Lethal tech and oncoming catastrophe: Humphrey Hawksley on MAN ON FIRE
“Brass-knuckled international intrigue for readers who still pine for the world of James Bond”
A tense firefight on the Russian-American border heralds the start of a terrifying high-stakes mission for special forces agent Major Rake Ozenna in this gripping espionage thriller.
Here, Humphrey reveals the terrifying real-life research and inspiration behind this page-turning read.
Five years ago, I was on a panel at an international security conference in Seoul, South Korea, spellbound as a former director of America’s Central Intelligence Agency explained lethal technology about which I was totally unaware.
A couple of years later, we met up again at a similar conference and I asked what, if anything, had been done to lessen the risk. He shook his head in despair. Nothing.
When mapping out Man on Fire, I checked in defence and security circles to discover that not only had nothing much been done, but also that things had got far worse.
As we all know, computers are advancing at a formidable pace changing all our lives, mostly for the better and making us over-reliant on electronic networks. They are also producing new styles of warfare whether it be cyber-attack, space or something else.
Working with specialists, I fictionally constructed a threat from this technology in a way that could drive us back to the stone age.
This is the weapon of Man on Fire.
I got a real buzz out of turning the germ of the idea that crossed my path at that conference into a fictional story, deeply embedded in research.
L–R (top): Humphrey researching Rake Ozenna; A Little Diomede native hunter (credit: Poulomi Basu); Humphrey on Rake’s home island, Little Diomede. L–R (bottom): Keeping watch on Russia (credit: PB); returning from Walrus Hunt on Little Diomede; the US-Russia border
Growing up, I learned so much from fiction. I had no concept about the birth of Israel until I read Leon Uris’ Exodus. Similarly, Arthur Hailey taught me about hotels and airports, and James Michener about Hawaii, Poland and 1970s travelling with sex, drugs and music in The Drifters.
Man on Fire is the third thriller in my series featuring Rake Ozenna, a hard-as-nails native American soldier from the remote Alaskan island of Little Diomede that sits right on the border with Russia.
One part of him wants to be with his fellow islanders and a landscape as remote, inhospitable, dangerous and beautiful as anywhere on Earth. Another part needs the murky world of espionage and war.
Rake follows orders. He doesn’t dwell on problems. He fixes them. He handles international duplicity as he would dangerous erratic weather patterns around his home island.
I was delighted when that master of thriller writing, Nelson DeMille, said of Rake, “He’s smart and tough, and we’re glad to have him on our side.”
It was heartening, too, when asked onto another security panel, a note came through from one of the organizers and thriller fan, saying, “Thank you for Rake Ozenna. I now know a hell of a lot more about those islands on our border with Russia.”
But I got the biggest kick and worry, just before writing this piece, when there happened to be a security webinar on the weapon Rake is facing in Man on Fire.
Yes, the situation is even more precarious than when I started writing it. The common theme from those in the know is that it has to be tackled with the utmost urgency.
Maybe they should take a leaf from Rake’s book and just go out and fix it before catastrophe strikes.
“A gripping story … This is not just a page-turner; it is also a wake-up call”
SIR OLIVER LETWIN, former British Minister of State for Government Policy
“Fast-paced … Chillingly real”
DR PETER VINCENT PRY, Director of the Task Force on National and Homeland Security
~ MAN ON FIRE launches in the UK in hardback on 29 April ~
~ The worldwide eBook launches 1 June ~
~ The US hardback launches 6 July ~