“The Agency” by Australian author James Phelan is making a big splash here in the United States. Anyone who likes the action continuing at a harrowing pace will enjoy this story. There is also enough fun dialogue between the characters to put a smile on readers’ faces. This prequel introduces Jed Walker, a former lieutenant colonel in the Air Force who has decided to join the CIA.
The reason for a prequel, “I wanted to challenge myself since this is the first prequel I have ever written,” Phelan said. “I think it is more of a suspense novel than a thriller. I hope to show how Jed is personally driven, wanting to hunt down the bad targets. This gave me the opportunity to explain why Jed decided to move from the military to the CIA.
“All the Jed Walker books written to date will be released this year. They were tied up for a while with my previous publishers, who had first right of refusal. They dragged their feet and held things up for a couple of years. Now we have the rights back. Although it is the fifth book in the series, Americans will be able to read them in order. I am working on the sixth book currently.”
Set in 2005, after completing his rigorous training with the CIA’s special activities division in Virginia, Walker’s assigned mission is to exchange code phrases with a male contact. But just as the meeting is to occur, a British intelligence agent, Steph Mensch, warns him of a set-up. After neutralizing the threat, he and Steph join forces to find a secret weapon that the Russians are looking to buy for hundreds of millions of dollars from a Blackwater-like private security firm. They must go off mission, operating in New Orleans, instead of overseas. Besides all the bad guys to contend with, they must also deal with the hurricane that is barreling down.
Interestingly, Steph is introduced in the prequel but does not appear in the other four books.
“I will definitely have her back in another book,” Phelan said. “I think she is intelligent, funny and very persuasive. I based her on an actress in the British series ‘Luther.’ She has red hair, and this is how I picture Steph. The other person I based her on is Stella Rimington, the first female director of MI5, the British FBI, who is also a thriller writer. She worked her way up as an officer. I used my friend Stella as a model for Steph’s career. The book out in 2019 takes place about 10 years from when this one took place. I am thinking of having Steph and Jed team up again, if not in this book maybe the next one. It might be interesting to have them back together since the last of the five books already written, ‘Dark Heart,’ has Jed back with his wife Eve, a family man living on a Texas ranch with a baby on the way.”
The hurricane plays a strong role because it made such an impression on Phelan.
“I have family in the U.S. where we have visited since 1980. I remember when we had a family trip in 1989 across the U.S. We were chased by Hurricane Hugo. I have vivid memories of how we drove in the car and couldn’t see out of the windshield, even with the wipers on at full whack. As we drove, we saw how the rivers swelled over.”
An intense story where the action never stops. Readers are able to get a good grip on what makes Jed Walker tick by reading all five books in order.