by evseymour

The great thing about breaks is it gives you the chance to read without interruption and I finally whizzed through Alan Judd’s ‘Uncommon Enemy’ while in Lulworth Cove. Judd, in common with Le Carre and Forsyth, reveals snippets of information that you instinctively know to be true. One of Judd’s characters reviews a case file that has not yet been transferred from paper to electronic. This works to the character’s advantage because, as Judd points out, so much can be lost in translation. With a paper read, specific nuances of narrative – who said what when, who made decisions, and in what context – are documented, not always the case in an electronic transcript.  

We live in an age when ‘techno’ rules and often for good reason but, while it’s concerning when medical records are transferred inaccurately (I know two people where this has happened) it’s deeply worrying when relating to national security. Hands up, I have no idea what form electronic intelligence case files take. I believed it was not some kind of tick-box smorgasbord.   Now I have reason to doubt.

Worse follows in Judd’s novel. According to him, the whole culture of the security services has changed, something I suggest in my own novel ‘Wicked Game’. As Judd point outs, and I paraphrase, loyalty and care of agents and staff has gone out through the window and is substituted by a devotion to key performance indicators, management-speak, health and safety and targets. As a result, the very people that could be most useful to the security services, assets, are ignored in favour of the ‘quick result’, whatever the hell that means. Judd is a writer of stature. He knows what he’s talking about. It’s scary.

On a lighter note, I was enthralled to read that a key character, who goes ‘black’ or ‘off the grid,’ seeks refuge in a part of the country I know like the proverbial back of my hand.   The main protagonist, who tries to find him, stays in ‘The Feathers Hotel’ in Ludlow, somewhere I worked for a brief time decades ago.   The eye-opener is when both characters eat and stay at ‘The Lion’ at Leintwardine where one of my daughters works in a management role. Without spoiling the plot, ‘stuff’ goes on via the fire escape and there’s also gunfire in the car park!   As so often the case, truth is stranger than fiction – unlike in my new forthcoming novel ‘Game Over.’

I want to make it plain here and now that my research did not involve frequenting sex parties!  More of this next week when the book hits the shelves…