Thursday 24 March 2022

Seeds of Destruction


Seeds of Destruction, the second volume of the Damocles Files series was published last month. It’s another collaboration with my good friend Benedict J Jones and once more features the exploits of DAMOCLES, an organisation housed in the Ministry of Information in London’s Senate House whose mission is to fight a shadow war against the occult machinations of the Axis forces.

Volume One centred around the efforts of the Sons of Fenrir to bring about Ragnarok, the Norse end of days but this storyline features a different kind of threat entirely – albeit one with potential world-ending implications. In keeping with the format established in Volume One, the novel covers the entire period of World War Two and is made up of discrete short stories and novellas linked by an overarching narrative. (Unlike Volume One, we actually knew what the overarching story was – which made writing the stories that little bit easier…) As before, the stories were mainly divvied up between us but on a couple of occasions the stories were properly co-written.

Whereas Volume One revolved around the war in Europe, this second book expands the Damoclean universe into the Pacific theatre. This allowed us to introduce Damocles’ American counterparts, Office 49, a division of the proto-CIA OSS. It also allowed us to set the stories in a variety of exotic locations, a hugely enjoyable part of the writing process for me personally and these include China, Japan and the Philippines.

Although Damocles is a fictional organisation (or is it..?), its exploits are set among real events and great care was taken to ensure the authenticity of the world we were creating. Actual events which are referenced in the book are the Bataan Death march and the atomic bombing of Hiroshima. Real people turn up too, (as was the case in Volume One), including engineer turned resistance fighter Wendell Fertig and his friend, Australian guerrilla fighter Jock McLaren.

It was  areal joy to revisit the world of Damocles and, because of the way the books are structured, to revisit too the characters we had created some of whom didn’t make it to the end of the first book. Taking centre stage this time is Edgar Case, who had a cameo appearance in Volume One. Edgar’s training in natural sciences makes him the cornerstone of the investigation this time around and his exploits allowed me release my inner nerd both in terms of his scientific knowledge but also his love of cryptic crosswords. I had great fun creating the cryptic clues which are dotted throughout the book (all of which have deeply significant answers of course), so much fun that I had a go at compiling a whole Damocles themed crossword which you can have a go at here. Edgar is probably the closest character to myself although his receding hairline, grumpiness and antisocial outlook on life are of course nothing like me at all.

As well as the crossword clues, I also had a bash at writing some poetry for the book – specifically Japanese death poetry – but that should certainly not put you off buying the book. Getting the chance to do stuff like this, along with the (almost) free rein to choose exotic locations in which to set the stories, is one of the many joys of writing in the Damocles universe and I’d like to think that the enthusiasm we both have for the project comes across on the page.

Another huge joy is seeing what our designer Peter Frain comes up with to grace the covers of the books. I think the design he came up with for Seeds of Destruction is right up there with his best work, perfectly capturing the essence of the story – and including a wonderful reference to Hokusai’s The Great Wave.

We’re 55000 words into Volume Three already and the storyline had already taken us to Abyssinia, Albania, China, France, Spain, Italy and Southern Iraq with plenty more to come. This looks like being the most supernatural of the three books and I’m loving delving into ancient religious texts by way of research for it. In another war-spanning tale, established characters will return alongside a whole host of new ones to prevent…

Well, that would be telling.

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