Writing the second novel in the Tallis series I wanted to avoid being formulaic, to paint the narrative on a more international canvas, and to generally up the ante, but where was I to seek inspiration for the actual story?

The initial idea for the first novel, ‘The Last Exile,’ was quite simply ripped from the news headlines. This time I decided to delve into the past and take a look at American Mafia history. And what gripping stuff! For weeks I was hooked on a diet of revenge, betrayal, blood lust, brutality and violence. The ‘light bulb moment’ came when I cottoned on to the Mafia’s genius ability to take advantage of political and economic instability. Spotting instant similarities with our own feverish political climate, coupled with the more diffuse, but no less scary, fear of terrorist attack, I reckoned I’d found the perfect backdrop in which my bad guys could operate.

Not having close mates in the criminal fraternity, I contacted West Midlands Police Press Office and a few days later found myself having coffee in Birmingham with a plain-clothes organised crime officer. I ran my then embryonic ideas past her, particularly my musings about Johnny Kennedy, the charismatic gangland boss whose inner circle Tallis is tasked to infiltrate. From the knowing smile on her face, I sensed my fictional Mr Big was not a million miles away from some nasty real-life characters.

But back to my main protagonist: Paul Tallis. An off-the-books spook, hard and edgy, displaying professional skills often to maximum effect, he, nevertheless, hurts and bleeds. This was deliberate. I didn’t want a one-dimensional action man, damaged by his past, who nobody cared about. I wanted someone credible, who possessed emotional drive. In exploring the Tallis/Kennedy connection, a dangerously vulnerable side of Tallis’s personality emerges yet critically, in the final reckoning, proves no obstacle.

As for the rest of the cast, irascible Detective Inspector Micky Crow, and Stu, Tallis’s former colleague in firearms, are reprised along with Tallis’s noisy guitar-wielding next-door neighbour, Jimmy. There’s also a new addition to the spook circle. Female and beautiful, she plays a key role in Tallis’s undercover activities…

The Mehisto Threat is published by Mira

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