13 Nov 2013

Damian Stevenson “The Ian Fleming Files”

1 Comment Book Reviews

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“The Ian Fleming Files: Operation Armada” by Damian Stevenson is based on a simple but brilliant idea: To use the creator of the James Bond series and make him the hero in his own James-Bond-style adventure.
Set in 1940 it shows Fleming as a Naval commander who is on a secret mission in France regarding the French Navy.
As Fleming used to be an navy officer in real life this has an excellent real feel to it, an idea so simple and genius, you wonder why nobody has thought of doing it before Many have written James-Bond style books, but few have thought of going to the root of the creation itself.
Very authentically written the story has everything that you would expect from a James Bond story: thrilling action scenes, gadgets, women and cars.
I am a big fan of history and absolutely loved the idea of bringing Bond into the past rather than the future. For me James Bond is a cult figure and I find that the recent film instalments with the ever increasing pyrotechnics and technology advances take the fun out of the original idea.
Stevenson has done a fantastic job at extracting the essence of Bond and choosing an excellent setting for his novel.
I hate to use this phrase in reviews but I really am looking forward to a series of these books.

 

Hi Damian

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How did the idea for the novel come to you?

I was stunned by how successful the movie Skyfall (2012) was – over a billion dollars at the worldwide box office – given that the character was a 1950s creation and it occurred to me that there was a huge lack of awareness that Ian Fleming based his character on himself, that he was himself a spy during World War 2.  Because Skyfall was such a hit,  I thought there might be interest in a story that put Ian Fleming in similar circumstances to 007 but was rooted in biographical and historical truth.

How did you come to writing in the first place?

I studied literature at Oxford, worked with writers in Hollywood when I was an executive at DreamWorks and eventually decided it was time to give writing a go. I wrote screenplays for ten years with mixed success and turned to books about a year ago. My heart is definitely in books.

How did you choose the setting for the story? Did you research much for the book?

I chose to focus on what I thought was the most exciting Bond-like period of Ian Fleming’s life and the setting was thus dictated by the circumstances. Fleming was a reporter before and after the war and by far his most thrilling adventures took place during the war, specifically in 1940 when he was flown to Bordeaux to negotiate the purchase of France’s navy. So France during the Nazi occupation became the default setting, as well as some scenes at Admiralty HQ and elsewhere in London.

Yes, a lot of research. With historical fiction, research and writing go hand in hand. Before, during and even after writing (when someone points out a mistake!). I had been casually researching Ian Fleming for years out of personal interest and then took it to another level when I started the book. One thing I have learned from research is that the Internet is highly over-rated as a source of information. The library, i.e. books, is where the real research comes. Until every book is scanned and readable on line, you have to go to the library.  

Who is your favourite character and why?

Ian Fleming, because he dominates so much and it’s told mostly from his point of view. I like the Denise character, the story’s femme fatale, because I like writing about women, especially dangerous Bond-girl types, lots of fun.

Are you like any of the characters (and how so)?

I would like to say Fleming only because I had no choice but to draw on my own experience for his everyday emotions like love, hate, hurt, jealousy, etc. Also, I tried to depict him as the kind of guy that other guys want to emulate, a cool cat. In my fantasy I am like Ian Fleming but I am probably more like Henry Cavendish, his friend, who lives an ordinary existence without villains and femme fatales to worry about.

Were the plot and subplots completely planned from the start or did they change during the process, and if so, how?

Interesting question. I think a lot of writing is part planned and part discovery. I had a general sense of the plot – he goes to France, the Resistance help  him, he is betrayed and gets revenge – but beyond that a lot of the story was discovered. For example, one of the plot motifs I like to use is that the best laid plans never go as expected. So initially Fleming’s parachute jump wasn’t a mis-drop but by following the motif of plans-going-awry I was able to come up with a twist on a twist: the first twist was that there is a traitor and the Germans know where the drop-zone is but by having Fleming miss the drop-zone when he parachuted it was more interesting – yes, the Germans were waiting for him, but there was a mechanical and weather problem that made him miss the intended landing spot and avoid the trap. I thought this made for good suspense.  As you write you are always facing the dreaded foe of Predictability and one of the best strategies is to not know yourself what is coming next. It’s good to have a general idea – Fleming is parachuting into France – but it’s better if you don’t know every single step that happens so you can take unexpected turns as you write. If I know what is coming next then by definition it is predictable so in a way I have to be a little bit unware.

What are the best and the worst aspects of writing?

I love rewriting. The end stage where you get to polish and improve and really see something substantive emerge. I find the beginning stage horrible and do all I can to avoid it – and then spend a lot of time hating myself.  It’s the despair of the blank page versus the satisfaction of having created something out of nothing. They say god created the blank page to show you how hard it is to be god.

What do you do when you don’t write?

I spend time with my young daughter every opportunity I get (I’m divorced) and I also play tennis and loaf around in the sun like a typical Los Angeleno. I read a lot and try to stay out of trouble.

 

Favourite James Bond:                           SEAN CONNERY

Film                                                                       GOLDFINGER

Song                                                                      LIVE AND LET DIE

Actor                                                                     SEAN CONNERY

Actress                                                                 JANE SEYMOUR (FAVORITE BOND GIRL, Miss Solitaire)

Gadget                                                                 MAGNETIC WATCH IN ‘LIVE AND LET DIE’

 

Which are your favourite books and authors?

I love the classics, especially 19th Century British authors like Thomas Hardy and Oscar Wilde, big Shakespeare nut, Ian Fleming is a huge favorite, naturally, and for modern prose I love the ‘outlaw’ tradition in American writing,  authors like William S Burroughs, Hugh Selby JR and Charles Bukowski.  At the end of the day I love a great stylist, an author for whom it seems every word is a big decision.

Which indie writers can you recommend?

Peter John, James DiBenedetto, Chloe Thurlow, Sheryl Seal, Sameer Ketkar, Brandt Legg, Todd Thiede, Julia Gousseava, Oleg Medvedkov, Dennis Waller, Karen Black, James Ross, Carolyn Bennet, Dani J Caile, Simon Okill, Charity Parkerson. Too many to name! I know I left someone out…

What three books would you take to an isolated island?

The Bible, Collected Shakespeare and Naked Lunch

Tell us about your other books?

I have written a suspense novella (Solstice), based on an unproduced screenplay I wrote a few years ago, which people seem to like. My one non-fiction book is a look at the 1983 movie ScarfaceScarface: The Ultimate Guide which no one buys but has the best reviews of all of my books.

What else would you like us to know about yourself and your books?

What I really want to do is direct. Just kidding.

“Operation Parsifal” is out and the next one is “Operation Uncle Sam” set in the summer of 1941 that sees Fleming working with the Americans to get them into the war effort. After that I may write ‘The Ian Fleming Files: Origins’ and take the saga back to before the war started.

FIND DAMIAN ON GOODREADS AND AMAZON:

https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/7102035.Damian_Stevenson

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http://www.amazon.com/Damian-Stevenson/e/B00CGP6JJ8/ref=ntt_athr_dp_pel_1

MY REVIEW OF OPERATION PARSIFAL:

“Operation Parsifal”, Book 2 in the Ian Fleming Files series is a remarkable achievement both in terms of historical accuracy and as a “Bond” / spy thriller.

Ian Fleming acts as a spy in her majesty’s service and is sent to Egypt to recruit a German deserter and the mistress of a German industrialist to the British Intelligence. Parsifal is a secret organisation to bring down Hitler and replace him with a new Chancellor and naturally the Allies take an interest in this internal power battle and its consequences for Europe.

As writer of historical fiction about the era I was stunned at the detailed research and the accuracy of the people, places and the times: The physical descriptions of the Nazi big wigs and industrialists, the scenes set in a bombed and semi-destroyed London and the feeling amongst the German nation so briefly before the end of the Reich to name but a few, all are portrayed with competence and perfection.

The story itself also held great interest for me. I have seen all Bond films and very much enjoyed that Parsifal is written in a similar style but with a real historical connection rather than the invented villains with no connection to reality. For me that concept really worked and I found myself quite glued to the pages, wondering where the story line would take us next: Berlin, the Eagle’s Nest or Fort Alderney in the channel islands.

Not only does Stevenson know his Bond and Fleming, he writes eloquently and with appropriate pace. There were no redundant stretches in the story line, dialogue and characters were well composed and made this a very enjoyable read. Now I’d like to know more about Fleming and his life so I could figure out how much of this is true and what was added as fiction.

An intriguing and worthy read.

 

 

08 Oct 2013

Ben Manning: The Vril Codex

2 Comments Book Reviews

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Vril is a force which to its believers can heal or destroy.’ For famous journalist Jane Wilkinson, a peaceful architectural assignment in Berlin is a chance for some much needed relaxation. Until she notices that something very sinister is happening… she is touched by an occult evil more terrifying than anything she has ever known. An evil that will engulf her and reach out remorselessly to her husband Bob who is literally haunted as he tries to discover her fate and what lies beneath the ancient legend of the VRIL CODEX’
Part romance, part conspiracy thriller, involving Nazi’s, and the mysterious cults of the “Thule Society,” and the “Devils Bible.” Supernatural forces and conspiracies combine, leading Bob and his companions into danger and a confrontation with the ancient Vril power’.

“The Vril Codex” by Ben Manning is an unsual and to me a highly original read.
While the main protagonist is a widower and tries to overcome his grief with a work trip to Berlin, the plot edges into paranormal area and sheds light on some supernatural cult around Hitler and his hardcore followers.
I have read quite a few stories and articles about it, all handled as rumours, but their existence is so persistent that the plot – speculative conspiracy as it may be – sounds very plausible to me.
The book is well written and held my interest throughout.
The most pleasant aspects of the book are that the characters are so real and believable, more dimensional and that the storyline is far from flat, as I find so often with books in the genre.
I found it a compelling and fascinating read.

 

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Hi Ben

Your novel has quite an unusual theme. Can you explain it to my readers quickly. How did you hear about it and when did you decide to write this story?

Sure I was influenced to write this novel series  – the Vril Chronicles – by reading “Morning of the Magicians”- a cult new age book that covered everything from secret societies to the unexplained.  It was strangely written and published back in 1962 ish but influenced me as did a rather tacky but interesting history channel documentary aired in 2009.  It was in 09 that I completed my first draft, which I rewrote at author workshops in 2010.  Then I got it published in 2011 and 2012 but the final edition with a reputable publisher has come out in 2013. 

How did you research for it? Especially since so much of the information is contested. What was the most fascinating aspect in the research and the writing for you?

I enjoyed travelling to Germany a lot and finding obscure libraries and meeting characters that influenced the book.  To be honest the internet was useful but I enjoyed meeting real people such as Anthony J Hilder who is probably the most unusual conspiracy theorist out there with a fascinating past in entertainment. I also wrote off to lots of obscure people and cults to differentiate what I was writing with what’s really out there, when it comes to Vril.  There are some rare books on the subject but not a lot is out there.  Not many people realize the esoteric traits of Hitler and especially Himmler, either with the Vril Society or the Thule Society or the Black Sun.  There is some on youtube and many obscure pamphlets were printed about it after the war.        

Were the plot and subplots completely planned from the start or did they change during the process, and if so, how?

Well the plot was kind of roughly planned but I added to it as I went along. I knew nothing much had been written on Vril and the Nazi’s but paranormal Nazi’s have been written on a lot – from Indiana Jones to James Herbert – so I wanted to create my own myths and figures rather than just using Norse myth and Hitler.  That would have been obvious; they were just the starting point.  Hence my characters such as Helena Hister and the whole mythos around that, that I invented. More recently there have been a few more vril novels out there but it is still few and far between.  There are hundred on the spear of destiny and the Nazi’s for example. As I often say – mine was the first ever on vril and the nazi’s – a fact I am proud of.    

This is part of a series. How many books will there be and can you tell us where this will be going – without any spoilers?

Well part 2 was self-published in 2012 but that will have a proper final release, possibly with Double Dragon Publishing.  That is set in Dresden and is called the Dresden Benefactor.  It is more of a mystery and the one I am working on right now is more of a thriller perhaps.  

How did you choose the characters for the story?

I wanted characters people could relate to.  It is hard trying to be original because you have to produce characters that are familiar so to an extent they have to be based on universal types.  I did base Warwick Blake – a psychic archaeologist – on the late Michael Baigent who was co-author of “The Holy Blood and the Holy Grail”. 

How did you come to writing in the first place? Apart from this historically themed blend did you have other genres in mind, too?

I wouldn’t call the Vril series historical fiction as it is set in the present but yes there are historical elements.  I did think of making it more science fiction like because of the aliens and UFO’s but then the whole vril universe is very “Fantasy” too – couple that with the fact that there are paranormal romance elements and crime thriller ones that we have one of the strength’s to critics a possible weakness .  It is primarily a thriller but does genre hop.  But why not break the rules?!  

I wrote short stories as a small child and poetry (cringe!) and as a teen and in my twenties mainly did journalism.  Then in my thirties I decided to turn to novels as I felt the need to be creative. 

Who is your favourite character and why?

Warwick Blake- 

This is simply because he is an interesting outsider.  I imagine him portrayed by Michael Gambon. 

Are you like any of the characters (and how so)?

Yes –

I guess Bob is loosely based on me.  Make of that what you will!

Did you have any say in the cover art and who was that process?

To be honest both covers came largely from my idea.  I still do not think there has been a definitive cover and vril 2 and 3 are yet to have a professional cover done.  I do like vril codex’s second “alien” cover most which I designed with Riley Steel. 

What are the best and the worst aspects of writing?

Best aspect is when people like it and the worse is when people don’t but then no writer in history is liked by everyone.  I love the creative highs but I don’t like the writer’s block lows.  I am also dyslexic which makes me a slow writer. 

How do you balance marketing one book and writing the next?

With difficulty!  I know the internet has opened up some opportunities but it is also a boon to criminal publishers.  I worked in marketing and part of me is repulsed by mixing it with my creative side.  In the past, if you had the money to self-publish  – pre web – marketing had to be done by the writer or paid for.  These days whether you self – publish or go with a publisher you still have to promote which is kind of a shame as it used to be more the domain of marketing at the publishers.  

What do you do when you don’t write?

I am a keen actor. 

What would be the cast in a Hollywood or British film?

Michael Gambon or Bill Nighy as Warwick

Rufus Sewell as Bob – depending on budget!  If not – me! 

Romola Garai as Jane

Who are your biggest influences?

Rod Serling

Alfred Hitchcock

Roald Dahl

Gothic Horror

M.R James

Hammer Horror and Amicus  – Vincent Price, Peter Cushing ect…

Which are your favourite books and authors?

I have always loved I Claudius by Robert Graves.

Other favourites are Douglas Adams, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, James Herbert and Isaac Asimov.

I would also pick Roald Dahl as an author and Samuel Taylor Coleridge as a poet.
Dahl always fascinated me with his short stories for “Tales of the unexpected” on the TV from “someone like you” and “kiss kiss” – but what im most impressed by is that he could write, horror, humour –in a book like “my uncle Oswald” and for children with stories like “Charlie and the chocolate factory”. I think he understood the way people think – in terms of how children feel and react and also the very adult world of intrigue, where there is always a moral twist. A tribute I wrote to both him and Coleridge is at the Roald Dahl museum here in the UK.

ST Coleridge – I would love to know his theories on the universe and life in general, as well as the subconscious and life after death.  Coleridge’s Rime of the Ancient Mariner is incredible and I used to work at his cottage where he lived in 1797 and wrote it. 

Douglas Adams – “The Hitchhiker’s guide to the galaxy” 
Aldous Huxley –”Brave new World”

Voltaire – “Candide”  *** Charles Dickens –”A Christmas Carol” *** George Orwell – 1984

 *** Edgar Allen Poe – Murders in the Rue Morgue *** Mary Shelley – Frankenstein.

Which indie writers can you recommend?

Terry Ravenscroft.  His books make me laugh a lot. 

What would you take to an isolated island?

A cat

Who would you like to invite for dinner?

David Bowie

What else would you like us to know about yourself and your books?

I am in a forthcoming major horror film called “Zombie Snuff Movies”  and I am interviewed in the major magazine “Haunted after Dark” who are sponsors of the British Horror film festival held in Leicester Square, London. 

Links –

http://vrilcodex.blogspot.com/
http://www.facebook.com/pages/The-Vril-Codex/151342004886833
http://www.facebook.com/pages/The-Vril-Codex-Fanpage/192024584186066
Twitter – “@TheVrilCodex”

New from DOUBLE DRAGON publishing…the number one award winning publisher…the VRIL Codex…a paranormal thriller and the first to ever be written on vril and the Nazi’s…conspiracies and norse myth…

http://www.amazon.com/The-Vril-Codex-ebook/dp/B00EPQT0GA/ref=sr_1_1_bnp_1_kin?ie=UTF8&qid=1377430967&sr=8-1&keywords=vril+codex

http://www.amazon.co.uk/The-Vril-Codex-ebook/dp/B00EPQT0GA/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1377432705&sr=8-1&keywords=vril+codex

 

 

 

 

 

 

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