I’m sitting in a brasserie at the seaside on the French northern coast, fast approaching the 70000 word mark, and thought I’d give an update on Nadia’s progress. 

So far the book begins in Hong Kong (see earlier blogs for excerpts), where Nadia is trying to locate Salamander, and encounters Blue Fan, a deadly assassin from one of the five main triads. The first quarter stays in Hong Kong, and I have to admit that I love working on this section, because I adore Hong Kong, having gone there many times, mainly to practice tai chi, but also just to soak up the supercharged atmosphere of this workaholic city that never sleeps. But needless to say, things don’t go Nadia’s way, and she has to leave to – of all places – Sudan.

Okay, so I’ve not been to Sudan, but I have travelled a lot in the Middle East, Egypt and Kenya, and wanted to capture the feel of the desert in these regions, and also the Red Sea coastline, where I’ve dived North of Sudan. Originally I had planned to have this second section in Dahab, Egypt, where I’ve dived extensively (it’s a Mecca for divers with world famous deep dives such as its Blue Hole and the Canyon), and also where one of my early diving heroes drowned after going too deep. But for plot reasons, I needed a really deep part of the Red Sea, and this just happens to be off the coast of Sudan.

While Nadia is in Sudan, Jake is in Sakhalin, an oil-rich area, with a minor character from 37 Hours, Greaves, who appeared at the end of that book. This section enabled me to write about offshore platforms, as I have worked on them, and used to chat with deep sea divers who worked on the seabed down below.

At the moment (I’m writing chapter twenty-three) Nadia is back in Moscow, still trying to figure out what Salamander’s plan is this time, trying to piece it together, including the significance of ’88 North’. And Jake has just arrived somewhere where no MI6 agent should ever venture, and he’s none too happy about it.

But the book isn’t just adventure and travel. There are serious issues at stake, both global and personal, especially for Nadia, which you will understand if you’ve read 37 Hours.

Okay, that’s the update, back to Nadia…