Have you ever felt angry about something? Something so momentous in its effect that you wanted to actually take action because of it? I was so angry about the invasion of Iraq and the lies that accompanied it – the governments of the US and Britain attempting to pull the wool over our eyes – that I felt I wanted to write about it. The seeds of an idea grew and a great amount of research went into the project. Basically, my story is about the affects of the war on the lives of the central characters, how it shaped them – in some instances reinforcing previously-held views, in others drastically altering their mindset.
I also wanted to flavour the novel with aspects of the media manipulation. No longer would we see pictures of bodybags and flag-draped coffins being repatriated as in previous conflicts. Nuance would no longer be tolerated; if the US said they were ‘winning’ the war, then the media would report that – and the public better believe it. Any negative, whether within a balanced report or not, became a no-no. The ludicrous spectacle of the president standing behind a banner proclaiming ‘Mission Accomplished’ only weeks after the invasion began, looked ever more so derisive some nine years later when the last troops pulled out – the country still in turmoil, of course.
And so to our characters:
Alexandra Stead, just turned 30, a feisty no-nonsense freelance photographer, almost a veteran of several previous conflicts. Chaos currently rules her personal life; could an opportunity in Baghdad put her back on track?
Gene Kowolski, mid forties, has played the political chicanery game for longer than he cares to remember. As a Pentagon special adviser, his brief is to oversee the media and its output from Iraq. Ensconced in his office within Baghdad’s Green Zone, very little escapes his attention in the US media and beyond, cajoling, threatening, smoothing hairs and ruffling feathers to get the required result. When the opportunity arises to boost the president’s popularity in his re-election campaign, Kowolski seizes the chance. It’s an extra burden on his hectic schedule. But he’ll take it in his stride. After all, what could possibly go wrong?
Matt McDermott, 25, fresh out of West Point, three years in a right-wing Christian college before that. Had he not joined up, a life in the ministry beckoned. Now, a second lieutenant in a Cavalry regiment, he commands a Bradley Fighting Vehicle and is sent on his first operation. Soon, he is chosen for special honours – an act of bravery lauded by all. But how will the Army’s golden boy act when Kowolski gets his hands on him? Escorting McDermott back home on a highly-organised, intensive media campaign, Kowolski emphasizes how the lieutenant holds the world in his hands. Can everything be that easy?
Richard Northwood, Early forties, ambitious, some would say ruthless CIA director of special operations with responsibility of Iraq. Highly regarded in Washington, his loyalty to the president is unquestionable and he knows that his devotion will be rewarded further. That is why he has come up with the plan to bolster the president that Kowolski has been entrusted to carry out. The strategy must not fail – no matter what the cost.