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Station Helix by Ash Greenslade - Book Tour

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Station Helix by Ash Greenslade @AshThrillers @lovebooksgroup #lovebookstours 

"I DON'T WANT YOU TO FEEL PARANOID ABOUT ME LYING TO YOU." An inexplicable suicide... A devastating car wreck... A secret Ministry of Defence facility... Told with pace and tension, STATION HELIX is an exciting and modern novel rooted in the tradition of British thrillers. Alex Hannay makes a shocking discovery which draws him into a perilous world of conspiracy and murder. As operatives from the CIA pursue their own operation on the streets of London, Alex is torn between protecting those who share his secret and seeking retribution for a terrible crime.

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Author Interview
If you could tell your younger writing self anything, what would it be?
I would encourage my younger writing self to be realistic about how much time and stubbornness is needed to write a book. I would also warn myself about romanticizing the idea of being an author and the likelihood of being published.

This may sound odd coming from a writer, but writing doesn’t deserve any special status, particularly if imagining it as such detracts from the work it requires. Writing should be tackled like any serious hobby or sport – if you don’t put the effort into it, you won’t be any good. I loathe the attitude some writers have about ‘suffering’ for their craft. Just get on with it.

What book do you feel is under-appreciated? How about overrated?
FIRST BLOOD by David Morrell springs to mind as an under-appreciated book. It does have a great following, but most people only know about the protagonist Rambo from the film, and they’ve never read Morrell’s masterpiece. The book has one of the most remarkable opening paragraphs I’ve ever read – Morrell foreshadows the story by actually telling you what is going to happen. Not the details, of course – that’s the hook. The novel recounts the clash between two army veterans (Vietnam for Rambo, Korea for small-town police chief Wilfred Teasle), and even explores post-traumatic stress disorder.

As for an overrated book, I’d probably nominate THE TERMINAL LIST by Jack Carr. There’s much to admire in the novel – it’s written beautifully, it’s technically accurate and the premise is fantastic despite its simplicity. But for me the book lacks jeopardy. The protagonist, James Reece, is a highly trained SEAL, so going on a killing spree is really just another day at the office for someone with his skills. Everything is just too easy for him. There’s one moment in the book when he could face a real challenge – a SEAL team is sent after him – but Reece just watches them from a distance and walks away. That said, I’m actually looking forward to reading the second book because I think the potential for the series is good.

If you could dine with any literary character, who would it be and why?
This is a rather self-indulgent answer, but I’d like to meet one of my own creations from the STATION HELIX / RYAN KERREK series: Charlotte Black, and not just because she’s a stunning redhead. Charlotte was one of my favourite characters to write because she is as compassionate to her friends and colleagues as she is ruthless to her enemies. She resides in the grey morality of the espionage world which fascinates me as a writer. She’s patriotic and a defender of the nation, but she doesn’t flinch at acting illegally in order to protect state secrets. Charlotte is adept at reading people and situations with extraordinary insight. She also loves antique books.

What fantastical fictional world would you want to live in (if any) given the chance?
That’s an easy one to answer: Narnia. I loved CS Lewis’s classic children’s stories when I was young, and I read them over and over. The blend of mythology and adventure certainly influenced my imagination and desire to write. I was also drawn to the grittiness of the stories – they might have a cast of fantasy creatures but they’re not fairy tales; they’re quite brutal in places.

Did you want to be an author when you grew up?
Yes, from a very young age, as soon as I could read Enid Blyton stories without saying the words out loud. Unsurprisingly, I wanted to write children’s stories back then because that was my world view. During the subsequent years I dabbled in writing quite a lot, but it took me a while to gain the confidence and knowledge to tackle the thriller genre.

What’s one movie you like recommending to others?
BRIEF ENCOUNTER, the 1945 romantic drama written by Noël Coward and starring Celia Johnson and Trevor Howard. I should mention here that I never watch romantic dramas and tend not to watch black-and-white films. But BRIEF ENCOUNTER is simply beautiful in its character development, plot and cinematography. (Buy the remastered edition on DVD or Blu-ray!) It’s simply one of the finest British films ever made.

Have you ever met anyone famous?
Many, many years ago I was staying with my grandparents in Rye, East Sussex. The Two Ronnies turned up with a film crew to record some comedy sketches. They knocked on the door and asked my grandfather if he had a cap they could borrow. They kindly signed a couple of postcards for us which I still have.

How long, on average, does it take you to write a book?
I’m getting quicker, but my average over seven novels is probably just under a year per book. Working a full-time job obviously limits the available writing time. STATION HELIX took roughly fourteen months from the initial idea to completion; about four months of that was plotting.

How do you select the names of your characters?
I’ve used surnames from my family tree, surnames from favourite musicians, and found others just by running internet searches by nationality and picking those which sound good and aren’t unwieldy. Some Arabic first names belonged to divemasters and boat crew I worked with in Egypt.

I’ve used a couple of classical names – Archimedes and Octavius – simply because they’re rather grand and distinctive. I also have a couple of rules about what to exclude, although I adhere to them loosely. I try not to use names in the same book that rhyme. I also try to avoid sibilant names because they’re more awkward when read aloud. (That’s a David Morrell tip.)

The surname of my STATION HELIX protagonist was taken from John Buchan’s THE THIRTY-NINE STEPS. I’ve used a few others from books, too. Ryan Kerrek’s surname is the Cornish word for ‘rocks’. It fitted the character and it’s visually interesting as a palindrome.

If you were the last person on Earth, what would you do?
Enjoy the solitude.

Do you have any advice for aspiring writers?
This rule cannot be emphasized enough – read extensively in your chosen genre. You really must learn how the finest writers have produced their works before you can write your own book. Don’t be whimsical and think you can magic something amazing out of thin air if you don’t understand the basics.

It’s important to learn how a novel is framed. The three-act structure forms the basis of most novels. While there’s flexibility in how it can be used, the basic principles it describes don’t vary. Another fundamental part of learning your craft is loving words and their usage. If you don’t know the difference between it’s and its, you’re not ready to write a book. It isn’t necessary to be a grammar master, but you do need a good foundation.

And when you do finally finish your first draft, be prepared to go back over it with a critical eye. It won’t be as good as you thought it was! Editing and rewriting are necessary chores.

If you could live in any time period, what would it be and why?
We’re always in danger of romanticizing the past, so I’ll add the caveat that I’m quite content living right now with access to technology and Kindle Direct Publishing. But certain time periods do interest me. I’d love to see England back when the wildwoods dominated the landscape.

I think I would have enjoyed the Edwardian period in England as well, or at least the way we tend to perceive that time before the darkness of the First World War. I love the idea of lazy summer afternoons down by the river, messing about on boats.

What is your favorite genre to read?
No surprise here – thrillers! But let me add some detail to my reply. The thriller genre is huge, of course, so it’s not a blanket answer. My favourite book is THE BROTHERHOOD OF THE ROSE by David Morrell. It’s the book that got me hooked on the genre and inspired me to write my own thrillers. It’s a landmark novel because it combines elements of the British tradition (authentic spy-craft) with the American tradition (action).

I enjoy some contemporary American action thrillers (Brad Taylor’s Pike Logan books are superb), but my preference is for the British ‘golden-age’ thrillers of Desmond Bagley, Alistair Maclean and Jack Higgins (among others).

I’ve picked a short passage which features the book’s antagonist, Andrew Mason. At this stage in the novel he is being manipulated by the CIA. He’s trying to figure out an escape strategy but they appear to be anticipating his every move.

Although I like writing action sequences, I prefer descriptive details which set the scene. As a very broad generalization, this is more typical of British thrillers than American ones. But I still like to include some underlying tension, and hopefully this is achieved as Mason’s thoughts turn to the possibility of a hidden sniper.


A sign several miles back had told Mason that a battle had taken place several hundred years ago in the Highland valley where he now waited, but he hadn’t thought any more about it. He wasn’t an avid student of history and had other matters on his mind. He lifted the binoculars once again and studied the narrow road he’d taken to reach his stopping point, appreciating the image stabilizing system built into the device. The road followed the contours of the valley; above the river but still far below the glacier-carved peaks that gave the scenery its characteristic Highland shape. A black holdall had been left for him in a discreet location. In it he’d found an assortment of gear including the binoculars plus maps and camouflage clothing. The passing place in which he’d parked the Land Rover had been marked on one of the maps with the letters RVP. The abbreviation stood for rendezvous point.

He wasn’t troubled that the RVP was visible from much of the glen. Few people other than local farmers and Munro-baggers ventured into this territory. If he were spotted there was nothing surprising about a four-wheel drive vehicle being here. He scanned the valley sides with the binoculars and didn’t notice anyone trekking on the slopes. He directed his attention towards the ridgeline opposite his position. If a sniper were up there, he wouldn’t spot him. It occurred to him that, had the Americans wanted to kill him, this was the place to do it and he’d be dead by now. He reckoned he was still of use to them – at least for a while.

Author Bio

Ash Greenslade is a former police officer and trainer who became hooked on thrillers after reading David Morrell’s THE BROTHERHOOD OF THE ROSE. Despite dabbling with numerous writing projects since his schooldays, it took over two decades from reading Morrell’s landmark book for Ash to finally take writing seriously. Determined to accomplish an original novel, he embarked on STATION HELIX, a conspiracy thriller inspired by a visit to Orford Ness. Originally intended as a standalone novel, STATION HELIX prompted another two books, THE ELZEVIR COLLECTIVE and TORUS, plus the RYAN KERREK spin-off series (SINISTER BETRAYAL, DEADLY ACQUISITION, BLACK SCARAB and HUNTING CARACAL).

Ash credits his love of words to weekly spelling tests from the age of four, an incredibly enthusiastic English teacher who wrote children’s stories in the 1960s, and his collection of Enid Blyton, CS Lewis and Willard Price books. Captivated by the escapism of stories, the young Ash wanted to become a children’s author, and he still has a few early projects hidden away which might resurface one day. But it was the thriller genre which grabbed him as an adult. Although Morrell remains his favourite author, he’s a fan of the old-school British stalwarts such as Buchan, Ambler, MacLean, Bagley and Higgins.

Despite his working background, Ash doesn’t write crime thrillers, preferring the more secretive and enthralling world of espionage for his stories. Betrayal and conspiracy are recurring themes. And while he avoids revealing too much of his own character through his pages, some aspects of Ash’s books are very personal, such as the scuba diving scenes in BLACK SCARAB. (Ash worked as a divemaster in the Red Sea before qualifying as an instructor in Grand Cayman.)

When time permits, Ash researches his family tree and takes photographs. Several family surnames feature in his books, and he took the cover shots for the STATION HELIX series. And while he enjoys the occasional trip to London to meet friends, visit the theatre or conduct some research for his books, he’s more at home exploring the solitude of rural Essex in search of wildlife. He can be found online at

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