A Daniel Ambler Spy Thriller
“A thrilling full-throttle, white-knuckle ride written with irrepressible and seething intrigue and energy.”
Simon Sebag-Montefiore, author of One Night in Winter.
Spy novelist, Daniel Ambler, is invited to lunch by an old college acquaintance, Simon Birch - who now works for MI6.
Yevgeny Vetrov, a Russian oligarch, has made an offer to British intelligence. Vetrov claims to possess files containing compromising information relating to Viktor Rybin, one of the Russian President's closest advisers.
But Vetrov, who now lives in Cuba, has stipulated that he will only pass on the intelligence in person to Ambler, a trusted friend.
The author, believing that he might finally be able to do some good in the world and make a difference, accepts the invitation. He is briefed, trained and arranges his trip to Havana.
But there is every possibility that Ambler may not make his flight. The writer is being stalked across the capital - and the only thing standing in between the hunters and their quarry is James Marshal, the author's driver - a former soldier.
Nothing is quite what it seems, as Ambler is written into a plot worthy of one of his spy novels.
The new recruit's first mission could prove his last.
Recommended for fans of Alan Judd, Charles Cumming and Mick Herron.
"Duty Calls is a character-driven thriller. With the authenticity of Graham Greene at his bitter best, its dark, twisting, elegantly plotted narrative grips ever tighter as it nears its heart-stopping end. I could not recommend it more highly."
Peter Tonkin, author of Shadow of the Tower.
"A gripping spy thriller, which will keep the reader guessing till the very last scene. Waugh is able to blend together both suspense and satire like few other authors."
Saul David, Battleground: Ukraine.
The first book in a new series by acclaimed thriller writer Thomas Waugh. Duty Calls also features James Marshal, the protagonist of Enough Is Enough and Blood For Blood.
Praise for Thomas Waugh:
'Engaging and enjoyable. A must read for soldiers and civilians.' Damien Lewis
'Fast, brutal and uncompromising. Waugh gets you in his sniper-scope and doesn't relent until the very last page.'
John Kennedy, author of The Trauma Pool
'Thomas Waugh’s gripping second James Marshal thriller reads as though Andy McNab has sent Nick Stone into the meanest streets of London on a mission of brutal revenge.'
Peter Tonkin, author of The Trojan Murders
'Dark and punchy. An enigmatic hero takes on the dangerous streets of London.'
Shaun Baines, author of Pallbearer
‘A gripping thriller, elegantly told. A complex plot, deftly handled. And a narrative that puts the city of London, with its wealth and poverty, goodness and evil, at the heart of the story.’
‘Tense and atmospheric.’
Thank you for joining us on The Coffee Pot Book Club blog. Please make yourself comfortable.
Before we begin, please introduce yourself.
Thomas Waugh is a pseudonym I use for writing modern thrillers. I usually write under my own name for historical fiction. As Thomas Waugh, I have now released four novels, including Gun For Hire, Enough Is Enough and Blood For Blood. The books are largely set in London and, in some regards, are a product of the crime and thriller authors I have enjoyed reading over the years, including le Carre, Graham Greene, Mick Herron and Lee Child. The hero of the latest novel, Daniel Ambler, is also a reference to Eric Ambler. Duty Calls, in particular, has various nods towards Graham Greene and his “entertainments”.
Could you tell us a little about the background of your book and what inspired you to write a spy novel?
After writing a couple of crime novels, featuring the ex-soldier James Marshal, I wanted to write a spy thriller featuring a novelist as a hero. I suppose I was partly inspired by The Russia House, by le Carre, who skilfully blended the worlds of publishing and espionage together. I have written historical novels which have featured spies, so it wasn’t such a leap to write a contemporary story involving espionage. There have been plenty of writers who have read the book and have enjoyed the depiction of the book trade in the story. I wanted to pull back the curtain on the life of an author.
I came up with the initial premise for the book before the start of Russia’s invasion of the Ukraine, so the novel is set in 2021.
Although a novelist, I wanted Daniel Ambler to serve as an everyman (albeit one who is perhaps more cynical and world-wearier than most). Ambler is a divorcee, still in love with his ex-wife. He is a lapsed Catholic, trying to atone for his sins.
As a bridge between the two series, I was keen to feature James Marshal in the story, to furnish the narrative with some action. Ambler, like Thomas Waugh, is not the bravest novelist in the world.
What do you think is the most challenging aspect of writing a novel set in the world of international spies?
The honest answer is, I don’t know. Thankfully, I have read a wealth of spy thrillers over the years. I have come across a few people in the trade who also furnished me with some information and inspiration. One must walk a tightrope between being believable – whilst at the same time providing a sense of escapism for the reader.
Your protagonist, Daniel Ambler, is a spy novelist.
How did you come up with the idea of involving the character of a writer in the (to him) ‘real’ world of spies? And what’s his take on the ‘Second Cold War’?
The book, due to the plot device of having a spy novelist become a spy, isn’t short on irony or humour. Ambler’s familiarity with spies and spying allows him to take to his “mission” with more efficacy than most. There is also the fact that one should write what one knows – and I know the world of publishing. There will be readers, some of them fans of the Coffee Pot Book Club, who will be more shocked by the revelations concerning the world of publishing – rather than espionage – in the story.
Although Ambler is a fan of Russian literature, he is understandably no fan of Putin and his regime. He touches upon the argument that the first Cold War didn’t really end (especially for members of the KGB, like Putin). The Soviet Union, for all of its anti-imperialist rhetoric, was a Soviet Empire. The Cold War certainly heated up again, even before the invasion of the Ukraine. The book isn’t kind to Marxists. Their lack of a sense of humour isn’t their only crime. The current enemy is the old enemy, it seems, for the security services.
Could you tell us a little about your next work in progress?
The next book will be the follow-up to Duty Calls, featuring Daniel Ambler. It will be a spy thriller, set during a Graham Greene conference. Again, I want to have fun with the worlds of publishing and spying. The working title is Eastern Approaches. Fingers crossed the novel will be available by the end of the year.
Thank you for your time.
Thomas Waugh is the pseudonym of a bestselling historical novelist. His other books include Gun For Hire and Danger Close.
He lives in London.