Hawk Eye is my first completed trilogy. The story development has a ponderous history because I thought it was a terrible idea and avoided doing anything about it for as long as possible. As usual, I blame Seth for everything.
I am a child of the 80s so I grew up watching what were probably terrible television shows from that era, and thinking they were ridiculously awesome. My favourite was Airwolf, the story of a helicopter with guns on it. As a child I didn’t realise that lots of helicopters have guns on them and so I watched every episode thinking this was all ground-breaking stuff.
There was Knight Rider, the story of a large amount of hair in a leather jacket, driving around in a fast black car that talked back to him. Like every child of the 80s, I can’t tell you how much I wanted a talking car.
There was Street Hawk, a series about a motorcycle that wasn’t Knight Rider at all, and any similarity was purely coincidental and certainly not legally actionable. We also had Blue Thunder, another armoured helicopter, Viper, another car and host of others shows that involved sports-cars, helicopters, boats and aircraft.
This was the era of the super-vehicle. With Firefox, even proper movies were starting to take this stuff seriously, even if Clint Eastwood’s casting made taking it seriously much more difficult for the audience.
As well as the shows about super-powered machinery there was the other classic offerings, such as the A-team, the incredible hulk, the greatest american hero, Dukes of Hazard, Magnum, manimal and Automan. Most of them didn’t last but they left an impression on my young mind that was indelible, rather like having a stroke.
They mostly had a similar tone, a light-hearted, tongue in cheek sense of fun and adventure. They didn’t take themselves seriously, although they usually had moments of serious drama interspersed with ridiculous nonsense. Some were darker, the Incredible Hulk was a sombre, depressing show about a man struggling against his own identity, while shows like Automan were essentially comedies.
It was a time when the media knew its job was to entertain, not to force messages down people’s throats with the subtlety of an American politicians sexual advances.
Because I couldn’t afford a helicopter and talking cars didn’t exist, I was forced to grow up with an interest in motorcycles.
I often watched old episodes of my favourite shows and, for some reason, various elements got stuck in my head. I slowly became obsessed with the idea of writing a story about my love of 80s media by creating something of my own that was unashamedly inspired by them.
In my head I would create a new 80s television show and then imagine that it was now being rebooted in a more modern style and I was writing a novel based on the new version.
I knew it was going to be featuring an over-powered motorcycle that was armed to the teeth for reasons that made no logical sense whatsoever. I also wanted to make it feature a small, closely-knit team and involve super-powers, futuristic technology and all the other cliches from the era.
Like all modern remakes and reboots, there would be some race and gender swapping. Where the team in the original version might have all been men, this would be a more diverse cast, gently making fun of the modern trend.
After finishing a quite different, and more serious, book, my editor and collaborator, Seth asked me about what I was planning to do next, since we work quite closely together. I told him that I had an idea for a novel but wasn’t sure it was a good one.
I explained that it would be a story that was rooted in the 80s but was happening in modern times, thematically linked to the past. It would feature all of the cliches of the old television shows we had grown up watching and it would have the same tongue-in-cheek style narrative. But, it would also have a dark edge and an intricate, detailed plot. I also had a new method of telling a story that hadn’t been done before, and it would let me tell a non-linear story in a very simple way that anyone could follow.
He said it sounded interesting. I further explained what the story would revolve around and he said it still might be worth giving it a go, and he would feed back on how well it was working.
If it was terrible, we would abandon it.
The thing about Seth is that he doesn’t sugar-coat his opinion. If it’s terrible, he’ll tell you so, bluntly and directly. He respects me enough to be honest with me and I respect him enough to take his suggestions seriously. We get a lot more done, a lot quicker that way.
Dubiously I decided to call his bluff and actually started writing it. Each chapter was passed to Seth and I waited for his feedback, certain he was going to confirm my worst fears, that this was a stupid idea and I should crawl into a corner and cower in shame while I thought about what I’d done.
To my shock and amazement he showed even worse taste than me, or my wife, and said it was actually good. I kept turning it out, chapter after chapter, passing it along for approval and waiting for the verdict that this was indeed a horrible mistake.
Once it was finished he said quite the opposite. It was probably the most fun, enjoyable thing I had written. I had loved every minute of writing it and, for some reason the characters had jumped off the page and become real to me, more real than at any time before. When I said to Seth, what should we do next, he replied, ‘I think you should do another one of these.’
That was the last thing I’d expected and I sat in a coffee shop thinking about it, and decided he was right. I decided to give another one a go. Before I knew it, there were three of them written and off to be edited.
The first book was Traffic. It opens with the usual cliché of a man waking up with no memory of who he is. He steps out of a black room to be confronted by a gigantic man who could crush his skull with his bare hands.
Soon, he meets the woman in charge and is taken to the Hawk-Eye. It’s a mysterious secret project left over from research done in the 80s, and he discovers that it’s still unsurpassed to this day. Between the three of them, they must unravel the mysteries of what the Hawk-Eye is, how the man lost his memory and what connects all of them together.
What they accidentally uncover might have implications that threaten the whole world.
The woman in charge was the easiest to write and I had her fixed in mind from the outset. She had to be strong, powerful woman but one that was entirely believable. She’s not the sort of character who goes around kicking villains to death, her strength comes from her femininity and her intelligence. She is cold, hard and calculating and she solves her problems by out-thinking them. To her, everything is a puzzle that needs a solution.
As a mother, she’s strongly maternal but often domineering and occasionally terrifying. Throughout the story, she slowly allows her barriers to fall so that the audience, along with the characters in the book can find out who and what she really is.
As a quirk I decided that we should never see her outside of the base. Although she’s a dynamic character whose actions are driving the main plot, I wanted to focus her talents on controlling the Hawk-Eye. We never actually see her leave the compound where she works, because we never have to.
She is our team leader, she’s the one whose choices control the actions of those around her, if she can actually manage to control their actions. It’s her emotional journey that brings the whole story into being.
In the first draft she had two agents working for her, two threatening monstrous men who would kill without a second thought. I quickly realised I actually didn’t have enough for two men to do and that they never had any actual scenes together. I toyed with the idea of making them bland and interchangeable so that characters commented that they could barely tell them apart but I felt that that joke would run out of steam pretty quickly. I wanted a character with a bit more depth, someone where the fun comes from finding more about them, not finding that there isn’t anything else to discover. Because they were essentially just the muscle, I combined them into a single character. As a joke that nobody else but me would get, I made him twice the size of a normal man and ramped up all of his abilities to a ridiculous degree. He probably ended up with the most detailed backstory, starting out by appearing to be nothing more than a big man with a gun, but slowly we fill out his details until the end of the third book where we discover everything that led to him arriving at the Hawk-Eye compound. He is our tragic hero, a man struggling with his past choices and to come to terms with the identity he has forged for himself.
Finally we have the man. We don’t know anything about him at first and a large part of the plot revolves around finding out who, and what, he is. The story is mostly told from his perspective as he comes to terms with his past and what possible future he might have open to him. Is he a hero, is he a villain? Is it possible for him to find out, and would he want to if he could?
He is a mystery wrapped up in an enigma and he doesn’t even know himself what kind of a person he really is. Will he turn out to be a flawed hero or betray them all?
You can’t talk about the characters of this story without mentioning the technology behind them, which is often a character in its own right.
The motorcycle is an experimental machine known as the Hydrogen Electrolysis Research Platform for Electronic Surveillance, HERPES for short. In the 80s action shows, the hero vehicle was always close to perfect and I wanted to change that up to make it more fun. The HERPES is a growling monster, an erratic, impossibly fast, over-powered death trap that was never built to actually be used. It’s armed with a fully-automatic rail-gun in the nose, missiles, a stun weapon, trip-wires, tyre shredders and a high-powered torch. She is the last of the prototypes left after the rest were damaged or destroyed, killing and crippling everyone who ever tried to ride one.
And finally, there’s the Hawk-Eye itself, a secret intelligence project set up in the 80s using new and frightening technology that was never fully understood and whose origin was a closely guarded secret. It never worked properly and was left abandoned, but now it has now been resurrected and is starting to evolve into something else.
By the end of the first story, we know what it’s capable of, we begin to find out more about it as the trilogy continues.
The first story reveals what the hawk Eye actually is as they begin to use it to unravel the secrets around them. As they do, they discover a wider conspiracy that turns out to be more dangerous than they could have ever realised.
The second book, Family, follows directly on from the first. The characters have now learned to work together and are building themselves into a team. An attack from outside separates them and threatens to destroy them all, and face each with their own worst nightmares. Can they come together to defend themselves in time to work out who is attacking them and why?
In this story I wanted to explore the relationships between them, and what it really means to become a family. We learn who the characters are at their cores, what drives them and why the Hawk-Eye is where they all want to be.
In this story the technology is as much a burden as it is an advantage. The characters must survive on their wits and loyalty instead of the benefits of their equipment.
In the last book of the first trilogy, Legacy, the team are finally given their first official assignment. A project manager working on a dangerous piece of technology left something behind, to protect himself in case anyone was ever planning to have him killed. After he accidentally dies in a traffic accident the Hawk-Eye team are assigned the job of finding out what it is that he’s done and stopping whatever revenge he had planned before it can happen.
Along the way they encounter a ghost from the past that might have the power to take over their future. Can they unravel the tangled threads and discover the truth of what’s happening?
This story closes off the trilogy, leaving the beginning at an end and leaving the audience with one final question – what could possibly be next?
The stories make an attempt to feel like a grown up version of our favourite 80s shows. They have the same action and adventure but with a more modern style of plot that has layers to peel back. Each one is a mystery that needs solving as well as being a character driven story with well-defined arcs.
Another key thing I wanted to do was to make sure that each one is a self-contained story all by itself. You’ll certainly get more out of it if you read the books as intended but you could just read one of them and it will still make perfect sense. The first, Traffic, is the introduction to the world of the Hawk-Eye, it reveals what the project is and who the characters are. This is their origin story as they begin their journey.
The second opens directly after but adds enough detail so that a casual reader could pick up the threads and still make sense of it.
The last story closes the narrative by setting the team on their path, finally realising their true destiny.
Hawk-Eye was written with one main thing in mind. I wrote it for Seth and myself, this is the exact kind of book we love to read. It’s a fun science-fiction with twisted mysteries and a dark and threatening undertone. It doesn’t take itself at all seriously but never quite becomes an outright comedy, you could still believe that this could actually happen. But, it is meant to be fun, the characters are quirky and the situations are slightly ridiculous. I wrote this for all the 80s children to read, a little piece of all of our past popular culture mixed up in a single story, but I hope its more than that. It’s not just for them and I hope that anyone could pick up these books and find a good reason in them to keep reading. I hope this book can find a new audience and bring back some of the fun that story-telling used to have.
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