By George Ebey
Action and commerce combine in author David O’Neil’s latest thriller, MINDING THE STORE.
Freemantle’s was the store in New York, and probably in the United States. Like Harrods in London it occupied a privileged position in the minds of the public. When David Freemantle returned from his service as a SEAL, he was expected to take over the operation of the business, up to then, run by his grandmother. But there was trouble all around as the mob decided to invest in department stores as a money laundering ploy. The resulting confrontation resulted in mob mayhem when David and Sam, his friend and ex-SF colleague, have to fall back on their lethal training to survive and maintain the integrity of Freemantle’s.
I recently checked in with David to find out more about MINDING THE STORE as well as his numerous other works.
Your story takes place in an established department store in New York City. What inspired you to choose this as a setting for your thriller?
The choice of a department store as the subject of my story was more or less serendipity. Since I was a boy, the department stores of London and Glasgow were places of wonder and interest to me. Something of that feeling remains with me despite advancing years. The idea of money laundering is of course not new, and it occurred to me that a store would be a real possibility for the movement of considerable cash, especially an old established one. The store in my story, despite its reputation, has been deliberately allowed to start “fraying around the edges” to make it at once, more vulnerable, and more likely to be open to financial help (at a price).
Your main character, David Freemantle, is a former Navy SEAL member. Was if fun for you to write about a character with this kind of background?
David Freemantle needed to be able to look after himself. Orphaned at nine and raised by his grandmother, a stern though loving presence, he was driven by a sense of duty and adventure to join the service. His other duty at the time was being covered by the guiding hand of Grandmother. Destined to take over from birth, his early entry to the arena was a result of injury that caused his premature return to civilian life.
It was fun to exploit the Navy SEAL background. It invokes the image of a man of resource, who is quick thinking, fearless, a formidable adversary. Not only accustomed to working with small groups, or alone, against heavy odds; a survivor; but also a lethal fighting machine. In David Freemantle, a SEAL, and Sam Hunt, Delta, I had two characters who had all the qualifications, plus the bond of friendship. A veritable dream-team for the sort of operation that pitted them against the might of the mob!
You’ve written stories set during World War II and the Napoleonic Wars. Can you talk about the challenges of setting a story in a historic period versus a modern setting?
My books written about naval history have been inspired by a lifetime of reading the works of C.S. Forrester, Alexander Pope, Bernard Woodman, and others. My interest in the Maritime history of Britain was driven by these authors. In my books I try to allow my characters to perform, sometimes “outside the box.” I do not equip them with material that did not exist. All things I introduce are recorded as existing and actions therefore are feasible. They may not have happened in real life, but I like to think they could. It requires research also to make sure that real people are placed where they can reasonably be.
My more recent war story, BETTER THE DAY, came from the excitement I experienced in the last world war—being bombed-out of our house at the age of nine, having watched the vapour trails of dogfights in the summer skies of 1940. WWII was a personal experience for me. I was only one of many at the time. Boats have always stimulated me and the beauty of the design of those sculpted high speed hulls thrilled me. I was able to see them in the Firth of Clyde when I was taken north to Scotland after we lost our home. I now live in the area where they trained the crews of the boats here in Fort William at what was, HMS St. Christopher. When I started to write it was almost a foregone conclusion that a story about MTB’s MGB’s (PT boats) would have to be written. The main challenge was to get it right, make it believable, and perhaps, even more importantly, make it readable.
What’s next for you?
I enjoy the challenge of the unexpected. The direction a story takes can be a surprise. I tend not to create a rigid framework, but rather allow the tale to take its natural path.
I don’t know why I did not start writing twenty-five years ago. I do know that I enjoy what I do. It allows me to stretch my imagination onto paper, for others to share, just as I still do with other author’s works.