Chris Allen is known for writing “escapist action thrillers for realists,” and he has served in three Commonwealth armies over the span of two decades and in four countries. According to Pan Macmillan, Intrepid “is the culmination of his military and law enforcement insider experience. Intrepid is the Intelligence, Recovery, Protection and Infiltration Division: the razor-sharp, ultra-secret, black ops division of Interpol, established to operate across the world, regardless of borders, politics or race.” His latest book is Hunter: Intrepid 2, and you can read a sample chapter here.
Here is Allen’s official bio:
Before penning his Alex Morgan espionage series, Chris saw the world from under a parachute; made a difference in East Timor; protected Sydney’s iconic Opera House sails post 9/11; and most recently, held one of the most historic offices in Australia. Since self-publishing and being signed by Pan Macmillan Australia’s digital imprint Momentum, Defender and Hunter have wowed readers worldwide, with Avenger in-progress. Chris dreams of one day spending extended periods of time enjoying an English country cottage in Surrey, preferably one in walking distance from the local pub.
Sounds amazing! So of course I was thrilled to able to ask Allen more about his inspiration and his work.
S.R.: Tell me about your background. How did you get into writing?
C.A.: My family has a history of military service going back almost a hundred years. My grandfather served in the Royal Navy during the First World War, while his only brother was an Infantryman serving in France. My uncles served during the Second World War, one in the British Paras, one was a merchant mariner who somehow ended up on Russian trawlers, and a number of others served with the Australian forces mainly in the Pacific. I grew up on their stories, so it was inevitable that I’d put on a uniform at some point. I left home in Perth, Western Australia when I was 18 to become a soldier in the Australian Army. I served for almost 15 years, which included doing my officer training while attached to the New Zealand army, and later was attached to the British Parachute Regiment as well.
My military career came to an abrupt end due to injuries I sustained in service; a few too many failed landings brought about my premature exit as a young Major. Since then, much of my post-military career was spent in law enforcement. Throughout all that time, I’ve wanted to write action stories – in fact, ever since I was old enough to understand them. Around 1999/2000 I felt that I was finally ready to start putting my own yarns on the page and I’ve been honing my storytelling abilities since.
S.R.: How did you come up with the idea for the Intrepid series?
C.A.: I always wanted to create some kind of international agency, because of all the things I used to watch and read as a kid – The Professionals, The Man from U.N.C.L.E and so on. When the time came to get it down on paper, the agency became Intrepid. I always liked the word ‘intrepid’, conjuring ideas of courage and fortitude, but it’s also a hat tip to the famous spymaster from WWII – William Stephenson – a Canadian who was influential in intelligence circles during the war, acting at the highest level of government on both sides of the Atlantic. Stephenson was known as ‘the man called Intrepid’.
Having decided upon the name, I thought about what it could mean, and what the main responsibilities of the agency might be. And so it was that Intrepid, the Intelligence, Recovery, Infiltration and Protection Division of Interpol, was born!
S.R.: You served in three Commonwealth armies. What’s your most memorable moment and did that work its way into Intrepid?
C.A.: My most memorable moment of service was actually at my graduation parade in New Zealand. My dream had always been to be an Officer and I’d worked hard for it. When it came time to put on our dress uniforms on graduation day, as one of the three guys leading the parade, it was incredible to march onto the parade ground with our swords drawn, leading our colleagues out to the occasion of our commissioning. We marched out to the reviewing officer, a highly regarded and decorated Kiwi General by the name of John Mace. He presented us with our commissions and it was an incredible feeling of achievement. My mum, dad and sister were also there from Perth which made it extra special. It was a pivotal point in my life and, I guess, it was in equal measure that I have built into Alex Morgan’s history. Like me, he’s an ex-soldier who became an officer with service and personal loyalties that are international in every way.
S.R.: What inspired you to write Hunter?
C.A.: Hunter is Alex Morgan’s second mission for Intrepid. I was intrigued by the real-life work of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) currently taking place in bringing the last of the Serbian War Criminals to account. These individuals committed the most horrendous crimes, genocide on a scale not seen since Hitler or Stalin. I was able to watch some of the trials online and observed some of these people in the dock facing the Tribunal. It occurred to me that each and every one of them is now nothing more than a pathetic, beaten yet vile old man, and I feel absolutely no sympathy for them. Thus emerged the modus operandi of Hunter: bringing these fugitive war criminals to full account. Let’s just say Morgan has his work cut out for him.
S.R.: What’s your favorite thing about writing thrillers?
C.A.: I always have something creative to think about, whether I’m shaving, catching a train or taking a long drive somewhere. I’m constantly mulling the story over in my mind, examining it from all angles. I equally enjoy the solitude of transporting the story from the mind onto the page, the struggle to put the pieces of the puzzle together and to form a coherent whole.
S.R.: How much do real news events shape/influence your stories?
C.A.: Very much, and I guess that’s why my writing has been coined escapist thrillers for realists. When the time comes to create each fictional story, I draw on an overarching real life issue, like the war criminals in Hunter or gunrunning in Defender, and then I interlace the fictional plot with real experiences to enhance the adventure. I’m not interested in writing the doomsday catastrophe stories where the world is going to end, nor am I interested in targeting one particular race or faith. Real life is so much more interesting and complex.
S.R.: What, if any, characteristics of Alex Morgan do you identify with?
C.A.: He’s a mixture of my fictional and real-world inspirations. Like me, Alex Morgan is Australian with Welsh heritage, service across a number of Commonwealth armies, and a predisposition to bouts of melancholy due to some of his life experiences; I have no idea where he got his penchant for strong tea and a pint of Guinness from… That’s about where the similarities end – right about the time that Morgan is picked as the new star agent at Intrepid. Perhaps that part of his history is more aspirational on my part!
S.R.: What’s next for Alex Morgan?
C.A.: His dance card is full. Morgan’s taking on some of the world’s most despicable characters in Avenger – human traffickers. He’s also showing the first female agent in Intrepid the ropes, or maybe it’s vice versa.
In addition, I’m working with a Hollywood producer – a very cool guy – on film and TV adaptations of the Intrepid series.
S.R.: Do you have any other projects in the works?
C.A.: Aside from the full series of Alex Morgan espionage thrillers – which could number ten in total, if our TV and film aspirations play out – I’ve a fresh crime series bubbling away in the lumber room of my mind that features a modern-day Sherlockian character called Rhett. Rhett happens to be our second son’s name, just as Morgan is our first son’s name: no coincidence there!
S.R.: Where can readers find out more about your work?
Below is the official description for Hunter: Intrepid 2. Buy your copy here!
His orders are simple: ‘The safety catch is off. Return that girl to her family and drag those bastards back to justice. Dead or alive. It makes no difference to me.’
Alex Morgan – policeman, soldier and spy for Intrepid, the black ops division of Interpol – is on the hunt for Serbian war criminals. But these guys were never going to let it be that simple.
An assassination attempt is made on the presiding judge of the international tribunal. Days later, the judge’s daughter, the famous and beautiful classical pianist Charlotte Rose, vanishes in mysterious circumstances.
The girl is not just a pretty face and the daughter of a judge, however. She’s also the goddaughter of Intrepid’s veteran commander, General Davenport. It’s up to Morgan and the Intrepid team to track the kidnappers and the missing woman before the very fabric of international justice is picked apart at its fraying edges.
Part James Bond and part Jason Bourne, Alex Morgan must walk the line between doing the right thing and getting the job done. And this time he’s got permission to make it personal.