defender of the faith

Fittingly, a top five

It had been my intention to review a few books today, but as I’m running hopelessly behind and my house is bomb site, I’m cutting myself some slack and opting for a quick, novelty post instead.

This week Bright Sea Publishing (who brought us Defender of the Faith) issued a challenge – to list my top five fictional characters of all time. Given that I’m still in a ‘top-fivey’ frame of mind, as a result of my recent re-read of Nick Hornby’s High Fidelity,  I rose to the challenge!

Here’s the closest I can come to a definative top five, in no particular order:


Pan, from Jitterbug Perfume (cheeky, cheeky demi-god)

Pippi Longstockings, from the Pippi Longstockings series (my hero)

Holly Golightly, from Breakfast at Tiffany’s (if only I had half her style)

Sal Paradise, from On the Road (obvious? unavoidable)

Dinah from The Red Tent (strength, passion and child birth)

Not easy, and I reserve the right to change my mind by this time next week. What do you think of my list?

Who would be your top five?

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Defender of the Faith, go along for the ride

I’m pleased to report that this weekend I finally got hold of the ipad for long enough to finish reading Chris Allen’s Defender of the Faith. A Sunday well spent, I bunkered down in my reading chair and finished off this action-packed INTREPID adventure. After a day of reading, a flat ipad battery, and a wild literary ride on boat, and car and chopper…through Africa, London and the streets of Sydney, I was left gasping for breath and wanting more…

Defender of the Faith is the story of INTREPID agent, Alex Morgan as he works to unravel a web of corruption and greed. It’s his job to uncover those pulling the strings of a deadly coup in Malfajiri and to bring them to account. He does this with brawn and brains, and the promise of beer. Of course, whilst busy fighting rebel soldiers and repeatedly cheating death, Morgan still has time to attract the lovely Arena Hall. Their resulting affair creates solace for the couple, in a recuperative Spanish villa no less, but it also threatens to compromise Alex’s mission, keeping the reader on the edge of their seat.

The novel is wonderfully authentic, nicely paced, it contains plenty of detail and just the right ratio of plot-to-action. The character of Morgan is also quite interesting. At first he seems your standard-issue operative, one part renaissance man, one part action hero. There’s no doubt, there is that to him – he’s unbreakable, he’s clever, and he’s quite the lady’s man. But interestingly, he’s also a bit more than that. I was struck by the character’s morality, his sense of doing right and defending the innocent. This really makes Alex Morgan stand out, both against the crooked adversaries that he faces off with, but also when he’s compared to other ‘James Bond’ type characters – he’s a new breed of hero.

Now, I was really lucky to be able fire off five quick questions to the author of this exciting novel. In his own words, here’s what Chris Allen had to say about his debut novel:

***

As a new author, can you tell us how it is you came to write fiction? It’s quite a departure from your ‘day-job’ – why the shift?

I’ve always wanted to write, from the time I was a boy, but I was never one of those kids who was drawn to the theory of it. I just wanted to write – my way. Most importantly, I have always wanted to write action thrillers. I think I learned most of the craft from reading the works of my favourite writers: Ian Fleming, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Alistair Maclean, Jack Higgins, Frederick Forsyth and Clive Cussler. Of course, to be in their league I felt I needed to experience the things I wanted to write about first hand.  So, one thing led to another, and a career within the military, humanitarian aid and law enforcement environments beckoned.  While I watched with great interest (and envy) the successes of great contemporary Australian writers in the action/crime space, like Matthew Reilly, Tara Moss etc, in my case, I had to get to a point where I felt I was ready to put pen to paper and write the style of thriller I’d always hoped to. It took many years, but I’m finally there.


How did the character of Alex Morgan come about? He’s such an intriguing, down-to-earth yet exceptional operator…

www.defenderofthefaith.com.au

Well, Alex Morgan is an interesting guy. He was originally to be styled around the fictional favourites of my childhood, like James Bond, Napoleon Solo (from ‘The Man from UNCLE’), Dirk Pitt, and Bodie (from ‘The Professionals’), and to an extent he still is.  But, with the benefit of real experience, Alex Morgan became much more.  As you see him now, Morgan is a hybrid of a select few, very  real people; friends and colleagues whom I have had the great privilege of knowing and serving with over many years.  While I have loosely used myself as his foundation, I have extracted various skills, experiences and character traits from three or four friends to really give him the gritty, down-to-earth realism that you find on the page.  People who do the kind of work that I’ve attributed to my INTREPID agents, can’t afford to be superficial, self obsessed loners. They have at their core a sense of service, loyalty and obligation that can only be built amongst comrades.


Clearly you know your stuff, evidenced by the amazing details included throughout this adventure…how much, if at all, did your military experience inform Defender of the Faith?

My time as an Army Officer definitely provided the basis for what I would eventually create within the characters and storyline for Defender.  I spent time on attachments to other armies and worked alongside soldiers from at least a dozen different countries.  I served in Europe, Africa, Central America and South East Asia.  But, my service hasn’t all been in the military. Mid-way through my time in the Army, I took a brief sabbatical to serve with the Australian Federal Police. Years later, when I eventually left the Army due to injury, I served with an international humanitarian aid agency in East Timor at the height of the intervention mission in late 1999. Since the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, my career has been predominantly within the Government protective security arena. Fortunately, I also have an incredible group of very close friends, many of whom have made expert contributions to my work to ensure that I kept every detail as accurate as possible!

So, over almost thirty years, I’m accumulated a quite diverse range of skills and experiences, all of which led to the creation of INTREPID and, most importantly, Alex Morgan.


When you’ve got a minute or two to put your feet up and have a read, what do you pick-up off the bookshelf?

Honestly, when I want to completely escape and go back to something that is totally familiar and entertaining, I can’t go past the Conan Doyle Sherlock Holmes stories.  Otherwise, I try to read current authors, both established and emerging, mainly within the action/crime space and these days, I do most of my reading via my Kindle.  If I’m finding it too hard to get to a book, then I’ll have an audio book in the car.


What’s next? Will we see more of Morgan or something new?

I am absolutely committed to writing a series of Alex Morgan/INTREPID adventures.  I’m in the midst of writing Book 2 right now and I’m loving it, but there are times when I get really frustrated that my two-fingered typing is slowing me down while the ideas are trying to pour out of me, especially when I’m writing an action sequence! Meanwhile, there is serious interest and discussion at the moment from a number of people over the possibility of a Defender film. In my view, Alex Morgan & INTREPID presents an unprecedented opportunity to launch a uniquely Australian action hero into the contemporary international context.

***

I for one would pay good money to see that film, and equally, I’m eagerly awaiting the next INTREPID instalment. In the meantime, I’ll have to make do with an action-filled re-read of a few choice chapters:

“Morgan chanced a look back towards the rebels. They were everywhere, their rounds biting into the dirt at his feet. The distinctive crack of high-velocity ammunition pierced the air, inches from his face. Morgan expected that at any second he would feel the unmistakable thump and burn of the bullet that would find him. It was inevitable. A quick death was preferred, but unlikely, especially if he was still alive when the rebels reached him”

If you like a fast-paced, authentic read, you’ll love this book. If you’re still not convinced you can sample the first 12 chapters for free, available at the Defender of the Faith website. Also, you can pick up a copy of the book over on the website too, paper or ebook. Well worth a look.

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Skipping and jumping through my reading pile

I love the Summer break, if for no other reason than that is allows for a little extra reading time. There is nothing quite as nice as sitting in my reading chair, air-conditioner on, kids otherwise occupied, getting neck-deep in one fictional adventure or another.

Interestingly, this holiday’s reading has taken shape a little differently than usual. Somewhat uncharacteristically for me, this extra time to read over the break has seen me skipping and jumping from one book to another, dipping in and out of a number of different novels in turn. This might sound infuriating to some, but in some strange way it seems to be working for me at the moment – the books are so different from each other, meaning that I can pick the particular story that fits my mood, and then swap to something more serious/adventurous/humorous when I feel like it.

And so, I thought I’d give you a quick run down on the books I’m flicking between…

My main book at the moment is Defender of the Faith, by Chris Allen. I’ve talked about this one before, here and I’m now making some real head-way into the exciting novel.

Very soon, I’ll be having a bit of a catch up with the author of this action-packed thriller, and I’ll let you in on the behind-the-scenes of this book. I’ll follow this closely with my review and another chance to win a copy for yourself. If you’re curious to check out this book, you can actually get a copy of the first twelve chapters of the novel for FREE! Check it out here.

The next title is a re-read, and it’s a particularly important one for me because it’s the TBYL Book Club’s book for January. I’m re-visiting Sonya Hartnett’s Of a Boy, and putting together some ideas for our discussion about the book at the end of the month…questions and talking-points that should get some good conversations going. I’ve talked to a few people who’ve just finished this novella, and they seem to have been quite moved by this rattler of a book. You can join the TBYL Book Club here, and buy the book here.

The next couple of books are, for me, something quite different (again). They’re two youth fiction novels, one of which I’ve been able to share with my eleven-year old son.

Firstly, is Glow, by Amy Kathleen Ryan (Pan MacMillan). A dystopian tale of space travel, romance and survival, this story for older teens seems to have been well constructed, nicely told, and set well to establish an engaging, ongoing series.

I’ve almost finished this book (it’s a quick read) so I’ll review it early next week.

Next is Andrew Lane’s Young Sherlock Holmes – Fire Storm (Pan MacMillan). The forth in the Young Sherlock series, this novel is suitable for 11+ year olds and so, rather than have it sit ideal until I had a chance to read it, I had my son Evan read it first.

He seemed pretty impressed, read it pretty veraciously and has now gone a bit crazy for all things Sherlock. I’m looking forward to reading this, I’d expect it wont take me too long to get through and it’s nicely timed given the revival of Sherlock on big screen and small.

On a more serious note, the book that I’m reading for my (off line) book club at the moment is horribly haunting. The group has agreed to read We Need to Talk About Kevin, by Lionel Shriver for our next catch-up and it’s hard going. There is a lot of talk at the moment about this disturbing story, due to the release of it’s film version.

A mother’s story, telling what it is to face absolute and undeniable shame and horror in your own child, this book has been ominous from the outset, and I’ve no doubt it’s only going to get tougher.

Lastly, I’ve a most luscious-looking novel in the reading pile, taunting me to start reading it. I’m resisting until I get through Of a Boy, but then it’ll be time to delve into Makeda, by Prue Sobers.

This story promises to take me on an Ethiopian adventure, travelling with the beautiful and spirited Makeda, the Queen of Sheba. Romance, intrigue, and royalty, it has it all.

Keep an eye out, I’ve a couple of signed copies to give away later this month!

It’s quite a list I know, and my head is spinning a little bit. But it’s spinning in the nicest possible way, as I skip from war-torn Africa, to suburban Sydney to the depths of outer space, I’m enjoying the narratives, the diary-entries, and the dramatisation of these compelling adventures. What better way to spend a Summer?!

I hope you’re having a chance to have a bit of read, and don’t forget, it’s not too late to sign up for this month’s TBYL Book Club…we’d love for you to join in!

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Winning, Christmas Eve style!

I’m pleased to announce, that Jane O is the winner of That Book You Like’s Christmas Eve give-away.  Jane, I hope you’ll enjoy your bundle of bookish wonder!

Just email me your details (email address) to info@thatbookyoulike.com.au by end Saturday, 31.12.11 and arrangements will be made! If the prize isn’t claimed, I will redraw on 02.01.12

Again, to everyone, I wish you all a VERY MERRY CHRISTMAS! Thanks so much for following That Book You Like around, and getting involved in the fun and conversations. I look forward to getting to know you all even better next year when we get the first TBYL Book Club rolling.

TBYL Xmas Eve give-away: A bundle

Ho ho ho, Merry Christmas!

Santa has popped by and left me a most delightful bundle of bookish delight, with strict instructions to give them away to one lucky winner in the last Christmassy week of Christmas.

It’s a wonderful little reading pile, a set of four books for one lucky reader. One winner will win a copy of:

 

Die, Yummy Mummy Die, by Allison Rushby (e-copy) Read More…

Defender of the Faith, by Chris Allen (e-copy) Read More…

Makeda, by Prue Sobers (paperback)  I’ll be reviewing this new release early in 2012…

Of a Boy, by Sonya Hartnett (paperback) which is of course, our very first TBYL Book Club book…

 

To go into the running to win this Christmas Bundle, all you have to do is:

1. Leave a comment on this post, or

2. Visit That Book You Like‘s Facebook page

…and tell us about what you most hope to get from Santa this year.

The winner of this month’s competition (selected at random) will receive this lovely bundle of four titles.

Entries close Friday, 23 December 2011. The winner will have seven days to claim their prize, or a redraw will be held (I’ve allowed a couple of extra days given that it’s Christmas and all!)

A very Merry Christmas to your all, I hope you all have a wonderful holiday…great times with family and friends, lots of great food and drink and of course some time to put your feet up and read awhile.

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Your summer reading sorted, winner!

I’m pleased to announce, that Steph L is the winner of That Book You Like’s December give-away.  Steph, I hope you’ll enjoy your e-copy of Chris Allen’s Defender of the Faith.

Just email me your details (email address) to info@thatbookyoulike.com.au by end Saturday, 24.12.11 and arrangements will be made! If the prize isn’t claimed, I will redraw on 27.12.11

Again, thanks so much to everyone for joining in the fun and don’t forget to follow my blog around on Facebook  and  Twitter.

December give-away: Summer action

Having enjoyed and reviewed a wonderfully wide range of books in 2011, I’m finishing the year off with some summer action. I’ve just started reading Chris Allen’s action thriller Defender of the Faith and I’m completely sucked in. I can’t wait to have a bit of extra reading time over the Chrissy break to really get into this well constructed, very compelling adventure.

“A British agent is brutally murdered, a President is in danger and the fate of the small West African nation, Malfajiri, lies in the balance.

Enter Alex Morgan, the new star agent of INTERPOL’s ‘Intelligence, Recovery, Protection & Infiltration Division’: INTREPID. Part-policeman, part-soldier, part-spy, Morgan and his fellow INTREPID operatives are the faceless, unassailable strangers among us; serving the world and operating beyond the influence of the most powerful nations.

In Defender of the Faith, Alex Morgan is sent on his first solo mission to hunt down the source of soviet surplus weapons haemorrhaging into Africa and Asia, but gets more than he bargained for, unraveling a complex web of deceit with links to the very heart of the British diplomatic community.

A heart-pounding, no-holds-barred chase, spanning the dark continent of Africa to the crystalline waters of Sydney, culminates in a fight to the end to stop vicious renegade intelligence officer Victor Lundt and uncover the ultimate power behind him.

If only Morgan can stay alive long enough to bring them all to justice.”

I’m thinking that this novel will take me through to the end of the year, and so I’ll post my review of the book early in the new year. In the meantime, you’ve got a chance to win a copy of the e-book (for Kindle).

To go into the running to win, all you have to do is:

1. Leave a comment on this post, or

2. Visit That Book You Like‘s Facebook page

…and tell us about your reading plans for the Christmas/Summer break.

The winner of this month’s competition (selected at random) will receive a free e-copy of Defender of the Faith.

Entries close Monday, 19 December 2011. The winner will have four days to claim their prize, or a redraw will be held.

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Reading in five different directions

I’m not entirely sure how it’s happened, but I’ve got five different books on the go at the moment and my mind is boggling a little bit. For that reason, I’m going to put some time aside this evening and try and put a fair dent in my reading pile.

As such, rather than a review this evening, I thought I’d give you a quick run down on the books I’m flicking between…

First up is Last Chance Cafe, by Liz Byrski. This is my ‘main book’ at the moment, and it was recommended to me by Linda at Kidna Books. I’m nearing the end of this book, and I’m finding it hard to put down (another reason to have a reading night tonight). It’s very nearly soap-opera-like, but much more skilfully put together than a simple melodrama. The characters are fallible but inherently likeable and I’m most definitely feeling the marked ups and downs of this close-knit group of family and friends. It brings to mind those times in life when one thing after another manages to go a bit pear-shaped. Stay tuned for a full review next week.

Next is The Slap, by Christos Tsiolkas and I’ve got to have this read by mid November. My book club and I agreed to jump on the bandwagon and read this book while the tele-series is on the ABC. I’m pretty sure a synopsis is unnecessary, but you can find out more about this book here if you’ve not heard about it. I am fairly sure I’m not exactly going to enjoy this story but I’m looking forward to experiencing first hand the obvious talent of Tsiolkas. Also, I’ll be pleased to be able to say when asked, that I’ve read it. I’m going to hold off on watching the series until I’ve read the book, so I’d better get a move on I suppose…

I’ve got a couple of books loaded up on the Kindle at the moment, the first of which is Die Yummy Mummy Die, by Allison Rushby. This compilation of columns, largely about the ‘joys’ of motherhood were originally published in the Courier-Mail, and have been an interesting little discovery, humorous and insightful. I’m half-way through, it has been great to read while waiting to pick-up kids, at doctors appointments and other idol moments. If you enjoy mummy-bloggers, this book will be right up your ally. I’ll review in November, and you’ll have a chance to win a copy next month.

The second book ready and waiting on my ipad is Defender of the Faith, by Chris Allen. A old-school action novel, this’ll be something a bit different for me (once again). I’m quite excited about starting on this one, I’m hoping that I’ll enjoy it as much as I did The Siren’s Sting, which has quite nicely put me in the mood for intrigue and espionage. It’ll be great to read something from an exciting new Australian author. If you’re curious, you can actually get a copy of the first twelve chapters of the novel for FREE! Check it out here.

Last, but not least, in my physical (and frighteningly tall) reading pile is Foal’s Bread, by Gillian Mears. This has been recommended to me by Allen and Unwin, and it promises to be quite moving. I don’t know a lot about the novel at this stage, but it sounds beautifully Australian and a nice piece of literature, with Gillian Mears’ work having been likened to that of Garner and Grenville. I’ve given myself until the end of November to get to this book, so keep an eye out later next month if you like the sound of Mears’ long awaited novel.

So there is it, now you all know what I’ll be doing with the next month and a half of train trips, waiting rooms and kid-free evenings. No shortage of words to enjoy and I hope you’ll all stay tuned for my take on these many and varied titles.

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