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No Margin For Error, Liam Flood

Article by Liam Flood ©.
Posted in the Magazine (Tell Your Own Story: ).
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Back in early 2011, the main anti-terrorist wing of the British Police, known as MI5, introduced a voluntary severance scheme for its operatives for the first time ever. It was felt that MI5 needed a major shake-up and needed to recruit talented young professionals who were proficient in modern Information Technology. Fanatical young terrorists were using more and more sophisticated I.T. methods to stay ahead of the authorities. The old-school-tie brigade, who had once ruled the roost in MI5, were now seen as obsolete. As so often with schemes of this type, some of the people they wished to retain took the severance terms and some of those they hoped would retire stayed on.

I was in a similar position at the same time, in that the company I had worked with for thirty four years were scaling back their operations. I was also offered voluntary severance terms, which I availed of. After being constantly busy for over thirty years, I suddenly found myself with a lot of time on my hands. I had always written, but over the years, this had mainly consisted of business plans and reports and speeches and papers for conferences. I had scribbled the odd non-fiction article on subjects as diverse as current affairs, history, geography and sport and sometimes even wrote a few lines of fiction. I had never attempted to get any of them published and just wrote for pleasure.

I have always taken a keen interest in demographics and was fascinated at the numbers of Irish people who had emigrated and gone on to become well known figures in foreign lands. In Britain, our nearest neighbour, where most people had gone, they had worked in various industries but it seemed that very few had joined the police force, or if they had, none had become well known.

Back in the late 1970’s, I was unemployed for a brief period and contemplated emigrating to the U.K. I didn’t, but the idea came to me of an Irish guy who does go to London and joins the London Met. He is very talented and quickly works his way to detective level. He is spotted as a great prospect and asked to join MI5. He eventually becomes their top anti-terrorist expert but as he has always wanted to travel, he avails of the voluntary severance in 2011 even though he is one of the people they badly need to stay.

I was also very much aware that a different kind of Irishman operated in Britain during the 1970’s and 80’s, the IRA men. Many of these were highly skilled operatives but when the IRA ceased operations, where did all these guys go to?

It struck me that there are very many famous fictional English detectives; there are famous and infamous French ones, numerous American ones and even Ian Rankin’s famous Scot, Inspector Rebus. So why aren’t there any famous Irish detectives? Michael Connelly has Harry Bosch, Lee Child has Jack Reacher and there are numerous others. Well now, we have an Irish guy, Mike Lyons, who has a gift for solving even the most complex crimes. Unlike many fictional heroes, he doesn’t bring a lot of baggage, he’s not depressive or an insomniac; he doesn’t practice unorthodox measures but he does things by the book. He can immerse himself in the most horrendous crime but can switch off afterwards and have a normal lifestyle. He can walk down mean streets without becoming mean himself. In truth, I tried to model him on a typical Irishman, if such a person exists.

The next piece of inspiration was the death of Osama Bin Laden in May 2011. I imagined the chaos that must have ensued in Al Qaeda when their inspirational leader was taken out. Even though the organisation is highly secretive and disparate, I imagined the top people would have had to meet to discuss what direction they should now take. Personally, I have always felt that the indiscriminate nature of Al Qaeda attacks was daft. Even though they spread fear and terror throughout the world and caused suffering and bloodshed on a large scale, they had absolutely zero effect on the Governments of the World’s major powers. Additional security measures were put in place which slowed international travel to some extent but the security services were winning the war.

I was amazed that someone who was reputed to be highly intelligent, like Bin Laden was mooted to be, was persisting with the old strategy. Interestingly, the papers released in May 2012 by the U.S. State Department show that he wasn’t; in fact he was urging Al Qaeda to do precisely what I suggested they do in my book! But enough on that – if you want more, you need to read it.

I firmly believe in all of the thoughts and propositions put forward in the book. I don’t wish to frighten anyone but I believe we live in a scary world and that less than 10% of us are aware of 10% of the hazards that are out there every day. Most of us are what could be called ‘ordinary people’ and are possibly less likely to encounter these hazards as a result. The downside of that equation is that if we do inadvertently get caught up in any of the dangers that lurk unseen, then we are expendable – a chilling thought but I believe a correct one. Don’t expect the Police to protect you; if they cannot protect the most powerful man on earth, what chance have you got? And don’t believe anyone who tells you that crime doesn’t pay. There is an avalanche of evidence that it does just that. The only true crime is getting caught. But if you are clever enough, you won’t be. The majority of criminal acts which police class as ‘stranger crimes’ are never solved. A chilling thought and a theme I intend to explore in more detail in future novels.

Finally, I like to read books that are accurate and well researched. I had determined that if I ever wrote a book, I would have visited every scene I described in it, apart from thoroughly researching every angle. It sounds basic but lots of writers don’t. I read a lot myself – up to three books a week every week, even when I’m writing and I find errors in books all the time, and yes, often with well known writers. When writing ‘No Margin for Error’, the multi-location thing was easy. I have travelled extensively throughout the world over the years and I didn’t even scratch the surface of my travels in this novel but just for the record, I did personally visit all the places mentioned in the novel, stayed in the hotels, ate in the restaurants and drank in the bars so describing them was easy.

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(c) Liam Flood May 2012

No Margin for Error is available from New Generation Publishing.

A terrorist escapes the clutches of a policeman in London in the 1980's. Now, the policeman is recognised as the best in the field of anti-terrorism, whilst the former terrorist is acknowledged as the world's top hit man. When Al Qaeda wants to spread fear and chaos by undermining the Governments of the West, they hire this top notch assassin. The best brains of law enforcement on both sides of the Atlantic seem powerless to stop him or anticipate where he might strike next. Perhaps only his old adversary can stop him now....

This is a fast-paced thriller which takes you on an international action-packed chase. It takes you into the mind of the assassin and that of his pursuer. It is a suspense-filled journey that twists and turns, building to a dramatic climax.