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‘Before you embark on a journey of revenge, dig two graves.’  Confucius

‘Game Over’, the second in the Hex series, and follow-up to ‘Wicked Game,’ is released by Cutting Edge Press this week.

Hex, for those who don’t know him, is a former hitman desperate to make amends for past crimes – a tall order.  Returning to his old stamping ground in ‘Little London’ (Cheltenham), he reinvents himself as a property developer.  But going straight is tough.  He misses the buzz.  He also misses McCallen, an intelligence officer for MI5 with whom he became embroiled in ‘Wicked’.

When McCallen comes to him with a private job, involving a trip to Berlin, Hex can’t resist – and one small step outside the UK risks the certain attention of Mossad.  Bodies drop like proverbial flies and it soon becomes clear that the killer is out to get Hex and his associates as payback for his last job.

As much as  ‘Game Over’ is a ‘whodunnit,’ it’s also a ‘whydunnit’, and this is the aspect of characterisation that interests me most as a writer.  In a sense, we’re all amateur psychologists and I’m very much in the camp of ‘people are not born bad, but created.’ I don’t believe any of us are immune.  Given the right circumstances, most can be corrupted by life events and, consequently, behave appallingly.  It’s this motivation, which, for me, holds a certain fascination.  Almost more compelling is the horrific chain reaction that can spring from a single, malign act.  Luckily, this kind of thing is easier to chart in fiction than control in real life.

I loved writing ‘Game Over’ for three reasons:

Revenge has to rate as one of my favourite ‘drivers’ for a plot because the desire for us to get even is buried deep in all but the most saintly.  For the writer, it’s a gift because it allows latitude to let rip with the action.

Redemption underpins the action and provides the emotional spine for the story.  Occasionally, readers who haven’t read my work believe that I’m a ‘shoot ‘em up’ writer, which couldn’t be further from the truth.  Hex, a complex character, fatally flawed, isn’t a one-dimensional cold-blooded killer.  It was important for me to get this straight right from the start, which explains why, in both novels, his struggle to jettison his past and stay on the straight and narrow is something that consumes him.

In common with other writers who have put specific places on the map, for example Alison Bruce’s novels are set in Cambridge, Chris Simms in Manchester, I chose to set much of the action in Cheltenham.  I love the place so much I upped sticks and moved there, consequently location research proved a doddle although I should warn Cheltonians I’ve taken a few liberties with the quarry scene!

As before, there is an element of ‘will they/won’t they’ get it together in the relationship between Hex and McCallen.  The advantage of writing two novels in sequence is that it’s easier to develop this aspect, again another device to draw out Hex’s caring side.

Were there any problems in writing the novel?  One. It’s virtually impossible to write a contemporary story, with more than a passing nod to espionage, without referring to technology in some form or another.  This was made doubly difficult because the novel is set in Cheltenham, home to the U.K’s third intelligence service:  GCHQ.   In fiction, as in life, there is heavy emphasis on the way we are tracked, watched and studied by unseen powers with the kind of sophisticated technology that can identify, not only the terrorist at a distance, but the brand of cigarette he or she smokes.  Technology plays a huge role in all our lives and the UK has possibly more CCTV than any other country in Europe.  We all believe that we are under surveillance 24/7 and that the chances of pulling off a crime are zero.  And yet we also know that individuals can and do get away with murder, that crimes remain unsolved, that people evade capture, sometimes for decades, that folk disappear without trace, and that, sadly, airplanes can mysteriously vanish.  It’s also worth remembering that even the most advanced technology is only as a good as the person operating the system.   As a writer, this is what interests me and, for that reason, I’ve concentrated on the human element in the story, sometimes at the expense of the technical.  In ‘Game Over’, the powers that be may well have an inkling of what our main man is up to but, for political considerations, are willing to sit back and let him run his own course and, more importantly, take the flak and the fall for what unfolds.  Cutting to the chase, the importance of gadgetry in this work is deliberately understated.  I hope readers, who are fans of uber-technology, will be forgiving.


You can buy Game Over here

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