Like Dolphins- Soundtrack playlist (declassified)

Just in time for Halloween, the time of year when Like Dolphins begins. I’ve given the latest novel the soundtrack Spotify playlist treatment, following in the footsteps of the same for dadless and The Glimmer Girl.

I’ll try and steer clear of landline spoilers as I go through the featured tracks and artists. The mood captures the late ‘89 period and many of the bands and songs occupy the air space of our spies, Breakspear and Kestrel, on their hedonistic journey from London, to Amsterdam, and East Berlin.

Gimme Shelter – The Rolling Stones

Just as David Bowie did on the dadless selection, maybe prevalent due to his status as the Patron Saint of Outsiders, Jagger and Co. recur on Like Dolphins symbolic the spy noir of this story.

The Stones always shot from the hip, ignoring the considerations of head and heart, theirs or anyone else’s for that matter. Visceral and instinctive. Earth bound and after dark.

The mythology of the Stones musical creed, the Southern Blues, concerns a needful man and a meeting at the crossroads; the nether place where destinies meet and paths diverge. The place where The Man Downstairs (more on him later) awaits the live-drop of a needful soul traded in return for musical talent and earthly fame. Much like an agent and handler in the murky world of espionage.

The song Gimme Shelter presents the band both lyrically and musically at their most foreboding and brilliant, telling with granite certainty of the darkness rolling in and all that comes with it, in Like Dolphins’ case, a trio of spies converging in winter mists of Highgate Cemetery, 1989.

Voodoo Ray – Tall Paul/ A Guy Called Gerald

Uplift. The game is afoot for the BARBELL spies, Breakspear and Kestrel.

Gerald’s club classic, presented here by superstar DJ Tall Paul, is laser light on lyrics but super massive on vibe. The unidentifiable sound sources and soulful voice still e-vokes the dry ice, strobe lights, and chemical haze of early rave culture, even on the radio! Much the same as Gerald’s associated band below.

Pacific State – 808 State

Oceanic jungle sounds, beats, electronica and that clarion horn phrase framed the memory of an era for all seasons, as a decade fell away, the Cold War reached its climax and the 90s beckoned for those that survived.

Key fact: the band took their numeric name from the Roland 808 drum machine, its beats and loops a fixture of the time and I chose Shev, the Glimmer girl’s code number 808 as a dual nod to both Ian Fleming and this seminal Manchester band, 808 State

Here Comes the Sun – The Beatles

Day must follow night (spoiler alert: until the end of the world) and clear skies after the storm, represented here by the anti-Stones Fab Four. How better to great the first rays of sun, with love warmth and pre-come down positivity as the last track at a Dutch forest rave in winter?

I Wanna Be Your Dog – The Stooges

A getaway tune, for a getaway van? Maybe I’ve told you too much.

Trans-Europa Express – Kraftwerk

Roaring along the autobahn the walled island city lies ahead. The song that pledges much of the gleaming modern West Berlin, even social possibilities involving Berliner former Stooge, Iggy Pop and his thin white keyboard player, Mr Jones.

Sympathy for the Devil – The Rolling Stones

The amorality of espionage brings the Stones back to our ears once more, now putting the case for the defence of The Man Downstairs, he of many names, wealth and taste. A delicious build to the closing statement which reveals it’s not Mr Brownstone in the dock but the person in the mirror.

Ride On Time – Black Box

Omniscient sonic wallpaper, Italian house music which sets the scene, fronted by a beautiful miming model, as with our story, things are not quite how they seem.

I Can’t Get No (satisfaction) – The Rolling Stones

On the radio programme Desert Island Discs British Prime Mrs Thatcher reminisced about hearing the instrumental Telstar on the kitchen wireless with it’s gleaming promise of a white hot future.

The`Stones’ last appearance in this soundtrack takes place in another country, another time, another kitchen and an altogether different outcome.

Love Will Tear Us Apart – Joy Division

Optimism and tragedy are conjoined in this track, the band that perform it and it’s place in relation to Like Dolphins.

Heroes – David Bowie

Of course. The opening line of the single version. Berlin. An optimum performance by an optimum artist and band (Fripp, Eno, Alomar, Murray, Davis, Visconti).

The songs scoring romance; glamour and love in the face of adversity and oppression. The psychology of the Stasi regime and its overbearing physical manifestation; its guns, it’s guards and the impregnable, unscalable Wall.

In the face of all this, ‘We could be us, just for one day.’

A companion piece for the Like Dolphins novel for both music and book lovers to enjoy on the link below. I hope you do so.

Onyx out.

Like Dolphins: Debreif

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.

Andy Onyx, Amsterdam, 2010
Raymond Hawkey’s 1962 design for The IPCRESS File
Raymond Hawkey’s 1963 Pan paperback design for Thunderball

The return of Dead Drop Five!

I recently had a blast on Shane Whaley’s Spybrary podcast (don’t you dig his nifty nod to Dr No with the graphics?) guesting on the Dead Drop Five feature.

It’s a kind of Desert Island Discs for spy fans, we discuss books, films, TV and movies- the whole shooting match!

I’m told my choices were a little ‘off road‘. Give it a listen, see what you think-

Spybrary Brush Pass Review- The Man Who Was Thursday

Spybrary is back in full effect, thank goodness. I’m honoured that they’ve aired my Brush Pass Review of this little known and highly influential belter from 1908.

I read it on my hols over the summer. When they ask you your name at Starbucks in Paris and you say, ‘Thursday.’ Priceless.

Anyway, do tune in and subscribe. Hope you enjoy it.

Onyx Out. X

Vision + Sound: The Glimmer Girl Playlist revealed!

The novel has cultural pointers-a-plenty in amongst the espionage. Some are staples of an escapist spy story such as travelogue and style but music plays a key part.

Below I reveal the background of some of the tunes I selected to match the taste and listening of various characters and scenes within the novel.

For Shev, The GLIMMER Girl herself, it’s the urban cutting edge of Green Tea Peng’s Hu Man, and Sampa the Great’s Final Flow.

Green Tea Peng Photography by Richard Dawker

The Specials’ Gangsters for the scene in SIS Chief Admiral Dewhurst’s office.

The Specials’ eponymous LP

It’s the Small Faces’ Tin Soldier and Bowie’s Wild is the Wind for veteran spy, St John Bradley.

David Bowie’s Wild Is the Wind single

Scenes such as Commander Smith-Cummings dash through a tempest at the novel’s prologue are represented by folk of Catherine Tickell and The Darkening.

Catherine Tickell & The Darkening

Evocative pieces by Cara Dillon and Fay Hield embellish the novel’s Celtic folklore elements set in 1920s Ireland with Stick in the Wheel’s Villon Song representing the murderous Jonah Spirewick.

Cara Dillon
Fay Hield

Modern Icelandic scenes are covered by A Man Called Adam’s Mountains and Waterfalls and the Easter egg inclusion of Terry Callier’s Lazarus Man…

A Man Called Adam‘s Mountains and Waterfalls LP
Terry Callier’s Time Peace LP

Along with the epic (when isn’t she) and spy flick-esque Time Out of the World from Goldfrapp.

Goldfrapp’s Supernature LP

This feast for the ears listenable on the Spotify link 👇🏼

Thanks for reading AND enjoy the trip.

SOE: Mission France

Thanks to @spybrary podcast’s FB page for posting this image.


The escapism of #TheGlimmerGirl is honoured to sit alongside this work of ‘real’ espionage: Dr Kate Vigur’s Mission France.

I’ve always the bravery and sacrifice of (then young) women of the Special Operations Executive to be the pinnacle of THE pinnacle. 🪂 alone, in the dead of night, into Nazi occupied Europe.

So few remain now to parade alongside our SF veterans each year on Remembrance Sunday, a section due to more recent service, that is not televised.

It’s marvellous that this beautifully wrapped account, Mission France, is shining a light in these unknown heroines of WW2 once again.