Some writers set their crime-thrillers in an entirely fictional universe – the American presidential entrants probably aren’t Manchurian Candidates, and no one has yet discovered a descendent of the messiah after reading the Da Vinci Code. Other authors, like Frank Westworth, are inspired by what might have happened behind the scenes in real-life situations. The scant details of headline news can rapidly develop into a fully-fledged narrative.
‘I want to discuss issues which are interesting in a way which isn’t possible or acceptable outside fiction,’ explains Frank. ‘Fiction is a method of safely discussing genuine issues – political, emotional, whatever you want. Noir is a way of confronting our worst fears, facing up to demons.’
A year ago, Frank did just that with his quick thriller ‘Four Cornered’, in which one ‘Dr Kennedy’ has an unexpected encounter with sinister members of the security services. Now that the Chilcot report into the UK’s involvement in the Iraq war has finally been published, the story has a particularly sharp sting in its tail.
In Frank’s fictional world, JJ Stoner is a covert operative who uses sharp blades and blunt instruments to discreetly solve problems for the UK government. During the events of Four Cornered, Stoner needs to prove to his boss that he’s more than a one-trick pony whose only skill is delivering an abrupt ending. But when a static stake-out abruptly escalates into live fire, Stoner is distracted by two killer women. Suddenly, what should have been a ‘routine conversation’ with a disenchanted weapons inspector veers into violence with fatal consequences.
Stoner, working with Special Branch officer Bernadette, surprise Dr Kennedy during his daily dog walk. Read on for an exclusive extract…
‘You’re here, then.’ His voice was educated, north country English and quiet. Calm. He gestured to the dog, which sat down at his feet, observed Stoner, considered Bernadette and finally decided upon an appropriate response. It scratched behind an ear, and lay down, observing. ‘I should have expected someone like you. Inevitable.’
Bernadette spread her hands, possibly emphasising their emptiness, and possibly not. A disarming gesture, if nothing else. ‘Yes,’ she replied. ‘Dr Kennedy. We know who you are, we all know why we’re all here, and you have no need to know who we are … although you can work out where we’re from, who sent us and why we’re here to talk with you.’
Kennedy nodded. Stoner walked to the tree, leaned his back against it, lifted one of his feet and rested that against the tree, hands in his trouser pockets, coat lying between the three of them. He looked away from the others, the perfect observer. Of both his companions and their surroundings. Had he been a cigarette smoking man, this would have been lighting up time.
‘Sections of the government, including your own employers, are impressively unhappy with the interview you’ve given to a television network and a newspaper.’ Bernadette spoke gently enough, the Irish float of her voice lending it a peculiar threat. She named both the network and the newspaper. Dr Kennedy nodded, observing her as though he were a scientist and she a specimen, which indeed he was, and she was not. ‘We’re here to ask you to retract both interviews and to deny their publication. Especially those derogatory comments about the dossier.’
‘To ask.’ Kennedy’s mouth twitched a little. It may have been a suppressed smile. He shook his head; denial of something. ‘To threaten, I think. Threats would … appeal more to your employers than a simple request, surely…’
What happens next is revealed in Four Cornered, a stand-alone quick thriller featuring characters from the JJ Stoner / Killing Sisters series. You don’t need to have read any of the other stories in the series: you can start right here if you like.
Four Cornered, a five-star quick thriller, is available as an ebook at Amazon for just 99p/99c.
Please note that the JJ Stoner / Killing Sisters stories are intended for an adult audience and contain explicit scenes of a sexual and/or violent nature.