Friday, April 17, 2009

Moments of Terror

Running on a few hours sleep, I slung on a Kevlar vest over my shirt, checked the charge on my radio, and walked down the corridor to the door that led out onto the parade ground.

No sooner had I turned the handle than the door burst inwards. Two men sporting ski masks, and 9mm pistols, bundled me back inside.

A hand clamped down hard on my shoulder, forcing me to the floor. The business end of a Glock pressed into the back of my neck.

It was exactly what I’d been told to expect.

Hours of boredom.

Moments of terror.

Two years before I finished what became my debut novel, LOCKDOWN, I had an idea for a TV drama about the burgeoning high-end private security sector. I sat down to write the pilot episode, but halfway through had a rather depressing realisation. I had no idea who my characters really were. I mean, they had names, they walked in and out of scenes, they said stuff to each other, but, somehow, they lay dead on the page.

Dejected, I put the script aside and went back to my paid TV work. But, my fascination with this world, wouldn’t leave me alone.

Six months later, I bit the bullet, and enrolled on a twenty-four day close protection course. The first two weeks would be spent in a dilapidated army camp in Wales. Then we’d fly to the Czech Republic for firearms training before returning to the UK for final assessment.

The candidates were a motley crew. They included, among others, an ex-German Special Forces sniper whose only words of English referenced performing a sexual act outlawed in several southern states on the members of the Taliban. There was also an American who bore a startling resemblance to Harry Potter (long after the films have dried up), a Portugese helicopter pilot who did something very nasty to himself during a live exercise, and a Canadian who claimed to be a member of La Cosa Nostra. Oh yeah, and a rather nervous screenwriter.

Thankfully, our instructors were the real deal. Both former members of the British Royal Military Police’s specialist close protection unit, Andy and Cliff had served all over the world, making sure that the great and the good stayed in one piece.

Over a three-week period, they gave me an unparalleled insight into their world. In addition to scaring the hell out of me on numerous occasions (see the opening to this post), they taught me many of the technical aspects of their job. But, far more importantly, they gave me a handle on my characters.

I came away with so much material, and what I felt was such a fresh take, that I jettisoned the TV script and wrote a novel instead. I also had the most enjoyable three weeks of my life running around Europe pretending to be Jack Bauer. Or, rather, Ryan Lock.

LOCKDOWN by Sean Black is published in hardcover on July 30th by Bantam/Transworld. He is currently at work on the second book in the series, LOCKUP.


Col Bury said...

Lockdown sounds right up my street, Sean, and I can't wait to read it. Congratulations on its publication and the best of luck with the series.

Sean Black said...

Thanks, Col. And keep at your own writing.