The world is a dangerous place, and every country has men and women tasked to protect it. These people go by many names: secret agent, intelligence officer, and analyst are just a few. Harry is one such person. He is an analyst. He spends his time reading, researching, and analyzing, followed by writing reports that often never see the light of day.
Harry is well educated with a seemingly important job, but Harry is bored. Bored, because analysts never get to be the hero, never get to order cocktails stirred not shaken, and, never, never, get the girl. Harry is frustrated, frustrated because his superiors told him the report he just spent six months working on is to be tabled, and no, he can’t have a field operative to work with to follow up.
Harry has one very dangerous character flaw, he has an imagination, not something the men on the Top Floor appreciate. Harry needs to prove himself; he needs some excitement in his life, and that excitement comes in a deadly package of intrigue and murder that combines something called the Sister Project with a Russian master spy, H. K. Kyrsa, code name, the Beautiful Rat, and the devastatingly gorgeous Harriet. The question is, is it all just happening in Harry’s head, or is there a real plot that needs to be stopped? Is Harry just plain crazy, or are the Russians out to mess with the West one more time? Harry is on his own, not sure who to trust. Are there any good guys in the world of espionage? The only way to find out is to find Kyrsa, the Beautiful Rat. Join Harry in his search for what may not even be real.
Targeted Age Group:: General
What Inspired You to Write Your Book?
The book was inspired by a post by John Le Carré that talked about his early years as an intelligence officer working for the British SIS, more commonly known as MI6. Le Carré spoke about his first boss that took him on a mission that was entirely a fabrication in his superior's mind. This lead me to the creation of my protagonist, Harry, an MI6 analyst. The second influence for this book, and the series in general, is the current political situation with Russian meddling in Western elections on the nightly news. The final influence that inspired the book is the current Neo Noir climate that is reminiscent of movies like the post war "The Third Man" and Cold War "The Ipcress File".
How Did You Come up With Your Characters?
I always start with a character because characters are the essence of a good story. A reader needs to be able to relate to at least one character in the book otherwise they won't care what happens to that character. Le Carré wrote that agents often start to fall into periods of fantasy if they've been in the field too long spending most of their time waiting for something to happen.This idea helped form the character of Harry who first appears in the book, "Deception". He is also the protagonist in the follow-up "Delusion: Lucy's Breath" and the forthcoming "Dilemma: Mozart's Medicine". Harry is an analyst, but he also collects abstract expressionist art. Harry has a rich imagination. When his bosses reject his warnings of foreign meddling, Harry becomes disillusioned. He meets a mysterious woman, Harriet, who becomes his occassional sidekick, the trouble is, Harry isn't sure if Harriet really exists, or she is just a fabrication he's created to add some excitment to his otherwise boring life.
You can’t escape it. The face is everywhere: on television, on billboards, on posters; plastered on every conceivable surface. It’s displayed in bus shelters, store windows, and on those over-sized retail monitors touting the latest got-to-have product, and of course the Internet, always the Internet, the World Wide Weakness of the alienated brain dead.
I wonder if she is even real. Perhaps she’s just a hologram, a Photoshop creation, master-minded by some horny millennial doofus working for an ad agency or marketing firm. Whatever or whoever produced and promoted this image, the result is pervasive and sinister; aimed to upend the civilized social order. Something had to be done.
Perhaps it’s all in my head, damaged electrical impulses setting off danger signals and paranoia. It’s an occupational hazard, reading danger into the most mundane flotsam and jetsam of existence.
I’ve often thought life is an illusion, and if not an illusion, at least, a malleable truth. Each of us, you included, suffer from the same deception; a movie that we play in our heads for seventy, or eighty, or maybe ninety years if you’re lucky.
As directors of our own serial fantasies, we create the heroes and the villains, but always, we are the protagonists, but is it real, or just a mental fiction?
Perhaps we are nothing more than zeroes and ones in a metal box with blinking lights; perhaps it’s all a game, a silly fabrication of some greater power, hence our ridiculous clinging to religions that make no sense and cause irreparable harm.
Perhaps it’s all a fucking sick joke… my self-absorption is interrupted by the most beautiful creature I’ve ever seen. She sits down across from me, crosses her long naked legs, and demands: “Buy me a drink, won’t you?”
I smile, not so much at the audacity of the demand from the beautiful stranger, but at the notion that I’m a pretty goddamn good casting director for this creation.
She looked familiar, perhaps we met at some party, a quick introduction quickly ignored, then forgotten. No, not this face, this is not a face, men like me could ignore or forget. This is a woman that could melt metal with her smile.
Women like this just don’t plop themselves down at my table and demand to be serviced, but then it’s my movie, so fuck you, if I want a delicious dish for my femme fatale entrée, that’s exactly what I’m going to have.
She reaches into her purse and pulls out a pack of lady cigarettes, she taps the pack with a practised ease, exacts the white poison, and perches it between her pink lips. She doesn’t ask for a light, she just waits, widens her electric green eyes, as if to say, ‘light me.’
I smile once more at her self-assured cheekiness; I’m determined to match her chutzpah. I reach across the table and take the cigarette out of her mouth, “You shouldn’t smoke, I don’t like kissing smokers.”
This time it’s her turn to smile, “Bogie and Bergman?” She likes to play the game too, she’s my kind of girl, but of course she is, and you know why. I wait a beat and respond, “More Bacall and Bogie.”
She leans forward and wantonly eyes the cigarette sitting on the table where I left it. I wished she’d look at me that way. She raises her liquid green orbs to meet my bloodshot circles. She sits back in her chair giving up the desire for a fix. She undoes her coat giving me a better look at her slender well-tendered figure, she sighs, “I know… you don’t like kissing smokers.”
I wave to a passing waitress, “What would you like?” The stranger’s eyes never leave mine, I don’t wait for her answer. I order for her, “A screwdriver.”
I continue the provocative charade, after all, I play with words for a living; it’s my way of competing; I just don’t have her physical assets. Like I said before, beautiful women don’t fall into my lap every day. I need to make the best of my opportunities, so few come my way.
Her face becomes serious, not hard mind you, just focused, “You report to the Top Floor.” It’s not a question.
And there it is. Of course, she’s not attracted to my middle-age masculine charm. She’s in the game, and she wants something. Shit… there goes my fantasy.
She thinks I have influence or at least access; boy is she barking up the wrong tree. Guess she hasn’t heard I’m on the shelf with a toe tag labeled ‘crazy.’
My mind races, playing successive scenarios over in my head, I’m brought back to life by the bartender changing the channel on the television that hangs over the bar. The ballgame is over and the ten o’clock movie, "The Third Man" is about to start.
The great unwashed at the bar demand the station be changed to something less cerebral and mentally taxing. The only pseudo athletic contest available is darts.
The beautiful stranger’s infectious smile brings me back to the issue at hand. She’s noticed my mental absence, “Welcome back,” she says.
What the hell, I might as well play along, maybe she thinks I’m somebody important; maybe she’ll make a pitch that I can parlay into getting my stalled career back on track. Or maybe she’ll get me killed or dumped into a warehouse for non-desirables, never to be heard from again. She’s playing a dangerous game, and I’m the one in danger.
The drink arrives at the table; she ignores it. She’s not in a hurry, she’s experienced, she’s done this before. It’s textbook. She’s cast the fly in the water and is trolling for a catch, and I’m the fish.
“Sorry, you must have mistaken me for someone else. I really don’t know what you’re talking about.”
I may be low-level, but I’m not stupid. She doesn’t answer immediately. She expected the denial. She eyes the drink but doesn’t touch it; perhaps she’s afraid of fingerprints, or perhaps she doesn’t like vodka. She smiles once more like she can read my mind. “There’s no hurry Harry, I can wait… for a while.”
Jesus, she knows my name. She gets up from the table, leans over, and kisses me on the mouth. She lingers just for a second and uses her teeth as an exclamation point. She straightens, “Hope I didn’t leave a mark?”
“Nothing I can’t handle.”
“That’s good Harry, that’s very good, because I do like a close working relationship.” She turns and leaves the bar. I don’t know whether to laugh or have a panic attack. I look down at her abandoned screwdriver; the cigarette is gone. She’s good at her job; It doesn’t surprise me.
I need to do something. but what? I can’t ignore this, the walls have eyes. The Top Floor gets wind of this and I could end up in a cell. I take the napkin from under her drink and turn it over. I make a quick sketch of her face that is permanently imprinted in my mind. I’ll deliver it and a summary of the encounter to Roger in the morning. Or maybe I won’t. I have to think. This is either one fucking great movie or the end of my career.
The drunks at the bar decide they’ve had enough, and darts aren’t violent enough for them to watch. Perhaps someone should pitch a new version of darts to the networks where the contestants fire their pointed projectiles at each other instead of a corkboard. The bartender seems to be of the same mind as me. He changes the station back to the movie. What the hell, why waste a good screwdriver and an Orson Welles master-class. I pick up the orange juice and vodka highball, sit back, and enjoy the performance.
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