Writing your first novel and getting it published is no easy feat. Writing your first novel as a fast-paced action thriller that is smart, engaging, and suspenseful is even more exceptional, which is why Scott Caladon’s new novel Darke Mission is so impressive.
Written in the vein of one of Robert Ludlum’s best spy thrillers, Darke Mission introduces readers to the titular—and hopefully recurring—hero J.J. Darke, an ex MI-5 agent turned hedge fund manager. The story begins with an unscrupulous politician blackmailing Darke into stealing North Korea’s gold bullion supply to plug Britain’s catastrophic financial deficit. The setup itself isn’t too complicated but the twists, turns, and ever-changing landscape of the characters will keep you guessing and fully enthralled throughout the lengthy 664 pages.
In addition to frequently-changing plot points and shifting character dynamics, the book imparts interesting historical facts while highlighting many present day, real-world political issues. It becomes abundantly clear as you progress through the novel that Caladon has extensive knowledge not only of European financial markets, but also military training, the inner workings of the North Korean government, and a far-ranging knowledge of obscure Scottish history.
After some online digging, countless emails, and many calls to his agent, Complex finally managed to get in touch with the reclusive first-time author to find out who he is, where he’s from, and what exactly makes him so damn good at telling stories.
This is your first novel. What was the process of writing it? Where did the idea come from and how did you go about executing it?
The process of writing Darke Mission was reasonably straightforward. Pen to paper, then six months later I had finished the first draft. The nucleus of the idea had been rattling about in my head for many years, fueled by my then day job and the complexity of geo-political dangers and financial chaos across the globe.
Was it hard finding a publisher for this type of novel? Did you face many rejections?
It was hard. I did in fact face several rejections. An author needs the persistence of an actor, really, to get their work accepted. Fortunately there are also a lot of good publishing choices out there these days. I mean, Fifty shades of Grey, for example, started as a Twilight blog, progressed to self-published, and then got picked up by a major publishing house. Not at all the same type of writing, but you get the idea.
J.J. Darke is a unique action hero. Where did you get the idea to sculpt the character the way you did?
A lot of personal life experiences went into J.J. Darke. At the beginning of the novel his life is cozy, safe and comfortable. Then a couple of butterflies flap their random wings and everything goes belly-up. J.J.’s response to the ensuing chaos is what I really find the most interesting and is what drives the main plot.
[THE NORTH KOREANS] are unstable and unhinged and, in my honest opinion, the biggest geo-political risk to the western world.
It’s intriguing that some of the main plot points of Darke Mission, such as the Greek vote, have happened recently in real life. Is that coincidence? Did you see this coming?
When I was in the intelligence community, political and economic prediction was a key part of my job. The single currency project in Europe is a flawed and doomed construct. The Greek election result is only the beginning of the unraveling of the Euro.
What were the hardest parts of the novel to research?
The hardest parts to research were any reliable and non-public information on North Korea, especially related to their secret police and their penchant for "losing" submarines and other military hardware. Those guys are unstable and unhinged and, in my honest opinion, the biggest geo-political risk to the western world.
What has the reception to the novel been?
Darke Mission has been published for only a few months and readers have been very kind so far. Mainly five-star reviews on Goodreads and Amazon. The novel is up for a few fiction literary prizes, so here’s to hoping!
Do you want to get into movies or TV if those options are presented to you?
Of course! I’m obviously biased but I genuinely believe that Darke Mission would translate well onto the silver screen. There are strong personal relationships in the story and both the main plot and subplots ooze with action.
Will this be a series? If yes, have you started a follow-up novel?
Darke Moments is the next novel in an intended trilogy. Moments is a play on words relating to the mathematical principle of moments. I have indeed started it. The story begins with the twist at the end of Darke Mission, which changes J.J. Darke’s outlook on life forever. The geo-political action moves closer to the Middle East and uncovers surprising links between several terror organizations. Iran’s almost forgotten nuclear threat re-appears and several of Darke Mission’s most engaging characters re-appear as well.