It’s the summer of 1995. The US Peace Envoy, Fred Martinson, begins to broker a peace deal for Northern Ireland. The world holds its breath as the first tentative steps are taken. Jones, an 18-year-old from suburban England, has stumbled through education and yearns to be a football reporter. He is offered a place at Milton College, a former secretarial school with a clandestine partnership with GCHQ in seeking the communication stars of the future.
Before he knows it, Jones has been recruited, paired with Jenny Richmond, who is every bit his equal, and sent to Northern Ireland to undertake skills development and resilience testing with the Young Communicators Unit (YCU).But who, exactly, is betraying who?Training becomes a matter of life and death when a group of trainee spies learning on the job are betrayed to their death, and their most promising member, Isadora Brown, is taken hostage. MI5 and YCU are sent a video of her reading demands by a mysterious organisation called Red Line. What if a group of young trainees were forced onto the frontline to deal with one of the most sensitive issues in UK history? What if political relations were so sensitive at the end of The Cold War, that only a group of deniable students could change history and keep super powers from ruining the first steps of a peace deal in Northern Ireland? It’s a race against the clock to find and free Isadora, and make sure the US peace talks aren’t sent up in flames.
PROLOGUE THE SOUND OF RUPTURED METAL FROM THE PARKING BAY GAVE WAY TO a horrific explosion as the Fiat burst through the hydraulic doors and its fuel tank spectacularly detonated. The flames burst high into the rafters of the warehouse and the press and terrified MI5 agent sprinted to the back of the room. The double doors leading to the main room were then kicked open and standing there was a single gunman in a paramilitary balaclava. He held a pistol and in one shot killed the policeman, who was already prostrate on the “oor from the impact of the car explod‐ ing. The gunman then looked around the room, he stared over at the assembled media with his gun still raised and without blinking picked out the agent who took a shot to the head and immediately collapsed.
Topaz knew that they were safe behind the metal fence at the top of the viewing gallery. They needed to stay quiet and motionless but all three were still peering over the balcony, trans!xed on the scene. Jones was sure one of the journalists had noticed them but the horror of the unfolding situation had kept their attention away from the figures hidden in the rafters.“Where is he?” shouted the gunman, with a clear and unmistakable English accent. Topaz recognised the voice.
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Richard lives in East Anglia with his wife and two daughters. He is a trained journalist and spent his early years freelancing or in agency positions across the UK, including a stint in Northern Ireland in the mid-1990s. He then transferred to the third sector, working in charities focusing on issues as diverse as international development (in India and Bangladesh), air ambulance operations, music and the creative industries, mental health and homelessness. He also acted as Chief Executive of the Olympic Park charity during London 2012.
He is currently the CEO of Hourglass, the UK’s only charity focused on ending the abuse and neglect of older people, a job he applied for after a family experience of neglect.
Richard wrote his first novel in the early 2000s but this has yet to see the light of day. Instead, he started with a new idea in 2020 and Topaz was born. He has written two more in the Topaz Files series, Wild Flowers and The Mainstay, which are expected to be published in 2024.
He is also happily in the dugout for Boxford Rovers F.C. on a Saturday, a committed cratedigger (vinyl collector) and can occasionally be seen in the stands at Loftus Road and Windsor Park.