The Momentum Blog

Interpol Confidential: What happens when a former Interpol staffer turns to satire

Posted February 15, 2016 by Momentum

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The he first question people are asking me is why would a thriller writer with three solid successes under his belt and a growing reputation decide to switch to satire? Well, it’s not just any old satire. It’s a satire about Interpol, so it’s still very much in the world of police and crime fighting and deception and double-crosses. So I guess it’s not all that far removed from the sort of world where my Frank Delaney character operates in the thrillers, really. And remember that because this is a satire about Interpol, just the name, the very word Interpol, breathes intrigue and mystery.

In fact I referred a fair bit to Interpol in my last thriller and had a couple of Interpol characters in that one, The Tsunami File, so I could see clearly the potential for stories and characters drawn from Interpol. But because I worked at Interpol myself, and was so immersed in that organisation, I just thought that in a number of ways the best way to tell the Interpol story was through satire. After my experiences there I wanted to give a sense of the craziness of it all, the intensity of the way that place works, and all major police organizations, really, the way they do crucially important work but get caught up too in personalities and politics and ambition and, not to put too fine a point on it, straight-out human craziness.

Interpol Confidential cover

I suppose in a way this could have been a satire about the FBI or the NYPD or Scotland Yard, just as easily. It just happens that I worked at Interpol after I left journalism, that’s what I knew for a while and I wanted to have some fun with it. The thrillers published by Momentum are what I want to do, of course, they’re my main interest as a writer, and there’s a fourth one in the series underway, but as a breather I wanted to explore the absurd side of police work and, really, of any big organisation, police or otherwise.

People ask me how much of this book is based on real events. Well, any writer, whether a satirist or a thriller writer or a writer in any genre, bases his or her stories on experiences and situations and characters they have encountered along the way. But we build on those and mould them and change them to suit the story we want to tell. And if it’s a humorous story, then of course you can go even further and really pump it up.

But it’s stuff that anyone who’s worked in a bureaucracy can tell you about, and maybe more, I’d say, anyone who has worked in a big police bureaucracy. And, yes, some characters display some of the traits of people I’ve met or worked with, and not just at Interpol. In newsrooms when I worked as a journalist. In universities, when I was teaching. There are strange, idiosyncratic, flawed, amusing people, and therefore potential fictional characters, everywhere for the taking.

And the character of the Interpol Secretary General. Who inspired that guy? There are some people saying he very, very like the disgraced former head of the International Monetary Fund, Dominique Strauss-Kahn. Really ambitious, flawed, a schemer, a philanderer. And from a French bureaucracy background. Sounds an awful lot like my Didier Herriot-Dupont character, right down to the double-barrelled last name. Right?

Well, here’s what I have to say about that. I’ve never had the pleasure of meeting Mr Strauss-Kahn. I wouldn’t have the faintest idea what people talking about! “Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental”. That’s what it says at the front of my book. Right?

I want people to remember, though, even though I’ve had a lot of fun with this new book that Interpol a serious organisation, despite the fun I’m poking at it. These days, in an increasingly interconnected world, especially in the world of police and intelligence and security work, you absolutely need an organisation like Interpol. Absolutely. And there are some exceptionally good police officers working at that headquarters building in France, really fine police from all over the world doing important work.

But is everyone like that? Are there no problems and failures and mix-ups and messes? Are there no strange or inept people in there? Of course that’s impossible. Just as it’s impossible in any big organisation, police or not police. It always gets down to people, and people screw up, they get themselves into trouble, they try to hide their mistakes, and all this is a wonderful bed for satire.

I hope people will finish the book feeling they’ve had a peek inside Interpol. But taking a peek inside any police organisation, even any local police station, will have its funny side. So I tell at least a part of the Interpol story, but I do it through humour and a lot of made-up stuff. I had a lot of fun writing it, I really let myself go. I hope people will have fun reading it.

But now it’s back to writing thrillers. My Frank Delaney character is itching to get back in the game.

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How to create an international spy agency from scratch

Posted June 26, 2013 by Chris Allen

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Chris Allen‘s book series features an agency called Intrepid, and in this post he discusses how he created the agency from an imagined hybrid international force. 

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.

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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.

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Read more at the original blog post here. Click on the book titles for more information on Chris Allen‘s books Defender and Hunter.

 

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