Getting to Know You (again): Alexander McNabb.

Alexander McNabb enjoyed appearing on the blog last time that he’s gone and written another piece for elementaryvwatson! Today Alexander discusses how his new novel ‘Beirut’ came about – and how fate can always surprise you.

Vic x

‘Beirut – An Explosive Thriller’ happened after a British literary agent rejected the manuscript that would become my first book, ‘Olives – A Violent Romance’, with the immortal words, “It’s not dramatic enough”.

Right, you lot, I thought. Let’s give you dramatic. The result is a romp through Hamburg, Prague, Spain, Malta, Albania, the Greek Islands and, of course, that sexiest and richest of cities, Beirut.

Beirut’s got it all. It’s got nuclear warheads, psychotic arms dealers, hookers, sex, guns, bombs and spies as well as murderous sophisticates and $40 million luxury yachts. It’s amazing how much mayhem you can pack into a hundred thousand words.

The book tells the story of billionaire Lebanese businessman Michel Freij, who is poised to become the next president of Lebanon. His dramatic calls for a new, strong regional role for the country take on a sinister note when European intelligence reveals Freij has bought two ageing Soviet nuclear warheads from a German arms dealer.

It’s down to “difficult” British intelligence officer Gerald Lynch to find the warheads, believed to be on board super-yacht the Arabian Princess, before they can reach Lebanon. Lynch is pitched into a deadly clash with Freij and his violent militia as he pursues the Arabian Princess across the Mediterranean.

It’s even got a dramatic cover – the ‘lipstick bullet’ created for me by Lebanese art director Jessy Shoucair – was intended to communicate the mix of sexiness and violence in the book without crying out ‘civil war’, an event which – although it ended over twenty years ago – people in the West still, infuriatingly, associate with the city.

I needn’t have bothered. Beirut had a little surprise waiting for me. Just after the online edition of ‘Beirut – An Explosive Thriller’ went live, a huge bomb was detonated there, killing the head of Lebanese intelligence and several others, wounding tens more. The bomb was set off in a busy square on a Friday afternoon. It could hardly have been calculated to cause more damage – to people and property, let alone Lebanon’s stumbling tourism industry. I watched that event in real-time on Twitter, right from the very first tweet to the mess of thousands of concerned people, mobile networks failing and mainstream media fighting to be first to get the story and just muddying the water as they tweeted anything and everything they came across.

I have many friends in Beirut, and Beiruti friends elsewhere in the world. My first thought was of them and their families. My second was for poor Lebanon, already approaching crisis thanks to the mess in Syria next door. My third, slightly ashamedly, was for the book I had just published online (and am about to launch in print on the 1st December). Where does blowing up my setting leave the book?

Of course the answer is, it doesn’t matter. I write books set in the Levant, so I have to expect my settings to be changed by conflict and the ebb and flow of the region’s quarrels. I watched the glorious old Ottoman souk in Syria’s second city, Aleppo, burning and threw my hands up – a big scene in my next book, ‘Shemlan – A Deadly Tragedy’, is set in that souk.

But it’ll be okay. As usual, life goes on around the craters and the terrible old men smoke their cigars and plan more profits as we huddle along in the shadows of broken-windowed buildings and past the bouquets laid on the streets.

Download ‘Beirut’ here:

Order your copy of ‘Beirut’ here:

Download ‘Olives’ here:

Order your copy of ‘Olives’ here:


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