Interview with thriller author G.W. Eccles

Welcome, Readers. Today’s
special author is George (G.W.) Eccles who is chatting with me about his new political
thriller, Corruption of Power. It’s the
second book in his Alex Leksin thriller series.
Bio:
George Eccles, writing as G
W Eccles, graduated from the London School of Economics with a law degree and subsequently became a partner in one of the major
international financial advisory firms.
In 1994, George
left London to move to Russia and Central Asia during the tumultuous period
that followed the breakup of the Soviet Union. His work involved extensive
travel throughout Russia, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan – often to
places with restricted access to foreigners. During his time there, he advised
a number of real-life oligarchs how best to take advantage of the opportunities
that became available as regulation crumbled and government became increasingly
corrupt.
His first thriller,
The Oligarch, was awarded a Silver
Medal both at the Global E-book Awards 2013 and at the Independent Publishers
Book Awards 2013, as well as being selected as IPPY Book of the Day. His second
novel, Corruption of Power, was
published by Peach Publishing in December 2015 and won a Bronze Medal at the
recent Independent Publishers Book Awards 2016.
George is
married and now lives with his wife – with a cat called Lenin and a bulldog
called Boris – in a hilltop village not far from Cannes in the South of France.
Welcome, George. Please tell us about your current
release.
Corruption of Power, which was published by Peach Publishing last December, is the second
in my Alex Leksin thriller series. The first, The Oligarch, was self-published a few years ago. Corruption of Power features a number of the
same characters, though the story stands on its own.
The Russian President is
intent on restoring his country to its former glory by regaining much of the
territory that it lost when the Soviet Union broke up. His experience in Crimea
has taught him that the West won’t fight to defend these territories, but it
will impose damaging economic sanctions. As a result, he resolves to switch
Russia’s economic focus to the East with the objective of minimizing the impact
of these sanctions when they inevitably follow his incursions into neighbouring
countries. One element of this strategy involves developing new markets in the
East for his Russia’s massive oil and gas deposits.
A major component of the
plan involves building an oil pipeline through Turkmenistan and Afghanistan to
access the Eastern markets, but when this goes wrong, it threatens to bring the
conflagration currently raging in the Middle East right inside Russia’s own
borders. The President turns to independent troubleshooter, Alex Leksin, to put
the plan back on course.
Leksin’s task is made more
difficult by the fact that the company responsible for implementing the
pipeline project is now run by oligarch’s daughter, Vika Usenko, to whom Leksin
had once been engaged. Worse still, responsibility for the pipeline itself
rests with her embittered, resentful brother.
Against a backdrop of
political corruption, state sponsored terrorism, and increased Taliban
insurgency, Leksin’s investigation takes him from Moscow to Turkmenistan, one
of the world’s most sinister countries right at the heart of Central Asia.
Wherever he goes, someone tries to kill him; people who may be able to help him
are assassinated; and information turns to misinformation. When at last he
discovers the truth, he is no longer sure whom he can trust.
What inspired you to write this book?
On a general level, I suppose
I was inspired by my own experience. I spent five years working in Russia,
often for oligarchs looking to embed their newly-acquired assets, then another five
years operating a US-backed enterprise fund in Central Asia. This gave me an
amazing insight into both these regions: the politics, the corruption at all
levels, the different ways people live, the amazing contrasts in the geography.
While the story is fiction, many of the anecdotes are inspired by actual events
that occurred either while I was there or since.
More specifically, Corruption of Power is very current and
was inspired by things that are actually happening. The story and denouement
might be fiction, but it takes place within a background that is all real. The
following statements are facts. The Russian President does want to restore
Russia to its former glory (he regularly says so in his broadcasts to the
nation); he did invade Crimea and parts of Eastern Ukraine; and the West
responded with sanctions but no military force. Russia is trying to court the
Eastern markets: they’ve signed a pipeline deal to bring oil to China, and it
would love to join forces with Turkmenistan (one of the world’s biggest gas
producers) to run a pipeline through Afghanistan down to the Indian Ocean. The
Russian President has always been worried about unrest on what he sees as his
country’s soft Southern underbelly, and there has been a marked increase in
Taliban activity. Finally, there is now irrefutable evidence that numerous
so-called terrorist incidents within Russia were actually carried out by the
FSB, the successor organization to the KGB.

Excerpt from Corruption of Power:

Moscow, Russia

Anya Politska typed furiously into her laptop, her handwritten notes
spread untidily across her desk in the open-plan office of Novy Novoski, the
controversial investigative bi-weekly. Her colleagues milled around her cubicle
in small groups, talking in whispers. They were all edgy with the sense of
anticipation.

Politska paused to read through what she’d written, pursing her lips
with approval. Surely the ex-KGB snoop had gone too far this time? Even Karpev,
she reckoned, wouldn’t be able to withstand the public outcry that her
revelations would provoke.

*****************

Inured as she was by hard experience, she’d wept when the shock news
of the mass murder of children and teachers at School No 86 in Pechatniki had
broken two days earlier. She’d covered many atrocities, but the day when a
massacre of innocents no longer moved her, she’d give up. As a journalist, she
had a part to play. Blinking back the tears, she’d assimilated the scene. The
banner hastily erected across the front of the school had registered with her
immediately. Islamic Democratic Freedom Movement, it had read. Subsequently
she’d listened intently as an FSB spokesman confirmed the IDFM’s
responsibility.

The IDFM was a Chechen group, and as a journalist during the Chechnya
war, Politska had established links with its leader. The group were certainly
no saints, but the mass murder of children was not their style either.
Something smelt wrong. Using her contacts, Politska had succeeded yesterday in
talking to the group’s leader, who’d vehemently denied any involvement with the
school bombing. It’s all a set-up, he’d told her, and she believed him.

Her next move had been to arrange a meeting with her FSB informant.
A reliable source – at a price – in the past, on this occasion he’d refused
point-blank to discuss the subject.

“You’re walking on quicksand, Anya,” he’d warned.
“Let this one drop.”

“I can’t, you know better than that,” she’d replied. She’d
experienced more than her fair share of threats and intimidation over the years
– beatings, poisoning, electric shocks, days of confinement in a pit, even a
mock execution. But these were the occupational hazards of investigative
journalism in Karpev’s Russia, and if you weren’t prepared to risk them, then
you needed to change your job.

When she’d got back to the office, though, she’d felt despondent.
All she had was the denial of the IDFM’s leader, but on its own this meant
nothing. No one would believe him without independent evidence supporting his
claim, yet she was running out of leads. Then, this morning, everything had
changed.

When she’d arrived in the office, she’d found an email sent to her
anonymously overnight. Nothing in the body of the text, just an attachment and
a heading ‘Look at the date’. Opening
the attachment, she’d found a draft press release on FSB-headed paper
describing the terrorist attack on the school. As she’d started to read
through, she’d felt her professional instincts take hold.

The press release summarised an incident at School No 86 in
Pechatniki. It detailed how terrorists had taken over the building during
school hours, rigged it with explosives and held children and teachers captive.
But in this version there was no actual explosion, no death toll, and the
terrorists had escaped. Politska scrolled up and down the text, confused.
Suddenly her eyes fixed on the top line – the draft press release was dated the
day before the actual incident
occurred.

She swivelled in her
chair to stare out of the window as the implications fell into place. The school
bombing, as she’d suspected from the outset, was no straightforward terrorist
incident. Now she had solid evidence that the FSB had themselves been
responsible. The appalling consequences might not have been their intended
outcome, but they had always been a possibility. As her father used to say, if
you play with fire, there’s always a chance you’ll get burned.

What exciting story are you working on next?
I am working on the third
in the Alex Leksin thriller series, as yet untitled. It was inspired by an
article I read in the newspapers. Apparently a group of half-a-dozen
businessmen who’d invested very substantial sums in a Moscow-based scheme
suddenly found the scheme cancelled and all their money gone. There was no
explanation. Over the next few weeks, one by one, the investors came to
untimely deaths. That pretty much forms the background to my new thriller.
Leksin is brought in to find the money.
When did you first consider yourself a writer?
Probably not until Peach
Publishing released Corruption of Power.
My first book, The Oligarch, was a
story I dreamt up while spending six months on assignment in the Arctic mining
town of Norilsk, and in some respects it almost wrote itself. This second book
involved much more planning and hard work. It also give me a chance to put into
practice some of the lessons I’d learnt in writing The Oligarch.
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 am a very undisciplined
writer, I’m afraid. I very much admire writers who set themselves targets of x
words per day or write for y hours every day without fail. Alas, I’m not one of
them. I spend 6-9 months planning the plot, then probably a year writing the
first draft. The reason the first draft takes so long is that I tend to let
myself be easily distracted by other activities: my bulldog is still a puppy
and requires a lot of attention; I play bridge once or twice a week; I go to
operas, concerts and cinemas at the drop of a hat. Basically I seem always to
be able to find something else to do other than write!
This changes, though, once
I have a first draft. I think I need the impetus of reaching this stage before
I become truly committed to the task because, once I have a first draft,
writing does in fact become pretty much a full-time activity.
What would you say is your interesting writing quirk?
I am not at all sure that
she’d be happy being described as a ‘writing quirk’, but this is probably the
juncture that I should mention my wife’s input. She’s a modern languages graduate
and travelled with me throughout Russia and Central Asia when we lived there.
When I’ve finished revising the first (second and third etc) draft, and
basically feel the book’s finished, I pass it to my wife to read and this is
where the work really begins. At this point we sit together for some weeks,
discussing how the plot needs to be tweaked, then reworking how the characters
behave, and finally rewriting whole chunks of the manuscript to make it more
reader-friendly. I cannot emphasise enough how important her contribution is at
this stage of the process – much better than any professional editor or book
doctor!
As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?
I didn’t really know. My
father died when I was very young. He’d been a doctor, so for a while I wanted
to be a doctor – until I struggled with science at school and realized it
wasn’t for me! I chose to read law at university not because I wanted to become
a lawyer, but because it was useful and gave me time to work out what I wanted
to do. In the end, I trained with one of the large accountancy firms, though if
I had my time again, I think I’d choose to go the law route.
Anything additional you want to share with the
readers?
Not really. I’m afraid I
haven’t found a magic formula to share with your readers that turns a book into
an overnight bestseller or sells the movie rights. If anyone does find one,
please let me know!
I would just say that I
love to hear from my readers, and I respond to all who contact me. So if after
reading either The Oligarch or Corruption of Power, you have query,
question, comment – or just want to share your thoughts on the book – then
please use the contact form on my website to say ‘hi’.
Links:
Corruption of Power is available in paperback and Kindle format from all global Amazon
sites, including: 
Amazon UK | Amazon USA 

Thanks for being here today, George. All the best
with your writing!

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