The third in the BARBELL series is a Cold War novel, probably my first and last to centre on that stalwart era of spy-fiction. Off road as always, the backdrops so far have been World War One with Shamstone, the Irish Tan and Civil Wars and our near-future tech-spionage in The Glimmer Girl.
For me every book is an exercise or test. With Shamstone the exercise was to use a first person narrative and weave him through the historic events as a spy from 1914 to the Great War’s conclusion.
With The Glimmer Girl it was to marry the origins and destiny of SIS with our cutting edge millennial protagonist, Shev, at one end and Commander Smith Cumming in the early 1920s at the other, to converge at one cataclysmic moment in the future.
Now in Like Dolphins it was to place my existing characters of BREAKSPEAR (Bradley) and KESTREL (Wallace) in the last knockings of the Cold War, right at the end, in a plot like no other.
The tag lines “Withnail and Spy” and “ A Cold War Trainspotting” set the scene of late 80s culture, music, style, the end of football hooliganism, the rising rave scene.
We’re at a critical point in the Cold War with an ailing GDR behind the Wall further de-stabled by reforming winds of Glasnost and Perestroika coming from the senior partner, the USSR. Add to that action in the hedonistic capital of Europe, Amsterdam.
As for the title, you’re probably finding I need several reasons to do anything. Although the months of research have revealed a global scenario re the Cold War, historically it always came down to Berlin to me, and Berlin equalled Bowie and those magical albums, Low, Heroes and Lodger.
So you need to check out the first line from the most Berlinesque song, Heroes. Then there’s Jamie Wallace’s porpoise like perma-smile and finally their handler’s name, Dauphin, which is French for dolphin with other connotations regarding royal succession. I can’t give too much away!
In my cover design there are big unashamed nods to the design genius Mr Raymond Hawkey’s first Deighton covers, beginning with the IPCRESS File’s monochrome bullets and the holes from his Pan paperback of Fleming’s Thunderball.
Despite the noted homage to a master I hope there’s enough originality that makes the cover its own along with the other covers in the series.
I’ve spotlighted Like Dolphin’s touch points in the same way as I did with the previous novels: The ‘O’ in the Dolphins text is the tsuba hand guard for a samurai sword that features in the story. Tulip petals, Amsterdam’s canal, ballistic material, chemicals and a ticket for the game our men will be attending, Dynamo Berlin vs. Monaco. On the back is a GRU badge and the katsumushi dragonfly.
As for the apocalyptic polaroids, are things ever what they seem in the BARBELL series? Come back to me when you finished the book, tomorrow!