting himself as something other than what he really is.
Rade Šerbedžija as Drago:
In Hunter, Drago is the last of the Serbian war criminals to be hunted down by Intrepid and brought to account at the ICTY. The real trials of the last remaining fugitives of the war have been happening in the Hague as I wrote and released the book, so it’s relevant and topical – an important element of all my books. Drago is the head of the Zmajevi, The Dragons, and members of this brutal tribe are marked by a tattoo of a dragon on their chest. Drago pulls the strings of his army of loyal henchmen who unquestioningly do his bidding and keep him in control, but he’s not the powerful figure that he once was. I first saw Rade Šerbedžija in The Saint with Val Kilmer and most recently in Taken 2. He is such a strong actor and formed the basis for my descriptions of Drago, because he has a physicality and presence that I absolutely associate with that central character.
When I began writing, I knew my creation would inevitably be influenced by actual events that were occurring at the time and my particular take on how that might influence the context of my stories. I started writing drafts of Defender in the extended aftermath of Sept 11, 2001 – a time when I was in high demand professionally and probably needed a creative outlet. I didn’t want the context of my stories to be military in nature, so I steered away from the obvious choice – the UN and intervention forces – and looked more towards the actual criminal activity so often hidden behind idealistic rhetoric and excuses for terror.
Having decided upon that course of action, but still wanting to unite nation-states together in the grand narrative, I opted to have the UN Security Council approach Interpol so as to join those entities in a fictional sense, despite their quite disparate responsibilities in real life. I achieved this through the creation of Intrepid: Interpol’s black-ops Intelligence, Recovery, Protection and Infiltration Division – raised at the behest of the United Nations.
My observations of how these various agencies work is that they can both help and hinder co-operation, often with best efforts frustrated by the corruption of misinformation and bureaucracy (my pet hates). I can draw on my own interactions with agencies as much as observations I’ve made or even stories relayed to me by others, combined with my own experiences in the field. At the core of it all, nothing begins without some form of dialogue. The scene must be set and the operational parameters must be established before the agents embark upon their missions. So, I try to provide the reader with some sense of either the orders process – as in General Davenport tasking his agents (Defender), or the process of defining jurisdictional boundaries – as in sorting out ‘who will do what when’ type issues before the agents deploy (Hunter).
When the time comes to create each fictional story, I will draw on an overarching real life issue, such as human trafficking in Avenger – war criminals in Hunter – or gunrunning in Defender, and interlace the fictional plot with real experiences in a way that should, hopefully, enhance the adventure for the reader. I guess they call it writing escapist thrillers for realists. I’m not interested in creating the doomsday catastrophe stories where the world is going to end via destruction on a mass scale, nor am I going to target one particular race or faith through my writing. History consistently shows us that the world is a lot more complicated than that.
Chris Allen is an action-adventure author who has himself experienced huge amounts of action and adventure in his previous life as a paratrooper with the Australian Army (among other things) – so he is well-placed to tell us who he thinks the best thriller writers of all time are. Here are his picks.
This collection of works by my favourite thriller writers is the equivalent of my literary lifeblood. I continue to enjoy them equally as much today as at my first read, and it’s heartening to reflect on the fact that they’ve kept me entertained and out of trouble since growing up as a teenager in Perth in the 1970′s, and even while I was deployed in the various jungles and deserts of my past, wondering what the normal people were doing for a day job. I’ve grown up on many of these books, and continue to be inspired by these top thriller writers, all of them leaders in the action & espionage arena. Henceforth, and also inspired by a recent post on my favourite action movies that has been a hit, I humbly offer my list of top thriller authors alongside some of what I think is their best work!
1. IAN FLEMING - CASINO ROYALE
The first James Bond novel and iconic turning point in popular culture, penned by Ian Fleming, my literary hero. This wasn’t the first Bond I ever read – I first found The Man with the Golden Gun in the school library – but it gives great insight into the author himself, what he was feeling at the time and his plans for his protagonist. It’s full of all the classic heroics we expect of Bond but there is a fair amount of fear and uncertainty as well. I’ve read everything he’s written over a dozen times each.
2. ARTHUR CONAN DOYLE - THE COMPLETE SHERLOCK HOLMES SERIES
Having enjoyed these stories as a boy, I rediscovered them in my forties and only truly realised then, with the benefit of some considerable years and life experience under my belt, just how good they were. So much of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle is embedded within the character of Dr John Watson, trusted biographer and loyal friend of the great detective, that the perspective of his adventures alongside Sherlock Holmes becomes a very personal one for the reader. The language and style of writing is particular to a time while being also uniquely timeless. I devour these stories regularly.
3. CLIVE CUSSLER - SAHARA
I’ve enjoyed Clive Cussler’s Dirk Pitt books for over 20 years, discovering them on the recommendation of a friend in the early 1990′s. These are all rip-roaring adventures and they just got better and better as Cussler became more familiar and comfortable with his protagonist. Sahara is classic Dirk Pitt and epitomizes, in my view, the style of narrative Cussler aspired to when he first created the character. Clive Cussler continues to produce great work, including one of his most recent stories, The Chase, which has become a new favourite for me. And, for the record, I prefer it when he writes alone!
4. ALISTAIR MACLEAN - WHERE EAGLES DARE
Alistair MacLean wrote some now legendary action thrillers in his time, this one among the most famous, featuring one of my favourite characters, Major Smith.
I actually first discovered Alistair MacLean as a result of watching the film of the novel, starring Richard Burton and Clint Eastwood. So intrigued was I by the complexity of the story that I had to find the book and was pleased to discover that the writing and the subterfuge from the novel had been expertly replicated by the filmmakers.
MacLean is a master in the action genre in that the characters are relentless but flawed, the stakes are always high and the storytelling is supreme.
5. TOM CLANCY - WITHOUT REMORSE
Tom Clancy came to prominence during the 90′s with a now-huge backlist of thrillers. A favourite of mine being Without Remorse, which focuses on one of Clancy’s best characters, John Clarke.
While the popular view is that Jack Ryan is Clancy’s best character, I can’t help but feel that’s a result of the films starring Alec Baldwin in one and Harrison Ford in two others. But the Clarke character seems to me a much more real and accessible hero who does not enjoy the prestige or accolade of the Ryan character. I really like that about Clancy’s ability to write such different heroes.
6. JOHN LE CARRE - THE SPY WHO CAME IN FROM THE COLD
Fantastic book, this one, and I thought that Richard Burton did a great job as Leamus in the movie of the same name.
Le Carre had a way of conveying much more of the rawness and darkness of Cold War Europe and the complexity of personal human relationships that became intertwined in the professional intelligence environment on both sides of the Iron Curtain.
7. JON CLEARY - THE HIGH COMMISSIONER
One Aussie writer I’ve always enjoyed is Jon Cleary, though he’s unfortunately no longer with us. He had a unique Australian take within an international setting in some of his work. He was equally adept at focusing on Australian domestic issues and his characters were very real and believable.
I loved this book particularly the earthy Australian detective Scobie Malone. Mr Cleary is a legend amongst crime authors.
8. MATTHEW REILLY - ICE STATION
Matthew Reilly is another incredibly talented Australian author who has legions of fans in the sci-fi / action genre. This book made Reilly internationally and features his most enduring character, Scarecrow.
I was thrilled to chat to Matthew at a recent movie screening in Canberra for a mutual friend. Not only can he write ripping yarns but he’s a genuinely great person who had lots of insights to exchange about the Australian publishing industry.
9. PATRICIA CORNWALL - RED MIST
Patricia Cornwall is such a strong contemporary force to be reckoned with, who has – I think – perfectly captured the relationship between her own history and that of the protagonist she’s created, Kay Scarpetta. Her characters are real and believable, not neccessarily superhuman, and I like that!
A strong point about Cornwall’s writing is how she manages to incorporate complex family relationship issues within the darkness of her subject matter.
10. JACK HIGGINS - SOLO
Another great English writer, Higgins wrote many stories which I enjoyed throughout my military years. His book,Solo, features a parachute regiment Colonel named Asa Morgan, which is not that dissimilar to the name I chose for my own protagonist. Must be something in that!
I still have literally dozens of Jack Higgins novels which I would carry in my pack at various times over the years. They were perfect material when you only had time for short, sharp bursts of reading as they were intense and fast-paced. This one was all about revenge, family loyalties and ultimately being in the wrong place at the wrong time.
Who are your top writers and their most treasured novels of yours? Leave me a comment.
If, like me, you’re an Ian Fleming fan first and a Bond movie fan second, mark my words: you will love SKYFALL. If however, you prefer the vodka martinis, the cheesy one-liners, or the gadgets and gimmicks of earlier Bond films – the exploding pens, invisible cars and so on– don’t despair. The essential ingredients of the 007 franchise – glamour, humour, charm - are still front and centre in the long-awaited 50th anniversary 23rd film directed by Sam Mendes, but they’re present in a way that is much more a reflection of our times and tastes. The requirement to suspend your disbelief still holds strong and there’s just enough of the old tricks & gadgets to remind you of the rich history behind any Bond film. Besides, I’d be a hypocrite if I decried any story that presents such a perfect balance of gritty realism with a liberal dose of escapism!
I was more engaged by Daniel Craig this time around than I was in his last outing, QUANTUM OF SOLACE, in which I found his Bond surly and arrogant. For the record, he was incredible in CASINO ROYALE - I saw that film half a dozen times at the cinema. Back then, Craig convincingly portrayed the raw material that would become the secret agent – the wet-behind-the-ears new boy under immense pressure to prove himself worthy of Double-0 status. A nice parallel given that Craig’s appointment as the new 007 met with a fierce backlash from diehard fans. Craig had as much to prove as Bond himself. His hunger to prove the detractors wrong was palpable in CASINO ROYALE and in SKYFALL he has very successfully channelled that hunger again.
In his performance, the core elements that drive the man to act so selflessly and under any circumstances on behalf of his country – loyalty, integrity, devotion to duty – are not affected, they’re just there. The relationship between Bond and his boss, M, once again played with such conviction by the inimitable Judi Dench, is an obvious metaphor for everything we have come to expect of the character – the quintessentially tenacious British Bulldog. In his devotion and loyalty to M, the lofty ideal of serving Queen & Country as courageously and unreservedly as 007 does, is presented perfectly in a very intimate and familial way which makes the entire premise utterly believable. This is underpinned by the majestic yet understated performance of Javier Bardem in the guise of agent-gone-bad, Silva. In fact, Bardem’s opening scene involves an extremely challenging sexually charged situation involving Bond. It was unexpected but brilliantly done and the confidence, reality and humour conveyed by both actors is priceless.
Unlike many of his predecessors, Silva is no megalomaniac. His motivations and objectives are significantly more clinical, more personal than the Blofeld-Stromberg-Drax variety of the old days and this is what is so engaging. He has been personally wronged, he has suffered intolerably as a result and he is hell bent on revenge at any cost. We’ve all been there, right? More than anything Silva is flawed (obviously), vulnerable (disturbingly so) and damaged (beyond repair). But what makes this film so great is that these traits are equally true of Bond and M. The history and volatility that connects this unlikely threesome – 007, M & Silva – is the centrepiece of the entire narrative and its strength and plausibility is achieved by the outstanding performances of all three.
If you haven’t guessed already, I absolutely loved this movie. This is not the Bond of Connery, or Lazenby, or Moore, Dalton or Brosnan. Daniel Craig has indisputably captured the Bond who clung protectively to Gala Brand under a shower while the tiles blistered and boiling water rained down upon their bodies, as an atom bomb launched just metres away through a blast wall in MOONRAKER, 1955. His Bond is the guy you can imagine, swimming through Caribbean coral at midnight to rescue Solitaire, with spear gun in hand and a limpet mine strapped to his chest, running the gauntlet of sharks and barracuda in pitch darkness only to be dragged down to the edge of death by a murderous octopus in LIVE AND LET DIE, 1954.
As a fan who first discovered Ian Fleming & James Bond as a teenager back in 1977, I feel as though the franchise has finally gone full circle. The earliest films – DR NO, FROM RUSSIA WITH LOVE, GOLDFINGER & THUNDERBALL – all remained reasonably true to the original novels. After that it was pretty much a free-for-all in terms of outlandish plots and spectacular stunts. With Daniel Craig’s entry to the series, CASINO ROYALE began the process of returning us to the raw material, QUANTUM OF SOLACE was a bit try hard, but now SKYFALL has absolutely hit the mark.
In SKYFALL Daniel Craig returns 007 to the world imagined by his creator, his family seat, his history and his heritage.
It is unequivocally the Bond of Ian Fleming.
If you’re a fan of the Bond films or Fleming books, you’ll love the INTREPID series. Click on the book jackets to find out more.
Today is International James Bond Day, which marks the 50th anniversary of the release of the first 007 movie Dr No – making it one of the most successful and longest-running film franchises of all time.
Equally significant is that we are currently in negotiation over the film rights to the Alex Morgan & Intrepid series with a well known and respected American film producer.
As we enter into this new phase of Alex Morgan’s journey it’s interesting to recall that Ian Fleming, the creator of James Bond, faced these very same milestones and challenges in bringing his character to a wider, international audience when he, too, was an emerging writer of escapist thrillers.
In fact, an early arrangement Fleming made, that would see Casino Royale reach the American market via a television movie, was a disaster. The character was re-written to become an American card-sharp called Jimmy Bond and the production was – to say the least – nothing like what Fleming had envisaged as a vehicle for his hero on his first mission.
The decision to sell the rights to Casino Royale at that time had consequences for the entire Bond franchise that took almost 50 years to resolve. As many of you would be aware, Daniel Craig famously entered the scene as 007 in Casino Royale in 2006 to great acclaim, rebooting the franchise within a more contemporary context. At one point however, it seemed highly unlikely that the film would ever be included within the long running franchise.
I’m beyond excited to be – in some small way – following in the footsteps of Fleming as I strive to bring Alex Morgan & Intrepid to a greater audience.
Hunter will be released on December 1.
I have to admit, there’s a certain ‘je ne sais quois’ about being so ensconced in writing a book that it permeates your thoughts, your dreams, and conversations.
As the new Alex Morgan INTREPID espionage thriller is due with Momentum Books at the end of this month, here’s 7, or should I say 007, cool and not-so-cool things about being on deadline.
Seven cool things about being on deadline
1. Another reason to stay in comfy clothes for the day – sure, Ian Fleming was photographed resplendent in bow tie and dinner jacket at the keys of his golden Royal typewriter, but in fact he’d normally be in shorts, a summer shirt and sandals at his typewriter in Goldeneye, Jamaica. That’s my excuse, and I’m sticking to it.
2. Tea. And Mint Slices. Both in abundance.
3. People who send well wishes and support (also known as likes) via the Facebook page, and who send vodka when supplies run short.
4. Watching the favourite scenes from old action movies for inspiration such as Richard Burton and Clint Eastwood in Where Eagles Dare, again and again. And again.
5. Being excused from the housework and washing up, at least most of the time.
6. Family support crew available to bounce ideas off 24-7, friends to read fight scenes, and Facebook cronies who provide bona fide advice on important things, like the best way to orchestrate take-off and landing of a sea plane in southern Europe.
7. Watching the story come alive on the page – it’s cathartic to make these heroes, heroines and evil characters that have until now lived inside my head become real!
Seven not cool things about being on deadline
1. Two-year-old Captain Morgan stands at the stairwell, innocently yelling “Daddy! Come! Choo-choo! Hurry!” in a way that sends pangs of guilt straight to the heart.
2. After months being secluded in the writing room, drinking tea and nibbling delicately on tim tams and crushed easter eggs, your pants mysteriously become tighter.
3. You struggle to hold conversations with loved ones during meal times. When asked a simple question you exclaim, ‘there’s no time, must get to seaplane to save Charly before it’s too late’!
4. Being under self-imposed house arrest, friends forget what you look like, except from what they can recall from Facebook.
5. Every sound coming from above the writing room is amplified. Just making a cup of tea in the kitchen is like an orchestral sound check. Which means, a toddler playing upstairs sounds like the first brutal fight scene in Casino Royale.
6. Time seems to slow down to a snail’s pace but strangely, your hair grows faster.
7. An impending feeling of doom as D Day arrives – and knowing that once you’re through the first draft, the real work begins!
I wouldn’t swap the glitz and glamour of it all – that said, maybe Fleming had the right idea by squirreling himself away at Goldeneye in Jamaica when writing his novels for three months of each year…
Find more from Chris Allen here.