How Would You Cope on Your First Day as a Secret Agent?

a game for assassins

For the new release and blog tour of James Quinn's espionage spy thriller A Game for Assassins, I asked James, who's worked in surveillance, covert operations and international security, how someone like you or me might have coped during the Cold War on our first day in the field, particularly with our modern day obsession with iPhones and other small handheld devices - chances are you might get kicked off the team.

Here's James followed by an excerpt from A Game for Assassins.

Scene introduction by the Author:

This is one of my favourite scenes in the book as it brings into play Nicole, our heroine's first real taste of field work as she embarks on the surveillance of a “hostile target” on the ground.  I love it for several reasons.  Firstly because of where it leads in the book - and if Gorilla’s involved it’s got to be an action packed “somewhere” in the story - but also because it gets to show off the reality of street surveillance work in the olden days, rather than today were everyone is constantly touching their covert ear devices (bad tradecraft that!) or are plugged into iPhones anyway.

a game for assassins

Over the years I’ve been a part of or ran covert surveillance teams in lots of environments – some city and some rural – and each has its own difficulties and problems.  For this scene in which Gorilla is trying to find his team-mate Nicole (who herself is trying to conduct surveillance on a killer on the streets of Marseille), I referred back to the times when we had “new” people as part of our teams.  That’s always a tricky situation as the new guy or gal has to quickly adapt to what might be an already long term existing unit.  There was many a time we’ve “lost” team members and had to double back to pick them up at a RV (rendezvous) point – dejected and with a shamed look on their faces.

It happens, it’s normal – it’s the reality of running a team of anything up to 12 people trying to follow an elusive and aware (or even semi-aware) “target.”  The majority of the time it would simply mean that we had lost our target temporarily and would perhaps have to start again once we’d picked them up at some other point along the route.

However, for Nicole and Gorilla, the surveillance of the German killer leads to a very different path that involves violence, guns and danger.

I hope you guys enjoy the scene.

James Quinn

A Game for Assassins: Excerpt

Gorilla had calmed down, composed himself and then decided to go and bring her back.  He knew where the cafe was and he just hoped that she hadn’t been spotted.  He would drag her back kicking and screaming if he had too.  He had seniority on this operation and he was damned if he was going to be dictated to by a novice!

He grabbed his weapon, slung on his jacket and rushed from the apartment and out into the street.  From their apartment to the Old Port would take him about twenty minutes on foot, quicker if he could hail a taxi.   He moved at a brisk pace.   He was a businessman enjoying an afternoon walk, perhaps on his way to meet an acquaintance and not wanting to be late.  He knew where she was plus she also had a distinctive red coat that made her visually easy to find.  Follow little red riding hood.

He arrived at the cafe slightly late and out of breath expecting to see her. Nothing.  He scanned left, right, still nothing so he moved further along the street.  He knew she’d disobey a direct order, that stupid bloody girl.  Keep calm and look, he told himself.  He did a full rotation and to his relief spotted her moving off down the far end of the street, dodging the busy traffic as she crossed the road.  Thank God for that red coat.  As visual markers went it was bloody perfect.

Now that he had her in his sights he did what he did best; he kept his distance and blended in. There is a definite art to the task of stalking a target, especially through the busy thoroughfares of one of Europe’s major cities.  It is not a science that can be studied quickly on a training course, nor is it something that can be learned by rote, instead it is something much more intangible that certain agents are not attuned to, while for others it is as natural as breathing.  A good “watcher” needs three things; a cool nerve, the ability to blend into their surroundings and finally, luck, always luck.

For Gorilla, he certainly had the first two in abundance.  As a hardened field agent, he had earned his spurs in the melting pot that was post-war Berlin and had done his share of street work, but very rarely had he had to follow a watcher who was following a target!  Even for him that was something new, so he kept his distance and followed her into the warren-like streets.

a game for assassins

Title: A Game for Assassins

Series: The Redaction Chronicles, Book 1

Author: James Quinn

Length: novel (528 pages)

Genre: mystery, thriller, spy thriller, espionage


The assassination of a Caribbean dictator....The "hit" on a traitor in Beirut......The brutal murder of a young CIA officer behind the Iron Curtain.....So begins the game...... 

It is 1964, the height of the Cold War, and British Intelligence is riding high with its top double agent network: Constellation. 

But in the secret war fought across Europe the enemy is never far away and soon the agents of Constellation are targeted by an unknown team of assassins. In desperation British Intelligence sends in their best agent to protect the network and hunt down the killers. 

Jack "Gorilla" Grant isn't your typical Cold War secret agent. Short, tough, uncompromising, rough edged. He doesn't fit in with the elitist spies and debonair intelligence agents. He prefers working at the rough end of British covert operations. 

But "Gorilla" is one of the best "Redactors" in the business. He's an expert at close quarter shooting: quick to the draw and deadly accurate when it comes to the elimination of traitors and extremists on behalf of the British Secret Service (SIS). He is soon drawn into a game of cross and double cross where nothing is as it seems and even the most perfect spy can die in a wilderness of mirrors. 
"A Game for Assassins" is an action packed edge of your seat thrill ride played out across the global stage of the Cold War.

a game for assassins


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About the author

James Quinn spent 15 years in the secret world of covert operations, undercover investigations and international security before turning his hand to writing.

He is trained in hand to hand combat and in the use of a variety of weaponry including small edged weapons, Japanese Swords and Hunting Bows. He is also a crack pistol shot for CQB (Close Quarter Battle) and many of his experiences he has incorporated into his works of fiction.

He lives in the United Kingdom and travels extensively around the globe.

Contact James:




a game for assassins