I was surprised but pleased to see that The Vengeance Man got such warm reviews. In one sense it deserves them, because much of the thriller is based on hard fact. During a thirty year career I served with Special Forces on many occasions, as an intelligence officer, an operations officer and as an interrogator. At one stage I was closely involved with the selection and training of volunteers for SAS and Special Forces duties.
During those tours I came across many extraordinary individuals and saw some pretty devious bureaucratic ploys by both soldiers and civil servants. The Vengeance Man reflects this. Obviously for a work of fiction that must grip the reader, many things have been changed, stories exaggerated and new situations found, if only to protect the innocent – and in some cases, the guilty. But the book is deeply rooted in real people and real events.
For example, there once really was a serving SAS officer who was cited in Hansard doing undercover work, when the MoD were lying and claiming that he had left the Army. He had not.
There once really was a ‘British Army Training Team’ in Arabia – and many other places, too – manned by the SAS. There once really was an SAS member who went deolali because he had spent too long in the desert and half-killed a yobbo taunting him in a UK pub.
The Venus gun really did exist. I could go on. But it was from this rich tapestry of real people and real events that the Vengeance Man was first conceived.
I started to write it years ago as a tribute to the memory of a colleague, an SAS officer and good friend who was killed on duty. In many ways he was the model for the V Man himself; a lean, hard-bitten, hard-drinking, Lowland Scot with a penchant for violent action. I once saw him upend a persistent, slightly drunk, and very vocal critic off his tall bar stool with a single swift hook of an ankle. He then – much to my amusement – spent the next two minutes picking his dazed victim up, and enquiring after his health after he had ‘accidentally’ fallen off his stool . . .
Over the years the manuscript changed and grew as I became more aware of some of the things that really did go on in the murky world of Whitehall.
However, when I first offered it for publication I was surprised at the initial rejections, as many knowledgeable folk had read the manuscript and said, ‘You must publish this.’ Nonetheless, I persisted. I do understand that publishers are nervous folk and are still searching for some mythical magic compass that will let them know which of their hundred books will be the best seller. (They are rather like the old French joke, "one of President Mitterrand’s mistresses has got VD – but which one?")
So I was delighted when Endeavour finally took the V Man on. It’s a strong story and, as anyone who has worked in the uncompromising and devious world of Whitehall special operations will confirm, it is deeply rooted in reality.
The Vengeance Man is published by Endeavour Press