My life as a spy

First, a disclaimer.

I’m not a spy, and I’ve never been one. That title was a ruse to get you to read further.

I’ve often thought I’d make a top-notch spy, though. Fair enough, I have a few qualities that would count against me, such as gullibility, extreme physical cowardice, and a shiftiness of manner that would make me stand out like a sore thumb. But none of these are flaws that a few years of intense training couldn’t eradicate.

Seriously, though. Espionage is possibly the oddest profession there is. You’re paid to deceive people, primarily. I know it involves a lot more than that, but deceit is the essence of it. It must attract a range of different personality types for all sorts of reasons, but the people who stick with it, and are good at it, must have… well, issues.

I know that’s a bald view, and quite possibly an unjustified one; so if there are any genuine spies, past or present, reading this blog, please feel free to correct me.

In the mean time, here’s a preview of the cover of my new novella, Reunion, which features some decidedly damaged spies. Set in the murk of 1970s Cold War Germany, it’s a 20,000-ish-word story of violence, betrayal… and schooldays.

Coming early June.



Well, I’ve had one review so far for Ratcatcher, and a very decent (and fair) one it was, too. Four stars. The formatting problem the reviewer mentions makes me cringe – non-justified text – but I’ve fixed it now.

Reviews are all-important, I’ve discovered, especially when you’re an unknown author self-publishing for the first time. All the advice I’ve had says to solicit reviews left, right and centre. Specifically, and reviews. Reviews are what get you noticed by the reader who’s casually browsing Amazon. Reviews – positive ones, of course, but even those that aren’t so enthusiastic –  draw readers to a book. Reviews mean the book’s being read.

There’s a problem, though.

I’m English.

English people are acutely, painfully uncomfortable with asking favours. To ask, even in a general way, for people who’ve read my book to consider writing a review of it for Amazon floods me with embarrassment, even to think about it.

Nevertheless –

No. I can’t.

The awkward first post

Hello. My name’s Tim Stevens, and I write thrillers.

I’ve written three of them so far. The second, Ratcatcher, has just been published for Amazon Kindle. Links to it are here and here.

If you’ve read it, please read on. If you haven’t, I’d be most grateful if you did. Then read on.

Or just read on anyway…

Ratcatcher is an action/espionage thriller set in the beautiful Estonian capital of Tallinn. The story was inspired by three very different sources. The first was John Le Carre’s Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy. In the early spring of 2011 I heard that TTSS was being remade as a film. As a fanatical devotee of the classic 1979 Alec Guinness BBC television adaptation, I was appalled. How dare they? Etc, etc. Of course, the film turned out to be utterly brilliant, and in some ways superior even to the original series. (I’ll come back to this in a later post.) What stuck in my mind when I thought again about TTSS was the notion of a mysterious traitor within the organisation tasked with the defence of the realm, and how powerful a modern archetype this was.

The second source of inspiration for my novel was Mike Figgis’s 1990 film Internal Affairs. It’s a film that’s little remembered now, but it’s really rather good, with excellent turns from Andy Garcia as a member of the LAPD’s Internal Affairs division and Richard Gere, cast against type, as the corrupt officer he’s investigating. Unusually, the IA cop is presented as the good guy. When the IA crop up in films or TV series they’re routinely portrayed as nasty, quasi-fascist jobsworths doing their best to ruin the careers of heroic working stiffs who might bend the rules occasionally but are basically decent people.

So I liked the idea of a protagonist whose full-time job it was to root out corruption within the British intelligence service, a sort of Internal Affairs officer to the spies. Of course, the very existence of such a job relies on the notion that corruption and criminality is rife within MI6, rather than confined to the occasional bad apple. I’m the first to admit that such a notion is preposterous. But preposterous ideas often make for good stories.

I mentioned there were three sources of inspiration for my book. The third was the device Alistair Maclean typically used in his novels, especially the earlier ones. Maclean’s best works were thrilling adventure stories which included a whodunit element: there was always an unknown saboteur within a fairly narrowly confined group of characters. Working out who among the good guys was the traitor was part of the fun.

And so Ratcatcher was born! I do hope you read it, and like it, and I’d be most interested in your feedback, good or bad. Plus your views on thrillers, and on writing. Or anything that you might think appropriate.

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