He is a Vietnam War Veteran, was the Head of Defence Planning for Security at the 2000 Sydney Olympics, he is a philosophy PhD graduate and now Adrian d’Hagé can add best-selling author to his list of achievements.
The accomplished author shared his love of writing and his career highlights with FOCUS when we had a chat about his latest novel.
Q: What sparked your love of writing?
A: I write to make a difference.
In The Russian Affair, in amongst the assaults on a castle more formidable than Colditz, and the boat chases in the canals of St Petersburg, there is a chilling warning of what might happen during a nuclear conflict, and the fact that once a President of the United States orders even the use of “small battlefield nukes”, there is no safeguard in place to stop that order.
In 1947, the members of the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists’ Science and Security Board established the ‘doomsday clock’ as a pointer to the likelihood of a global catastrophe of humankind’s own making and the clock was set at seven minutes to midnight. Nuclear weapons are a major factor in their deliberations.
Since then, scientists have moved the clock forward (and backward) many times, but as I wrote The Russian Affair, it’s been moved to two minutes to midnight, the closest it’s ever been. The United States and Russia have entered a new arms race in earnest, and another potentially devastating Cold War has commenced with the added danger of an ‘accidental’ nuclear war. Such a scenario is not fiction. As I’ve explained in The Russian Affair, we’ve come very close to a nuclear catastrophe on several occasions in the past.
Q: How has your military background contributed to your writing?
A: I served in the military for 37 years. In my last appointment I was responsible for military planning for defences against possible terrorist attacks on the Sydney Olympics, including nuclear, biological and chemical attacks. Some 5,000 troops were involved, including SAS – but they were kept hidden – it was, after all, a sporting competition!
When I was planning for terrorist contingencies at the Sydney 2000 Olympics, there was a remote possibility that one or more of the missing Russian nuclear suitcase bombs might still be in circulation, and I made allowance for just such an eventuality. Today, the threat from terrorists possessing a dirty or even a nuclear device has not receded. As my fictional President of Russia Dmitry Petrov puts it: “The greatest danger of a nuclear holocaust is not one emanating from the superpowers. It comes from some mindless Jihadist getting his hands on a nuclear warhead.”
As a much younger officer, having been involved in close quarter fighting in the jungles of Vietnam, including against a heavy machine gun company from the North Vietnamese Army, I have a distressingly intimate knowledge of what Agent Curtis O’Connor and SEAL Team Six face – in their case in the precipitous mountains of the Hindu Kush and the Caucasus mountains of northern Georgia. My science background has given me knowledge of nuclear physics, and what it takes to develop nuclear weapons.
Q: What inspires your writing?
A: The state of the world we live in. Somewhat eerily, I find myself writing about things that subsequently come true. In The Russian Affair, for example, a year or so ago, I fictionalised that the US and Russia would ignore international agreements on the development of nuclear weapons and secretly start to develop new ones. In October 2017, President Vladimir Putin announced that Russia was ready to develop new nuclear weapons if other countries, particularly the United States, did the same. In February 2018, President Donald Trump announced a new policy to modernise the US nuclear arsenal, and to develop new types of nuclear warheads, including the smaller ‘battlefield nukes’. In a speech to his nation on 1 March 2018, President Putin declared that Russia has developed new nuclear weapons that will overcome any US missile defences.
Q: Out of all your books, which one is your favourite and why?
A: The Russian Affair arguably has the most action, and although President Travers and President Petrov are fictional characters, given the similarities to what is actually occurring in the world, it is arguably the most chilling. My first novel, The Omega Scroll, is also a favourite a) because it was my first; but b) because it takes the reader deep inside the intrigues of the Vatican – something that again, was prescient.
Q: What advice would you give to anyone wanting to write action novels?
A: Apart from engaging a good psychiatrist (it is solitary, demanding work), start with short stories or novellas and get them assessed for writing style, structure, pace and character depth (the characters drive my novels). Learn the art of suspense – every paragraph should end with a ‘hook’, leaving the reader wondering what happens next.
Q: Any new books in the works? If so, can you give us a little sneak preview?
A: Several, but if I told you, I’d have to kill you.
As a final remark, attendees might be encouraged to go to my website at www.adriandhage.com , which will give them an idea of what I’ve been up to.
You can find Adrian’s novels at your local Hills Shire Library Services Branch.
Find out more about your local library at www.thehills.nsw.gov.au.