Talking Thrillers with A. J. Chambers: The Vicar

A. J. Chambers was born and raised in the north of England. He joined the British Army in the 1980's and was primarily based in Northern Ireland. He was also stationed in various countries around the world. After leaving the military, he worked as a chef for over twenty years. The Vicar is his debut novel.

Inspired by the author’s own experience, The Vicar introduces Terry Nolan, an MI5 operative who, when he discovers his cover is blown and millions of lives are at stake, will do whatever it takes to stop enemy forces. Keep reading to find out more about this explosive debut thriller.

TFx: Where did you come up with the idea for this book, and what can you tell us about the plot?

Chambers: I guess you can thank my agent, Doug Grad, for planting the seed. He suggested I write a novel using my experiences in the British Army, which I wasn’t inclined to do. Instead, I suggested a spy thriller revolving around a what if regarding Northern Ireland, the IRA and Brexit. That is how the premise for The Vicar was born.

The main character, Terry Nolan, whose code name is The Vicar, is an off the books MI5 operative who works directly for the head of the Security Service, K. He has been officially dead for over thirty years after being compromised during an operation in Northern Ireland.

While running a group of agents, his Parishioners, in America he is attacked on his boat in Boston harbor by two Irish terrorists who know his real name. He escapes only to find out all his Parishioners are dead or missing, except the one agent, Shae, that only K and himself knew about.

He races to New York to try and find out what has happened to her in the hopes of saving her life. At her apartment, which has been turned over, he finds the plans for weapons of mass destruction hidden in a secret drop he had set up for her that are heading for Britain’s largest four cities. He also discovers that she has a roommate, Kristen, who is determined to save Shae.

Nolan must call upon all his clandestine skills to save his final Parishioner and who is behind the planned attacks and why. But he’s playing a dangerous game, and the dark secrets of his past are about to catch up with him.

TFx: How many books have you written and which is your favorite?

Chambers: Although The Vicar is my first published novel, I have actually written five manuscripts in total and am about half way through writing my sixth. The first two are set in Chicago and are crime thrillers. I have also finished writing a sequel to The Vicar which is currently being edited by my editor and agent. I have also written a crime thriller set in Washington D.C. and I am currently working on the sequel.

As for which is my favorite? That is a little bit like asking a parent which child is their favorite. I think that every writer goes through a love/hate relationship with the current book they are working on. I suppose I can say that whatever I’m working on at the moment is my favorite! In the end, all writers can hope for is that our work appeals to the reader and they appreciate the work to the point that they are eager to buy the next book by the author that is published.

TFx: What draws you to writing in the thriller genre?

Chambers: As a young kid I used to love reading schoolboy mysteries. When I was about ten years old my parents, who were great believers in reading, bought me The Complete Works of Sherlock Holmes, and I was hooked. After finishing that I, of course, started reading all the Agatha Christie books I could get my hands on. Soon after I remember watching Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy on T.V. starring Sir Alec Guinness after which I headed for the library and started reading any spy thrillers they had available.

Once I started writing full time this was the genre it felt natural to focus on.

TFx: Which actor can you imagine playing the main character in the movie version of your book?

Chambers: The actor that comes to mind if I really think about it is Michael Fassbender. He has Terry’s look and is around the right age where he could play a younger Terry Nolan and an older version. Plus, he could obviously pull off an Irish accent.

TFx: What was the hardest scene to write in the book?

Chambers: There is one scene that in particular that got to me. Terry is at a viewing the day before the funeral, I won’t tell you whose as I don’t want to give it away. It is written entirely from his perspective and, as military people tend to do, he is refusing to allow himself to grieve in front of everyone. Instead, he is stone-faced, angry and bitter. He hates that the coffin is open and resents the people that are coming and offering him their condolences, even his own sister, who he hasn’t seen in years.

TFx: Tell us something fun about you that readers might be surprised to know?

Chambers: A number of years ago, when I was living in Rome, I was out with a couple of US Marine friends. Anyway, at the end of the evening we were fairly inebriated and ended up walking past the Fontana Di Trevi. For some reason one of us brought up the idea that it was very hot, and we should go for a swim. After conferring with the two Carabinieri police officers on duty, and getting their okay, the three of us stripped down to our underwear and proceeded to swim laps in the fountain. The only issue is that it is only a couple of feet deep and the next day my hands and knees were scrapped up pretty badly. Still, if given the opportunity to do it again I would do it without a hint of hesitation.

Get A. J. Chambers’s latest release, The Vicar, out now on Amazon

The Vicar

Terry Nolan, an off-the-books MI5 operative known as the Vicar, has been officially dead for the past thirty years. But when Nolan is attacked in Boston, it becomes clear his cover is blown. Even worse, his Parishioners—the network of spies who work under the Vicar—have all been compromised.

Nolan races to New York to try and find his last remaining agent, Shae, whom he personally recruited years ago. Instead, he finds Kristen, a young civilian who is determined to save Shae, too—and who may know more than she’s letting on.

In the search for his missing agent, Nolan intercepts intelligence that indicates weapons of mass destruction are on their way to Britain’s four largest cities. Working directly with the ruthless head of MI5, Nolan must call upon all his clandestine skills to save the final Parishioner and find out who is behind the attacks and why. But he’s playing a dangerous game, and the dark secrets of his past are about to catch up with him.

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