Five Fast Facts about The Missing Activist

Five Fast Facts about The Missing Activist

 

Tories, Jihadi Brides, Harrods, Exclusion Bullying and Battle Buses. A quick breakdown of the political thriller The Missing Activist.

What is CCHQ?

The headquarters of the British Conservative Party. It houses central staff and committee members and maintains overall responsibility for targeting voters and seats. In addition, it shortlists and finalises the selection of Tory candidates across the UK for both local and national elections. CCHQ operates a phone bank for volunteers like Robin Miller, and features in The Missing Activist.

Harrods

Key Fact 2. A luxury department store in Knightsbridge, London. It’s where Karen Andersen’s nemesis Zinah al-Rashid meets her first Jihadi bride recruit in The Missing Activist. Charles Harrod began the world famous shop as a one-room outlet in 1849 but today Harrods houses 330. The State of Qatar owns it.

Fast Fact 3 In The Missing Activist, PI Karen Andersen goes undercover to learn why so many British girls journeyed to Syria to marry Jihadi fighters.

British Born Isis Brides

Fast Fact 3 In The Missing Activist, PI Karen Andersen goes undercover to learn why so many British girls journeyed to Syria to marry Jihadi fighters. Studies by RUSI suggest the draws include a rejection of Western feminism, peer influence, female romantic optimism and the chance to be part of something new, exciting and illicit.

The name given to a coach or vehicle used as both a method of transport and also a centre of operations.

The Battle Bus

The name given to a coach or vehicle used as both a method of transport and also a centre of operations. A major incident occurs aboard the BB in The Missing Activist. In 2017 a scandal involving a busload of Tory activists threatened to overturn the government and stop Brexit when the party did not declare costs in their overall campaigning budget.

Kurdaitcha (or kurdaitcha man) is a ritual ‘executioner’ in Aboriginal culture who ‘points the bone at a victim to expel them from their community.

Who are the Kurdaitcha?

Kurdaitcha (or kurdaitcha man) is a ritual ‘executioner’ in Aboriginal culture who ‘points the bone at a victim to expel them from their community. If this happens, no one can contact them or mix with them. Victims usually die a self-imposed death in days. In Australia, the practice is still common enough that they train hospital staff to manage illness caused by “bone pointing”. Its modern equivalent is exclusion bullying which is a theme running through The Missing Activist and Fast Fact Five.

 

5 Political Thrillers to Spill the Beans on the System

5 Political Thrillers to Spill the Beans on the System

What books by John Le Carre, Ian Fleming and my own have in common

If a book is based on personal experience it has an edge to it. So when I write my thrillers, even though they contain ample doses of make-believe, I try to anchor them to something which has happened to me. Recently I was interviewed by Ben Shepherd on some of the background to my first political thriller The Missing Activist and how it measured up to other books I’d read.Read the blog post The best political thrillers to spill the beans on the system on Shepherd.com 

7 Must-Read Books on Isis Brides

7 Must-Read Books on Isis Brides

Jihadi Fiction. Terrorism Thrillers for our times.

What makes books about Jihadi brides so intriguing are the characters and their motivations, their expectations and disappointments. What makes a teenage girl change her way of life so completely? And will the society they rejected ever accept them back? People are unforgiving, as we have seen this week, with Shamima Begum’s case being kicked out of court.

My novel The Missing Activist features a British-born Muslim convert Zinah al-Rashid who recruits brides to send to the Islamic State.

The sequel The Killing of the Cherrywood MP picks up on the collapse of the Caliphate. Girls want to return to their countries of birth, but public opinion is against it. And for those who have either slipped back and have put their past behind them, there are always those who resent them deeply and exact revenge. When a sharia-supporting MP is murdered, it seems as if there is a connection.

The killer questions

What fascinates me is the sharp contrast between the stable, egalitarian, comfortable Western lifestyles and that of the ISIS’ misogynistic society. Why have so many European women left behind the freedom and privilege of a peaceful, wealthy existence to join a brutal regime addicted to fighting? Are they radicalised?  Or seeking adventure?  Has feminism a part to play in driving them away? What meaning to their lives were they craving? And how did they find it? Or do they view their adventure as escapism rather like a macabre reality show?

Who’s writing?

Some authors of the excellent books which feature Jihadi women are writing from personal experience, others as a result of research work into the subject. Many of these narratives explore just those killer questions.

Operation Jihadi Bride by John Carney Clifford Thurlow

 Hearing terrifying stories first-hand from naïve young girls tricked, abused and enslaved by ISIS, an ex-British Army soldier set up a high-risk operation to rescue as many as he could. Soldier Magazine’s book of the month, this true story with AK-47s and 9mm Glocks reads like a military thriller

  

Bride of ISIS: One Young Woman’s Path into Homegrown Terrorism by Anne Speckhard

Written by a counter-terrorism expert and Associate Professor of Psychiatry and Associate Professor of Psychiatry and Security Studies at Georgetown University, she based this book on the true story of Shannon Conley, an American teen from Denver, Colorado seduced on the net, converted to Islam, took the niqab, and who ultimately ended up in the clutches of ISIS.

 The Last Girl: My Story of Captivity and My Fight Against the Islamic State by Nadia Murad and Jenna Krajeski

Written by a human rights activist and recipient of the Vaclav Havel Human Rights Prize and the Sakharov Prize, this inspiring memoir covers the life of a 23-year-old Yazidi woman from her peaceful childhood in a remote village in Iraq to being captured and enslaved by Isis.

 Undercover Jihadi Bride: Inside Islamic State’s Recruitment Networks by Anna Erelle

Written by an undercover journalist who creates an online identity called Melodie to investigate the recruitment of brides over the internet, this is a harrowing tale. She meets an ISIS brigade leader on Facebook. In 48 hours he has ‘fallen in love’ with her, calls her every hour, urges her to marry him, join him in Syria in a life of paradise and join his jihad.

 

Guest House for Young Widows by Azadeh Moaveni

The work of a journalist and academic, Azadeh Moaveni book takes us into the school hallways of London, kitchen tables in Germany, the coffee shops in Tunis, the caliphate’s ‘Guest House for Young Widows’ where wives of the fallen waited for remarriage. A nuanced and sometimes compassionate take on the complexity of the subject.

Jihadi Bride by Alastair Luft

A graduate of the Royal Military College of Canada, and a 20-year veteran of the Canadian Armed Forces, Luft’s work is a plot-driven family drama. A father’s carefully controlled world working for an organisation that prevents radicalised individuals from joining extremist groups is upended when his daughter, Arielle, leaves university to join the Islamic Caliphate.

The Good Sister by Morgan Jones

 The story of a 17-year-old Muslim girl from London who goes to Syria to join ISIS, and her Christian father’s dangerous attempt to ‘rescue’ her. Written by a former investigator and writer of spy thrillers, this is a raw insight into the horrors of war in Syria and an examination of the insidious grip of radicalisation.

  

Any missed?  Get in touch.

Book categories, thriller genres, and the Karen Andersen series

Book categories, thriller genres, and the Karen Andersen series

Why you need book categories

The purpose of identifying a book category for a work of fiction, whether it’s a children’s adventure story or a political thriller like The Missing Activist, is to help book shops know exactly where to place them in their shops or online stores. If someone’s hooked on fast-paced suspense stories with a twist, they don’t want to wade through a pile of Enid Blyton books to find them.

The three categories

The book industry classifies novels as either literary fiction (highbrow, character-driven, no rules), genre fiction (easy-read, plot driven, several rules), and mainstream fiction (the blockbuster book from either of the other two that everyone reads).

Genres

The main genres are crime, fantasy, romance, science fiction, Western, inspirational, historical fiction, and horror. However, there are  22 add-on genres or sub-genres with new ones added to keep up with contemporary tastes. Examples of recent new classifications include Tartan Noir, allegedly coined by Ian Rankin.

Add to this a myriad of terms like “hard-boiled” as this article from Crime Reads explain, tags such as “spy” and job specs such as private investigator (as opposed to police procedural) and you get a sense of the breadth of the indexing system. Consider also whether the crime is an act of terrorism (which has its own genre) involves a conspiracy, and whether there is a political element to it (potential warfare, government overthrow or corrupt politician).

What are the rules of thriller fiction?

The broad “thriller” category in writing has certain conventions.

Firstly, there needs to be a crime at the centre, at the very least. If not, the threat of a serious crime. Such as in Gone Girl, when Nick comes home from the bar to find that his wife, Amy, has gone missing. 

Of course, there’s the victim. (either a missing person, a dead body or a hostage) Or several victims. There is usually over one life at stake.

However, in thrillers it’s the villain who features high, sometimes in equal measure, with the protagonist or hero. These baddies are clever and powerful. Sometimes ordinary people acting out of revenge or malice (as in domestic thrillers), but other times the evil character is a master criminal or terrorist intent on annihilation of the entire human race. Whoever they are, thriller villains always pose a huge threat. Without the Machiavellian star, the story simply wouldn’t hang together.

Often there is the ‘wolf in sheep’s clothing’. This is the character who says one thing and does the opposite (trying to put the hero off the scent).

Readers enjoy trying to outsmart and top the villain (and so help the hero) by solving the clues and red herrings.  

And then, when everything seems dusted and done, there’s usually one last twist.

Why are thrillers popular?

If you combine the mystery elements of a detective novel (whodunnit) with adventure, conflict, conspiracy, and a fast motorbike, you get drama with a capital D. Everything’s happening at once, and it’s all ahead. Because the hero is the only one to stop the villain before he or she carries out their heinous crime, you’re carried along for the ride.

 

 

Hate crimes, hypocrisy and political fiction

Hate crimes, hypocrisy and political fiction

What is Hate Crime?

‘Hate’ is a horrible word. I remember as a child (circa 1960s) my mother’s wise advice. ‘Never use that word, Louise.’

It’s easy to get into unintended provocative speech habits without noticing it, so she had a good point. For example, ‘You don’t hate carrots, you just don’t like them.’

But can you make the emotion of hatred into a violation of the law? If so, is it indeed smart to do so?

Hate Crime has been around in the UK since the Public Order Act of 1986. But the Racial and Religious Hatred Act of 2006, which seemed a reasonable idea to trial, is when it really took off. But has it worked in getting us to respect one another well enough to consider extending it even further? Some believe it is a step in the right direction. There are others who believe it’s counterproductive.

Critics of Hate Crime argue legislation has done the opposite of what it was designed to do. They claim anti-hate laws have provoked a culture of victimhood, damaged freedom of speech, wasted police time, and created massive confusion. It has done little more than to make us all into a bunch of hypocrites: thinking something, saying another, and led to a more divided society than before.

Extremism as a topic of political fiction

I cover these issues in my novels. In my book The Missing Activist Met Detective ‘Quacker’ Partridge is dead set against extending hate crime to misogyny. The Killing of the Cherrywood MP covers hate crime generated by growing local tensions between two diametrically opposed societies: The Far Right and the Muslim extremists.

As a crime novelist, writing about two-faced smiling assassin characters is part of the stock in trade. Like the owl, Machiavellians probe beneath the surface, manipulating the art of hate. Thoughts, please.

 

Kurdaitcha, Corona and The Missing Activist

Kurdaitcha, Corona and The Missing Activist

 Pointing the Bone

“The aborigines have a tribal practice called Pointing the Bone. This is a method of execution that leaves no trace and rarely fails to kill its victim.”

“The bone can be from a kangaroo or an emu, and its shape varies from tribe to tribe. It is six to nine inches with one rounded end through which a hole is bored and tapers to a point as sharp as a needle. A piece of hair is threaded through the hole and glued into place with a gummy resin from the spinifex bush.”

“Before it can be used, the bone or Kundela is charged in a secret ritual performed by priests. It is then handed to Kurdaitcha, who are the tribe’s ritual killers. Their task is to hunt down the condemned.”

“The name Kurdaitcha comes from the special slippers the aborigines wear on their quest. Made from cockatoo or emu feathers and human hair, they leave no footprints.”

The Kurdaitcha hunt their victim

“The Kurdaitcha who hunt in twos or threes, wear feathered masks and stick kangaroo hair to their bodies with human blood. They will pursue a quarry for years, never giving up until the curse is delivered.”

“Once found, one priest goes down on to one knee and points the Kundela. The victim is frozen with fear as the Kurdaitcha chant the short piercing mantra then return to their village where the bone is ritually burnt.”

“For most tribal members, having the bone pointed is a sentence of death. Waiting for the inevitable, coupled with shame and isolation, often forces the victim to suicide.”

The above is, in fact, an excerpt from The Missing Activist. The themes of bullying and isolation and rejection by peers runs throughout the thriller.

Snitching during a crisis

 But it usually begins somewhere. And according to sociologist Patrick Bergemann, author of Judge Thy Neighbour snitching surges in times of crisis. Like during the deadly COVID pandemic.

The charge: Deliberately breaking lock-down rules to endanger life. Fair enough. But extensions to this include double jogs. Greedy shopping lists. Standing too close to someone at the shops. Not clapping the NHS on a Thursday,  not clapping loud enough, not clapping long enough.

The names given to community spies are plentiful. Rats, grasses, snitches, informers, dobbers (Australian), chivatos (Spanish) Spitzel (German), mouchards (French), stikker (Danish), Jatten (Dutch)

And often they get it wrong. Deliberately. That’s when it becomes insidious.

Read Five Fast Facts