In my latest book, ‘Shadow in Sunshine’ I write of my hero leaving Portsmouth Harbour aboard the commando carrier ‘HMS Illustrious’. His feelings are of self-doubt, countered by excitement regarding the future, which appears on the surface to be a simple diplomatic mission. He stands high up on the superstructure looking down at the helicopters lining the flight deck and the small groups of sailors staring at the shore, like many thousands before them. In times of peace these farewell moments are probably tinged with regret at leaving a loved one or the thrill of seeing new horizons, but in times of war must be the thought that it could be the last time they see that view of the ships home port. Ashore there are people with similar feelings, most for individuals onboard, but some seeing the ship as whole, both men and machine of war. The inhabitants of naval towns have endured the loss of many fine ships over the centuries, it is something that they accept, but never without a sense of loss, and in this age of rapidly moving political tensions, what appears to be a peaceful mission can easily escalate at the flick of a switch.
For the plot of ‘BATSU’ I chose to set it in another part of the country that I know well, the South Hams of Devon. Critical parts of the action tack place in the town of Kingsbridge and along the road to Plymouth. Southampton and the Solent area also feature. I find that by using actual locations the plot takes on a greater reality and the limitations imposed by the natural features keeps the lid on my imagination, hopefully ensuring that the action is believable.
I am particularly grateful to The Kings Arms hotel in Kingsbridge for allowing me to use the name in the book. I am again grateful to HM Coastguard’s Lucy Tanner for her clear explanation of inter service co-operation.
There were three strays in terms of location accuracy the first was the US air force base. The site was actually a Second World War bomber base, long since closed. I also changed the name, but the airfield, and surrounding road layout is based on a real location. The second were the two buildings used by Vaughan and the terrorist gang in Kingsbridge; these are fictitious as is the third, the Government Establishment at Yealmstoke.
Like ‘A Cast of Hawks’ the plot crosses oceans and continents; for international terrorism today is a multi cultural affair, where political affiliations are just as binding as religious fanaticism. At one time or another most governments, even those espousing democracy, have supported what others would call terrorist organisations, cloaking their support with the title ‘Freedom Fighters’. History tells us that enemies in most cases will end up as political friends, and often through greed and envy friends become enemies. Such is the sad nature of our world on which authors like me feed their imaginings.