Why did I create a new character when many readers have been asking for a 9th John Stratton story?
The Becket Approval did indeed begin as a Stratton story. Not just in my head but on paper too. I wrote more than half the book with Stratton using his Special Forces instincts and solutions. But as The Becket Approval developed it grew more complex and gradually moved beyond Stratton’s natural world. Much as I wanted him to be the protagonist, it eventually became obvious that he had to be replaced by someone more suitable to the direction the plot was taking.
The story is an adventure inside the world of British Military Intelligence, notably MI6, and is built on two apparently separate plot lines that eventually coil together. I’ve been mulling over these two stories for some years now. I initially decided to write two separate books on each, but I’ve developed a liking for complex, intertwining plots and characters and decided that it would be more exciting to combine them into a single epic tale.
One of the plot lines is based on a rumour that goes back to the seventies and probably even before then. A secret assassination group, a cabal of revengers, focused on the pursuit of justice by executing the guilty who managed to avoid the judicial system, specifically those who had killed members of British Special Forces. The Northern Ireland troubles were a popular period for this group. I confess in this blog to having planned an execution myself in response to the shooting of a fellow operator. My decision was influenced by the fact that I was the intended victim a few nights before, but I unwittingly avoided it. We knew who the shooters were although it could not be proven to the satisfaction of the police. My colleague survived, despite being hit by 7 bullets, and so we cancelled the operation. I wasn’t a member of the Becket Approval. I hadn’t heard the rumours at that time. My small team was to be an independent effort. Years later I came to suspect that if the Becket Approval did in fact exist it had to be known by certain powers-that-be, and that a blind eye had been turned. Fact or fiction, a story on the subject had to be written.
The other plot is also apocryphal and perhaps even less so. The UK’s security has always been at risk when certain characters get elected into seats of power. I refer to situations where extreme left wing or Marxist driven persons find themselves in a position in Government or City Hall where they have access to the UK’s security services intelligence, in particular where the UK’s vulnerabilities to attack are concerned. It is no secret that when these Marxist types do get into power, fires are lit in the basements of the SIS and documents are destroyed. But those responses do not always guarantee the security of our intelligence reports. And most Marxists are totalitarian by nature and content for the people to pay any price in order for them to stay in power, even the complete destruction of the economy and way of life. Some years ago there was one such individual who found himself in a position where he was exposed to certain UK vulnerabilities and it was believed that some of that information found its way to the Kremlin.
I needed a new character through which to tell this complex story, and thus Devon Gunnymede, MI6 field operator, was born. Less military skills than an SF operator but more investigative adroitness. I wonder if I’ll stir up much disdain amongst some because of my revelations…
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