Monday, 20 June 2016

The story behind the book - 'The Locker'

It’s not often I get inspired by a visit to the gym. I get bored easily and think of all the writing I could be doing instead. But there was one time when an idea hit me and took root. It illustrates how something seemingly insignificant will stick in the memory until days or even months later.

I’d just completed Close Quarters, the second in the Marc Portman spy thriller series, and hadn’t got anything specific in mind. It's a bit like that for me, after completing a book; suddenly the ideas cup seems horribly empty. However, I knew I wanted to try something different, to see what came out. I’ve always worked that way, switching between magazine fiction, features and books, and within the book genres themselves; from the Inspector Lucas Rocco crime series set in France (Death on the Marais, etc), to the Harry Tate spy thrillers (Red Station, etc) and the Portman series.

Anyway, here I was at the gym, opening a locker to put away my clothes, when I saw a business card on the shelf. A white one, stark against the dark interior, with a name, telephone number and address - I forget the details, but they’re irrelevant.
When I turned it over out of idle curiosity, I saw it had my name scrawled on it. Adrian.

 It was a little spooky for a second, although I knew it couldn't be addressed to me. Call me psychic.

I put it back, did my session of self-torture and went home. But what stayed with me was the sheer randomness of a piece of card with my name on it being in a locker at a public gym.

I kept thinking, what if... ? What if it wasn’t a guy’s name written on the card, but a woman’s? What if the woman - let’s call her Nancy - is the mother of a little girl named Beth. She arrives at her gym one morning to find a card lying on the bottom of her chosen locker. And it's addressed specifically to her.
Hello, Nancy.
You’re at your usual locker at Fitness Plus. The time is approx. 09.15. Your cell phone is dead, your home phone won’t answer and your daughter Beth is alone with Tiggi, her cute Polish nanny.
It will take you 18 minutes to get home. If you drive fast.
Shame. You’re already 18 minutes late...
She checks, of course, and to her horror finds her cell phone dead and the landline doesn’t answer. Worse, when she gets home there’s no sign of Beth or the nanny. But there are instructions which tell her two things: she mustn’t tell the police but she has to tell her husband, Michael.
The problem is Nancy has no way of reaching him; he’s a charity field worker somewhere in Africa or the Middle East. She recalls, however, that he’d once impressed on her one important fact: that if anything out of the ordinary ever happened, she should call a special number and mention CODE RED. This she does.
Shortly afterwards, two people arrive. One is a former British soldier and cop, Ruth Gonzales;  her colleague, Andy Vaslik, is an American, and former Department of Homeland Security agent. They are investigators with a private security contractor/insurance company called Cruxys Solutions, and they’ve come to solve the problem of Beth's kidnap and provide whatever other assistance she might need.

As they quickly discover, Nancy's husband, who is clearly fundamental to the kidnappers’ actions although they have no idea why, not only out of reach, he doesn’t seem to have a footprint: no bank account, no documentation, a seemingly invented past… and only Nancy’s word that he actually exists.

Other queries quickly begin to mount, such as why have the family moved house several times within a short period? Is the nanny, Tiggi, in on the kidnap? Who would have been close enough to know which locker Nancy might use… and how did they disable her cell phone? Most important of all, why does Michael appear not to exist?

When they discover that Nancy has been under covert surveillance from a nearby empty house, and is then subjected to an attempted snatch off the street, followed by the murder of a charity expert Ruth Gonzales has consulted, it’s soon obvious that this is no ordinary kidnap-for-ransom, and involves something much darker and deeper, with implications involving international terrorism.

And that's how THE LOCKER was born: by chance encounter with a piece of card, followed by a whole series of what ifs and maybes.

Of course, being a series writer, I was asked if this was the first of a series... and I replied, 'of course.' The second in the Gonzales & Vaslik story is called 'THE BID', which is due out next January. But that's for another time.
'The Locker' (Midnight Ink) - now available in paperback and ebook.

No comments:

Post a Comment