One half of R. J. Bailey explains why cars are the lethal weapons of choice in Safe From Harm:

It is one of the worst kept secrets within the crime community that RJ Bailey, author of the new thriller Safe From Harm, is, in fact, two people, a husband-and-wife team a la Nicci Gerrard. The main character in the novel, Sam Wylde, is a female Personal Protection Officer (i.e. bodyguard) and the book is written in the first person. Creating a believable protagonist who is a combination of kiss-ass PPO, wife (or, strictly speaking, ex-wife) and mother fell mostly to Mrs Bailey. So, as Mr Bailey, what was my job? Well, apart from doing most of the typing, I dealt with the technical aspects of being a professional bodyguard.

This meant delving into such minutiae as the contents of a PPO’s RTG – the Ready To Go bag that will contain the tools of his or her trade and enable the operative to switch into duty mode in an instant. A RTG case contains things like a flashlight, spare phone, batteries, chargers, multiple currencies, first aid kit and – in Sam Wylde’s case – tampons, which for her double up as blood-absorbers for a different kind of bleeding.

One thing missing from the bag – even though an example is featured in some of the publicity shots for the book – is a gun. PPOs in the UK are often firearm trained, but they have to do it abroad in places like Estonia. They are not allowed to run around brandishing weapons in this country. Which meant I had to find another way of arming her. I chose cars.

Cars feature prominently in the life of a PPO. They rarely like their clients to travel on regular transport –the general public are to be avoided – and they will often be driving specially modified vehicles. Companies such as Jaguar and BMW offer powerful, bullet- and blast-proof models for diplomats, potentates and unpopular oligarchs (although I suspect every oligarch is unpopular with someone; I guess they just have to hope it isn’t Putin).

Sam Wylde drives a long wheelbase, armoured 7 series BMW that has been modified by a character called One-Eyed Jack. He is actually based on a guy who used to do my MOTs when I was involved in the car business (racing and renovating) in South East London. The real Jack had two perfectly good peepers, but if he spotted a fault he’d always say: “I’ll turn a blind eye to it this time, but get it fixed.” Hence the nickname.

I remember when air bags first appeared, one of his customers came in and asked for them to be disabled on the driver’s side. Why? I asked. Because if you collide with another vehicle, Jack explained, you don’t want a Rover-style balloon (that’s a reference to The Prisoner for you youngsters) exploding in your face. It turned out the customer was one of the last of the old-school robbers who liked to stop armoured cars by ramming them. So it gave me the idea that Sam would have her air bag disabled in case she had to ram her way out of trouble. Which she does.

So, cars of many stripes play an important role throughout Safe From Harm, as a means of secure transport, rapid escape and, in two cases, as a lethal weapon. They figure even more prominently in the sequel, The Hurting Kind, when Sam is faced with that old conundrum: how do you bump-start a vehicle with no battery? You’ll have to wait and see for that one.

Safe From Harm by R J Bailey is out now from Simon & Schuster (£7.99)

Robert Ryan

twitter: @robtryan

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