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Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Blog Tour: Patriot by A.S. Bond | The Setting of Patriot and its Role in the Story | Excerpt

Title: The Patriot
Author: A.S. Bond
Publisher: Castle Books
Publication Date: April 24, 2014
Pages: 346
ISBN: 978-1497519541
Format: Kindle / Nook / Paperback
Genre: Adventure / Political Thriller

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What would you do for your country? In Afghanistan, a US Army Patrol is devastated by an enemy with sophisticated weaponry, while in D.C., Pentagon staffer Scott Jenson tips off the ambitious young reporter Brooke Kinley about a billionaire businessman’s involvement in terrorism. But why is the White House determined to protect this businessman, and why does the answer seem to lie in the Canadian wilderness? 

In a dangerous journey to the remotest parts of the world and the darkest corners of men’s hearts, Brooke races to prevent a catastrophic attack on America, but can she uncover the real traitor?

Guest Post

The Setting of Patriot and its Role in the Story by A.S. Bond
When I began to think about settings for Patriot, I remembered the old advice “write what you know”. Therefore all the key settings of Patriot – Labrador, Washington D.C. and London - are familiar to me. The only exception is Afghanistan, which features in the prologue only. For that, I spoke to ex-military personnel who have fought in desert situations and I also watched a lot of uTube footage from both soldiers and embedded journalists. As a journalist myself, research is second nature!

Yet I needed to do very little of that when it came to the North American settings. I used to live in Washington D.C., so I know its pace, the people, the locations. Perhaps however, the stand-out setting for Patriot is that of Labrador, where a large part of the novel – and the action scenes in particular – takes place.

Labrador is that huge chunk of Canada on the eastern seaboard that’s the size of much of Western Europe, but which has the population of a small town. It’s a place I know pretty well, as I led a canoe expedition across part of it a few years ago. Travelling with just my Innu guide, Jean Pierre Ashini, we paddled through some of the harshest country in North America, following the pioneering route of Edwardian explorer Mina Hubbard. That’s another story however, but it is one I tell in my travel memoir, Lost Lands, Forgotten Stories, published by HarperCollins in 2002.

I chose Labrador as a key setting in Patriot for several reasons. Primarily of course, because it is beautiful, remote and intriguing. Intrigue is always good in a thriller! Its remoteness also means that it is ‘believable’ (in thriller world) that the events depicted could really go unnoticed there, thanks to the lack of people. Also useful from a thriller writer’s point of view, is the fact not many people outside of Canada (and not that many inside, either!) know Labrador very well. This really gave me a ‘blank page’ on which to project my story, as many readers will have no real preconception of the place. As it happens, my own familiarity with Labrador means that I was able to describe it authentically; how it feels, smells, sounds. The bugs really are huge and plentiful and the backcountry really is mainly frequented by fishermen, hunters and prospectors.

That ‘frontier’ feel of the province and particularly the coast in the far north (where events in the book take place) is central. Frontiers and the notion of defense are integral to the main theme of the novel. The sense that our heroine, Brooke Kinley, is out there on the edge, courageously fighting for what is right, is easier to portray in Labrador than in say, downtown San Francisco. It’s also vital to the events in the plot that those planning a catastrophic attack on America could only realistically get away with their preparations etc in a place where no-one will ever see them.

Although I’m very fond of the province and the people there –among whom there are several I count as friends – I nevertheless wanted to create a feeling of menace in the story and for this reason also, Labrador seemed the perfect choice. For many people in the 21st century, life is very technology dominated. Most live in big cities and the wilderness is – and to some extent always has been – a threatening, frightening place. This also is very useful in a thriller! As Brooke travels through this unknown land, she faces many kinds of threats, both known and unknown. The reader’s unfamiliarity with it and that unspoken menace all add to the suspense.

The story of Patriot is also orientated around technology, in everything from modern communications via satphone to the nature of the threat against America. This is another reason why I chose to place so much of the action n Labrador. This wilderness, where the weather, the landscape and the animals are dominant, is a huge contrast - and counterbalance - to these technology based themes.

Although I impose a fictional story on a very real landscape, anyone familiar with Labrador would recognize places referred to in the book. The cliff over which Kyle finally throws off the assassin sent to kill him is a figment of my imagination (although there would be countless that would pass for it in a movie – take note, Hollywood!). Yet Goose Bay and its huge airport do exist, as do the pretty painted wooden houses of Happy Valley. Even Okak is a real place, although it is little more than a name on a map, marking a deserted cove in the far north.

It is really that sense of an ‘empty’ map that inspired my own original expedition there and therefore the setting of this, my first novel. Originality is vital for any literary work and I think – I may be wrong – that Patriot is the first thriller to be set in this vast corner of the continent. I hope readers find it as intriguing and enthralling as I do!



Scramble Scramble Scramble!” The call came at the start of the shift. For Captain Brad Jones and his crew, every trip into combat began with those three words and a siren, now yowling over the desert airfield. Barely seven minutes later, Brad guided his AH-64E Apache gunship into the air. In the front of the tandem cockpit, Brad’s friend, Gunner Chuck Willows, sat at the controls of the Target Acquisition and Designation System. 
This was a mission they had flown several times; racing to the scene of an ambush to take out a Taliban position.
“Be advised, we have a small arms fire report and three explosions.” The voice of Joe Blake, Detachment Command back in the Tactical Operations Centre, crackled in Brad’s ear. “And there are two civilian journalists embedded with the platoon.”
“Copy that.” Two miles out from the target, Brad flew the Apache above the bed of a dried up wadi. Lower than much of the surrounding countryside, he knew it would be invisible to the enemy until the last possible moment. The ground flashed by, a herd of goats fled in terror and a small boy waved a stick at the helicopter. Tomorrow’s enemy, thought Brad as he banked to the left, following the dry water course.
“Half a mile, Captain.” Chuck called out the range to target.
“Going visual.” Brad eased up the Apache to a hundred feet. Ahead, he saw smoking ruins of an Afghan compound sheltering the American patrol and the flash of gunfire from insurgents on other side of the valley.
“This is Crazy Horse One Seven, we have forty individuals with weapons, two hundred meters from the compound, over.” reported Chuck to Command, reading the screens.
“Crew, we have personnel west of your position, over.” replied Command.
“We have visual on the target. No strobes. Repeat, no strobes. Confirm position of friendlies, over.”
“Roger that. Friendlies going green, over.”
Moments later, clouds of luminous green smoke billowed up from the compound. Smoke grenades.
“Copy that Command, we have visual on the friendlies. Be advised we’re gonna set up an inbound run, over.” Brad levelled out the chopper.
“Range Mike Bravo 565888617.”
“Mike Bravo 56888617 copy that.”
“Clear to fire.”
A staccato of 30mm rounds from the Apache’s cannon sliced into the fields and the enemy fire over the compound lessened. 
“Good shooting.” said Command, as Brad banked away from the immediate danger zone.
“We got multiple enemy positions here.”  Chuck watched the screen and counted the heat signatures of at least two dozen more Taliban hiding in the fields. “This is gonna go high risk. There’s a group with rocket launchers at four hundred meters.”
“You got auto range on it?” asked Brad.
Chuck pressed a button and Brad felt the deck tremble as a Hellfire missile shot away from the Apache. On the other side of the valley, the missile exploded a Taliban position, taking a rocky outcrop with it and leaving a huge crater in the hillside. The smell of cordite filtered through the cockpit.
Immediately, Brad swung away the gunship, taking it out of RPG range.  Flying this low and slow made them easy targets.
“We’re taking fire from the north!” shouted Chuck, as if on cue. Red lights blazed across the central warning panel in the Apache.
“Missile lock!”
“What the hell?!” muttered Brad, as he instinctively pulled the helicopter into a hard evasive turn, raising the collective for full power, and  pushing forward the cyclic to gain speed. Flares and chaff deployed automatically from pods, designed to confuse and misdirect any heat or radar seeking missile.
“I got visual on the launch. Incoming – get us outta here, man!”
“I’m on it.” Brad focused on flying the chopper as hard and as fast as he could towards the wadi.
The missile flew an almost perfect circle, 2000 feet above the helicopter; its internal microprocessors comparing the heat and the electromagnetic signatures from its target with the data profile in its systems. As though making a conscious decision, the missile banked over and descended towards the Apache.
“It’s on our ass, man.” reported Chuck. “Do your thing.”
“Where the fuck did the Taliban get an SAM?” Brad shouted as he drove the Apache down into the wadi, hoping to lose the missile in the tight turns and confusion of the terrain.
Behind them and closing, the missile passed through the cloud of metallic chaff, its sensors registering them as a possible target, but the electromagnetic signature detectors instantly overrode the signal. The missile pressed on, homing in on the fleeing Apache.
Brad, his hands clenched and sweating on the controls, took a bend, and glimpsed a group of insurgents hit the ground below him. A small – a very small - part of his brain registered a flash of bright blonde hair among them, then he saw the missile take the bend too.
“I can’t lose it – fuck, what is that thing? Chuck, on my mark, hit it with all the CM we have left and brace yourself. I’m gonna try something.”
“Do it.”
Brad gave the Apache full power and headed straight towards the high bluff edge.
“3,2,1 MARK.” Chuck nailed the countermeasures button and braced himself for the move. Brad yanked back on the controls, pointing the gunship’s nose at the sky and putting it in a high vertical climb, more like a fighter plane than a helicopter. Struggling against the effects of the G force required to pull this unconventional manoeuvre, he prayed the missile would lose their trail in the counter measures and impact on the wall of the wadi.
At the same instant the missile passed through the chaff and easily made the turn up and out. The vertical climb slowed the helicopter and the missile closed the gap until it was within a meter or two of its quarry. The onboard proximity censors matched the helicopter’s EM signature and the warhead detonated. Brad and Chuck were briefly aware of an intense light, before a wave of heat and pressure enveloped them.
The Apache hurtled into the sky, its rotor blades spiralling futilely before they gouged into the sand. The fuselage continued to somersault upwards, until it seemed finally to surrender, and smashed into the hot, dry earth below.

About the author:

A.S. Bond is the pen name of Alexandra Pratt, an internationally acclaimed travel writer and journalist. As the author of seven previous books, Alexandra’s own adventures have taken her around the world, from the cloud forests of Central America to D.C.’s corridors of power. When writing Patriot, Alexandra drew upon her experience of leading an award-winning canoe expedition in Labrador, later the subject of Lost Lands, Forgotten Stories: A Woman’s Journey to the Heart of Labrador (HarperCollins, 2002 and Eye Books 2005). Like her heroine, Brooke Kinley, Alexandra has also lived in Washington D.C. and worked as a journalist. Now married and based in the west of England, Alexandra works as a freelancer and also writes adventure thrillers under the pen name A.S. Bond. Patriot is the first title in her Adventure / Political Thriller series of Brooke Kinley Adventures. 
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