OUT NOW: Number Ten – Robin Hawdon
British West Wing meets the Jason Bourne stories.
Extremists target Britain, its Prime Minister and its institutions. The war on terror is brought to our doorstep in this explosive new thriller by one of the UK’s most widely published writers.
“I never can resist a book that involves my ex-work, some are good, this was outstanding… A really good tight thriller that I thoroughly enjoyed.”Mark Fearn
Number Ten Downing Street doesn’t know whether they were sent by business oligarchs, gangster bosses, or religious extremists, all of whom are threatened by his new crime laws. What is known is that they are getting information from inside Number Ten.
Paul Gunter, bright young member of the PM’S staff, is arrested by MI5 in the middle of the night, and finds himself falsely implicated in the assassination attempt. He escapes, and has to fight for his life against all the involved parties, using his inside knowledge of Downing Street processes, and the aid of suspicious staff member, Andrea Holt. Suspense, romance, and high action in an explosive thriller, ranging across modern London’s extraordinary cityscape and beyond.
An hour and a half later a small group of people filed out of Downing Street by the rear entrance, and crossed Horse Guards Road to St James’s Park through the dappled sunshine. They were James Torrence the Prime Minister, the Home Secretary, and Pakistan’s High Commissioner, Mr Mohammad Shah Hussain. Walking a few paces behind were Paul, Chief of Staff Sir Richard Talbot, and Head of External Security, Duncan Grant. On either side hovered dark-suited security men, conspicuously inconspicuous. Uniformed police stood at intervals along the public roads.
‘We’d better stick close,’ muttered Duncan Grant unnecessarily to Paul as the party approached the park. His voice had an Essex rasp. Paul knew him only vaguely. His was a newish post established under a reformed system. (Derided by Alex. ‘If it isn’t broke, why fix it?’ he’d grumbled.) Seconded from Scotland Yard’s Diplomatic Protection Group, Grant had call upon a squad of police security officers, and was responsible for the safety of all Downing Street staff and visitors when outside the building. An indeterminate job. Emergencies were rare in historically peaceable London, but when they did come they were usually major ones. Grant was an impassive character who looked as if he could handle most situations. Rugged was perhaps the word that best described him. Which presumably is what one wants in security men.
He muttered to Paul as they entered the landscaped spaces. ‘I don’t like this. Why he has to go strolling round London with ambassadors during a security crisis, God knows.’
‘I can’t imagine there’s much danger here – except maybe from an angry swan,’ said Paul, scanning the lake and surrounds. The gardeners excelled themselves at that time of year. The scattered flower beds were a riot of excessive colour. The usual Londoners and tourists were out on the grassy spaces enjoying the sunshine. He was enjoying it himself. A change from the claustrophobic confines of the Garden Room. He could detect the odd shadowy figure lurking behind trees and bushes. ‘How many men have you got out here?’
‘A dozen. Who should all be doing stuff elsewhere.’
Did Gladstone require such measures in his day, wondered Paul. Or Lloyd George? Or Churchill? Was it a more dangerous world now, or just a more paranoid one? Certainly those predecessors had less strictures on wandering beyond the confines of Downing Street than did the current P.M. But that didn’t seem to bother him much.
Grant quickened his step, forcing Paul to accelerate also. ‘Keep up with them. We don’t want to be too spread out.’ He was edgy, unlike his normal stolid self.
The group reached the edge of the lake, and took the path skirting the south shore. Paul could hear a few snatches of conversation between Torrence and his visitor.
‘…religious extremism is one thing. Your country is well familiar with it, High Commissioner. But you know as well as we do, it’s tied up with extortion, drug running, mass murder…. and they still claim the moral high ground.’ The P.M. put a persuasive hand on the man’s shoulder. ‘I’m afraid we need a tougher stance, Mr Hussain. We’re going to have to instigate more radical steps.’
‘I understand your position, Prime Minister.’ That deferential voice that masked such a long history of turbulent connection between the two countries.
Maybe he did understand, but Torrence persisted. ‘I know you are doing your best, and you have to accommodate opposing points of view just as we do, but matters are reaching the stage now when there can be no compromise….’
The talk went on, full of the usual inferences, intimations and insinuations. Paul could barely hear, and only half paid attention. He had given his boss everything he had found which might be relevant to the situation, which wasn’t much. Torrence had expressed his thanks, but whether he was using any of it, Paul couldn’t tell.
His thoughts wandered elsewhere – inappropriately, to the contrast between these urban, manicured surroundings and his own wild Yorkshire Dales. Two different planets. His fidelities were as ever divided.
Then, as the party reached the halfway mark along the side of the lake, Duncan Grant stopped, pulling out his smartphone. Paul looked back, mildly curious, to see the man standing with the phone to his ear. He hesitated a second, sensing something amiss. Grant waved him on, speaking low into the phone. Paul continued on his way, a few steps behind the leading group.
They had moved perhaps another fifty yards, the politicians in earnest conversation, when suddenly there was a shout from the direction of some nearby trees. One of the plain-clothes men had broken cover, and was waving dramatically. The party stopped in unison and stared in the direction of his gestures. A man had burst from a thicket of bushes some sixty yards ahead of them, at the edge of the park, and was running fast towards them. He was young, of Middle Eastern appearance, a thin beard outlining his jawline, an embroidered kufi on his head. He was shouting as he ran – ‘Allahu akhbar… allahu akhbar…!’
One of the security men closest to the party ran forwards towards him. He had a heavy, cumbersome gait, but he was covering the ground quite fast, drawing his weapon as he went and shouting, ‘Stop! Stop there!’ The man ignored him and kept running, one hand hidden in the folds of his jacket.
The whole group stood transfixed, as in some theatrical tableau, whilst other guards ran from cover shouting. The one closest to the intruder kept running on a converging path across the grass, his automatic held high, his strident commands cutting across the man’s own cries. A couple of sunbathers, caught between the two runners, scrambled hurriedly out of the way. The next few seconds seemed to take place in slow motion as Paul stood helpless, watching the scene unfolding.
The man was less than thirty yards from the Prime Minister and his companions when the approaching policeman fired. The shot hit him in the leg and sent him sprawling to the ground. The officer continued running at him, gun at the ready, despite urgent shouts from others to stay back. As he reached the writhing body the man was tugging at his belt, still mouthing his appeals to Allah. There was a flash, and a large explosion engulfed them both. The blast shook the trees for fifty yards around and hurled everyone within range to the ground. Its echoes reverberated into the distance, followed by long seconds of silence, whilst debris floated downwards through the air and smoke swirled across the park.
“This is thrilling to say the least!… A unique and addictive read.”Madeleine Milburn, London literary agent
About the Author
Successful actor, playwright and author, Robin Hawdon began his acting career in the 1960s with appearances in several British television series, roles in a number of feature films, as well as playing more than a few roles on the London stage and provincial theatres. He was scheduled for a film test for the part of James Bond, but this was cancelled when Roger Moore accepted the role. In the 1980s, Robin founded the Bath Fringe Festival and later became director of the Theatre Royal Bath, the UK’s premier touring theatre.
Robin’s writing gradually took over from his acting with his plays being among the most frequently produced around the world. They have been seen in over forty countries and performed in thirty different languages.
A Rustle in the Grass, Robin’s first novel, was originally published in 1984 and three others, as well as a collection of children’s poems have followed. Number Ten is Robin’s latest release. Robin’s wife of over forty years, Sheila, is a psychotherapist and writer. They have two daughters, four grand-children, and homes in Bath, the South of France and Australia.
“Modern politic systems are in danger across the globe – from the quirks of Donald Trump, to the uncertainties of Brexit, to the turmoils of Europe and the Middle East, to the threats of communist despots. Could Britain fall victim to such perils? How might this affect the ordinary citizen?”Robin Hawdon