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Wednesday 24 December 2014

Writing Research – Book review - The Last Assassin

This was Daniel Easterman’s debut novel (1984) and it’s impressive as well as being chillingly prophetic. Set in the period 1977-1980, it covers the fall of the Shah of Iran and the Islamic Revolution’s take-over of the country. Easterman (a penname) is an expert on Iran and Islam, so I was curious about this book, since I’d written a novel set in Iran in 1978 (The Tehran Text, due from Crooked Cat early 2015); naturally, I wanted to be sure my efforts were not in error or contradictory. Having read the book, there may be errors in mine of which I’m unaware, but happily none seem glaring, and I seemed to have captured the fraught period leading up to the Shah being deposed. And, into the bargain, I’d read an enjoyable book too!

CIA field agent Peter Randall works with the Shah’s hated secret police, SAVAK, and witnessed torture and worse. The Shah was pro-West and his organs of repression ruthlessly crushed dissent; this anti-Communist stance suited the West, though it was uncomfortable for Randall. Following a SAVAK raid on a secret Islamic cell, Randall discovers some mysterious papers. Before he can get them deciphered, deaths occur close to him and he finds himself on the run.

The style is mostly ‘tell’ and the point of view is omniscient, much like Frederick Forsyth, but neither detracts from the page-turning ability of Easterman’s tale. It is all too believable; here might be the seeds of the Islamic fundamentalist obsession to destroy everything Western. Rational and logical thinking have no place for jihadists; compassion is weakness; love is reserved only for their god. Easterman gets into the mind-set of radical believers and their evil controllers. 

Maybe this book is thirty years old, but it still resonates today, considering the rising threat of the so-called Islamic State.  

The Tehran Text is the sequel to The Prague Papers, an e-book that is now available!

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.
The Tana Standish series: 1 - The Prague Papers


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