James Marshal, ex-Para and former PMC, must go to war once more.
A close friend, Jack Foster, is tortured, killed and dumped outside the Special Forces Club in Knightsbridge.
The chief suspect behind the brutal execution of Foster is John Mullen, an IRA terrorist turned statesman.
Mullen possessed the motive and means to kill the SAS operative. He also possesses an alibi, however, and is considered untouchable.
Marshal should walk away. But doesn't.
The veteran of Helmand must face his demons - or rather use them - to gather intelligence, torture his enemies and pull the trigger.
Marshal embarks on a one-man mission to deliver justice - and justice is vengeance.
Blood for Blood is the follow-up to Enough is Enough. Thomas Waugh has written one of the thrillers of the year, blending the visceral violence of Lee Child with the black humour and insight of a Graham Greene "entertainment". Blood For Blood portrays an outsider, ill at ease with the world - a veteran of Afghanistan who never quite came back from the war.
Mary Anne: Congratulations on the release of Blood for Blood: A James Marshal Thriller. Could you tell us a little about your protagonist, James Marshal?
Thomas Waugh: Being a moral and physical coward myself, it’s nice to write about someone who is less so. Marshal is a former soldier, a veteran of Helmand, who is seemingly well-adjusted to civilian life. Like many soldiers, he has a black and dry sense of humour. At the start of the novel, we see a Marshal who is content and indifferent. The death of a friend, however, stimulates a sense of loyalty, purpose and violence. I conceived the character as a British Jack Reacher, who had read too much Graham Greene. In some ways Marshal may be considered a Catholic – and Blood for Blood a Catholic thriller. At the heart of the novel is a love story, between Marshal and Grace (his girlfriend). Similarly, the book is about Marshal’s relationship with grace, or his faith/God.
Marshal lives a double-life to some extent – as does his fixer friend, Oliver Porter. The novel touches upon the theme that we all live double-lives and can be prone to deception or self-delusion, however.
I wanted to make Marshal duly smart and charming too – well-read and witty. He is a borderline sociopath. But hopefully he is a borderline sociopath who readers will enjoy the company of.
Mary Anne: What inspired the idea for your series?
Thomas Waugh: I usually write historical fiction. A change is as good as a rest. I was keen to create a brand of modern thrillers. The James Marshal series was partly borne from a spate of reading Eric Ambler, Lee Child, John le Carre and Graham Greene. There are elements to the Marshal books which address serious issues and even have a literary/philosophical flavour – but I also wanted to have fun with modern life too and be healthily politically incorrect in places. As well a sense of duty, Marshal, perhaps more importantly, has a sense of humour.
Mary Anne: Did you come upon any unexpected challenges while writing in this genre?
Thomas Waugh: Not really, is the dull but honest answer. Writing the Marshal books provide a release, rather than challenge. It’s incredibly important to get the protagonist and plot right, of course, but compared with writing heavily researched historical fiction, or providing the clever twists in a crime novel, writing contemporary thrillers is an enjoyable change. I use fewer little grey cells. Which is handy, considering that I have a dwindling supply left.
Mary Anne: What kind of research did you do for this novel? And did you come upon any unforeseen surprises?
Thomas Waugh: As depressing as it sometimes was, I had to read up on the Troubles in Northern Ireland to write Blood for Blood (it was somewhat depressing too, when I researched the Albanian mafia for the first book, Enough is Enough). I needed to get some background on the IRA and British Army, during the seventies and beyond. To quote a line from the book - and Shakespeare - “they bleed on both sides”. Unwittingly - and unfortunately - the book is topical, given the latest bout of unrest in Northern Ireland.
One of the slight surprises in my research was just how much the IRA/Sinn Fein fought amongst themselves, in terms of personalities and factions within their ranks. It was also surprising just how many republicans, who professed loyalty to the cause, turned informant or betrayed their organisation. One of the themes in the book is that paramilitary terrorism is little more than gangsterism.
If reading thrillers by the authors above - and others - can be considered research, then I have researched the Marshal novels plenty. But in some ways writing contemporary crime, as opposed to historical fiction, is a matter of dipping one’s toe in rather than immersing oneself in the period and detail. Thankfully, I have also met and drank with plenty of people in the military over the years to get a take on the humour and humanity of soldiers.
Mary Anne: If you could tell your younger writing self anything, what would it be?
Thomas Waugh: Get a proper job.
Or, to answer your question more seriously, I think that it’s important for authors to read for pleasure. But I wish I would have read more books when younger – the likes of le Carre, Greene and Michael Connelly – with a trade eye. I should have been more mindful of the way authors build character and plot. I was being too engaged and entertained to notice style and structure. But there are worse regrets to have.
Mary Anne: Thank you so much for stopping by and chatting with me today.If you would like to find out where you can grab a copy of Blood for Blood: A James Marshal Thriller scroll down!