The Becket Approval is the latest in the series that follows the exploits of John Stratton, SBS and MI6 operative. The story is by far the most complex of them all, packed with espionage, action and romance.
The book is being penned right now. Watch this space as piece by piece the outline of the plot is revealed. And like all of Falconer’s books, there is an underlying truth to the story, laced with subtle references to real people and events that have not reached the light of day in their full truth.
The SBS was first into battle a month before the SAS in the Falklands War and again in the Gulf War, yet hitherto it is the SAS that has had by far the higher profile. The SBS draws its manpower solely from the Marine Commando Units, and the Royal Marines are the oldest and most battle-honoured regiment in the world. FIRST INTO ACTION is the first Special Boat Services memoir written from the inside. It tells how Duncan Falconer passed the Royal Marines Commando Course before being recruited into the SBS at Poole in Dorset – the youngest recruit in modern times. The regimen of ruthless training is graphically described and includes revelatory accounts of SBS operations in Northern Ireland, the Falklands and the Gulf War, and the rivalry between the SAS's individualist mentality and the more team-based, marine ethos of the SBS. Falconer also detailed stories from his days as an undercover operator in the 14th Intelligence Detachment. This grippingly detailed memoir is sure to command the attention of anyone interested in Special Forces and how they operate. BEHIND THE BOOK The book was not my idea but the collective response by a number of SBS personnel to the much derided ‘contract’ that all British Special Forces were asked to sign by the MoD. It was a non-disclosure of information contract. No one complained about that part of it. What they didn’t like was that it also appeared to threaten to control what work people could or could not do once they left the service. At least that's what the contract appeared to try to do at the time. Two members of the SBS refused to sign on principle and were kicked out. Sign it or end your career was the threat. It caused a ripple of discontent through the ranks. I never felt as if I was being disloyal by writing it because none of the stories were younger than 19 years old by the time the book was published. No secrets were revealed or identities betrayed. I sent the manuscript to the MoD and actually went to the MoD in person to go through it. The MoD removed some material that I had mistakenly assumed was no longer confidential and I was allowed to publish what remained, but not with MoD blessing of course.
When an undercover operation monitoring the Real IRA goes horrifically wrong, British Intelligence look to a man who can get their agent out: Stratton, SBS operative with a lethal reputation. It's a dangerous race against time: if the Real IRA get to the Republic before Stratton gets to the Real IRA, his colleague is as good as dead. But the battle in the Northern Ireland borders is just the beginning. For there can only be one way the Real IRA knew about the British agent: someone within MI5 is tipping them off. A surveillance mission is mounted in Paris to identify the mole but ends in disaster: Hank Munro, US Navy SEAL on secondment, is captured. Munro's wife Kathryn returns home to America, only to be manipulated by Kinsella, a priest and secret IRA godfather into playing a political role in the negotiations for Hank's release. Unknown to her she is to have a key part in the most destructive terrorist assault in Irish Republican history, one that holds the fate of hundreds of thousands of Londoners in its hands. BEHIND THE BOOK The plot for The Hostage was based on real people and real locations. The story was pretty much true-ish up to the point where Hank, the Navy SEAL, goes on the operation. In real life, Hank was attached to the SBS in Poole and wanted to get involved in an IRA operation. But that war was strictly off limits to the US military. It’s not difficult to imagine what would have been said in the Oval Office if an American SF operative had actually been kidnapped by the IRA while on a British operation? Heads would have rolled all over the place, on both sides of the Atlantic.
Two hundred miles south of the Devon coastline, Palestinian freedom fighter Abed Omar and his men prepare for the most daring mission the PLO have ever conceived - the hijacking of a supertanker, a five-storey superstructure laden with oil. Meanwhile, in an Elizabethan country house, SBS operative Stratton has been seconded to bodyguard work and is bored by the lack of challenge. Not for long. Stratton is whisked away by helicopter to assist in a daring rescue, which is only the beginning to a mysterious plot. THE HIJACK ranges from London to the Gaza Strip, from Riga in Latvia to Jerusalem. The story has a rich cast of characters from Russian secret service operatives to Al Qaeda terrorists and the Israeli military.
BEHIND THE BOOK I spent many months in Palestine and Jerusalem during the Intifada of 2002. The region was, and still is, a tinderbox for a conflict that could impact the entire world. The efforts by terrorists and crazies to get their hands on a nuclear weapon remains relentless. It’s possible one day one of them might succeed. All of the locations and most of the characters are based on places and people I have known.
After the British military lose an officer to Taliban insurgents in Afghanistan, a desperate race begins to find his killers. Little do the assailants know that the precious information they have stolen could bring down the entire network of Western intelligence in the Mid-East. But then one of them is captured by US troops and flown to the States for interrogation. And so begins a nail-biting, claustrophobic and explosive thriller that will ultimately lead British operative John Stratton to the Styx penitentiary, America's undersea prison. How do you break in to a jail a hundred metres below the ocean, and then break out again? Can Stratton get the information back without the US discovering him? And is everyone in the prison really who they seem to be?
BEHIND THE BOOK With a background in Maritime Special Forces, I couldn’t write a series of action adventure novels without at least one of them being set under water. I had the idea of Undersea while contemplating a plot based at the Guantanamo detention facility. Around the same time I came across an article about an aborted plan by NASA to build a sub-sea farming facility, which led me to an Undersea Prison. And when I began the story outline I was living in Kabul, hence the opening chapters.
In war-torn Iraq, Stratton's closest friend is killed whilst on operation, leaving behind a grieving wife and child - Stratton's godson. When the widow moves to Los Angeles she is brutally murdered and her child placed in state custody. Stratton, rocked to his foundations by the killing, uncovers a FBI plot to hide the crime and sets off on a private operation of revenge that eventually pits him against one of the most powerful East European crime syndicates in America. Hunted by the CIA and FBI as well as a brutal army of Albanian mobsters and armed only with his wits and an extraordinary skill with explosives, Stratton relentlessly pursues his private war; a fight he suspects could be his last.
BEHIND THE BOOK This story takes place in locations I am more than familiar with. I have driven across every part of Iraq and I lived in Los Angeles for some 15 years. All of the locations in the book exist, except the ultimate building and most of the characters are based on people I have known.
Stratton carries out a small task in Central America as a favour to a CIA officer, but it leads him to become embroiled in a national rebellion. Against his own principles, the special operative becomes emotionally involved and decides to join the popular uprising. However, he is unaware that the fight is not just against the local government - the CIA are very much involved. As events spiral disastrously out of control, Stratton must face up to his biggest and most treacherous challenge yet.
BEHIND THE BOOK This story is heavily based on one of my true life adventures where I played the lead role very much like Stratton. Of course, the true story was not quite as explosive and did not involve the CIA. It took place in northern Spain and was a civilian operation. I was sent in alone by a ‘private’ organisation a short time after I left the SBS. There was indeed a band of recruits I was charged with turning into military specialists – 60 in all - and there was also a beautiful woman, my interpreter, the boss’s daughter, and a torrid love affair that began with her despising me.
After a surveillance mission in Sevastopol goes badly wrong, Stratton finds himself doing penance at MI16, the government's clandestine organisation that creates weapons and equipment for Special Forces and the secret service. But Sevastopol has started something. In the North Sea a team of hijackers take over the giant Morpheus oil platform. They are demanding two billion dollars inside twenty-four hours or the bodies will start falling. With the SBS overstretched and its surveillance team locked down, there is only one option: Stratton and a team of unproven operatives from MI16. Stratton knows he has to redeem himself and he also has his own agenda. One of the men on the rig is an old friend. And Stratton intends to save him. But one of Stratton's team is not what they appear to be. A traitor. With a deadly agenda of their own. And Morpheus is just the beginning.
BEHIND THE BOOK Having climbed many an oil platform and experienced the dangers and difficulties, it was a natural setting for a story from an ex SBS operative turned author. But as for the plot itself, in my last few years in the SBS, I ran a R&D team specialising in methods of entry into ships and oil platforms. On one occasion, after coming up with an idea, I paid a visit to the secret base where an unusual collection of scientists were centred. Their job was to make gadgets for British Military Intelligence and Special Forces – exactly like the Q character in the Bond stories - they really do exist. The story grew entirely from a comment one of the scientists made to me one day which was along the lines of ‘you lot would be nothing without our gadgets’. There’s probably some truth in that.
In Afghanistan, elite operative John Stratton leads a raid on a remote compound, leaving no survivors. Days later, in London, Stratton is contacted by an old friend and mentor with a curious message about being hunted by an assassin. When the friend vanishes, Stratton is drawn into a desperate race to secure a missing nuclear warhead that has been stolen from the Pakistan military. Against an unknown enemy, he begins a heart-stopping search for the bomb that will take him from a Taliban hideout just a few miles outside Bagram Air Base to the crowded streets of Manhattan.
BEHIND THE BOOK I was operating in Afghanistan as a civilian when I came up with this plot. I was designing a fuel convoy operation for a civilian contractor between the Pakistan border, Kabul, Kandahar and Camp Bastion in the south and I travelled much of the route that Stratton takes in the story. I always believed the Pakistani nuclear capability was something that had to be watched with regards to Islamic extremists and this story was an extension of that true to life concern.
When elite operative John Stratton is sent to Yemen by the Secret Intelligence Service to track down a suspected al-Qaeda cell, he thinks he knows what he is dealing with. But when he and his colleagues get captured by Somali pirates, all bets are off. Stratton discovers what it is like to be held hostage by ruthless men who have a deadly agenda - men for whom Stratton and his colleagues are just bargaining chips. And this is no ordinary hostage situation: Stratton has stepped right into the middle of a massive and sickening jihadist operation. Fighting trained warriors who know no fear, Stratton's skill and ingenuity will be tested as never before as he battles for his life and for the values he holds dear.
BEHIND THE BOOK This story grew out of a civilian task where I was hired to create a solution to piracy in the Indian Ocean by a private security contractor. It was in the early stages of Somali piracy and I learned a lot about Somalians and how they operate. On completion of that task I penned the story outline. The snag scene at sea that allows Stratton to be rescued by the ship was based on a true technique the SBS used to get picked up by submarines. I have never tried it on a large ship as described but I’m certain it is very possible.
Three men: an Iraqi, a former coalition soldier and a journalist, drive together from Baghdad towards Fallujah as the US Marines encircle the city to take it apart. It seems the men are on a single mission to seek a recent kidnap victim, but in truth all three have very different aims in the besieged town, and each keep a dark secret from the others. Greed, ambition and guilt are what separates their individual motivations, but a single miscalculation could bring an end to them all.
BEHIND THE BOOK I was living in Baghdad when I first worked on this story. I was doing very much the same job as the protagonist – managing journalists who wanted to go where the action was without getting killed. All the main characters are based on real people, in particular the journalist, for whom I had no respect at all. The box of money was based on a true story I had heard and so I stitched the pieces together and placed the finale in Fallujah, which was a howling battle I watched from the side-lines.