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Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Inspiration for Trophy Target Part IV: Afghanistan’s Feared Woman Warlord

Warning: Spoilers Ahead

Image via the BBC
As the outline for Trophy Target  started to come together, it was clear that Fadi Khaldun would need to travel to Afghanistan as part of his hunt for Prince Michael’s kidnappers. I planned from an early stage to have Fadi, in some respect, interact with an Afghan warlord. I didn’t know the circumstances quite yet or even why, but since warlords dominate Afghan culture and politics, it seemed like a “must have” for the story.
 
For inspiration, I started researching the backgrounds of Afghanistan’s various warlords. My first stop was Wikipedia, which has a handy list here. Nothing really stood out as the inspiration for a compelling storyline, so I broadened my search to the internet as a whole, hoping to find something useful like a news article. That’s when I came across an article in the BBC about Bibi Ayesha, Afghanistan’s Feared Woman Warlord.
 
Using real life people as the basis for fictional characters is a risky business, ranging from simply offending someone to confusing your readers to even incurring legal liability for a defamation claim. In this case, Ms. Ayesha’s inspiration for the character Huma Tanin a/k/a al-Saqr was limited solely to the gender of the warlord. So I’m confident my warlord character allows me to safely sidestep those figurative landmines.
 
I did not set out to have the warlord that I knew must appear in Trophy Target be female. It wasn’t even on my radar given the justified stereotype of Afghani women as second class citizens. But when I came across Ms. Ayesha’s profile, I realized that contrast was what made using a female warlord a great choice. Reader’s wouldn’t expect it but I could always point to Ms. Ayesha as an example to show it wasn’t such a far fetched idea.

Once I settled on that direction for the book, the rest of the story line involving Fadi’s interaction with the warlord character started coming together quickly and almost on it’s own. I took that as confirmation that the choice in the high level inspiration for Huma Tanin was correct.

Trophy Target is available now in ebook and print format. More information, including purchase information, is available here.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Inspiration for Trophy Target Part III: Deep in the Amazonian Jungle With the French Foreign Legion

Warning: Spoilers Ahead

 

In the summer of 2012, I was in the early stages of putting together a detailed outline for Trophy Target. I’d identified the main theme of the thriller (see Part I: Prince Harry deploys to Afghanistan) and settled on the general idea that Prince Michael would be kidnapped while in the services of the French Foreign Legion (see Part II: Beau Geste). I still needed to flush out the details of the kidnapping a bit though.
 
Image via Wikipedia
As luck would have it, on July 12 of that year, I visited one of my go-to websites, Instapundit run by Professor Glenn Reynolds. The good Professor linked to a timely story that day from Popular Mechanics: Deep in the Amazonian Jungle With the French Foreign Legion by Joe Pappalardo.
 
I encourage you to read Mr. Pappalardo’s entire article, but in summary, he reported on a little known conflict involving the French Foreign Legion in the secluded Amazonian jungle of French Guiana. They are waging a growing war against increasingly dangerous black market gold miners who are destroying the pristine environment and looting the country of a valuable resource that is ultimately smuggled out of the country. At the time the article was written, two FFL soldiers were recently killed in the course of a raid launched by the FFL on an illegal mining camp.

This was a conflict I had never heard of before and given it’s uniqueness and exotic location, provided a great setting for Prince Michael’s deployment with the French Foreign Legion. The escalation in violence and intimidation by the miners in real life towards the FFL fit with my intention to have Prince Michael kidnapped. Also, having Prince Michael initially kidnapped by persons unaware of his status as a royal, offered an extra layer of intrigue (or so I hope) to the plot.
 
While Mr. Pappalardo’s article served as the primary inspiration for this story line in Trophy Target, other source materials were used to get some additional background information on the French Foreign Legion, French Guiana and the illegal gold mining trade in South America.



Up Next:  Inspiration for Trophy Target Part III: Afghanistan’s Feared Woman Warlord;
Previous: Inspiration for Trophy Target Part II: Beau Geste



Trophy Target is available now in ebook and print format. More information, including purchase information, is available here.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Inspiration for Trophy Target Part II: Beau Geste

Warning: moderate spoilers ahead

Image via Wikipedia
Having selected the main theme for Trophy Target (see Part I: Prince Harry deploys to Afghanistan), I next turned to developing key storylines, characters and scenes. That first meant determining the circumstances under which the fictional prince in my book, Danish Crown Prince Michael Rhode, would be kidnapped.

I initially stuck closely to the script already provided by Prince Harry’s deployment to Afghanistan - Prince Michael would be deployed with the Danish military in Afghanistan and then kidnapped by terrorists. It seemed like a good idea. In the end, how Prince Michael was kidnapped wasn’t all that relevant anyway since Prince Michael was not a key character. He was effectively a human McGuffin.
I ran that idea by a dear and trusted friend who, diplomatically, told me that idea stunk. It was too simple and even predictable. “Of course that’s what would happen to the prince,” my friend remarked. He added that I was more creative than that and casually mentioned the novel turned film Beau Geste.
At the time, I was a bit ashamed to say I’d never heard of Beau Geste (the first remake in 1939 featured the great Gary Cooper). But since my friend had given such good advice and direction in the past, I researched the film and was attracted to the story. So I rented it from Netflix one weekend. With apologies to those who know of the film, here’s the gist: Michael “Beau” Geste was the oldest of three orphan brothers living with their aunt in Britain. Beau flees England after some controversy and enlists in the French Foreign Legion as a way to escape his past and make something of himself.
If you have at least started Trophy Target, you’ll see some similarities between the two stories, such as the key role played by the French Foreign Legion and that Prince Michael flees Denmark to enlist in the FFL. In Beau Geste, Michael (and his brothers who follow him) are deployed to North Africa. That setting needed some updating for my novel. Which is the perfect time to plug the next installment of this segment - Inspiration for Trophy Target Part III: Deep in the Amazonian Jungle with the French Foreign Legion.

Trophy Target is available now in ebook and print format. More information, including purchase information, is available here.


Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Inspiration for Trophy Target Part I: Prince Harry Deploys to Afghanistan

Image via Wikipedia
One of the side effects of taking the plunge as a fiction writer is that you start to view things from your everyday life as a potential source of inspiration for a novel. It’s both a blessing and a curse. Seemingly insignificant news stories, events or encounters can, if you set your mind to it, quickly turn into an outline for a full blown novel. Before you know it, your head is overfilled with rough outlines for stories (most of which, sadly, you’ll never have time to write). It can be distracting but also fulfilling when one of those events results in a finished book.
In the case of my newest thriller, Trophy Target, there was a single real life event that guided the overall plot of the novel. A series of second tier events and people ultimately influenced smaller storylines and characters in the book. This post is the first installment of a series on some particular influences for Trophy Target and will lead off with the most important one.

In 2006, the idea of Prince Harry of The United Kingdom deploying to an active war zone first surfaced. The Prince actively advocated for the move, going so far as to say that, “If I am not allowed to join my unit in a war zone, I will hand in my uniform." In 2007, Prince Harry was secretly deployed to Helmand province in southern Afghanistan, one of the most dangerous areas of the war torn country. The British military rejected original plans to deploy Prince Harry to Iraq due to the even higher risk of danger in that country. The prince served in Afghanistan for 77 days until word of his deployment was leaked to the press. He subsequently did another deployment in 2012.

Having a member of a prominent royal family deployed to an active war zone was controversial. Prince Harry was blamed for increasing the risk of death or injury to his fellow soldiers since the Taliban would focus on killing, or even better from their perspective, capturing the prince. His death or capture would be used for propaganda, political and/or strategic purposes. So any soldiers affiliated with him would be at greater risk. In other words, Prince Harry was a “trophy target” prized by the Taliban for his perceived value in death or bondage. The Taliban obviously did not succeed in killing or capturing Prince Harry, though they supposedly tried multiple times.
When I first heard about Prince Harry’s deployment, I immediately started to think of it in terms of the plot for an international thriller. I racked my brain trying to think of any other books or films that had used a similar plot. It’s a terrible feeling to believe you thought of an innovative plot for a story and then later discover the idea has been done before. In this case, I was actually quite surprised that there didn’t seem to be anything similar out there. So, comfortable that using a kidnapped soldier prince as the basis for a novel was a unique idea, I brainstormed some more to see if I could come up with enough supporting storylines to justify writing a full length commercial thriller. For that, I required some additional sources of inspiration.

Up Next:  Inspiration for Trophy Target Part II: Beau Geste

Trophy Target is available now in ebook and print format. More information, including purchase information, is available here.

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Friday, December 13, 2013

The 28 Pages in the News: New Plans to Declassify the 28 Pages

International Business Times is reporting that the U.S. House of Representatives may soon vote on a bipartisan resolution calling for the declassification of the infamous 28 Pages of the 9/11 Commission Report. Readers of the political thriller 28 PAGES are familiar with these redacted pages, which conceal the true involvement of the Saudi government in the 9/11 attacks. While 28 PAGES is of course a work of fiction, it was heavily influenced by real life events, including informed speculation involving the contents of those 28 pages.

We've seen this story before regarding attempts to declassify the 28 pages. Congress has initiated prior attempts to declassify the 28 pages, with no obvious success. President Bush blocked efforts to do so under the guise of "national security." Presidential candidate Barack Obama said he would declassify the pages but has not acted on that promise since being elected president. If this new resolution passes both houses of Congress (a big if), it'll be interesting to see if President Obama will make good on his word to declassify the pages when presented with the opportunity. My bet is he won't, and this will represent another failed promise of the president,
but as they say, stay tuned.

For further reading on the real life 28 pages in the 9/11 Commission Report, check out the following:
Allen Mitchum is the author of the political thriller 28 Pages involving a shocking Saudi conspiracy against the United States concealed in the 9/11 Commission Report. Please visit the author's website at www.allenmitchum.com.

Monday, December 2, 2013

As Seen in the Thriller 28 Pages

For the past year or so, I've randomly posted pictures on twitter and facebook of real life places and things from my thriller 28 PAGES. Due to popular demand, below are some of those images now available in a single location.
 

Dar Al-Hijrah Islamic Center - Fairfax, VA
 

The Official Seal of the Embassy of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia




The Embassy of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia - Washington, D.C.
 



 

Inscription on the exterior of the Saudi embassy


 

Bridgeview mosque - Chicago, IL
 
Allen Mitchum is the author of the political thriller 28 Pages involving a shocking Saudi conspiracy against the United States concealed in the 9/11 Commission Report. Please visit the author's website at www.allenmitchum.com.