My latest retro-spy thriller, THE AMBROSIA KILL was published last week by Pro Se Productions (you can track it down on Amazon or Smashwords if you’re so inclined), and I thought I’d tell you a little bit about it and some of my influences.
I am a big fan of spy stories from the 1960s, in both film and literature. It is therefore, not so surprising that I have set my Jarvis Love retro-spy series during that decade. I like the 1960s as a setting for several reasons. The first is simply escapism. I want readers to escape from their everyday lives for a few hours, and setting the story in the past gives me that opportunity. It’s another world – a simpler world – but one full of danger and excitement. I also don’t want technology to interfere with the story. I like the idea of a man (or woman) dropped into a foreign location and having to figure out things on the fly. No back up; no-one in an earpiece sharing the latest intel. I want the hero to work it out for themselves, and hopefully the reader will enjoy making the journey with them.
One of the tropes inherent in those classic spy stories from the ’60s was JET-SETTING or GLOBE-TROTTING. It was like a holiday on the printed page. The tales featured international globe trotting secret agents fighting crime and evil masterminds in exotic locales all around the globe. Beautiful people in beautiful locations doing particularly nasty things was the maxim. In some cases the stories were barely more than glorified travelogues, but the locations provided fantastic backdrops for the action. Perfect examples of these were the James Bond (I know Bond was first published in the 1950s), Matt Helm or Sam Durell stories, but even many of the lesser known tales of espionage liked to work in foreign locations. In fact, the locations used were often a selling points for these films or novels. If a spy story utilised an exotic location, it wasn’t unusual for that location to be mentioned in the title. The role call of destinations included, Our Man In Havana (book in ’58 / film in ’59), Funeral In Berlin, The Berlin Memorandum, That Man In Istanbul, Espionage In Tangiers, The Girl From Rio, Assassination In Rome, Our Man In Marrakech, Fury In The Orient, Hong Kong Hot Harbour, Our Man In Jamaica and many, many others. The tradition of globe-trotting is an element I have tried to incorporate in my spy stories. In THE LIBRIO DEFECTION (2012), I had G.I.N. operative Jarvis Love travel to Florence in Italy. For THE DANAKIL DECEPTION (2014), I went right off the beaten track, and took readers to Ethiopia and the volcanic desolate terrain of the Danakil Depression, the hottest place on earth.
For my latest novel, THE AMBROSIA KILL, I set most of the story on the island of New Britain, in the Bismark Archipelago. New Britain is one of the regions that make up Papua New Guinea, and much of the island, to this day, remains unexplored. So gear up for a rugged jungle adventure. It’s getting more and more difficult to find new locations to explore, but I like to think I have succeeded.
THE AMBROSIA KILL picks up right after the end of THE DANAKIL DECEPTION. The story finds Jarvis Love with a new assignment. Kerryn Foxworthy, the daughter of a prominent English Lord, has run off and joined a religious cult called the Twin Hearts of Fire. Their compound is in Almeria, Spain, and is run by a shadowy figure called Brother Myron. Love’s mission is to retrieve Kerryn and bring her back to London, however there is a catch. Accompanying him on the assignment is Kerryn’s twin sister, Merryn. Love is not pleased at the prospect of chaperoning the high-spirited young woman, but, as the mission progresses, Love finds himself falling for her. Love and Merryn succeed in rescuing Kerryn, but the cult sends out armed acolytes to stop them. The final confrontation occurs in a gas station in the Almeria Dessert. As Love attempts to escape with the Foxworthy girls, there is a tremendous explosion. The car they are traveling in is struck by the blast and overturns. Merryn’s face in burned. She will be scarred for life.
Love blames himself for the tragedy. Struggling to live with the guilt, he becomes addicted to seconal – or Red Devils – a drug that takes away his pain. He even contemplates quitting G.I.N. His superior, Rupert Fenwyck, knows the only way that Love will recover, is if he is thrown into the thick of it again. He assigns him to investigate the murder of a G.I.N. operative in Port Moresby – Papua New Guinea. It seems like a nothing assignment. The killer was shot during the attack, and died soon afterward. However, nothing is as it seems. Upon arrival, Love discovers the operative was looking into the disappearance of Professor Lincoln Jess, a prominent botanist, who had only recently returned from New Britain. The Professor’s most recent discovery is Bulbophyllum ambrosia, a blood red orchid with mind-altering properties. Used for good, it could cure anxiety and depression, but used for evil, it could be used for mind control.
After several attempts on his life, Love realizes the assignment is more complex than anyone could imagine. And soon finds himself teamed up with the Professor’s daughter, Miranda, and a jungle guide named Haggert. Their plan is to retrace the steps of Lincoln Jess – a journey into the wild unforgiving jungle of New Britain – a land full of danger at every turn. Naturally enough, the events in Spain still haunt Love. He is not keen to have Miranda along. He does not want to be responsible for her safety, fearing he may let her down. Concerned for her father’s safety, Miranda insists she make the journey, and Love can do little to stop her. Their expedition leads them to a lake in the black heart of the jungle. The final confrontation pushes Love and Miranda to the brink of human endurance. Can Love excise the demons of the past? Can he save Miranda from the horrors of the jungle? All this and much, much more, in THE AMBROSIA KILL. Welcome to the Jungle, Mr. Love!