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…
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.