“Defender” by Chris Allen – A Review

DEFENDER_mrDefender by Chris Allen
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I started reading Defender just a few days ago. The fact that I have now finished reading it is very significant! I am not a fast reader, not by any stretch of the imagination. That’s a fact I always make very clear when asked to review a book. In this instance, I wasn’t actually asked to read Defender but I so enjoyed it, how could I not do so?

Those who have read my reviews know hat I say little that’s specific about storylines. I have no desire to give away anything of importance to potential readers – and how can I know what they think is important. So I’ll stick to my formula!

Defender introduces us to the shadowy Interpol branch: Intrepid. It launches us into the violent, tangled-web world that combines espionage, soldiering and policing. The agents are hard, efficient people dedicated to a cause: the protection of the innocent, whatever the cost, whatever the means. The world has turned hard and harsh. Criminals are just a small part of the tapestry of threat. Terrorists, brutal governments that don’t respect their own people let alone international law, arms dealers, drug dealers, business cartels interested in profit at any price, government agencies that cross the line between national interest and criminality. These are the shadows that Intrepid’s agents must navigate through, bringing justice, one way or another. And here, in Defender, we meet Alex Morgan, one of Intrepid’s best agents, locked in a battle to bring the coldest and most dangerous of criminals to book. A country wrecked to satisfy corporate and personal greed, a rogue with no loyalties except to himself, cravens and the callous. And behind it all, that corporate entity which directs it all. Caught up in it all are the thousands of innocent victims of a nation thrown into savage chaos, bystanders with no part in any of it, and a few brave ones, like Alex Morgan, other Intrepid agents, police forces as dedicated as those of Intrepid, and a young woman, Arena Hall, hurled into this most dangerous of environments.

Death stalks the pages of this book. Sudden, violent death. Can Alex Morgan and his comrades and friends bring justice where it is due? Only time will tell. But the campaign will travel across half the world, until it culminates in stunning climactic action in Sydney. Success and failure are never more than a heartbeat apart.

I had great trouble putting this book aside, for any reason! It’s a breathless ride, with very few opportunities to relax. Would I recommend it? Do apples grow on trees? This is one of those books which I will treasure as part of my library! I can only offer my strongest recommendation to anybody who likes to feel their pulse occasionally! Yes, there are moments when you may be made to feel uncomfortable, but know that those passages reflect an ugly reality we are (mostly) protected from. This is a book for adult readers who enjoy the very best writing.

Five stars? I’d double that if I could!

View all my reviews

~ Steve

See also:
Review of “Hunter” (Intrepid #2)
The Intrepid Chris Allen

Hunter (Intrepid #2) by Chris Allen: A Book Review

HUNTER_mr First, I should say that I was provided with a copy of Hunter, in ebook format, for review purposes.  This has not influenced my review.  Hunter isn’t in a genre that I read often.  I am, however, willing to venture beyond my normal bounds to some degree.

Hunter is a thriller of a very modern type, featuring the ex-SAS hero, Major Alex Morgan.  A member of Interpol’s covert Intrepid branch, he is called upon to carry out operations that the usual force is not equipped for.  In this novel, he is pitted against Serbian war criminals turned gangsters, from the dreadful days of the Balkans Conflict, who have eluded the law for too long.  And those Serbians are brutally ruthless.  In an effort to undermine the law, the worst of the Serbs, Drago, has threatened the judges and their families.  Intrepid must track down Drago and bring him and his organisation down, and Alex Morgan is at the heart of the operation.

Mr Allen uses variable length chapters very effectively, creating an almost documentary style account.  There are times when the tale races along, but Mr Allen also succeeds in portraying the long, tedious hours spent waiting and watching, or the vast amount of research, intelligence gathering and information co-ordination that goes into any operation involving law enforcement.  His characters are well developed and easy to like or despise, depending on which side of the fence they’re on.  Alex Morgan is very able but no superman.  His comrades in Intrepid are human, with all which that entails.  A particularly strong character is ‘the Wolf’, whose brutal efficiency as an assassin and enforcer for Drago has become legendary, who is a sinister figure pacing through the shadows behind the action.  Refreshingly, there is genuine cooperation between the law enforcement agencies of all the countries involved – not the constant petty politics of jurisdiction and national ego so often portrayed in books and on film.  When the climactic moment comes, you find yourself wishing the action was more prolonged, but of course that would be contrary to what special operations are all about.  They deal in seconds not minutes, minutes not hours.  Anything else could be catastrophic.

A tale of cold-blooded ruthlessness (from both sides), treachery, courage, cowardice, avarice and lust for power, Hunter has everything the thriller aficionado could wish for.  Yes, it took me a while to read, but then I’m a slow reader and I wanted to do justice to a brand new book in a genre I rarely visit.  I found it easy to read, partly thanks to that clever use of chapters varying wildly in length, according to content.  To me, the story passed a very important test: I began picturing the characters and locations as I read!  There is enough detail for both to give a firm base, and sufficient unsaid to allow the imagination to do the rest.  The second test was passed, too: there were times when I read far more than I meant to, and certainly for longer than the time I had available!

I can happily award Hunter five stars!  In fact, now I’m left wanting to read more of these tales…

You can find out more about Mr Allen and his books on his website.

~ Steve

The Intrepid Chris Allen: An Author Interview

I have great pleasure in presenting an interview with Chris Allen, author of the Intrepid series of thrillers.  I’m sure that you’ll find what he has to say, especially the insights into his remarkable past.

~ Steve

Chris Allen 2012

When did you first discover the desire to write was so strong in you?

I grew up in the sleepy town of Rossmoyne, Perth in the 70’s and I loved two things, equally: one was playing the drums in a jazz band, and the other was reading Ian Fleming‘s novels (and to a lesser extent, watching the Bond films). Reading an Ian Fleming book was a way to escape and see the world through the eyes of the sometimes-dark, ever-attractive James Bond. In fact, I joined the Australian Army aged 18 so I could get out and see the world and write action scenes convincingly, just like Mr Fleming had done himself ( of course, he served with the Royal Navy, but I did a secondment to the British Paras, so close enough).

Do you usually write in the same genre you tend to prefer to read?

Well, the authors I return to time and again for entertainment or support, inspiration, adventure or comfort – the equivalent of a hot cup of strong tea, or tumbler of whiskey – are the aforementioned Ian Fleming and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. You’ll find me reading their work at least once a week for their effortless prose as well as the journey I go on when I get into their stories.

I do read pretty widely on top of that. At present I’m into a lot of Australian writers that I’m getting to know personally, like Australia’s answer to Wilbur Smith, the ever-adventurous Tony Park; author of thriller Rotten Gods and all-round-good-guy Greg Barron; or author of noir classic Dark City Blue Luke Preston. I’m of the firm view that there’s room for all of us on the best-seller lists, that we all have something different to offer, and that there’s strength in solidarity.

When reading, do you prefer traditional printed books or ebooks?

Good question. For years, I collected books. As a paratrooper, often moving around the world on various deployments, it got complicated with so many books to keep in storage, and I have such a collection that moving house makes my wife Sarah come out in hives. Then a few years ago I was given (from Sarah, funnily enough) my first Kindle for Christmas. I was unsure at first, but it changed my life. The ability to store thousands of books on one tablet! So light! So easy to pack and travel with! A bookstore at my fingertips! I also had the handy experience of self-publishing my first thriller novel in 2010 and learning to convert the text file to eBook, so I have first-hand appreciation for both the work that goes into creating an eBook and the ease of distribution at a click, with no postage or double-handling required. For me, a story is a story, no matter the medium that transmits it: mouth, or book, eBook, audio listening device or screen. That said, I still love a full bookshelf in my home and that will never go out of fashion!

Have you been influenced and/or inspired by another writer, or writers?

Yes, Fleming and Conan Doyle as well as Alistair Maclean, Jack Higgins, Frederick Forsyth – the classics.

Do past or current events in your life have an influence on your writing?

DEFENDER_mr Sure. There’s a chapter in Defender that is an amalgamation of a couple of almost-failed parachute jumps I experienced as a Paratrooper that appears about a third of the way in. There’s also a highly entertaining flight briefing I received en route to East Timor from a full-of-personality UN pilot that I replicate almost word-for-word in Defender. It’s attributed at the end of the book, too!

Have you got a favourite author, who stands well ahead of all others?

It’s gotta be Fleming. But that’s probably pretty clear already.

Have you got both printed and digital books published?

We do eBooks and print-on-demand through Momentum Books, the digital-only imprint of Pan Macmillan. However, it’s not all about eBooks yet, though there is a lot of hype and uptake in that area, so we are working on securing traditional print deals in Australia and New Zealand, the United Kingdom, the United States, Germany and Canada. That’s for starters. It’s all about making your work as available as possible so you can reach as many readers as possible.

Do you try to write to satisfy what is fashionable, or do you write pieces that you would want to read?

I like to think of my stories as old-school action thrillers with a modern twist. I write what I want to read, what I grew up reading, what I’ve done and experienced, what is ensconced in the depths of my mind from my life and literary experiences thus far. One of the fulcrum points of my professional career was around 9/11 – I was in-demand, unfortunately, for my critical infrastructure protection expertise and counter-terrorism knowledge. So creating Intrepid, the ultra-secret sub-directorate of Interpol, was a culmination of a lot of that insider knowledge and understanding of the inner workings of these types of soldier, policeman and spy agencies that do – hypothetically – exist.

How do you fit writing into your life?  Do you have set times for writing?

HUNTER_mr We have two small boys aged three years and six months respectively, and as you can imagine, life can get pretty unstructured and messy with them around – but all in a good way. I try and do some writing each day, but you need to give it a jolt by setting a deadline for your work. I wrote the first book, Defender, over a period of ten years which was nice but unsustainable if you want to make a living from your work. The second book, Hunter, I wrote in six months door to door. Avenger – the third in the series – will need to be out before the end of the year. So, I can see in my crystal ball some very early mornings, late nights, and a whole lot of pieces of paper with ever increasing word counts jotted down. About 2,500 words a day was what I had to crank out whilst on deadline last year!

Do you keep every jotting of ideas, just in case they might be developed at some later date?

I have a couple of great leather-bound notebooks that I keep in my briefcase, by my desk, by my bed, to help capture the inspirations that pass through my head. I get my main ideas when I’m off on a drive – down to the nation’s capital Canberra, which is three hours from Sydney – or up the Central Coast for my Author Talks. I guess it’s a good thing Australia is a really big place.

Chris Allen

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For more information visit www.intrepidallen.com, or say g’day to Chris at www.facebook.com/intrepidallen.
To read a sample of Defender:
intrepidallen.com/getdefender
To read a sample of Hunter: intrepidallen.com/gethunter