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Monday, 2 May 2016

A woman with a mission

Tana Standish, a child-survivor of the Warsaw Ghetto, was adopted by a British naval lieutenant and in 1965 joined the British Secret Intelligence Service. She is a psychic with a photographic memory. Each adventure begins with the passing of a collection of papers and manuscripts to the author (Nik Morton) by one of her secret service associates. He then writes down her experiences.

The Tana Standish psychic spy series
The first is The Prague Papers (Czechoslovakia, 1975), followed by The Tehran Text (Iran, 1978), [both of which were previously published (2008 & 2009 respectively), though the latter received minimal exposure as the collapse of the publisher occurred almost at the same time as its release. Both available as Crooked Cat e-books.

At least two more adventures are planned: The Khyber Chronicle – (Afghanistan, 1979/80), a work-in-progress, and The Caldera Cryptogram (Argentina, Falklands, 1982).  

Snippets from 12 reviews of The Prague Papers follow, with sections excised to avoid too much repetition.

Reviews of The Prague Papers

By means of a first person Foreword and Afterword, author Nik Morton employs a nifty ruse to create the impression that his fast-paced spy novel is his rewritten version of a factual story passed to him in the bar of a hotel in Portsmouth, Hampshire, by British ex-agent Alan Swann. The ploy certainly gets matters off to a good start and sets the scene for this novel and a major spy mission into the Soviet controlled Czechoslovakia of 1975.
Enter Tana Standish, a wiry, attractive, all-action female version of James Bond. Once a five-year-old orphaned Polish Jewess adopted by a Royal Navy Lieutenant and his wife, she is not only very fit and lightning fast with her feet and hands—not to mention guns and the other tools of her trade—but she has psychic powers which enable her to see into the minds of her enemies (and friends), virtually regardless of where they are. This has to be the most useful tool a spy could have in her armoury and Tana puts hers to very good use.
… she is invited by her former lover and comrade, Laco Valchik, to return to Czechoslovakia to ‘repair and rebuild’ a spy cell they created in 1968. She’s also about to face some old enemies... Unbeknown to Tana, somewhere in Kazakhstan there are other ‘Psychics’ at work. Indeed, there is a secret psychic listening station there and one of the psychic operatives is inconveniently picking up some of the thoughts and emotions passing through Tana’s mind hundreds of miles away...
Reading this excellent novel is a bit like an extreme sport. The pages fly by at a pace… becoming engrossed in this relentless flow of exciting action and carefully researched information which lasts right up to the climactic denouement—in itself, both satisfying and rewarding—because Morton’s writing is very smooth and totally believable. All-in-all, The Prague Papers gave me that feeling of ‘being there myself’, rubbing shoulders with his characters, and for quite a while after finishing it, I found myself thinking about them and all they had been through. William Daysh, author of Over by Christmas

As well as creating memorable characters (Tana Standish will stay with me for a long time), Morton captures the essence of Prague and the Czech soul, educates us into the world of Eastern Bloc politics, and tells an intricate tale of espionage. As if this weren’t enough, he explores the fields of psychics and telepathy, adding intriguing depth to his story.
Far more than a ‘spy thriller’, this book will astound both lovers of that genre and those looking for a truly satisfying read. – Maureen Moss, editor and travel writer

I found myself in a world of double-dealing and intrigue at a level which made James Bond and Modesty Blaise look like rank amateurs... This Cold War espionage tale was fast moving and had more than one sting in it… This tale is a lively, well written espionage adventure with plenty of twists. – The New Coastal Press

… that’s the plot in a nutshell, but the skilful Mr. Morton does some entrancing work within that results in a gripping read that will enthral the reader to the last page. Interestingly, Morton sells it as a true story passed to him by an agent and published as fiction, a literary ploy often used by master thriller writer Jack Higgins. Let’s just say that it works better than Higgins. – Costa Blanca News, Danny Collins, author of The Bloodiest Battles

Welcome back to the Cold War…. Snatches of John le CarrĂ©, Len Deighton and Adam Hall are in effect sewn into the secret weave that runs like a latent thread through the pages of Nik Morton's spy adventure set in Eastern Europe… Morton's heroine, Tana is made of stern stuff and possesses a savant like ability to move out of her consciousness and into an ethereal plane... – Michael Parker, author of The Devil’s Trinity

… an exciting and well-constructed espionage thriller. I do not usually like these sort of books (I prefer horror stories) but I thought that this was an intelligent and nicely-paced story. Morton pays great attention to detail and he has created a memorable heroine with Tana Standish… The year is 1975 and Tana is sent on a special mission to Czechoslovakia … and this sets off an intriguing chain of events and some nail-biting set-pieces as Tana encounters Russian soldiers, ruthless assassins and sadistic torturers… There is plenty of (literally) thought-provoking material thrown in along the way making this an extremely entertaining read. Even if you do not normally like spy thrillers, The Prague Papers is well worth checking out. - Amazon UK, 2010

…Tana Standish… is a brilliant character, being a spy with amazing ability and deadly expertise to easily rival any top spy from previous literary works… the book is spell-binding with great depth and wonderful characters which is on par with any top spy novel, (or any thriller novel for that matter). Nik Morton (has) the ability to make you believe that you are in the story yourself, which is a rare thing. I can honestly say only a handful of novelists have that kind of skill…. – Amazon UK, 2011

… Tana Standish, a female ‘Bond’ is a wonderful, stylish character who carries the story through a roller coaster of chases, shootouts, and devious undercover operations. Highly trained and fearless, she also possesses a psychic ability that gives her an advantage but also places her in the crosshairs of enemies who track her from a secret base in Kazakhstan. The locations are detailed, as are the workings of the intelligence agencies, evidence surely of an in-depth knowledge and extensive research. The pace is full speed ahead and often the subject matter is brutal but I couldn’t look away and I certainly didn’t want to stop reading. If you enjoy Bond or Bourne then you will enjoy this, it just begs to be a movie.
            Well plotted and executed this is a story that held me enthralled and intrigued from the first page to the last...and then I read the epilogue, and I realised just how eye-opening this novel is... – Amazon UK, January 2015

… You are immediately immersed into the action. Ingenious switches of time and place present the back-story without disturbing the flow, and an exciting thriller with psychic undertones takes off. I could not put it down. – Amazon UK, March 2015

Thoroughly enjoyed this. The very opening chapter is a promise of intrigue and suspense. I wasn't disappointed. Good fast pace. Characters that are so vividly and craft-fully developed that I very much felt a part of their lives. I am now in the second of the series for another rollercoaster ride. – Amazon UK, August 2015

… Tana Standish has one more thing going for her: psychic talents. There’s nothing outlandish in the psi-spy’s capabilities – they’re neatly underplayed, a talent which isn’t understood or entirely controllable but which frequently tips the odds in her favour.
            This mild shift into the land of ‘maybe’ is carefully contrasted with the grim, grey reality of life in Czechoslovakia in the Seventies, brought to heel seven years earlier by Soviet tanks, its citizens stifled by the relentless brutal mechanisms of an efficient totalitarian regime. An underground resistance cell has been compromised. Tana is assigned to put the network back together and use her special talents to ascertain if communications have been compromised, or worse.
            The result is a running chase through the back streets and sewers of Prague, where the protagonists barely taste their black bread and spicy sausage between violent and amorous encounters. This isn’t a slow-burn spy story a la Alan Furst where the tension builds over quiet encounters and long railway rides. Instead it’s more of a headlong hurtle through rapid liaisons and botched ops; there’s every opportunity for Tana to show off not just her psi skills but also her street savvy and close-quarters combat.
            For me, the best scenes are the one-on-one confrontations, claustrophobic closed room battles of expert second-guessing. There’s a superb fight sequence which takes place in a pitch-dark living room, where weaponless Tana must defend herself against an armed opponent using her memory, wits, senses and what falls to hand. It’s beautifully choreographed and delivered.
            The finale (is) preceded by a simply chilling chapter, the best in the book, where Tana must marshal all of her mental strength to resist the worst that her opponents employ against her. I also thoroughly enjoyed the scenes in the Soviet psychic investigations unit. Likewise, the author’s attention to detail in his descriptions of Prague, and Tana’s cracking back-story, were superb… In the main, The Prague Papers made for a rollicking read, an intriguing mix of action-adventure, actual events and augmented espionage. There are further Tana Standish novels in the pipeline, which takes place at other pivotal points in political history. I very much enjoyed the overlap in this one between ‘real’ and ‘fiction’... – Amazon UK, October 2015

This was a brilliant read from the exciting beginning right through to the end, the pace constant and the story of the young Tana Standish engrossing…. The story has many dark moments but the writing is sharp and crisp making the more gory bits not too awful for the reader who isn’t into serious pain and bloodshed. The locations are very well described – something I’ve noted with other novels that I’ve read by Nik Morton. His research seems faultless to me as an occasional reader of politically based spy thrillers. Tana is a woman with a mission; in part her drive having been moulded by her background which we glean just sufficiently to make it all believable... – Amazon UK, November 2015

My sincere thanks to all of the above reviewers!

Amazon UK here

Amazon Com here 

The Blurb:
Czechoslovakia, 1975. Tana is a spy - and she’s psychic. Orphaned in the Warsaw ghetto during the Second World War, she was adopted by a naval officer and his wife. Now she works for the British Secret Intelligence Service. Czechoslovakia’s people are still kicking against the Soviet invasion. Tana is called in to restore morale and repair the underground network. But there’s a traitor at work.

And she learns about a secret Soviet complex in the Sumava Mountains. Unknown to her there’s a top secret establishment in Kazakhstan, where Yakunin, one of their gifted psychics, has detected her presence in Czechoslovakia.

When Tana infiltrates the Sumava complex, she’s captured! A desperate mission is mounted to either get her out or to silence her - before she breaks under interrogation.

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