Triad is a thriller with a martial arts background set in 1979 and 1980 in Europe, Hong Kong and China. It is also a love story. The principal female is French and the principal male half-French, half-Chinese to force me into character and cultural analysis. Many of the settings apart from Brussels are in places I did not know, to get me into the habit of research. I was also determined from this, my first book, to write from a female viewpoint as necessary. Martial arts action is there, though a tenet of the fighting arts is that a master is almost never put to the ultimate test of his ability. Hence Peter, Julian's headstrong nephew and a black belt in karate who becomes embroiled in the action along with his girlfriend Thérèse and friend Daphne who inevitably falls for Julian.
Planned sequels, Revenge of the Triad and Return of the Triad set in Hong Kong ten years later after the hand-over to China and ten years after this have not progressed beyond notes.
Travelling around Sri Lanka in 1982 with a Japanese cultural group showed me the level of prowess such a master would attain. The humble, unassuming senior on the tour, Nakamura, was the grandson of a samurai. You can only be in awe of someone who can slice through four-inch bamboo with a sword so fast - fast being 100th of a second - you do not see movement, only a change in position. In full kendo armour and looking like Darth Vader with a bo, an oak staff, he dismissed with almost no movement full frontal attack from his students at speed two at a time, one of them sometimes six feet in the air. After a particularly aggressive manoeuvre the principal student managed to tap the master's shoulder. He was very pleased with himself, until his next run, when a devastating left-right flick from the master sent his bo winging into the jungle and him staggering across the stage from the blow to the side of his head. The message was "do not be cheeky." Nakamura was 82 years old.
In Triad my protagonist Julian de Lyon is presented as a master of ancient Korean Hwarang, the Korean equivalent of Japanese bushido or the chivalry of Christian knights but predating both. The young men, hwarangdo, were drawn from aristocratic families and protected the nobility. They were feared throughout Asia because of their formidable fighting ability but also admired for their courtesy and good manners. In the book Julian 'inherits' the skills I researched over several years. This includes a lighter touch come from many a Friday midnight martial arts double bill at the Nag's Head, Holloway Odeon. Walking these streets of North London alone, under the Archway bridge and back to Crouch End at three in the morning was not for the faint at heart. The book shaped up here as much as it did on my return to Brussels in 1978 for another two years.
Fundamental to this book is that many of the characters, conversations and situations are real, if out of context. I haven't changed their names either and think I can get away with this after more than thirty years. The experience of one teenage German girl in Frankfurt who liked the band I was gigging with around Europe in 1968 and 1969 set me thinking. She would be coming to Munich to see us on-stage again but not Cannes. Friends of hers who also followed musicians had drifted to the Mediterranean coast and disappeared.

There is more information on the book's page
here on my publishing site where you can also read the first chapter. Available as a paperback and e-book on Amazon.

Read part of Chapter Ten here:

Triad 10/2
At seven, Julian was standing on the lower terrace drinking tea Helena had prepared. The south wall of the castle stood starkly above him. The west wall rose straight out of the cliff. The grey sky was flecked with crimson by a sun about to peep over the distant mountains. Below, down a scarred face of crystalline rock the sea pounded relentlessly, hypnotically, along a ragged shoreline softened only by touches of sand. As far north and south as he could see, the honey-coloured rock of this south-west corner of Europe - the edge of the known world when the castle was built - stood defiantly to the Atlantic Ocean. It was a bleak and beautiful place.
Around the castle's immediate grounds woodland including cork oak, gave the house privacy. Goats grazed in the tight scrub that survived the summer heat and often ferocious winter battering from the sea. Trees and bushes were established in vales further back from the cliff.
Eastwards and just below him the unmade road dropped steeply towards a dry river course. It followed this for several kilometres inland through woodland and farmland to the road proper and Serra de Monchique beyond. There was no sound other than that of birds singing and the sea. Julian knew it would not remain like this for long.
Opting for a picnic and a day's sightseeing he left the castle with Daphne after breakfast and knew before reaching the small town of Aljezur they were being followed. He had erred in his judgement of the situation, including allowing Daphne to remain with him.
"Daphne, there is something we must talk about."
Daphne turned pale.
"I have been under surveillance by the CIA for some weeks and we are being followed at this moment. If trouble develops you do exactly as I say. Do you understand?"
Daphne nodded.
Seeing a sign Castelo de Aljezur, he pulled off the main road through a small village and up a steep hill. From the Moorish ruins they saw the car following turn in the street below and stop under the trees. Daphne tensed, wondering if the two men would get out. Julian brought a box out of the glove compartment.
"Cigarette lighters?"
"No, they are needle guns."
Each one had a needle in the tube below the valve, Julian explained. It was ejected by pressing the trigger, pressing harder than usual to break the safety seal.
Daphne studied one, intrigued.
"The needles are actually tiny tubing sealed at the bottom but open at the top. They contain a preparation that will paralyse within twenty seconds on injection. They must be used on bare skin."

He showed her points on the body, including the eyes, nostrils, mouth and main arteries where assimilation was most expedient. A second dose would knock someone out for hours, he said.
"Is it a stupid question to ask if you made these?"
Julian put the box away without replying and started the engine. He didn't return the way they had come, taking instead a dirt road into the hills. When he stopped in a field minutes later and got out of the car she thought it was because they were lost. He was listening, he said and they should now be able to enjoy some sightseeing and their picnic.
Daphne smiled briefly, uneasy about other things, not least her and Peter's last visit to Julian's apartment and why he had given explicit instructions they were not to go near it.
"I'm sorry, Julian but I have to ask how the American Secret Service can be doing this so blatantly in Europe?"
"It's up to me whether they get away with it."
She fell silent. She thought she was getting somewhere with Julian but knew now she was not. One question she could not ask was why all this was happening. She didn't know if she could bear the answer.
They both cheered up on their drive through the hills, charmed by the spa town of Caldas de Monchique, unspoilt villages, deserted countryside and gentle woodland. After Helena's picnic lunch in a grove of eucalyptus trees Julian did as Daphne suggested and stretched out on the bank of a stream. Below them were fig, almond and orange groves and a view of the coast forty kilometres away. It was a perfectly peaceful spot with the sound of bubbling water, a welcome breeze whispering through the trees and the soporific smell of eucalyptus heavy in the air.
He opened his eyes with a start when he realised he had not heard his young companion for a while. She was just below him sitting on a rock with her toes in the water. The trousers of the cotton suit she bought in Lisbon were tied loosely around her shoulders. Her head and hair were thrown back and she was absorbing the afternoon sun dappling through the trees. Her legs were long, slim and brown against the pink of the tunic. She no longer looked like the stick of peppermint rock her father said when she last wore that colour.
Seeing him stir Daphne brought the bottle of vinho verde cooling in the water and lay beside him with her hand on his chest. She smelt of spring water, eucalyptus oil, wild flowers and of herself.
It was almost eight o'clock when they turned off the coast road to the cliffs. They were a kilometre away from the castle and its copse silhouetted against an indigo sky when Julian pulled up, turned lights and engine off and said sharply,
"The road is blocked in front and behind us now. I'll lock you in. Keep low. I'll be back in a moment."
The doors clicked and he disappeared in the gloom and Daphne was calm until headlights were turned on her. A figure crossed the beams. Ducking, she broke into a cold sweat and opened the glove compartment. A great hulk of a man loomed by her window and tried the door handle. She shifted to the driver's seat. The man grunted, the window popped and she was showered with cubes of glass. His hand reached in and opened the door and with a reflexive action, remembering the pepper spray Peter had insisted she take everywhere with her, she grabbed it from her bag. Fortunately, as her own precaution, the top was already off. She began squirting it in his face as he caught hold of her hair and pulled her across the front seats as though she was a rag doll.
As the man backed away with a stream of expletives, his hands to his face, she pulled the passenger door to, then swivelled in the seat and kicked it hard with both feet. The frame caught his chin and he fell backwards.
There was no further sound in the darkness other than her coughing from residual spray and her heart thumping. Julian reappeared and walked around the car before getting in.
"Well done," he said taking the fake lipstick out of her hand and putting a handkerchief gently to her face. "You laid Mister Big out cold, with your own armoury."
"I didn't have twenty seconds," she replied, laughing, crying and coughing all at the same time.
He saw on the little pink cannister it was a ten per cent concentration and she had used most of the 30 millilitres. Turning her face towards him he said,
"Enough to stop a bear. It was good fortune the customs didn't see it and you knew how to use it in the dark. Now, I can still take you back to the airport ..."
"No, no," she said, recovering her composure, "I want to stay with you."
He reversed the car a couple of metres and turned the steering wheel.
"No, you can't ..." she began, horrified.
He took a deep breath and steered past the American, Williams. Daphne did not comment on him or the two Chinese men lying in the road by the jeep both wearing a black gi and sash. If he had done what he intended to Williams it might have hastened a conclusion in their favour. He didn't tell her he should check the man was able to breathe having been knocked unconscious with spray in his lungs. From that point on, only her strength of character would get her through the night.

Lille, October 1980
Five weeks into a hectic first term at the school in Dijon, Daphne made time to visit home, arriving late on a Friday night and almost falling in to bed with tiredness. She got up early the next morning and hurried to the local shops in a drizzle for some brioches and the newspapers. It was the 19th of October. It had been a year and five weeks since Julian had gone and a year since she had last walked the considerable distance from her apartment in Brussels to the Chaussée de Charleroi to buy the newspapers from the shop at the end of Rue Américaine. She had done this only so she could walk past his apartment.
She was wet through when she reached the end of her parents' street and was pleased to see her father out with the dog to meet her. He greeted his daughter with a kiss and they returned arm-in-arm admiring the yellows and browns of the plane trees along the avenue.
Inside the house, her mother passed her a note she had been looking after. Daphne's heart missed several beats. The envelope, postmarked in the People's Republic of China, was in Julian's hand. The note began,

Dear Margaret,
I hope you and Charles and Daphne are well. If you consider it expedient, I would consider it very kind of you to let Daphne know I shall be returning to Europe at the end of October. I hope she will understand and perhaps even forgive my writing to you ...

I sent a reply to the Hong Kong address he gave," her mother said. "I wrote that we, that you especially, will be very happy to see him again."
Daphne arranged three days off from her teaching and took the train to Brussels the day before Julian was due back. She went to see Mme. Grimeau in Rue Américaine and was pleased she asked after both Thérèse and Peter. Mme. Grimeau knew Julian was returning from Hong Kong. She thought it a wonderful idea that Daphne bring flowers, agreeing it was not right for a gentleman to return to an empty apartment.
"You must, of course, arrange them yourself Madame. He will know it was you and I think it will please him."
Daphne kissed and thanked the woman. This was not the first time recently she had been addressed as Madame rather than Mademoiselle. She was Mademoiselle in class and to senior colleagues and was still unsure how to respond to her elevated status in public. It suggested she was more adult and it gave her a certain satisfaction.

She was not afraid, apprehensive certainly, as she waited for Julian's flight to come through from Luxembourg. She was worried she no longer knew her true feelings towards him. She was also deeply concerned about his feelings for her. But she was truly pleased to see him.
"Huānyíng huí jiā! Welcome home!" she said in formal Chinese and French, her arms outstretched.
Julian smiled broadly, replying slowly and clearly "shìjiè shì wŏ de jiā, dāng tā shì nĭ shuí wŏ wènhòu!"
It was to the delight of them both her translation 'the world is my home, when it is you who greets me,' showed she had understood.
Only when they embraced did he remember her femininity, her hair against his cheek. She was too choked to do anything but hold him tightly.
He was touched she had gone to the trouble of meeting him and of arranging flowers with a little note in his apartment. He had much to do that afternoon but sat contemplating the return compliment of a bouquet of mixed lilies from the Grand Place and the grown-up young woman who had brought them. He made tea, changed into warmer clothes and picked up the telephone.
Coming back from the airport, Daphne got out of the cab in town and wandered around until early in the afternoon. Julian asked that they have dinner together. It all seemed so inevitable but what puzzled her most was she almost said no. How could she be so fickle, so close to dismissing a year of pain and longing with a single 'no'? She pulled herself together when she saw the time, took a tram back to Martine's and began getting ready for the evening.
With guidance from her friend she decided on a short black dress and heels. Her friend also insisted she wear stockings.
"Your legs look great in them. You'll be more lady-like in them. He'll know straight away you're wearing them!"
"And every little helps ..." Daphne said smiling.
When the cab arrived, Martine gave Daphne a final appraisal and told her she looked absolutely stunning. Being dressed completely in black with black lacy underwear showed her hair and figure off perfectly.
"But what if ..."
"Do I really have to come along and do this next bit for you ..."
Both girls started giggling.
"Go, Girl!" Martine said finally in the street. "He's all yours!"