by Terence Strong

[A perception put together by bestselling thriller writer with and inspired by a paper produced by Buster Brown (C/Sgt.RM.Rtd), in turn suggested by others in the worldwide military, intelligence and political arenas]

For the best part of 20 years, the Communist People’s Republic of China has enjoyed incredible and unprecedented national growth and prosperity. At that time, around the period when the United Kingdom handed back the British colony of Hong Kong to Beijing, I wrote in my thriller DEADWATER DEEP of a fictional attempt by the American CIA to overthrow the ChiCom Government of the time. Mainland China and the world was still recoiling from the Tianemann Square massacre. It was written with expert advice of how it would and really could have been achieved.
If it had been attempted – as seemed likely at the time of writing – or something similar, the Chinese hierarchy would not have forgotten or forgiven. It is in their collective Oriental psyche to neither forget nor forgive.
Since that time, China has become the engine-room, the heartbeat, the factory of the entire world. With its vast population of 1, 447 million people (nearly 20% of the world’s people), it manufactures practically everything with cheap labour, immense skill and talent, and entrepreneurial culture. Yet behind all this it is still the draconian Communist State with a firm hand on the tiller.
With the new smiling face of the dragon, the world has forgotten that it remains a nation headed by an unelected government.
A government that hold millions more “political” prisoners in gulags than any other country on earth, is re-educating an entire Muslim province to its own faithless faith in prison camps, and has its hands on the levers of control of the entire monetary, manufacturing, political and business infrastructure.
It also thieves and encourages thieving on an industrial scale. Literally. Meanwhile companies in the United States, the UK and mainland Europe have rushed to China to manufacture cheap – but generally reasonable quality products – by a young, nowadays well-educated work force.
What those companies had not anticipated was being severely mugged in the process. Chinese theft of international Intellectual Property has been waged on an industrial scale with the complicity of the government. While a foreign company’s exclusive product will be made to order during the day, at night a much cheaper Chinese copy will be running off those same production lines. Only the product name or colour will be changed to protect the guilty. And all done with the tacit blessing of the Communist state.
But that theft extents way beyond clothing and toys. Beyond electric gadgets and white goods to electronic and military equipment.
It includes commercial, bacterial, biological and military espionage. Chinese students, suspected of being agents coerced into working for the Chinese secret service (the Strategic Huyou Agency), have worked at biological research laboratories in both the United States and Canada. They were discovered to have been stealing top secret data and samples from viral experimentation. The medical industry is always trying to anticipate the next flu pandemic and how to be ready for it.
But it is now thought that Huyou Agency may have had other motives as well. In their Biological and Chemical Warfare Department of the People’s Republican Army, there has been a growing awareness of the growing use “hybrid warfare”, first developed by the Russians in Ukraine. Hybrid warfare was the art of taking over another nation by sleight of hand, by smoke and mirrors; by political and financial pressures and spinning fake news, rather than tanks and aircraft and storm-troopers. Your enemy could be beaten without even knowing it had fought a war.
After all, China still has more unresolved territorial disputes with its neighbours than any other nation on earth. Even with its growing military might and ambition it could not fight the colossal war machine of the United States, which would defend to the death its democratic allies of Taiwan and other nations of Chinese descent in the region.
Beijing’s heir achy has had other problems. The People’s Communist Party is now under the ruthless leadership of Xi Jinping, who has recently manoeuvred himself into the position of virtually unassailable “President-for-life”.
Very aware of America’s continuing military superiority and a new US President who is facing up to China on trade matters such as the “dumping” cheap steel, Xi Jinping has seen the nation’s economic position in the world slipping. Some intelligence analysts in the West suspect that they genuinely fear free-fall?

As virtual “factory for the world” with every manufacturer shifting its order book, China has established an amazing 7% average annual growth rate since the turn of the century.
Around the world Chinese sponsored companies invested in the raw materials it needed and in infrastructure projects in Africa and South America. It made loans to countries that they could never hope to repay, making them in hock to Beijing for ever more. The legitimacy or honesty the governments and partner commercial companies involved were of no concern. That’s not the Chinese way.
From 2003 to 2010 China maintained a staggering 10% growth or more. Even after the world financial crash of 2008, it managed to continue with a healthy 8%.
But no longer. Since 2015 China’s growth has slumped to 6%. The envy of the rest of the world still, but not enough Xi Jinping.
After all, with unrest fermenting in the former British colony of Hong Kong, President Jinping has a population of 1,437 million (almost one fifth of the world’s population) to keep content. This is a population who had enjoyed a meteoric rise in living standards and salaries. Their bicycles had been replaced by cars, their slum shacks with skyscrapers.
Moreover, China’s 30 year “One Child Per Couple” policy was beginning to backfire. A shortage in the flow of low-cost young labour was beginning to match the increase in unwanted old folk who needed expensive social and medical support.
What to do?
Enter Linda Wang (not her real name). A petite and feisty student in Hong Kong, she was studying epidemiology at University, but devoted most of her energies to the embryonic democratic movement against control from mainland China. She was picked up by an English cultural diplomat, a suave 30-something Etonian (we’ll call him Charles Entwhistle) with a smooth line of chat and knowledge of the Classics that appealed to Linda. It is understood they became enamoured with each other, during which time Entwhistle conjured her a job, through one of his mainland Chinese contacts, as an intern at the Wuhan Institute of Virology in China’s central province.
Linda Wang loved her new job. And the new job loved her. From making lapsong green tea for the Head of Institute Major-General Ma Feng (not his real name) and taking dictation from the female Director Tong Mei (not her real name) Linda’s sparky Hong Kong spirit, good humour and exceptional intelligence was soon recognised and appreciated.
Despite doubts with having to fend off his frequent bottom slapping and waist-squeezing, Linda accepted rapid promotion as personal assistant to Ma Feng.
It was in that capacity that, in December 2016, she travelled with him and Mrs Tong to Beijing for a hush-hush meeting. Linda had never visited the capital before and it was a great thrill for her to see the vast open square that was Tiananmen, the serrated walls of the Forbidden City and the glittery glass fingers of the new skyscrapers in the wintry sunlight. But there was not much time for sight-seeing.
To Linda’s surprise they did not stay at one of the smart Western-style hotels, but at the boutique one-storey Cours et Pavillons, a tradition courtyard building with red- lacquered beams in one on the few remaining alleyway neighbourhoods yet to be bulldozed for skyscrapers.
Only later it became clear to Linda that choice was made to help keep the presence of Major-General Ma and Mrs Tong in the capital out of the public eye. And also to make it difficult for foreign espionage agents to observe them. Even the official car that collected them had difficulty squeezing its way through the tight lanes of Dongcheng district in order to take them to the meeting at the Defence Ministry.
It was early the next year, in the January of 2017, that Linda Wang was able to report what happened next to her handler Charlie Entwhistle of Britain’s MI6. When she returned home to Hong Kong to celebrate the Chinese New Year with her family, she found that her student boyfriend had left her for another. He just hadn’t told her.
Tearfully she used the “burn phone” Entwhistle had given her earlier to leave a one-off code-word for a pre-determined “meet”.
All Linda had to do was book in at a cheap hotel. That was the Cosco near Belcher Bay Park, offering rooms over a small restaurant. Basic and cheerful. She arrived wearing grey jogging pants and a matching hoodie top. The male receptionist barely noticed her as he confirmed her booking and signed her in.
Twenty minutes later there was a knock at the door. Entwhistle was met with the tearburst of a broken heart and a sobbing Linda, who poured out her sorrows. All the strains of her new job in Wuhan and the sudden loss of her long-term sweetheart had all proven too much emotionally.
Entwhistle was quick to empathise, was genuinely concerned, but also suspicious that there was more to this outburst than was immediately obvious.
‘So you’re happy in the job?’ he asked cautiously.
She perched on the edge of the bed and he sat opposite her in a tired-looking armchair.
‘I love it. Really.’
‘You work for two bosses? So soon.’
Linda straightened her back. ‘They secretly love us Hong Kongers, but don’t like to admit it.’
Entwhistle understood. ‘You have the get up and go that most mainlanders don’t. An energy and enthusiasm that is not typically Chinese.’
She shrugged. ‘I did not realise that.’
‘I did not expect you to call me so soon,’ he admitted. ‘Is anything wrong?’
Linda’s smile was awkward. ‘I am not sure. I do not want to waste your time. In December I am taken to Beijing. Assisting the Major-General and Mrs Tong.’
Entwhistle nodded. ‘Yes, you signalled. But did not know where at the time.’
Linda took a deep breath. ‘It is the compound of the Ministry of National Defence. At a room in the large central building with the pagoda-style roof. A special room with thick doors, apparently sound-proofed.’
Suddenly Entewhistle was alert. ‘Who was the meeting with?’
‘My people, my representatives. They included the Academy of Military Medical Sciences…’
‘And Department 17. Hybrid Warfare.’
‘There are only 15 departments that we have listed. Are you sure?’
Linda nodded. ‘Very. It was their man who was chairing the meetings. Marshal Jian Wu.’
Entwhiste’s jaw dropped. ‘No.’
His agent blinked at his response. ‘Yes. I make no mistake.’
‘Fu Manchu.’
She was puzzled. ‘I am sorry?’
‘Marshal Wu. It’s the China Desk’s code-name for him. Fu Manchu.’
Linda was confused.
‘Fu Manchu was a very famous fictional Chinese character at the turn of the century,’ Entwhistle explained patiently. ‘Created by an English writer. Fu Manchu was an evil genius and mad scientist. Used fungi, poisons and bacteria to kill his enemies in the West. Rather fitted with Marshal Jian Wu.’
Linda considered for a moment. ‘Sounds about right from what I hear. At meeting he talks about fighting and winning a war that your enemy does not even know he is in.’
Entwhistle allowed himself a slow smile. ‘I am not really sure, in this day and age, that possible.’
For one startling moment, Linda felt she was so much wiser than the dapper, smartly-dressed intelligence officer sitting opposite her. ‘Oh, I think it is. More than ever before.’ She added, ‘China is still more Confucius than Karl Marx, remember.’
Her words stung him. Those exact words, or very similar, were the first he’d been given when he’d joined the Desk fifteen years earlier. ‘A five-year plan is short-term for the average Chinese politician, Charlie. Remember that and you won’t go far wrong. Nowadays I’d say Ten to Twenty is what to think about. Although I do think the old Hundred Year Plans are a bit out of fashion.’
Suddenly Entwhistle was beginning to sense a feeling of alarm, and he couldn’t exactly explain why. ‘So what was this war China is thinking to fight. Marshal Wu is at this – er – Department of Hybrid Warfare. Internet virus, false flag, disease?’
Linda swallowed hard. ‘A Frankenstein virus.’
‘A combination of two novel viruses. Maybe Nipah and Hendra.’
Entwhistle was no virologist. ‘Novel meaning?’
‘Animal. So outside the human genome.’ Linda smiled sweetly in understanding at his lack of comprehension. ‘Therefore human immunity is unable to respond adequately. H1N1 made the jump from pigs to humans. Spanish flu came from birds. In this case, these viruses are commonly found in the Intermediate Horseshoe Bat.’
The MI6 man winced. ‘This is more Dracula and vampires than Fu Manchu.’
‘This one is called Corona. It developed in America.’
‘But you have it in Wuhan?’
She allowed herself a giggle. ‘We scientists very friendly. Keen to save world from pandemics.’
Entwhistle thought aloud. ‘I think maybe some scientists might be more friendly than others.’
‘Because these two virus novel and mutate quickly every two weeks even, we scientists call them “slippery”.’ He smiled at her pronunciation, but not at what she meant. ‘Because they so easily mutate, it is difficult to create a vaccine against them.’
The MI6 man pounced. ‘Has China got a vaccine?’
Linda’s eyes widened. ‘That is exactly what Marshal Wu asks.’
She shook her head. ‘Mrs Tong, says no, but nearly. Another month, maybe two we will perfect one.’
‘Marshal Wu looks very pleased.’ Linda thought back to the conversation. ‘Mrs Tong asks why? In reply, Wu asks if they are aware of an intelligence report on Exercise Cygnus, in from the Chinese Embassy in London?’
‘Was she?’ Entwhistle asked.
‘Not at all.’ Linda shook her head. ‘That amuses Marshal Wu, that all she thinks about is viruses and their cures. He clearly has other thoughts and cannot help himself. In his enthusiasm he wants to share with us.’
However, Enthwhistle did know about Cygnus, all too well. ‘Yes, it was a three-day exercise or “wargame” with the Government, civil service and NHS under the Cameron government to test for a pandemic hitting the UK.’
‘I am shocked,’ Linda admitted. ‘I think England and NHS are best health service in world.’
‘Cygnus was a shocker,’Enthwhistle admitted. ‘Hit by a major flu outbreak, the NHS would be quickly overwhelmed with a shortage of beds, respirators, kit and even burial capacity. The Cygnus Report was so dreadful, its publication was banned.’
‘Worse,’ Linda said, shaking her head. ‘Not much has been done to improve the situation. Everyone worries about Brexit, nothing else. There is no money and everyone hopes for the best.’
Entwhistle smiled grimly. ‘You aren’t wrong.’
‘But Britain is not alone. Marshal Wu says many other countries – most countries are in similar or worse situation. That makes him happy for his plan.’
‘Plan?’ He felt the hairs on the back of his neck begin to crawl. ‘What plan?’
‘Plan he wants to sell to President Xi Jinping.’
‘Which is?’
‘To beat America, to defeat the West.’
Entwhistle frowned. ‘Which China cannot do with conventional warfare and risks nuclear conflict over Tiawan or North Korea.’
Linda raised an eyebrow, happy that the Englishman was taking her seriously. ‘First create a slippery virus and the antidote. Just before Chinese New Year, when many students and workers overseas come home to celebrate – secretly launch.’ She frowned at this point. ‘Even Mrs Tong is getting excited at the idea here, and she is not even military. She says use the fresh food markets in Wuhan as an “excuse” of where it starts. They actually sell bats to eat there.’
‘Did Marshal Wu like that idea?’
‘He asks can we contain this new virus in Hubei or Wuhan?’
‘Mrs. Tong says yes. If we are prepared, if we are ruthless. If borders are strictly enforced, the virus will not reach Beijing or Shanghai.’ Linda blinked and turned her palms upwards. ‘And why not? We are prepared, we are ready. We can also distribute anti-virus as a vaccine or in some other way. Meanwhile, after Chinese New Year, people from Wuhan return to the countries where they are working, taking this highly infectious virus with them. It will hit the rest of world like express train. It will be chaos, probably starting in Europe.’
Entwhistle guessed. ‘The Europeans will not know what hit them.’ He’d done his homework. ‘My guess is Italy.’
Linda was puzzled. ‘Why, Charlie?’
‘Ironic really. Mediterranean diet means lots of older people, extended large families and narrow streets. All old folk have underlying health problems, comes with the territory. It almost has as many Chinese as UK, due to your love affair with Made in Italy.’
She smiled at that. ‘China buys out many fashion houses. Has its own workers there.’
‘And northern Italy has bad industrial smogs,’ he added. ‘Any flu hits the area hard.’
‘Marshal Wu says that in China we could be prepared.’ Linda had a look of surprise on her face at her own words. ‘Have plans ready to throw up prefabricated hospitals in days. Water and sewerage network laid, materials and labour already hired. Impress the world at our reaction.’
‘All fake,’ Entwhistle muttered.
‘But China quickly look good as there is chaos in the world, starting with Europe. Marshal Wu says economies of dozens of countries will freeze overnight, production lines forced to stop, stock markets to fall.’
Entwhistle guessed the next bit. ‘Oh I get it. China recovers first and quickly. It sweeps on key companies it wants and snaps them up at bargain prices. Commodity costs collapse, including oil, so China can suck them up, too, on a large scale. China returns fast to manufacturing rapidly while the rest of the world is at a standstill. Buy what you want cheaply during the crisis and sell back at a profit when other counties have paralyzed their own industries in the chaos…God, it’s a win-win situation.’
Linda swallowed hard. ‘It’s a win-win war. That’s what Marshal Wu say.’
The Englishman was aware of his heart thudding harder in his chest. ‘He used those words?’
‘And more.’ She took a deep breath. ‘Marshal Wu says when we announce we have found the magical anti-Corona virus once the pandemic has subsided, we will have won World War Three without a shot having been fired. The West, America, the EU and the UK in particular will be in economic ruins – yet not even have known they have been fighting it. China will have everything it wanted. Industrial superiority restored and economic masterdom.’
‘Fuck me,’ Entwhistle said flatly.
‘Yes, Lindy.’
‘Charlie, I am scared.’ She trembled slightly. ‘I am very scared. Marshal Wu meant every word.’
He reached across the gap between them and took her hand. It felt like a small bird in his, her skin surprisingly cold to the touch. Swiftly he moved to her side, slipped his arm around her waist. It was so tiny, and he could feel her ribs beneath his fingers. She felt so fragile, so breakable. He hugged her reassuringly. It was only when he felt the warm damp of her cheek that he realised that she was fighting hard to stop her tears.
‘It’s okay, it’s okay,’ he reassured.
She pulled away. ‘No, no, it’s not, Charlie. You don’t know. You don’t understand what a virus like this can do to the world. Really, I don’t think you do.’
He looked her straight in the face. ‘Yes, I do. It’s very serious. But it’s not the Bubonic Plague or the Spanish Flu.’
Her big brown eyes looked at him, knew he didn’t really know. ‘But it’s being weaponised. It will come with it’s own marketing and publicity team. First from China itself and then the world media. That will do the rest. The world will be terrified into total shutdown. The whole world, that is, except China. Something that even two World Wars have never achieved. Marshal Wu will have won.’
Entehistle wasn’t sure what to say to that.
‘Do you love me, Charlie?’
That threw him. ‘Of course, Linda. I’m delighted to see you again.’
‘Yes, I know you like me…’ She hesitated. ‘I like you, too. But I am not sure it is love.’
His smile was up and running. ‘Then it’s something pretty damn close, sweetheart.’
‘You work at the British Embassy, Charlie,’ she stated and withdrew her hand from his. Her eyes fixed on his. ‘Are you a spy, Charlie? Have you been using me?’
He nearly choked. ‘Certainly not.’
She did not blink. ‘I felt I had to see you, had to tell you. Warn you.’
‘I understand that. I’m very grateful. Thank you.’
‘I think I have been a fool. There is nothing between us, is there?’
That caught him out, made him feel bad. ‘I’m not sure. What do you think.’
‘You haven’t even kissed me. Is it because you think I have virus.’
‘No, no!’ He protested.
She shook her head. ‘That is a joke.’ She took a deep breath and stared at the wall. ‘You are a spy. No, I am the spy. I have done my job. You have used me, I allowed you. Now I cannot go back. I am scared. Can you help me?’
‘Help you what?’
‘Get away from Hong Kong. Maybe to UK..?’
Entwhistle hated it when his agent got scared, demanded things of him. Even if he might support those who’d helped the British government – of any political colour – his superiors didn’t support his enthusiasm. Too much trouble, too much paperwork. Can’t be asked.
‘It’s difficult…’ he began.
She read him in clear HD. ‘So I thought.’ She took a deep breath, her decision made. ‘Okay, Mister Entwhistle, you win. I fell for it, fell for you. My mistake. You betray me like your country betrays Hong Kong twenty years ago.’
‘No, Linda,’ he protested, ‘That’s not right.’
‘Not right, but how it is,’ she came back. ‘Well, I have done my duty, have warned you. Now go please.’
‘Are you returning to Wuhan?’
She shook her head vigorously. Her hair glistened like a raven’s wing in the light from the window. ‘No, I will post my resignation. I will go back to my studies here…Now, go please, Charlie. Just go.’
Outside, the Huyou Agency agent Lucy Dang was leaning against the bus stop post. Casually she raised her tourist camera with its telephoto lens and snapped the Englishman leaving the Cosco Hotel. He was alone.
The live video was transmitted.
‘White Fish One leaving,’ she said into her throat mike.
The voice came back in her earpiece. She strained to hear. ‘Eyes on. Confirm White Fish One as Charles Enwhistle. Cultural Attache. British Embassy.’
‘Do I follow?’
‘No, we have taxi waiting to pick him up. Following for when he is ready.’ There was a pause. ‘You wait for Yellow Lotus.’
‘Remember, she knows me.’
‘That fine. Play the coincidence game.’
Lucy shrugged. It was fine by her. ‘Will do.’
‘Out,’ said Huyou Agency, Hong Kong Branch HQ.
A bus came and went. Lucy Dang still waited at the bus stop. She realised that she was not the best choice for an undercover agent. She was Han Chinese and stood at nearly six feet tall with a short pixie-cut of peroxide blonde hair. Celery stick, her grandfather called her. Her job was an agent for the Huyou Agency; her mission to infiltrate the troublesome student movements of the Hong Kong province. She had already had Linda Wang’s previous “boyfriend” Bo disappeared for a period of re-education.
He would return a very different person to the one of the energetic rebel Linda had last known and fallen in love with.
Neither was Lucy Dang the secretive and quiet character people somehow expected of a spy. She was outgoing and gregarious, the heart-and-soul of any party. She was outspoken about Hong Kong’s freedoms and railed against the social smothering of Chinese Communism. But she and her family had secretly been signed-up members since she was a teenager. Lucy was an older student, ran a help-line for mental problems, and was very popular with everyone. She knew all their personal problems and a lot of their secrets.
‘Hello,’ Lucy said suddenly. ‘Yellow Lotus emerging. Eyes on.’
‘Does she have luggage?’
Linda carried a small and brightly-coloured designer backpack. ‘Yes. Do I follow?’
‘Remember she knows me. May recognise.’
‘Of course.’ Contempt in HQ’s tone. ‘Engineer a genuine meet.’
‘Confirm. Out’
Lucy slipped her smartphone into the back pocket of her skinny jeans, detached herself from the bus-stop post and danced her way through the passing cars to the far pavement.
When she was confident that Linda Wang was heading towards her family home, she detoured around a residential block, sprinting to bring herself out in front and ahead of Linda, to find herself walking towards her while engrossed on her phone.
They nearly collided head-on.
‘Linda!’ Lucy stepped back, full of smiles and apologies. ‘It is Linda Wang, isn’t it? Hallo, stranger.’
‘Oh, Lucy, long time, no see.’
‘Are you back from Wuhan..? Obviously. For holiday or..?’
‘For good,’ Linda said emphatically. Her mind was made up the more she had thought about it. I miss Hong Kong, my friends.’
Lucy grinned widely. ‘Me?’
‘You, of course.’
Lucy settled in, walking beside her. ‘Weren’t you going the other way?’
‘Oh, just to get some soy sauce for my Gran we’re running low. Not urgent. To see you again and catch up on news is more important.’
Linda had never really taken to Lucy, and she didn’t really know why. ‘No news to tell. Life and work in Wuhan was boring.’
‘I am sorry to hear that. And your new boyfriend, one who help get you Wuhan job. Englishman?’
‘Not boyfriend,’ Linda protested sniffily. Images of their one night of lovemaking flashed unbidden in her mind. He had a cruel, but exciting streak to him. ‘Just associates.’
‘So, Bo is still the love of your life?’
Her laugh came out more as a snort of derision. ‘Bo stops writing.’
Lucy shrugged. ‘He disappears. Maybe goes back to his family in the country.’
‘Bo hated it there.’
‘I know police were harassing him. He got too involved with democracy movement, near to the leaders. That is what I suspect.’
Linda was thoughtful for a moment. ‘If you are right, I hope he will be okay.’
‘If he bends with the wind, goes with the flow,’ Lucy reassured.
‘He can be stubborn,’ Linda said.
‘Hopefully he will see sense,’
They had reached the backstreet residential block where the Wang family lived. Linda looked up to see that the windows of their apartment where open, some laundry drying. ‘I think they are in.’
Gabbled words rushed into Lucy’s earpiece.
‘Let’s meet tonight,’ Lucy said suddenly. Celebrate your return.’
Linda was taken aback. ‘What, oh?’
Lucy’s eyes widened. ‘I will try to get news of Bo for you.’
‘Where?’ Linda wasn’t enthusiastic, felt that the other young woman was almost pressurising her.
‘How about the Little Tonnochi Canal by the waterfront?’
‘That bar – where we used to meet?’
‘The Happy Dragon?’Lucy guessed. ‘If it’s still there. I’ll call round the gang, see who can come. Say nine ’
Linda nodded and watched as her friend from the democracy movement danced lightly away into the crowded street. She smiled, her concerns about Lucy evaporating, melted by the warmth of the exuberant homecoming welcome. She looked up to the balcony. Her parents would be pleased to see her, but also wagging fingers of I-told-you-so.
An hour with her parents and a thrown together fish and vegetable stir-fry proved enough for Linda to be thanking the gods for her decision to meet up with Lucy and hopefully her old student mates of the democracy movement. And – just maybe – news from Bo.
To a fanfare of protests from her parents, she slipped away through the narrow backstreets to the forgotten neighbourhood of where the Tonnochi Canal snaked its dark and smelly route to the waterfront. With old and dilapidated building on each side, it was a favoured playground for drug-dealers and prostitutes. A half-hearted effort had been made to create pleasure parks on the banks, but they were badly- attended and just emphasised the atmosphere of urban neglect.
Linda arrived just before nine. In the dim evening light she could see that the shed that housed the Happy Dragon street-food stall was shut. In fact it didn’t look as though it had been open in months. The surrounding lawn, pathways and benches were empty.
Empty, except that is, for Lucy. She stepped out from behind the shed. Her cropped mop of hair caught the light.
‘Oh, so sorry, Linda! It’s just me, Seems no one else could make it.’ She shrugged with sympathy. ‘I guess too short notice.’
An alarm bell rang in the back of Linda’s head. Sudden, urgent. And loud.
Although there was no reason to be fearful or suspicious, somehow she was. At the back of her brain, something was eating away at her. That she had a very big secret. However young, a silly and daffy student, who loved drink and drugs and democracy, she was. She had a very big secret that was planned to kick off a Sun Tzu- style war that would be fought without soldiers, without tanks, aircraft or ships. It would be fought with bio-engineered microbes.
It would be started without warning by a woman. One woman. On her regular way home. It could be her, Linda! Whoever the Director instructed. This woman would stop at the edge of the Wuhan Fish Market and open the triple-sealed plastic of contaminated frozen fish next to the plate of squid. Next to the air intake of the air-conditioning. Air-conditioning shared with the building of the country’s high-speed rail network.
She, student and intern, Linda Wang knew how China was going to launch and win World War Three without a shot being fired. China’s world-wide enemies would be defeated without even knowing that they had been in a fight, let alone a war.
She remembered vividly Marshal Wu often spouting the words of Sun Tzu in his classic The Art of War: ‘Make your plans dark and impenetrable as night. And when you move, fall like a thunderbolt. To subdue the enemy without fighting is the acme of skill. The whole secret lies in confusing the enemy so that he cannot fathom your real intent.’
Her knowledge of that had to be dangerous. Surely?
Linda glanced around her. Lucy had vanished, disappeared.
Momentarily, that was a relief. But, she realised that meant another threat had replaced her.’
Sure enough, as she glanced round the canal-side gardens, each path out was guarded by a dark figure. Armed? This was the Hong Kong underworld.
Suddenly driven to do something, anything, Linda jumped onto the central stretch of lawn and strode forward. Two shabbily-dressed men rushed at her. In a glimpse she could see they were seasoned and mean, pock-marked faces, dark-haired and Oriental in appearance. Undoubtedly Triad hitmen. It flashed through her mind that she would be quickly dispatched, maybe rolled in some carpet and tossed into the canal to float out to sea and disappear. With luck her death would be painless. Her mind went blank, paralysed with fear.
Suddenly the air was filled with the stink of cordite and the stutter of suppressed gunfire. She lost her footing and fell.
She’d barely hit the ground before she was scooped up by a hand each side and moments later found herself in the back of a white Range Rover.
It was dark in the vehicle as it pulled away, bumping over the canal gardens and out into an alleyway. The men crouched over her all wore balaclavas, were laughing, relaxed.
‘Okay, baby, You’re safe now.’ English voices, on different. Scottish, she thought.
There was one face without a balaclava, one she recognised. ‘Charlie!’
‘Linda, Thank God I checked when you left the hotel. I was slow on the uptake.’ His face showed genuine remorse. ‘As I reflected on what you’d told me, I thought I’d check and discovered you had a tail. Luckily I know Lucy Dang, she features on the office Rogue’s Gallery. Poor training. Following you, she didn’t think to check if anyone was following her.’
‘And these men?’ She could still smell the faint smell of cordite in the confines of the vehicle.
‘God’s little helpers,’ one joshed.
‘Just laundry workers at the British Embassy,’ another added.
‘Even we don’t really know who we are.’
Entwhistle said, ‘The important thing is the Ambassador has arranged to have to you flown out of Hong Kong to London on the first flight tomorrow morning.’
Linda’s mouth dropped. Slowly her mouth reconfigured into a smile. ‘That is good.’
‘Yin and Yang.’
‘China Desk in London think your story is a wind-up.’
She looked aghast. ‘Why?’
‘Because they don’t want to. Because former top civil servants, MPs and Lords are all board members of big Chinese companies in UK, like Huawei. The UK Establishment has been bought by Beijing. It’s been going on for years.’
‘But I tell you the truth,’ Linda pleaded.
‘There are none so deaf,’ Enwhistle said, ‘than those who do not want to hear.’
‘So what will happen?’ She looked alarmed. ‘I risk everything to tell you. I see the reaction to the plan of Marshal Wu. Someone say, what is the downside? It is win-win.That makes me very afraid.’ She fixed him with her stare and repeated, ‘Charlie, please, what will happen?’
‘Your report will be encrypted and sent to London. It will be scrutinized by my people and sent to the Foreign Office. It may go to the Foreign Secretary. He may send it to the Prime Minister, but probably not. If so, she will undoubtedly read it, because she reads everything.’
‘And then?’
‘Because everything is about Brexit, I expect it will be filed.’
‘Like everything else. Under pending.’


Copyright © Terence Strong, 2020
® and 1997 Silver Fox Press. All rights reserved
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by Terence Strong

Events appear to be entering the very end game for Da’esh (Islamic State) in Syria.
While British RAF Typhoons contributed to air support with Storm Shadow and Brimstone missiles, 60 plus troops of B Squadron 22 SAS reportedly advanced on the town of Baghuz on the banks of the Euphrates river. They deployed by RAF SF Chinook helicopters and dune buggies, alongside American and French Special Forces, which were based at Al Qaim over the border in Iraq.

Fighting alongside fighters of the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), the elite soldiers suffered two casualties whilst killing 150 jihadis in the ongoing battle.
Over 600 mortar rounds were used, driving the remaining IS fighters into a defensive tunnel system.
The severed heads of over 50 Yazidi female sex slaves were discovered, shocking even the most combat-hardened soldiers, marking the death cult’s final act of depravityand barbarity.

Several IS commanders were apparently caught trying to escape the area disguised as women in traditional Arab dress. There appear to be now only some 200 IS fighters remaining, trapped in Hawi- al-Dandal, a mere mileage of scrub on the river bank.
They may have nowhere to run, but unfortunately the terrorists do still hold over a hundred civilian hostages.


by Terence Strong
Trouble is brewing fast in Venezuela, a troubled land I visited some 25 years ago when researching my thriller White Viper. The place was a socialist dystopian wreck even then. In the capital Caracas, roads melted in the tropical heat because of political corruption, big money changing hands between politicians and the construction industry mafia.
Drug business from neighbouring Colombia was rife as were many related murders. Rule One was don’t inform the police if you stumble across a body, because you’d be locked up as prime suspect.
Nothing worked in the city, it was like a scene from Mad Max. Now even more so.
Under another failed extreme socialist or Communist government, whose president Nicholas Maduro refuses to step down as the country sinks into chaos with hyper inflation, starvation, medical wipe-out and a surging people’s revolution and mass migration from its borders.
If the United States is put on standby, tempted to provide at least 5000 troops to deliver humanitarian aid, we already hear that the Russians have also dispatched Warners Spetsnaz-trained mercenaries to assist Maduro in shoring up his failed regime.

To date he’s keeping the army and police on his side, but for how long?
If that wasn’t enough potential fuel to the fire, the feared hard-left National Liberation Army (ELN) guerrillas of next door Columbia is threatening to intervene against such an American “invasion”.
It won’t take much to light the touch paper for an almighty conflagration.

(See White Viper on the Book Information page)


by Terence Strong

Things are shifting on the international stage as, in preparation for a BREXIT that may never come, Britain lifts its eyes to the far trading horizons.

The British government plans to extend its reach of the Royal Navy to east of Suez (excluding the Gulf) for the first time since the late 60s, despite having the smallest number of ships in living memory and a dire shortage of sailors.
It is looking for new bases in the Indian Ocean and the Far East.

Under renewed threat of violence from Communist Chinese President-for-life Xi JinPing, the independent Tiawan is offering facilities to the UK in return for a desperately needed friend against the bullying motherland, that wants it back at any cost.
That base will come with a defence-treaty price tag, do doubt.


by Terence Strong
The UK can join the European Free Trade Association (EFTA), which it helped form in the 60s, and now comprises Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland. It is recognised and “understood” by the EU.
Under EFTA, the UK controls its own fisheries and agriculture and it can make its own Trade Deals with nation that it wants.
Moreover, it is free of the European Court of Justice (ECJ) and the Customs Union.
Within EFTA, the UK will represent itself at the World Trade Organisation and will no longer be subject to any EU direct or indirect taxation.
Membership of EFTA also allows the UK to “contribute” to discussions at the beginning of all new EU legislation.
EFTA is akin to what the British public thought it was voting for in the beginning.
The dreaded Freedom of Movement (FoM) does not apply except of other EFTA members. So be prepared for a flood of Icelanders some time soon.


Over time, the regime of Vladimir Putin in the Kremlin has come to feel ever more confident that it can act with impunity on the world stage. Having manipulated his own country’s constitution so that he is likely to be President-for-life, the man himself has proved to be a Grand Master in the chess game of world affairs.

He has cleverly exploited the political errors and judgements of his opponents over Syria and Iran.
He has got away with foreign incursions and annexations, without invasion. Instead he used his famous “little green men”. Like leprechauns, no one really knew who they were. Or if they did, they couldn’t prove it.
Airliners and assassinations of the President’s enemies occurred in foreign lands with no reprisals by the simple expedient of crafty denial. His regime has become ever emboldened to do whatever it likes. After all who’s going to stop it?
No one’s going to make Napoleon or Hitler’s mistake of going to war with the Russian Federation today. Putin has discovered a toolbox of devices to make himself exceedingly rich, to stay in power indefinitely and to do whatever he wants.
And if proof were needed, the much-heralded “Beast from the East” really did arrive at the end of February (2018) in a metaphorical snow-screen blizzard that completely paralysed the UK. Under its cover, assassins struck in Salisbury, Wiltshire.
As yet unidentified persons used a deadly nerve agent in spray or powder form to attempt the murder of a former British spy, a Russian who had formerly been caught and imprisoned in his own land but later released in a spy swap with America. Released but not forgiven.
It was a reckless act of terror in a very public place and put countless innocent lives at risk, breaking every accepted international rule and convention in the book.
World-renowned chemical and biological experts at nearby Porton Down quickly established incontrovertibly that the agent was of the Novichok family, an exclusively Soviet-era product.
When challenged by Britain to explain itself, Moscow ignored the questions with disdain.
The Prime Minister Theresa May, somewhat known for her indecisive character, has decided to dismiss 23 Russian diplomats in retaliation.
But is that enough to make the leopard change his spots? Unlikely.
In a previously Cold War spat back in 1971, PM Alex Douglas-Home kicked out 105 KGB and GRU members from the Russian Embassies. He named them all along with all their aliases and refused to let their numbers be replaced. Apparently that hit hard.
Foolish talk of cyber-attacks are a no go. A bit like Mutual Assured Destruction (MAD) with nuclear weapons, the UK would not want to be on the receiving end of any more of those hitting the NHS, Inland Revenue or the energy industry.
Should May do the same now, knowing Moscow will respond in kind?
She could also push along the “Magnitsky Amendment”, legislation waiting in the wings of Parliament that would allow the government to freeze suspected illegal Russian assets and cancel individual visas.
No doubt BP, with its massive oil investments beyond the Urals, would feel a backlash from that one. And gas supplies from Russia may be annoyingly interrupted for one reason or another.
The beast from the East has indeed arrived, and it doesn’t seem to be going to go away any time soon.
#SergeiSkripal #Salisbury #Novichok #Putin #KGB #MI6 #Russia #Moscow

SILVER FOX takes over the Terence Strong thriller list


My own imprint – Silver Fox Press – has now taken over my entire backlist. And it will publish my new hardback thriller WOW (do enter the Guess-The-Title Competition on the ‘Terence Strong. Author’ FACEBOOK page) this autumn.

In recent years I have been published by Simon & Schuster UK, although in 2013 I set up Silver Fox Press to publish ten of my backlist titles that had become available for eBook format.

At the same time, my last thriller Some Unholy War was published by S & S without much fanfare.

As a result of this, I have decided that Silver Fox Press will now re-publish all my titles in both paperback and eBook editions. This process should be complete by the New Year.

It will also publish its first hardback, my latest thriller code-named WOW (there is a pre-launch title competition now running, see my FACEBOOK ‘Terence Strong. Author’ Page) which will be out for Christmas.

For the first time, WOW introduces the bad boys of the super-secret E Squadron SAS, veteran ‘handmaidens’ to MI6.

In the fastest growing book sector, ISIS AUDIO has already snapped up WOW and has announced that it is immediately revamping and recording missed titles and even re-recording some older editions in the Terence Strong range.


DON’T UPSET ME – Or I may put you in a book and kill you

by Terence Strong

(Author of Whisper Who Dares, The Tick Tock Man and Some Unholy War)

‘Where do you get your ideas from?’

Isn’t that the question all authors dread? I mean just where do you begin?

My stance when giving a talk to enthusiastic readers is to begin with ‘I know the three questions you are all dying to ask. So we can get on, here are the answers: In the bath. A garden shed. And, yes, I always use a rubber – because we all make mistakes.’

That usually manages to set the tone.

I’ve been a member of the Crime Writers’ Association (CWA) for a long time, although I feel a bit of a fraud because I’m probably classed as a thriller writer rather than a crime writer – although crime writers certainly thrill. Or at least the best ones do.

And crimes I write about just seem to be a bit more ostentatious and on a bigger scale than most. Mass genocide, world terrorism, war crimes and narcotics. While crime writers may be content with a bottle of arsenic, I’m only happy with a phial of polonium. I always thought the CWA should have an annual Kalashnikov Award, although I can’t complain as they do now have the Ian Fleming Steel Dagger to represent the hunt to find international criminals of all types.

This is sounding like an excuse for we thriller writers to be as accepted in decent literary society as the authors of traditional crime novels and whodunits. Well, the truth is, we thriller writers have nowhere else to go and need to be loved like every other author. After all, we all have to answer that ideas question. Like me, you probably get some yours from national and local newspapers.

Most weeks I read the profile of a CEO of a multinational in the Business Section and know I can plan simply from that how to go about finding him or her to assassinate them. Or, in more mellow mood, to abduct for ransom, or capture and hold his wife and children hostage and to work out how I’d get away with it.

I sat in an optician’s once and listened to a delightful young lady give all her personal details, address, telephone number and email to the receptionist. She became my first serial killer victim.

I buy two weekend broadsheet newspapers every weekend to keep up to date with everything in the world – at home and abroad.

But often ideas come without trying . . . through half-remembered dreams. The one I remember most vividly was being stuck in London knowing there were IRA bombs being planted all around us. I asked this beat copper, which way should I go. He shrugged and said ‘Your idea’s as good as mine, mate. Just run!’ That ended up as the Seven Dials Bomb in The Tick Tock Man.

More recently I awoke as a spy being controlled by chef John Torode and Greg Wallace from Masterchef. They provided me with a hooker and told me to be nice to her because she was one of their best. Absolutely true. They have now become the inspiration for MI6 field officer Ollie Parsons and an Australian Army minder on secondment in my new thriller WOW (code-name) which is due out shortly.

Even better they are joined by the evil teenaged Chief Mbobo, inspired by a contestant who appeared on BBCTV’s The Apprentice a few years back. Mustn’t say too much as I’ve turned him into a nasty piece of work. It’s amazing what they’ll try to sue you for nowadays.

Less controversial was feisty lawyer Sam Browne in Rogue Element who was inspired by one of Joanna Lumley’s creations and actress Frances de la Tour who – in my head – magnificently became the character of MI6 officer Iona in Deadwater Deep.

The Asia-born Ravi in Some Unholy War was influenced by a brilliant pro bono charity solicitor fighting against the almighty NHS in my private life. At one point I locked antlers with a consultant in a battle that caused me tremendous personal anguish and grief. He became a character. I killed him in Cold Monday (the BREXIT thriller). On paper. The bastard.

From that same real-life situation two nurses, who were brilliant, were awarded with starring roles in the same book. I captured their personalities and breathed new life into them. Ah, yes, it’s true that one of them did get bumped off. But she was collateral damage. Not intended, nothing personal.

A gorgeous and daffy barmaid at my local – The Lying Toad – very successfully transformed into my hero’s secretary and inadvertently saved the day by her unpredictable way of doing things. Amalgamating several friends or acquaintances into one character is also fun. It gives the author so much to work with. Mind you, sometimes it’s best not to mention it to the person concerned – even if you think you know them well. Recently I raided someone I knew – and disliked – in the 60s. The revenge was late, cold, but very sweet.

Yesterday in Waitrose, a cocky new greengrocery shelf-stacker told me blatantly that asparagus was not in season. That’s why the store had none in stock. I looked into his eyes and saw that he had no soul.

It is very possible that by next year he will be a junior officer in the Russian Army and will be shot dead during the writing of Ice Island.

Terence Strong © 2017

[Apart from author photograph other media material may be subject to copyright]



Like they’ve never been away, up to a 60 plus-man Squadron of the SAS is being redeployed to Afghanistan to support the new military “surge” planned by the Donald Trump administration.

With Marine Corps vets dominating in the White House, the new President is determined to crush reviving Taliban forces and the Islamic State and al-Qaeda forces they are harbouring.

SAS troops are likely to be joined by members of the smaller Special Boat Service (Royal Marines), which had made Special Forces’ activities their own during the prolonged conflict in the country.

Serious concerns about the regrouping and rapid growth of the extreme Taliban religious sect, which previously ran the country, were confirmed in recent weeks by the British Army’s top-secret Defence Intelligence Unit. It specialises in training and operating human intelligence (“humint”) and running agents on the ground in war-zones, being particularly adept at focusing on target recognition of terror group leaders.

Any new “surge” by the United States is likely to see a return to the Black Ops in both Iraq and Afghanistan. Although criticised by many neo-liberals back home, they proved to be ruthlessly efficient in smashing the rule of terror in both countries. They comprised night-after-night of surprise raids, snatch squads and harsh interrogation with immediate follow-up of intelligence gleaned. It wasn’t always a pretty sight. (See Some Unholy War).

The operations took their toll on Special Forces operators themselves as well as the terrorist networks they destroyed.

 #SAS #SBS #SpecialForces #Afghanistan #Surge #BlackOps #Trump #USMarineCorps




Article originally for Simon & Schuster website/Dark Pages



“Fill an overnight bag and grab your passport.”

These would normally be the words I’d want to say to anyone buying one of my books, warning, “You are in for the white-knuckle ride of your life.” I could, but wouldn’t add, “But don’t worry, you’re in a safe pair of hands.”

Terence StrongBecause that is what thriller writing and reading is all about and always has been. Being led by the hand into an unfamiliar and dangerous world where no one and nothing is quite what it seems. Yet knowing that the person taking you – however tough things get – will let you come to no harm. Although if your habit is to read last thing at night, you could be in for a restless sleep.

That is the way I safely travelled the world as a child, flying with Captain W.E. Johns’ famous creation, pilot James Bigglesworth. With him I went everywhere from the jungles of South America, the Gobi deserts of Mongolia and even Syria, so much in the news today. Later I changed companions to Ian Fleming, Hammond Innes, Desmond Bagley and Graham Greene. Sven Hassel tended to get me shot at quite a lot. Not sure how safe I felt with him.

But none of it did my Geography, General Knowledge and some History any harm at school. I wrote my first proper book at the age of 16 and my second when I was in my very early twenties.

Neither was seriously submitted for publication, but it was to be only a matter of time before it was my turn to take readers by the hand and lead them into another more unfamiliar and dangerous world beyond the front door of their cosy town house or suburban semi.

Work in journalism and a bit of military research had shown me there were other places you wouldn’t necessarily want to go and people you wouldn’t want to meet. I developed friends and contacts in the British and American military, including Special Forces, spying and counter-espionage, terrorism, narcotics and assassination. And it isn’t always the good guys I am having a drink with.

Thriller writers are a bit like media reporters that way. Their job is to report the facts, not to be judgemental. Writers do, however, have a licence to tell it how it really is and how it feels. We can look at characters and the effect of events on the human condition.
Countless times I have found that, on examination, commonly-held beliefs about people, places and events are misplaced or misjudged. That can come as quite a shock sometimes, but makes for interesting reading.

Desk research is as important as travel research. After the first Gulf War, a huge-selling British writer had his hero break into one of Saddam Hussein’s bunkers – into a broom cupboard! I had a similar occurrence in Stalking Horse. It took me just one phone call to bunker architects in Northern Ireland to establish how it can be done…It can’t – you have to have an accomplice on the inside! Normally with research, if you knock on a door – however secret – and ask nicely, someone will open it for you.

For SOME UNHOLY WAR you won’t need your passport. Together, we’ll recount deadly black ops by the SAS with their American allies in Iraq and in Afghanistan. We’ll experience again the sultry heat and the dusty desert air. Remember the sights, the sounds and the smells. We’ll feel again the adrenalin rush of relentless combat, the unaccountable elation and the terrible fear.

But most of our action will be on the streets of home. Did I say home? Through the eyes of the veteran soldier it won’t feel much like home. More like an alien planet. When you’re down on your luck and on the streets, you make new friends. And new enemies.

To fight them will take deep resolve. You’ll need to kick the black dog that keeps following you and deal with the pit bull that the drug-dealer has on a leash in front of you. It won’t be a walk in the park, I promise you.

But like all the other trips we may have made together – on the borders of Northern Ireland, chased by the Russian Spetsnaz in the Scandinavian mountains, fighting child soldiers in Mozambique, the narcos in the South American jungles, the hostage takers and ship hijackers in Arabia – we’ll get through safely in the end.

And recount our tales of derring-do down the pub, until we’re ready to go again.

© 2013 Terence Strong