Espionage Novel Retrospective

Tidal River, Wilson Promontory, Victoria, Australia. The home of Gabriel Woods in the novel.

First of all, I have to thank you. Yes, you!

For bearing with my horrible upload schedule. I was recently looking back at the very first Espionage chapter and I was horrified to see that I uploaded that, way back on October 10, 2020!

I cannot believe that it took me longer than a year to finish this novel, especially when I compare how quickly I finished the Noir story way back in 2020; only 8 days!

So thanks for your patience and a big appreciative shout out for those who were invested in this story since October 2020 and I hope you’ve enjoyed the ride!

Now to discuss some of the heavy influences in this story.

The Big Four are, in no particular order:

  1. The Jason Bourne movies
  2. Matthew Reilly, the author.
  3. Call of Duty: Modern Warfare (2019)
  4. The Gabriel Allon series by Daniel Silva

For those who are fans of the Bourne series, you can see how much I based the final location of the story on the training facility in Bourne Ultimatum (2007). From the style of the rooms to the execution sequence, I derived a lot of the Sphinx’s backstory and ultimate relationship with the Wolf on that climatic scene in the Bourne Ultimatum.

You will also notice how I used the Waterloo sequence in that movie to base my Alexanderplatz action sequence. However, the way how the takedown goes is directly inspired by the Gabriel Allon series, where he is also confronted with multiple suicide bombers at a station.

I will also credit John Powell’s work on the score of the series for being the main soundtrack of the entire story, as I was using a lot of his work to write with. So thanks Mr. Powell for such a fun score!

The 2019 remake of Call of Duty: Modern Warfare’s influence can be heavily seen in the Counter Revolutionary Warfare chapter. I based most of that, off the infamous Piccadilly Circus mission and the panic I felt for the first time, as I was confronted with s-bombers and gunmen everywhere, at the heart of London.

But to balance the hardcore action of that series and bring in a human touch, I had Gabriel escort Liz, a waitress, to the hospital. Doing so, I thought, allowed you guys to take a breather before the big dump of action all the way to the end. It also allowed me to seamlessly give Gabriel a way to find the Sphinx and Sofia in one of the biggest cities in the world.

I want to thank my rediscovery of Matthew Reilly’s books to actually finish this series with such a big bang. You can see, very clearly, when I started to take up his books again, because the starting action sequences in Woods and Alexanderplatz are a little less bombastic than the sequences in the latter half of the book.

But I had a lot more fun writing these over-the-top action sequences and really crafting the Wolf to be the big bad behind the Sphinx’s terrible actions. I was inspired by the recent Reilly books to give the Wolf a wall of trophies, but since I didn’t want to do the carbonite option, I decided to go with the index finger, arguably one of our most valuable fingers, collection.

I really let my imagination run wild, creating his lair. I wanted it to be epic in scale, a place where the Wolf would sleep, work and live in perpetual limbo. After all he is dead and so he should rarely venture outside. Yet he has to do so at some point, thus the facial recognition program pinpoints him to this location.

The Institute was a lot of fun to design. I squeezed the most out of it, with flashbacks to the Sphinx’s tragic past in the interrogation wing and then the quick action sequence in the kill-house. It was so much fun to really play with these areas and help flesh out the Sphinx’s motivations.

I actually struggled to give the Sphinx a proper motivation to kill, until I thought about William Aitken and how he was supposed to be dead. I literally congratulated myself when I came across the idea of turning him into this vicious, father figure that the Sphinx could pin all his attacks on.

It made the Sphinx much more relatable and human, something that I think, all villains need. Near the end, it became much more about the Sphinx than it did the Prince, and I’m OK with that, as the Prince should always have a level of detachment and coldness to his targets.

After all, that sort of emotional distance is necessary for an assassin and helps showcase how Woods and the Prince are almost two different characters.

Speaking of the Sphinx, how about his other half?

Sofia Sumarwata was actually a really fun character to invent. I wanted her to be the foil in which these two men interact with each other through her. Her story had to be intense, tragic and romantic. After all, this is Valentine’s Day.

I really loved her ending in the chapter: In the Woods, because it seemed so haunting that someone so beautiful and dressed so attractively, knocking on the heart of British Parliament could have such ill-intent.

In actuality, I was going to have this big emotional traumatic moment where the Prince is just about to kill the Sphinx, but Sofia steps in front of the bullet. But I felt like that was cheap and overdone, so I instead made her an S-bomber, which I thought was more in line with the Sphinx’s cruel and cold nature, and gave her the biggest send-off.

I’m still surprised myself, that I was able to create that strong image of red against all the bleak London architecture. Blame Spielberg!

So where did the Round Table come from?

The Round Table, a shadowy organisation I nicked from Matthew Reilly, was just a fun idea that I wanted to insert. I was originally going to make the British government be the big bad, but honestly, I had grown attached to the character of James Ashford and didn’t want to complicate things too much by having Ashford also be the big bad.

So I decided to create another organisation, with a cool English name and Latin motto. Honestly, I quite like the idea of doing a sequel where the Prince goes up against them but even if I don’t, I think I’ve left enough to imagine how the Prince would tackle them.

I did like how the Round Table would assign iconic Knight names to their leaders, and I must say it was fun revisiting Arthurian legend and interpreting it for the modern day.

Where did the inspiration for the brutal house overlooking a cliff, at the bottom of the world come from?

The first mission in Io Interactive’s Hitman 2 (2018).

I absolutely loved the aesthetic of that house situated so close to the beach, amidst all a full blown Pacific storm. I knew that I wanted to replicate that for my main character, since it is something I would 100% realise in reality for myself, if I had incredible financial resources.

One thing that I have always loved about that game, is the sheer detail and modern approach to architecture and I must commend the developers for their attention to detail, lines and overall level design.

Normally in my writing, I like to emphasise sound. Normally it’s the name of song that I would like you to listen to whilst reading, but I honestly could not insert any iconic songs in this story. It’s why you’ll see a lot more liberal use of crack! blam! and other such words to really convey how loud or explosive something is in the story.

Sound is a such a crucial medium, something that isn’t lost on me, considering how much I devour music, and as such I wanted to really convey noises well in my action sequences.

Speaking of which, I hope you guys didn’t mind all the destruction I wreaked across London. I honestly, had a lot of sadistic plans and most of them come from my unfounded fear of being caught in one of these terrorists acts one day.

I chose London, because it is a well-known hotbed of Islamophobia and honestly, has a lot of character to her buildings and is easily recognised by a lot of people. I was actually surprised how much I was able to squeeze out of the location and hoped that I did it justice!

If I got anything wrong about the location, that’s between me and Google Earth, as I have never been to London prior to writing this. So I pulled a lot of creative liberties and licences outta nowhere to get the story to flow. Like you can definitely tell, I’ve never seen the inside of 10 Downing Street but I did my best to approximate it!

Coincidentally, I was actually really happy to see such a boring building at St James’ Square because my original intention for the Sphinx was to find the house of the Wolf at that location.

Sometimes, I need a bit of luck to make something as cool as the Institute appear!

Just a quick aside, for those who have come here from my completed novel, you will note that the chapter version of the story has a tiny bit less content. The novel version has a much more complete ending, an extra part with the Sphinx rescuing Sofia and quite a few corrections with wording and grammar.

So for those who have only read my “chapter” version, feel free to check out the novel which is the definite way to read this story!

Finally, we come to Gabriel Woods himself. Where the inspiration for his nickname come from?

Prince Andrews.

I was inspired by the recent turmoil surrounding Andrews in the press recently and thought about how interesting it would be if he mysteriously disappeared due to his actions and the direct embarrassment he dealt to the Royal Family.

I was also inspired by the Gabriel Allon books, of which you’ll note, I sometimes use very flowery prose, a habit I’ve picked up from the author of the books. I wanted my violence to be brutal and horrific, but I also wanted it to have a touch of class.

By naming my main character the Prince, it strangely lends an elegant touch to his violent actions and thus make everything seems more like battle-ballet than it does a war scene. I thought it was cool to have his nicknamed derived from his most famous kill, which sadly I did not go into detail for.

But then that only adds to his mystique and I think I would rather leave some things up to your imagination!

I am really happy that I finished this novel, which makes it the third one I’ve ever fully written. It may not have mass appeal, but I’m glad you guys seem to enjoy it and that’s enough for me.

Thank you again for being such a captive audience!

Until the next one!

~ Damocles.

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