Interview with international thriller author Ian Coates

Today’s fun
interview is with thriller author Ian Coates as he shares about his newest
novel, Eavesdrop.  
Author Ian
Coates graduated with honors in engineering. He worked in the high tech
electronics industry for thirty years, where he specialized in the design of
radio communication equipment. His intimate knowledge of that environment
always triggered his imagination to think about the mysterious world of
international spies.

A lifelong love of books led him into writing, but it was being named one of
the winners in the Writers’ & Artists’ Yearbook centenary novel writing
competition that spurred him on to complete his spy thriller, Eavesdrop.

The novel
was written largely on planes and in airport lounges as well as in snatched
moments before starting work each morning. Eavesdrop
was released by Bad Day Books, the suspense and thriller imprint of Assent Publishing.

Ian is proud to support the British Science Association and donates a
proportion of his book proceeds to that charity. He lives and writes in Buckinghamshire,
England, with his wife and two daughters.

Welcome, Ian. Please tell us about
your current release.
James Winter
is a Customs Investigation Officer, but when the smuggling ring he’s closing-in
on suddenly develops an uncanny knack of avoiding arrest, he is suspended on
suspicion of helping them. As he tries to clear his name, he uncovers a group
of assassins, industrial espionage, and a very determined Mossad agent.
The story
starts with three apparently separate story threads. The first follows the assassins – they are
operating in London, and when their hits suddenly start to go wrong, they begin
to think they have a traitor in their midst.
The second
story thread follows the smugglers. They are setting-up a new run to smuggle
diamonds from Antwerp to London, and need to bring in a new courier to
help. However, they soon begin to think
that the man they’ve chosen is not all that he seems.
The third
thread follows Winter as he tries to discover who was behind his dismissal. As
the story progresses, these three threads start to come together until, by the
time we reach the climax in the snowy wastes of Finland, they’ve become just
one storyline and we suddenly realize there’s a lot more at stake than just
Winter’s career.
It’s a fast
paced thriller, and it’s the book’s title that gives us a clue as to what links
the story threads.
What inspired you to write this book?
I graduated
in electronics, and my first job was working for a company that designed radio
equipment – transmitters, receivers, walkie-talkies and the like – and one of
the ranges we made had a facility for encrypted audio. That was at the time of the Northern Ireland
troubles, and we sold some of those to the Northern Ireland police force – the
idea was that they didn’t want the IRA listening in to what they were
saying.  And that got me thinking – what
if I wanted to be able to intercept their conversations? How might I go about it? That was what gave me the main idea for Eavesdrop.
But I don’t
think a single idea is large enough or strong enough to support something as
big as a novel. For that, I think you
need two or even three solid ideas that work together to create an overall plot.
The second idea for Eavesdrop came
when I thinking about the attempts to achieve peace in the Middle East, and how
it is that we never seem to be able to manage it, especially around Israel.
It was only
when those two ideas, together with some thoughts I’d had about smuggling, all
coalesced that I realized I had a plot powerful enough to support a full length
thriller – and Eavesdrop was born.
Excerpt from Eavesdrop:
Copyright © 2014 Ian
All rights reserved.
August 2nd, 2010
Al-Jabib wriggled forward into position in the long grass. Everywhere smelled
fresh and damp. Perched on the crag among the trees that carpeted the higher
slope, he commanded an uninterrupted view of the lake in the valley bottom.
Water glinted silver when the first rays of sun reached its mirrored surface.
Thin ribbons of mist hung here and there above it like wraiths.
pulse quickened with excitement. After many months of planning, it was finally
time to set things in motion. He smiled to himself. They would be proud of him
back home.
On the far
bank, an angler tied a new fly to his line. After one final inspection, he cast
toward the row of willows that edged the water, then slowly drew it back by
hand so that the lure glided smoothly across the surface.
reached for his rifle, felt its cold metal against his fingertips. Without
taking his eyes off the fisherman, he seated the bipod in the soil to support
the muzzle, and pushed the stock hard against his shoulder. Shuffling awkwardly
until he was aligned with the weapon, he squinted into its telescopic sight. He
noticed his nerves didn’t flutter. Years ago, he would have wet himself doing
Not now.
He adjusted
the focus and flicked off the safety catch.
The fisherman
raised his rod and flicked it forward again, letting the line run through his
fingers. The man’s face looked content. Al-Jabib could see it clearly as he
squeezed the trigger.
The bullet
entered through the angler’s right eye. Blood spattered across the fishing bag
that stood on the bank as he toppled backwards and the rod splashed into the
water. In the woods, the gunshot sent a pair of pigeons flapping away through
the undergrowth.
Staying on
his stomach, Al-Jabib shuffled backwards off the small square of tarpaulin he’d
been lying on. His whole body tingled with exhilaration. It had been a
beautifully placed shot. Easy.
He retrieved
the spent case, and did his best to rough-up the flattened grass before he
wriggled further back into the trees. Only when he was well into their cover
did he stand and brush himself down.
Al-Jabib slid
his hand inside his jacket and felt for the locket that hung around his neck.
His fingers caressed the polished metal, conjuring the memories, the screams,
the falling masonry, and choking dust. He shouldn’t be wearing it, but it had
seemed so appropriate; a fresh chapter of history was going to be written and
it fell to him to prepare the ground. It was his destiny.
As he hiked
the mile back to the hire car, he tapped a number into his mobile and spoke in
Two weeks later
The meeting
in Tel-Aviv drew to a close. Fluorescent strips lit the windowless room three
floors below ground. The ashtrays on the table around which the eight men sat
were full, and thick cigarette smoke hung in the air, the air conditioning too
slow to remove it.
Ehud Mandell,
a large man with heavy jowls and thick spectacles, looked around at the others
from his place at the head of the table. “Any other items?” He wanted to go
home. Already, the meeting had gone over time. Mandell chaired these
cross-departmental security meetings, held every month under the grandiose
directive of ensuring the continued security of the homeland of the Israeli
State. He scratched his mop of white hair as he waited. Most of the others were
already gathering up their papers.
The head of
International Analysis coughed. “I have one thing.” Leon Cardash was the
antithesis of Mandell: short, with sallow features that looked malnourished.
His head jerked in short rapid movements when he looked around the table like a
bird nervously searching for grubs.
sighed. The traffic was going to be hell. “Go on,” he said. Cardash was not
known for getting to the point quickly.
the head of the European team, asked me to raise this.” Cardash coughed again.
“He’s very reliable, and if he says…well…if he thinks this committee needs to
know about it, certainly we should not dismiss it.”
“Just get on
with it,” Mandell barked.
He smiled
obsequiously. “Well, a couple of weeks ago in England, one of their top
government officials was assassinated during a weekend fishing break. It seems
it was…er…a very professional job.”
The Chief of
the Israeli Air Force spoke up. “So what? Let the Brits sort out their own
mess. It’s nothing to do with us.”
tugged at his earlobe and looked down at the sheet of paper in front of him.
“Well, you
see, there we’re not quite so sure. As you say, it is probably nothing, but the
thing is, the British police—and we’ve seen all their reports—the thing is,
they can find no motive at all.”
“I still
don’t see why this is relevant.”
“It may not
be, of course, but Charles Asquith—that’s the dead man—well, he was always a
strong advocate of Israel and had an influential place in the British
government that was often to our advantage. He has, on occasions persuaded it
to make decisions that favor our position. My European head was concerned that
Asquith may have been…” He hesitated as he chose for the most appropriate
phrase. “…well, perhaps he was permanently removed because of it.”
Mandell took
off his glasses and rubbed the bridge of his nose. It had been a long day. It
was fifty-fifty whether anything raised by Analysis was useful, but they were
right just frequently enough that one couldn’t take the chance of dismissing
them. He turned to the head of Mossad. “Perhaps you could check it out,
Avraham? Do you have anyone in England who could take a look?”
The head of
Mossad nodded slowly. “I’ve a man in London, Sol Halutz. He’s a pain in the
arse, but he’s good at bringing a fresh perspective to things. I’ll get him to
dig around.”
What exciting story are you working on
I’ve started
work on a new thriller with the working title of The Rival. It deals with industrial espionage, a long-hidden family
secret, an unusual double blackmail, and what happens when two people being
blackmailed don’t want to be blackmailed any more.
When did you first consider yourself a
I’ve wanted
to write novels since I was about 7 or 8, but wouldn’t have called myself a
writer at that point. I remember once
copying out the first few chapters of one of Enid Blyton’s Secret Seven
mysteries into a fresh notebook, changing the name of the children and the dog,
and then putting my name on the front cover. I suppose I could call myself a
writer by the time I reached the age of fourteen, because that was when I won a
competition run by the local authority with a private-eye novella.
Do you write full-time? If so, what’s
your work day like? If not, what do you do other than write and how do you find
time to write?
I work as a
technical manager in the electronics industry, so I fit my writing in between
holding down a busy full-time job and helping to bring up a family. That means it gets written over breakfast, during
additional snatched moments here and there, and during holidays.
Eavesdrop was largely written during a spell
when I did a lot of business travel, which meant much of it was written on
planes and in airport lounges.
What would you say is your interesting
writing quirk?
Perhaps the
fact that I write my first drafts longhand in spiral notebooks with a lovely
propelling pencil that my wife bought me. There’s something special about the visceral connection between hand,
pencil and paper that seems to help my creative process.
As a child, what did you want to be
when you grew up?
One of my
earliest memories is of wanting to be a spy. 
I think that came from reading and re-reading a big fat storybook called
something like “Spy Stories for Boys.” I
absolutely loved that book, and that’s what made me think I wanted to become a
spy when I grew up. As I got older,
though, I realized it was probably rather a dangerous profession, so started to
think more about technology. I confess to being a coward
As a child,
I never appreciated there was such a job as a writer. I don’t know where I thought books came from,
but I didn’t realize it was something you could do for a living. If I had known writing could be a profession,
I guess that’s what I would have said I wanted to do.
Anything additional you want to share
with the readers?
Just that I
hope people enjoy reading Eavesdrop. Certainly I’d love to hear from them, and I
can be contacted via social media or my website. If readers like the book, please add a review
on Amazon to encourage others to also give the story a try.

Thanks, Ian!

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