||THE BOXER SERIES
As a freelance kidnap consultant, Charles Boxer is in demand with a band of billionaires in the know and they’re not just interested in his army training, detective experience and high stakes poker psychology. An early trauma has left him with unanswerable questions and however much he clings to the forces of good in his world he finds himself inextricably drawn to the unresolved dark matter at his core.
Place has always been an important starting point for my novels but London is the most elusive of cities to describe. It is amorphous, with multiple work centres, such as the City, Docklands and the West End. Most Londoners live in ‘villages’, around or distant from these centres and each has its own character. People who work in London operate along defined lines: work, leisure and accomodation. This means there is no unique experience that all Londoners can identify with. Everybody is having a different time.
London as a character
Since I lived there in 1980s London has become a global business centre, attracting people from all over the world. The explosion of multiculturalism has been extraordinary and very visible. In schools there can be as many as forty different languages spoken on the playground.
Places like Hoxton, Shoreditch, Dalston and Hackney, where only working class Eastenders used to live, are now fashionable with groovy young Londoners of all backgrounds and races.
London can be described but only in parts and is an impossible place to define.
Over long evenings my wife and I decided that London was less of a place and more of a state of mind and a major component of that state was – defiance.
London: Great location to set a thriller
Award-winning crime fiction author Robert Wilson has set his latest novel Capital Punishment in London. Here, he explains why London is such a vibrant and defiant city.
The defining moment in Boxer’s childhood was the disappearance of his father.
My own father died when I was 23, just after my first proper adult conversation with him. I never realized how much I missed him until I found this recurrent theme in my books: absent fathers.
At seven years old when Boxer’s father disappeared he was not emotionally equipped to deal with it. He had a heroic reaction: to try to find him. At 14 he ran away to Spain on a bicycle where he was picked up in Valencia. Later, at 18, because he’d heard that people with complicated pasts liked to lose themselves in West Africa, he crossed the Sahara desert to Ghana. He never found his father and there was no psychological examination of the trauma, with ugly repercussions later, but he did find Mercy.
The bad good cop
Mercy’s father was a policeman and a very strict disciplinarian and is based on a guy I met in Ghana, who ruled his household with an iron rod. It was a very unhappy home, with cowed children in constant fear. It made an indelible impression. Outside the sun was shining, the hibiscus was in flower but in that house it was a dark, silent cage.
Nobody could ever say that this man was not a good guy. He was a Chief Inspector, a family man and a valued member of society.
Most people have a special friend. These early friends help define you, constantly reminding you throughout your life of the person you were, are and, perhaps, will become.
Boxer helps Mercy to escape from her miserable home in Ghana and brings her back to London with him. This adventure leads Boxer to realize he wants to be where things really matter, to make a difference to people.
They form a lifelong connection. Boxer goes into the army, Mercy into the police force. During this time they have a daughter, Amy, but they realize they are not suited as lovers and split up.
Bad good people
Mercy, like her father, is driven and is as hard on herself as she is on those around her. This makes for a difficult relationship between Mercy and her now teenaged daughter. Amy is heading off the rails and she’s doing it to spite her law-enforcing mother and her being-where-it-matters father. So these are good people coming under extreme pressure from the work that they do but also in their personal life.
With their complex emotional history, Mercy and Boxer rely on each other. Boxer has a long history of girlfriends but his job is not suited to long term relationships and he’s never found anyone that mattered to him. So what if he found someone? What effect would this have on Mercy? How would it change her?
The kidnap consultancy business
I had a number of meetings with a kidnap consultant, the director of operations in a top private security company in London. Every time I met him he gave me new obstacles to overcome:
The police have to be informed or the family won’t be able to claim on any kidnap insurance. The Metropolitan Police have a successful Kidnap Unit and it’s very difficult to pull off kidnap in London because of their informer network. A kidnap consultant will never speak directly to the gang, he only advises. He will set up a Crisis Manangement Committee of family friends and a lawyer so that the family doesn’t have direct contact with the gang.
All these problems are major barriers to the potential drama of the situation and I realized the consultant’s job is to reduce the drama of a kidnap to as close to zero as possible. The challenge for a thriller writer was to create believable drama where none was supposed to exist.