Featured Author · Spotlight Interview

Spotlight Interview with author Dominic Adler

Wednesday Spotlight

Genre: Military, Technothriller, Thriller
Publisher: Thistle Publishing
Publication Date: May 4, 2017
Pages: 272
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About the Book

‘Adler’s prose is razor sharp, his characters flawed enough to be believable. A great read.’
Alex Shaw, best-selling author of Cold East.

Cal Winter: Junkie. Murderer. Winner of the Military Cross for Gallantry.

Penniless and desperate, Cal Winter is coerced into working for a band of freelance paramilitaries known as The Firm. After a decade of deniable killing, he plots revenge. Armed with a secret file of The Firm’s dirtiest secrets, Winter returns to London. There he discovers the organisation has evolved into something even worse…

Winter assembles a careworn team of The Firm’s cast-offs and misfits. Their enemy: a ruthless warrior elite, information warfare specialists battle-honed in the West’s ‘Forever Wars’.

From Iceland to the City of London, to the lonely marshes of England’s southern coast, Winter must stop The Firm. Not just to save the country he once scorned, but to fulfill his vow to be a better man.


Can you tell us a little about yourself and your background?

Hi. I’m Dominic Adler. I’m from London and have been writing for eight years. I live with my wife and son and a dog. When I’m not writing I’m cooking, watching movies, drinking beer or gaming (for the record I’m pretty much addicted to ‘Grim Dawn’ at the moment).

What inspired you to write?

It’s a deeply disturbing urge / compulsion – I’m sure other writers know the feeling. Then I got to a point where I was having a rough time with the stuff life hurls at you now and then. Someone suggested I write, if only to get it out of my system. The result was my first novel, which wasn’t published. It did, however, get me an agent and a lot of its DNA is in ‘The Saint Jude Rules.’

What inspired your novel?

Three things. First of all, it’s the final part of a trilogy: I wanted to tie up an existing story in a satisfying way (although my books can be read as standalones too). Secondly, I always wanted to write a technothriller where the technology was something more subtle than a new drone or super-cyborg. In my book, it’s a computer program – what it does is the important thing. Thirdly, current events seem so incredible at the moment, I thought they could easily be the work of a bad guy from the pages of Ian Fleming. I’m offering an alternative explanation, in a classic conspiracy-thriller style.

What is the genre?

My books are thrillers. If we put them in a sub-category, it would be military-espionage-crime (with a side helping of dark / snarky humour). I know that’s not a sub-category but dammit it should be.

What draws you to this genre?

Thrillers were my first love as a reader (closely followed by fantasy / SF). I’m also of that generation of men who grew up with World War II as a strong cultural point of reference – Sunday afternoons watching ‘Where Eagles Dare’ or ‘The Guns of Navarone.’ It’s also a very broad genre a writer can ruthlessly exploit play with. Some great thrillers have barely a shot fired, others (like mine) are a maelstrom of bullets and gore.

How did you develop your plot and your characters?

As a kid I played pen and paper role-playing games like ‘RuneQuest’ and ‘Traveller.’ You always had a character sheet, right? I create one of those for each character, then flesh it out as they develop through the story. Then I draw character maps in a notebook, where ‘x’ is the character and ‘y’ is the plot. I usually envisage plots around a series of set scenes, then work backwards and join them all up. For example, in my first book (‘The Ninth Circle’) I wanted an extended chase sequence at a Chernobyl-type ruined power plant. I also wanted a siege in a country house in the snow. I worked from there. Hopefully, the plot and the characters segue together, like a chemical reaction. I often change one because of the other.

What inspired your protagonist?

Cal Winter is fundamentally a good man trapped in a bad guy’s body. He’s Elric of Melniboné with a Glock instead of a big black soul-stealing sword (and like Elric, Cal sometimes needs chemical sustenance to keep going). His story arc is about reconciling his predilection for violence (the only thing he’s good at) versus redemption, and to be seen as the better man. He’s fixated on revenge, but is dimly aware it’s unlikely to solve anything. I’ve actually met one or two people a little like Cal, combat veterans. They wanted to do the right thing when they joined the military. Then their country asks them to do things they never expected to do. To make things worse, when they obey, they are abandoned and ostracized. I thought that was an interesting starting point for a character.

What inspired your antagonist?

The most important bad guy is a visionary, spurned by his bosses in the American military establishment. He’s charismatic, physically powerful but megalomaniacal. He was partly inspired by Colonel Kurtz from ‘Apocalypse Now.’

What was the hardest part to write in the book?

The Prologue. I always have one, mainly because (a) I love the scenes at the start of a Bond movie where you see 007’s last mission and (b) I use them to pick out some themes about the characters, not least for people who might not have read the other books. This one takes us back to Cal’s first assassination gig. It took a lot of time to get right, making sure the characters, timelines etc. all worked in the context of a trilogy.

What was your favourite part of your book to write?

There’s a scene where Cal and his wingman interrogate two maths geniuses about a complex economic modelling program. Getting the banter between two combat grunts and two scientists right was fun.

Are you a full time or a part time writer? If part time, what do you
do besides write?
I write part-time. I worked in law enforcement for many years, so I’ve done my time sitting on a roof watching people through a pair of binoculars.

What are you currently reading?

‘Kings of the Wyld’ by a new Canadian author called Nicholas Eames. It’s a fantasy-comedy that really reminds me of the movie ‘A Knight’s Tale’ with Heath Ledger. Imagine a game of Dungeons & Dragons where the heroes get treated like rock stars. It’s great fun. And it’s got a character called Arcandius Moog. Which is cool.

Who would you say are your favourite authors?

Off the top of my head… Jack Higgins, Tim Willocks, Michael Moorcock, Philip Kerr, Len Deighton and Joe Abercrombie.

How about your favourite books? What would be your top 5?

You love tough questions, don’t you? The following would get me through a stint on a desert island: The Eagle has Landed (Jack Higgins), The Religion (Tim Willocks), The Heroes (Joe Abercrombie), Bomber (Len Deighton), The Hawkmoon cycle (Michael Moorcock).

What are your future projects, if any?

I’ve got a short story coming out soon, in a charity anthology for Alzheimer’s research. It’s been put together by Brit indie author Ryan Bracha and is called ‘The Twelve Lives of Frank Peppercorn.’ There’s also a Cal Winter 4 planned, but it’s tricky as the central premise of the stories changes in the new book. Then there’s my post-apocalyptic detective thriller with superhumans, Communists and a Die Hard vibe (rewrite number 15 ongoing ha ha). I’ve also got a US-based novel about a former female CIA extradition agent. Lurking in my mind is also a fantasy / spy mashup.

What is your preferred method for readers to get in touch with you and
your books?

Facebook is my number one writer’s interface with the world. And according to my page management tool, I’m ‘very responsive!’ Find me at

I’m also on Goodreads, which I enjoy.

Do you have any advice for aspiring authors?

It sounds obvious, but you’ve got to write. A lot. And the more you write, the better you’ll get. The better you get at the technical side, the more your awesome ideas come to life on the page. I’d also get in the habit of people-watching and making notes. I’ll give you an example – the other day I was on a busy train, and noticed a woman putting on her makeup in a certain way (because she was crushed by other commuters, it reminded me of someone eating one of those tiny meals on an airplane). I later made a note of the order she did it, and the facial expressions she made. It was a very human moment, and one day it might end up in a book.


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