The suspense of international intrigue is not restricted to government intelligence agents, as M. A. Lawson proves in his latest novel, VIKING BAY.
This novel continues the adventures of Kay Hamilton, the DEA agent protagonist who went rogue in Rosarito Beach. In VIKING BAY, Hamilton is ejected from the DEA and goes undercover in Afghanistan for a private firm. Hamilton is perfect for such an assignment. She’s a confident, independent woman who is fearless, competitive, and as comfortable in the world of espionage as James Bond. But as Lawson points out, his heroine is not perfect.
“She’s not a team player,” Lawson says. “She feels the rules don’t apply to her. She has a hard time admitting when she’s wrong. And lastly, she’s a mother that’s not the least bit maternal—although she’s trying.”
In need of a job so she can take care of her daughter, Hamilton goes to work for a shadowy quasi-governmental agency called the Callahan Group. Her first mission is to get close to Ara Khan, daughter of the man the U.S. government wants to become Afghanistan’s next president. Ara is her father’s key political advisor, and Hamilton must go undercover to learn her secrets and prod her thinking in line with America’s interests. It’s realistic and thrilling spy work until things go horribly wrong at a clandestine meeting in Afghanistan. Hamilton then faces the kind of danger fictional heroines often face. But does Hamilton see herself as a heroine?
“Not at all,” Lawson says. “She’s thrust into situations she’d avoid if she possibly could, but when she can’t, she does what’s necessary. But she’s not trying to be a hero. She’s just trying to do a dangerous job and come out of it alive.”
One might think it would be easy to involve a DEA agent in high-level danger, but Lawson says he pulled Hamilton out of her original assignment for better story options. The author wanted his character in the richer story environment of Washington. D.C.
“Washington is a place where truth is indeed stranger than fiction, and the organizations in D.C. (the Pentagon, the CIA, the NSA, the FBI) deal with significant issues—terrorism, espionage, nuclear weapons, et cetera,” Lawson says. “And that’s where I wanted Kay, on that big stage, dealing with those big issues.”
To get Hamilton involved with those issues, Lawson created the Callahan Group, an off-the-books intelligence organization engaged in covert ops, dealing directly with threats to the United States. In addition to getting Hamilton in the position to deal with those threats, the group is just right to exploit this character’s qualities.
As Lawson says, “Kay is a woman who is mentally and physically able to operate on her own, without a net, in a deadly environment, and the Callahan Group is a perfect fit for her.”
Lawson admits that the change in venue, and mission, caused him to have to do a lot of research for this novel, more than any of his previous books.
“The idea for VIKING BAY came from two articles in the New York Times,” he says. “One relating to the vast lithium reserves in Afghanistan and another relating to the Chinese trying to bribe an Afghan official to get copper mining rights. So I was doing research on technical things like lithium and talking to engineers on subjects such as nuclear fusion and lithium mining.”
That doesn’t count the time he spent online researching the usual stuff like the way folks dress, what they eat, and the political structure of the country. He didn’t actually fly to Afghanistan but says that much realism came from watching YouTube clips—often in some language he didn’t understand—of people traveling in the area.
Kay Hamilton’s journey is just beginning. Lawson confided that she’ll be deep in it again soon when the Callahan Group comes under attack and its director is killed. To prepare for that adventure, you’ll need to read VIKING BAY, after which you’ll want a steady diet of Kay Hamilton stories.
To learn more about Mike, please visit his website.
Photography Credit: Tara Gimmer