“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

Guest Post: “The Death of Anyone” by D J Swykert

TheDeathOfAnyone The underlying theme in my latest book, The Death of Anyone, poses the Machiavellian question: Does the end justify the means?  I developed this story around an impulsive homicide detective, Bonnie Benham, who wants to use Familial DNA, a search technique not in common use in the United States.  Only two states even have a written policy regarding its use, Colorado and California.  Many legal analysts believe it violates Fourth Amendment rights which guard against unreasonable searches and seizures.

Bonnie is a no nonsense cop who describes herself as a blond with a badge and a gun.  She has her own answer to the ethical use of Familial DNA, but the actual legality of its use will be determined in a real life courtroom in the California trial of a serial killer dubbed by the media: ‘The Grim Sleeper’.

Lonnie David Franklin, ‘The Grim Sleeper’, was caught because his son’s DNA was the closest match to DNA collected at the crime scenes in the database.  Investigating Franklin’s son led them to investigate Lonnie Franklin.  But there was no direct DNA evidence that linked Lonnie to the crime scene until they obtained a sample from him after his arrest.  Lonnie Franklin will be the first person in the U.S. to ever stand trial based on Familial DNA evidence, and its admissibility issues in court will be thoroughly tested by defense attorneys.  These are the very same issues that face Detroit Homicide Detective Bonnie Benham and form the plot of my story.

I’m a blue collar person from Detroit.  I’ve worked as a truck driver, dispatcher, logistics analyst, operations manager, and ten years as a 911 operator, which was the very best job of them all.  I have a pretty straight forward style of telling a story.  I write a book like you’d watch a movie and put it down on paper.

Detroit Detective Bonnie Benham has been transferred from narcotics to homicide for using more than arresting and is working the case of a killer of adolescent girls.  CSI collects DNA evidence from the scene of the latest victim, which had not been detected on the other victims.  But no suspect turns up in the FBI database.  Due to the notoriety of the crimes a task force is put together with Bonnie as the lead detective, and she implores the D.A. to use an as yet unapproved type of a DNA Search in an effort to identify the killer.  Homicide Detective Neil Jensen, with his own history of drug and alcohol problems, understands Bonnie’s frailty and the two detectives become inseparable as they track this killer of children.

I first heard about the use of Familial DNA working as a 911 operator in 2006.  It came up in a conversation with officers working a case.  I thought at the time it would make an interesting premise for a book.  I began writing the mystery some three years later after leaving the department.  I had just finished editing a first draft of The Death of Anyone in the summer 2010 when news of ‘The Grim Sleeper’s’ capture in Los Angeles was released.  I read with interest all the information pouring out of L.A. regarding the investigation and the problems confronting prosecutors.  All of which are explored in The Death of Anyone.

David Swykert D J Swykert is a former 911 operator.  His work has appeared in The Tampa Review, Detroit News, Monarch Review, Zodiac Review, Scissors& Spackle, Spittoon, Barbaric Yawp and Bull.  His books include Children of the Enemy, a novel from Cambridge Books; Alpha Wolves, a novel from Noble Publishing, and The Death of Anyone which is his third novel, just released by Melange Books.  You can find out more about him and how to buy his books on the blogspot: www.magicmasterminds.com, they are also available at Melange Books, Amazon and at select mystery bookstores. He is a wolf expert.

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


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

Million Seller “Redemption Blues” Makes E-book Debut – T. D. Griggs

RED BLUES_2012 cover HR (1) Most British thriller lovers have never had the chance to read million-seller Redemption Blues, the taut crime mystery by Oxford author T. D. Griggs (‘Tim’).  Yet, twelve years ago the book was a publishing sensation in mainland Europe. It generated huge sales in print version in Germany, the Netherlands, France and Italy.

Now Griggs has re-edited and re-issued the novel as an ebook for the first time – with his home audience in mind (view it at http://tinyurl.com/cgpjhr9)

TG study shot compressed

Redemption Blues, more than a conventional cop drama, nevertheless features a London detective as its main character, and revolves around a deadly crime. Rock star Matt Silver, in trying to patch together his failing marriage, triggers a tragedy in which Silver himself and one of his own children are killed. Inspector Sam Cobb, a man with his own scars, is called in to pick up the pieces. He is reluctant to get involved, but when he does, it seems that he can bring hope to Silver’s devastated family.

Except that Matt Silver is far from dead…

‘I am fascinated by the alliances people form in order to defend themselves against a world which can be brutal or, worse, indifferent,’ Griggs says. ‘Redemption Blues will keep you guessing: but I hope it will do more than that.’

Meanwhile the writer’s first foray into historical crime, his Victorian epic Distant Thunder (Orion 2013, £7.99) is just out in paperback and as an ebook. His father-son drama The Warning Bell (Orion, 2010), which was written under the pen-name Tom Macaulay, is also available.

For more information go to T.D.Griggs’ website www.tdgriggs.co.uk, or follow him on twitter @TDGRIGGS1

T. D. Griggs on Goodreads.

Images courtesy T. D. Griggs: Cover of Redemption Blues and the author in his study.