Ian Mathie, the Fenny Compton author well known for his series of memoirs of working in Africa, has turned his hand to thriller writing.
Mr Mathie has published a gripping tale set in China that is said to ‘more than fill the gap left by the death of Tom Clancy’.
“I have been encouraged to write fiction by many other authors,” he said. “After six non-fiction books about Africa, Chinese Take-Out, which has just been released in paperback, is my response to that call.”
The book draws on the events in China in 1989 when students filled Tiananmen Square and plastered liberal posters on the Democracy Wall.
“The idea was triggered by a Chinese scientist, Fang Lizhi, who took refuge in the American Embassy only days before the tanks moved in,” said Mr Mathie.
“Getting him out posed an interesting dilemma and had all the makings of a great thriller story after the style of Desmond Bagley or Alistair Maclean.
“Talking about it in the pub, an artist friend suggested I should write the book and I said, ‘oh, sure’. But it was only beer talk.
“However, I woke in the early hours knowing how to get the scientist out and so a story was born.”
Set in the age before mobile phones, the CIA had to be involved because it began in the American Embassy in Beijing, Mr Mathie said.
“Life is never simple and soon corruption in high places crept into the story. Then, the discovery of an old pre-war photograph of my dad playing the saxophone in his regimental band added an interesting twist.
“Mao Tse Tung’s great purgative Cultural Revolution provided part of the background and the devious doings of international intelligence services and corrupt senators provided the meat.
“In 1989 the world was changing, Russia had already begun with perestroika, the bamboo curtain was lifting, and the west was trying desperately to extend its influence, while students the world over strove for democratic rights and freedom of speech.”
Chinese Take Out, which is available at Waterstones, Banbury and also Amazon.co.uk, is fast moving and provides cultural interest, history, intrigue, and outrageous daring across four continents. “It exposes some of the mysteries of oriental suppression, takes you deep inside one of the most secretive agencies in the world and exposes the deviousness, lust and greed that lead men in powerful positions down the road to ruin,” said Mr Mathie.
“It also lets you see how grizzly old cynics reveal their humanity by sharing ice cream whilst telling small boys stories about bears and how a sparrow’s droppings can have terminal consequences.”
Reviewer Sharon Lippincott said: “As with Mathie’s memoirs, I had the sense I was watching the action live with the story narrator as my personal guide.
“If it weren’t for the odd colloquialism I would believe the author was an agent himself.”
Mr Mathie started writing during a month-long hospital stay in the aftermath of a kidney transplant 15 years ago.