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THE SEVENTH FLOOR > Where would be your dream setting for a spy thriller.

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message 1: by Samuel , Director (new)

Samuel  | 4692 comments Mod
Exactly what it says on the tin.
Even though the genre has changed, setting is still a pretty important part of spy fiction. If you were writing a spy thriller, where would you set it?

1) A overused, traditional place like Continental Europe? (Paris has been criminally overused in my opinion)

2) A gritty brutal hellhole like Iraq or Syria?

3) Somewhere which hasn't been done that much? Like Beijing, Taipei and Asia in general?

Would love to hear your thoughts regarding this.


message 2: by Michel (new)

Michel Poulin | 167 comments I would definitely try to avoid #1 and would rather go for #3 (prefered option), or #2 (second prefered option). My choice in #3 category would be Pakistan (lots of clandestine and counter-terror activities there) or Japan (for industrial espionnage). My choice in #2 category would be Somalia (a true Hell on Earth for most) or North Korea (welcome to THE police state!).


message 3: by Samuel , Director (new)

Samuel  | 4692 comments Mod
Michel wrote: "I would definitely try to avoid #1 and would rather go for #3 (prefered option), or #2 (second prefered option). My choice in #3 category would be Pakistan (lots of clandestine and counter-terror ..."

Excellent choices, I like the Pakistan and DPRK options, the latter because one has to be particularly creative due to the environment (how the protagonist is going to enter, operate and escape) for instance. Not to mention the current management who is by all accounts even more crazy than his dad, makes a good antagonist.


message 4: by Samuel , Director (new)

Samuel  | 4692 comments Mod
My options would be Taipei (the security network that city has is astounding), Beijing ( exotic and 7 million+ security cameras can be a good hazard a protagonist has to evade) Seoul (The proximity to the DMZ and the general environment of the place cause it to have untapped potential) and Manila.

If however it was a gritty brutal hellhole, My choices would be between Chechnya or Afghanistan.


message 5: by Samuel , Director (new)

Samuel  | 4692 comments Mod
An option I like that would be "1.5" is Beirut. It's been done quite a bit but despite all of Lebanon's attempts at trying to hide its past, deep down it's still got the potential to return to the gritty bad old days of the 1980's.


message 6: by Gopal (new)

Gopal (gopaliyer) | 24 comments China, Africa - Somalia in particular, Middle East - Inside areas held be ISIS, North Korea


message 7: by Samuel , Director (last edited May 03, 2015 10:43PM) (new)

Samuel  | 4692 comments Mod
North Korea seems to be popular. I suppose it's the environment. It's an intelligence officer's worst nightmare. No one is coming to help if you get hurt. And the surveillance, while old school, has had time to become dominant.


message 8: by Gopal (new)

Gopal (gopaliyer) | 24 comments North Korea is an example of extremely hostile environment where HUMINT will be more important and extremely crucial than SIGINT.


message 9: by Samuel , Director (new)

Samuel  | 4692 comments Mod
Samuel wrote: "North Korea seems to be popular. I suppose it's the environment. It's an intelligence officer's worst nightmare. No one is coming to help if you get hurt. And the surveillance, while old school, ha..."

If I were to pick "1", it would be St Petersburg. The environment has Western European glamor in the day, and that world famous Russian grittiness at night.


message 10: by Samuel , Director (new)

Samuel  | 4692 comments Mod
Gopal (The Minion) wrote: "North Korea is an example of extremely hostile environment where HUMINT will be more important and extremely crucial than SIGINT."

True :) Despite all the presents the PRC gives them, the DPRK is too old school for serious SIGNIT initiatives.


message 11: by Gopal (new)

Gopal (gopaliyer) | 24 comments That and Baby Kim is busy figuring out where to stash his country's greenbacks...


message 12: by Samuel , Director (new)

Samuel  | 4692 comments Mod
Gopal (The Minion) wrote: "That and Baby Kim is busy figuring out where to stash his country's greenbacks..."

Heh, quite. Especially when he's not signing off on another purge.


message 13: by Samuel , Director (new)

Samuel  | 4692 comments Mod
Full Force and Effect (Jack Ryan, #10) by Mark Greaney
Current Mark Greaney continuation novel focuses on the DPRK. A particularly interesting/unsettling detail was a precise location of the ravenous dogs which supposedly did in Kim's uncle.


message 14: by Samuel , Director (new)

Samuel  | 4692 comments Mod
Task Force Desperate (American Praetorians, #1) by Peter Nealen
Recently read this lovely military thriller set in Somalia. Unlike other books, this one ventures inland, to places even more brutal than the coastal areas.


message 15: by Samuel , Director (last edited May 04, 2015 12:00AM) (new)

Samuel  | 4692 comments Mod
The Last Man (Mitch Rapp, #13) by Vince Flynn
A very good novel set in Afghanistan. One of Vince Flynn's more refined works. For starters, it's not a counter-terrorist thriller but a pretty slick and plausible spy thriller, that's centered around the dysfunctional relationship between the CIA and ISI. No weapons of mass destruction. Just a lot of guns, political backstabbing, a shell game and the greatest fear that every single intelligence service has.


message 16: by Michel (new)

Michel Poulin | 167 comments Samuel wrote: "An option I like that would be "1.5" is Beirut. It's been done quite a bit but despite all of Lebanon's attempts at trying to hide its past, deep down it's still got the potential to return to the ..."

I myself spent two years in Lebanon, during some of its worst times (1982-84, Civil War + Israeli invasion). Even now, the number of competing factions, militias, smugglers and extremist groups, allied with the proximity of Syria and Israel, makes it still a natural nest of spies and illegal operatives. The cosmopolitan culture and amount of people who are polyglot also makes it easy for operatives who don't speak Arabic. You can never run out of options for scenarios if you use Beirut, believe me!


message 17: by Samuel , Director (new)

Samuel  | 4692 comments Mod
Michel wrote: "Samuel wrote: "An option I like that would be "1.5" is Beirut. It's been done quite a bit but despite all of Lebanon's attempts at trying to hide its past, deep down it's still got the potential t..."

Wow! Very impressive. The Civil war was a very crazy time.


message 18: by Samuel , Director (new)

Samuel  | 4692 comments Mod
Been thinking. Rio De Janerio. A city of paradoxes (a bit like Beirut), beautiful and ugly at the same time, full of wealth and poverty, featuring some of South America's most ruthless law enforcement and most well armed criminals.
And with so many different environments from favellas and beaches, there's endless possibilities and challenges to put a fictional character through.


message 19: by Michel (new)

Michel Poulin | 167 comments Samuel wrote: "Been thinking. Rio De Janerio. A city of paradoxes (a bit like Beirut), beautiful and ugly at the same time, full of wealth and poverty, featuring some of South America's most ruthless law enforcem..."

Add to that a flood of tourists coming to attend the next Olympic Games and you get a perfect witches' brew for a thriller (insert terrorist group, mass casualty weapon and shake, and voila!)


message 20: by Samuel , Director (last edited Oct 26, 2015 03:19PM) (new)

Samuel  | 4692 comments Mod
Michel wrote: "Samuel wrote: "Been thinking. Rio De Janerio. A city of paradoxes (a bit like Beirut), beautiful and ugly at the same time, full of wealth and poverty, featuring some of South America's most ruthle..."

Yep. I follow the twitter account of the BOPE unit (tip of the spear in the effort to get Rio ready for the Olympic games)
and the illegal weapons they keep on finding beggars belief.
Hell, I even recall them tweeting a picture of a Browning M2 they found once in one of their raids.


message 21: by Samuel , Director (new)

Samuel  | 4692 comments Mod
Michel wrote: "Samuel wrote: "Been thinking. Rio De Janerio. A city of paradoxes (a bit like Beirut), beautiful and ugly at the same time, full of wealth and poverty, featuring some of South America's most ruthle..."

That sort of firepower in the hands of terrorists would be a nightmare.


message 22: by Samuel , Director (new)

Samuel  | 4692 comments Mod
With Rio, one could plot a "Mumbai incident" scenario for a book. The untold numbers of illegal weapons combined with one of the most challenging urban environments to monitor would provide an excellent "threat" for a story.


message 23: by Samuel , Director (last edited Oct 26, 2015 03:35PM) (new)

Samuel  | 4692 comments Mod
Days of Rage (Pike Logan, #6) by Brad Taylor

A member of this group once took advantage of the Brazil world cup for his counter-terrorist thriller. It involved the Russian Federation restarting the old Soviet tradition of state sponsored terrorism by giving a nuke to a Boko Haram militant to target Sao Paulo, Rio's grittier cousin.


message 24: by Samuel , Director (last edited Oct 26, 2015 04:45PM) (new)

Samuel  | 4692 comments Mod
A more tenuous choice for me would be Buenos Aires.
Only geopolitical issue down there of note is the Falklands.....
But, god that architecture would make such a glamorous backdrop to a thriller novel.
And it has an advantage. Not as overused as Paris.


message 25: by Michel (last edited Oct 26, 2015 06:41PM) (new)

Michel Poulin | 167 comments One place most spys and secret agents would hate to operate because of the awful local living and security conditions would be one of a number of large African cities in quasi-failed states, like Kinshasa (Democratic Republic of Congo), Bangui (Central African Republic) and the South Sudan. Places of governmental chaos, corruption, high rate of street crimes, inefficient or nonexistent public transportation, dozens of obscure local languages, plenty of extremists of all irks, mixed up with a brew of washed out mercenaries, trafikers (diamonds, gold, ivory, uranium, you name it) and revolutionaries. You would hardly need a main protagonist to get some action going: the local thugs (government-approved or not) would be enough to make any assignment a dirty job. Personnally, I would avoid Bangui like the pest, while Kinshasa would be about as bad. Mogadishu would also be a really nice place for a mission (not!).


message 26: by Samuel , Director (new)

Samuel  | 4692 comments Mod
Michel wrote: "One place most spys and secret agents would hate to operate because of the awful local living and security conditions would be one of a number of large African cities in quasi-failed states, like K..."

Ah the DRC. Roads are bad. Disease is rife and like you said, the militant groups there wouldn't mind shooting an unprepared schmuck dead for laughs.
Although in each of those areas, it wouldn't be difficult to bribe people and transport weapons....not that it would make things easier or better in the slightest.


message 27: by Samuel , Director (new)

Samuel  | 4692 comments Mod
I read a book once about the GRU. Back in the cold war, the posting all their officers feared was Tokyo.

Because the top brass were inevitably never satisfied with whatever intelligence was gathered/technology stolen and quickly ended the career of whoever was posted there.


message 28: by Samuel , Director (new)

Samuel  | 4692 comments Mod
Back to desirable locations.
Miami? Beaches, sun, great bars and Maduro and the Castro brothers are nearby. Not to mention what's left of the drug trade which hasn't moved to Mexico.


message 29: by Samuel , Director (new)

Samuel  | 4692 comments Mod
For his final novel, Frederick Forsyth was about to do his usual research trip and fly off to Mogadishu. He said in his memoir that his wife was extremely upset to put it mildly because he intended to go alone. She strong-armed him into hiring a bodyguard to accompany him on the trip.


message 30: by Samuel , Director (new)

Samuel  | 4692 comments Mod
An interesting setting....perhaps those land reclamation projects the PRC is building in the South China Sea. Challenging setting, geopolitically relevant and lots of fun challenges can be dreamed up.


message 31: by Michel (new)

Michel Poulin | 167 comments Samuel wrote: "An interesting setting....perhaps those land reclamation projects the PRC is building in the South China Sea. Challenging setting, geopolitically relevant and lots of fun challenges can be dreamed up."

The problem for any spy trying to infiltrate those reclamation projects in the South China Sea is that they are built on pocket-sized reefs and, once completed, will be as full as an egg with Chinese military installations and personnel. Where do you hide? How do you get in? How do you blend in once on firm ground?


message 32: by Samuel , Director (new)

Samuel  | 4692 comments Mod
Perhaps not an infiltration scene then, but something a little more loud. Large scale Clancy sized military attack/assault/set piece perhaps.


message 33: by Michel (new)

Michel Poulin | 167 comments Samuel wrote: "Perhaps not an infiltration scene then, but something a little more loud. Large scale Clancy sized military attack/assault/set piece perhaps."

You do realize what such a military assault on a PRC installation in the South China Sea would mean: war between the USA and the PRC. That would be nasty indeed, but one could certainly write an interesting novel about such a war. I wouldn't mind trying my hand at it, in fact. I just would need to find the time to write it...between all my other projects. Would you think that such a scenario would interest many readers, Samuel?


message 34: by Samuel , Director (new)

Samuel  | 4692 comments Mod
Hmmm. Maybe the Ghawar oil field in Saudi Arabia. Large open spaces for gunfights or chases (280x30KM). A relevant, high value target for fictional antagonists to target with Armageddon scale plots.... quite a lot of possibilities to fit in into the setting of a spy thriller novel.


message 35: by Samuel , Director (last edited Oct 27, 2015 06:52PM) (new)

Samuel  | 4692 comments Mod
Michel wrote: "Samuel wrote: "Perhaps not an infiltration scene then, but something a little more loud. Large scale Clancy sized military attack/assault/set piece perhaps."

You do realize what such a military as..."


Yes it would be extremely interesting. The South China Sea dispute is heating up again and the US is taking some "tentative" steps at trying to be proactive, having sent some vessels to do a circuit of the land reclamation projects.

Also, we've had many thriller novels which have plots involving stopping wars involving Modern China. Surprisingly few of them have had the
war not being stopped and actually occurring.


message 36: by Michel (new)

Michel Poulin | 167 comments Hmm, I may have to change the priority order for a few projects in order to accommodate this little baby. I better bone up on the most recent updates on the situation in the South China Sea.


message 37: by Samuel , Director (new)

Samuel  | 4692 comments Mod
Michel wrote: "Hmm, I may have to change the priority order for a few projects in order to accommodate this little baby. I better bone up on the most recent updates on the situation in the South China Sea."

Here's a good place to start.
http://www.cnn.com/2015/10/27/asia/us...


message 38: by Samuel , Director (new)

Samuel  | 4692 comments Mod
One of the rare, quality articles from the Guardian, about setting and the legacy Ian Fleming and EON have left to spy/military/geopolitical fiction. http://www.theguardian.com/film/2015/...


message 39: by Samuel , Director (new)

Samuel  | 4692 comments Mod
Samuel wrote: "Michel wrote: "I would definitely try to avoid #1 and would rather go for #3 (prefered option), or #2 (second prefered option). My choice in #3 category would be Pakistan (lots of clandestine and c..."

Speaking of Pakistan, here's another concerning development which makes it fit for a spy novel setting.
http://qz.com/579334/pakistans-army-i...


message 40: by Michel (new)

Michel Poulin | 167 comments A very interesting article indeed, Samuel. I am often wondering when Pakistan will become a true rogue state, with religious extremists in charge and with its nuclear weapons becoming possibly available to islamist terrorists (through theft or outright gift). After all, Pakistan is a country that did not hesitate to use terrorist organizations to destabilize its neighbors (India, Afghanistan). Pakistan is mostly bad news for the rest of the World, if you look coldly at the facts and deeds.


message 41: by Samuel , Director (last edited Dec 28, 2015 12:48PM) (new)

Samuel  | 4692 comments Mod
I personally consider them more dangerous than the Iranians.
One can trust an enemy to be an enemy. And currently, they have bigger problems than persecuting their conflict with the West.

Pakistan on the other hand, is like a geopolitical "Harvey Dent". One day, they'll have your back, the next day, they'll be trying to shoot you in the back. And you can never be sure which of the roles they will take on at any time.

Their nuclear arsenal, their proximity to two big geopolitical hot spots (Kashmir and Afghanistan) and the fact they happen to own one of the most devious foreign intelligence services on the planet, all combined with the leanings towards Islamic extremism among a chunk of their society, makes them quite a terrifying country, especially one which is a borderline failed state and could become one at anytime.


message 42: by Samuel , Director (new)

Samuel  | 4692 comments Mod
Another place which I think would make a splendid spy thriller setting is the Republic Of The Philippines.
I happen to be holidaying there.

Underused, exotic, but not glamorous, a pretty gritty, tropical place filled with criminals, corrupt cops/politicians, terrorists, militants and survivors.
The environment has a lot of jungle, the gentrification is juxtaposed with some of South East Asia's worst slums and best of all from a writing standpoint, it's currently engaged in a geopolitical game of chicken with the PRC over control over a chunk of the South China Sea.


message 43: by Jack (new)

Jack (jackjuly) | 145 comments I like the Philippines, it would be great. Many good memories there as a young sailor. Samuels description is a good one. I have used America, Mexico, Poland, Germany, Russia, Toronto, and in my wip, Romania. I think if someone could break the secrecy behind North Korea. A Korean American, highly trained, heavily backed, hell bent on bringing down the gov with a WMD. That would be fun.


message 44: by Michel (last edited Jan 06, 2016 09:21PM) (new)

Michel Poulin | 167 comments If there was ever a case where the CIA could be justified in doing another assassination of a foreign leader (like it did so often in the Central and South America of the 1950s-1960s), it would be for killing Kim Jong Un, the megalomaniac psychopath presently in charge of North Korea. Could someone write a book about that, or will I have to write it myself?


message 45: by Jack (new)

Jack (jackjuly) | 145 comments You go sir, make us proud.


message 46: by Michel (new)

Michel Poulin | 167 comments Deal! As soon as I finish the novel I am writing presently (historical fiction thriller about a German submarine in WW2), I will get on Kim Jong Un's case.


message 47: by Samuel , Director (new)

Samuel  | 4692 comments Mod
Hi, apologies for the belated return.
Further developments on my Philippine suggestion, I'd say Manila would be a brilliant spy thriller setting. Firstly, it's damn huge with many varied environments. From gigantic slums, to fine gentrified subdivisions and a few million or so malls, the city blesses a potential writer with multitudes of possibilities, from dead drops to gunfights and points in between and also allows the opportunity to do stale beer gritty spy fiction, a glamorous martini type espionage drama or a dirty martini story.

One quirk which has caught my attention during trips to Manila is the slowly worsening traffic. I suppose it makes the perfect setting to write a slow paced surveillance scene but if you want to do a car chase forget it, trying to do so is simply impossible.

Instead, motorcycles are the way to go. Like schools of fish navigating a river, they slip through the clogged up roads of Metro Manila almost effortlessly. It's perhaps one of the reasons why the fourth Bourne film had a motorcycle chase as its climax. So, if you need a large scale action scene for a story set in Manila, remember, to go for motorcycles.


message 48: by Samuel , Director (new)

Samuel  | 4692 comments Mod
Found something on twitter today....maybe Saudi Arabia would make a decent setting for a spy thriller story....especially if it explodes. And it presents a very challenging operational environment. And some decent color. Slums, architectural monstrosities and the most vulgar private residences money can buy.
http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/a...


message 49: by Mac_dickenson (new)

Mac_dickenson | 39 comments I'm gonna go a different direction and say Alaska. The terrain and the weather are insane and there's a wide variety of things going on there.


message 50: by Samuel , Director (last edited Feb 20, 2016 04:19PM) (new)

Samuel  | 4692 comments Mod
Mac_dickenson wrote: "I'm gonna go a different direction and say Alaska. The terrain and the weather are insane and there's a wide variety of things going on there."

Option 3, out of the box....I like it! Challenging environment, and I suppose there's a lot of quite places where writers can make violent things happen, with a picturesque backdrop.


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