It’s a series that has been in the works for over a decade. I couldn’t be more excited to announce it is coming your way.

Set in the not so distant future, Conflict is a bold attempt to capture the global effect of war as seen from various angles, walks of life and cultures. It has been said that it the “political thrills are what captures the tension whilst the slight touches of science fiction offer a universe that is of epic proportions.”

But don’t just take my word for it or the words of the critics. Watch this space for updates, info and images from the highly anticipated graphic novel series, adapted from the award winning screenplay by Leo St Paul and my best selling novel ‘Fall of Freedom’.

With many sides to choose from, (each with their own heroes and villains) take your pick and prepare to battle.

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Author of ‘Maestro’, ‘Red Snow’ and the highly anticipated ‘Conflict’ graphic novel series offers a candid interview with Amy Irons of STV news as she discusses the building her charitable foundation Ragdolls UK

For more information on the Ragdolls UK foundation and their work with children with genetic disorders visit www.ragdollscharity.com 

Ivan Borkov
AGE: 43
NATION: Yugasov

STATUS – Politician/ Premier

A very promising young man from a powerful family. Ivan Borkov now stands at the head of the Borkov family and the Yugasov party. He rose through the ranks of the party when it was still in its infancy and brought it to a new age where it could hold real power in Russia.

Ivan is strong minded and will not be swayed. Although his shrewd intelligence is enough to combat against opposing political leaders he is not without his ability to physically defend himself.

Ivan holds control over his family, even his volatile cousins Andrei and Victor. He is treated with respect by the Russian people who hail him as the man who has brought them into a new and prosperous age.

To those who oppose him Ivan can seem a little disagreeable. He is stubborn and set in his ways. However, he plays the game of politics like a master and when offered the proper cordiality will respond in kind.

He is not averse to making the tough decisions that befit any political leader. He is at the helm of a great war machine that makes the rest of the world nervous.

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THE WRITING ON THE WALL

leader: Premier Ivan Borkov

Formed by the discontent Russian public the Yugasov party became the fastest rising political entity in Russia when headed by Ivan Borkov. With an extensive and powerful family at his disposal and a great deal of financial and military resources the Yugasov led a campaign against former President Munterov. When the U.S offered support to Munterov this only furthered the Yugasov cause.

After years of political upheaval, a civil war amongst themselves and fending of United States attacks the Yugasov became the elite and most highly regarded political structure in Russian history.

Built from the ashes of noble ideology the Yugasov members are strong, dedicated and often stubborn. They have a mighty army which they will not hesitate to use when necessary.

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So I admit, it gave it more than a second thought. Holding the card tightly between my fingertips wondering ‘who was this woman from my home land who seemed to know me?’ I had left Westcliff at such a young age that I don’t remember meeting anyone there and they most certainly wouldn’t remember me. Then there was the club – The ‘knock, Knock’ club – that I had been invited to. I had never heard of it before that night either yet it seemed strangely familiar.

Why don’t we go out and celebrate my new job,” I suggested to my wife.

She was apprehensive. “Where would you like to go?”

I raised my eyebrows and offered a wry smile. “I hear there is at least one club open in this town. I may even be on the guest list.”

Theresa slapped my shoulder playfully. She managed a smile. “That isn’t funny Sam. That woman threatened you. She was horrible!”

I put my arm around her. “Don’t worry. Nothing is going to happen to me. It will give me the chance to find out what she wanted. Would you rather stay here?”

Theresa shook her head. “No I don’t want to be home alone again.”

I’m sure you will find that it was all for nothing. They probably just have something to do with the mayor and are trying to scare me from the story.”

Theresa hesitantly agreed…

***

Around eight, Theresa and I wandered the rain lashed streets. Most clubs and restaurants in the town were closed but none of those open were called ‘Knock, Knock’ The rain had stopped so I carried a large black umbrella under my arm.

Let’s just go home Sam. I don’t think we are going to find that club,” Theresa said.

A couple disappeared down an alley way. The woman clutched the man’s arm. She was giggling. She was dressed for a night out. Far more fancy than necessary for an alleyway tryst. I silently urged Theresa to stay as I followed them. The knocked on an old metal door. As the metal door opened a rush of music escaped. The couple went inside. It had to be the ‘Knock, Knock’ club. A lot of clubs had gone exclusive to avoid licensing that were crushing other establishments. Perhaps it was my own apprehension, or maybe empathy for my wife’s concerns but I found myself asking, “Are you sure about this?”

Theresa gripped my arm. “We are just going to see if we can find some information aren’t we?”

I smiled and sighed, the nerves gathered as a fluttering in my chest. We approached the heavy door. The main street seemed one million miles away. The door wasn’t particularly welcoming for a cabaret club. The sign above offered a light humming drown as the bulbs committed tirelessly to their duty.

I knocked heavily – twice for the irony. After a few tense moments the door was finally opened. A tall man with a cigarette between his lips greeted us. He was adorned in a sharp – well tailored black suit, a power red tie and a white shirt.

Evening,” he muttered without removing the cigarette. “Table for two?” With a flick of his wrist a scantily clad young girl dashed over and ushered us to a vacant table. She offered us a menu each. They were simple, black with the name of the club on it. It was sticky and well used. A stage as the main focus of the club. The band was deep in their music. The chorus girls were dancing in a parade of sequins and feathers. The ‘Knock, Knock’ club was actually so homey it was a pleasant place to be. Theresa even began to settle. We ordered some food. It wasn’t fine dining but it was effective none the less.

The man who had greeted us at the door stepped onto the stage. He had replaced his suit jacket with one from an outfit of evening wear. His red tie was now a black bow.

Good evening ladies and gentlemen,” his voice boomed over the soft playing of the band. Most of the room looked up from their conversations and offered him their full attention – including my wife and I. “Welcome to the knock, knock club. It has now come to that part of the evening that we love. I know it’s my personal favourite. Please welcome on stage – knock, knock’s finest – Miss T.” In a rush of drums and wind instruments, like the welcoming flag parade of a queen, the man rushed from the stage. The spotlight caught a very striking woman in its clasp. She was met with a thunderous applause. I turned back to Theresa just as one of our waitresses laid down a plat of strange meat. I thanked her and she replied in the way of a well taught serving girl who can offer politeness without saying a word. I looked at Theresa. Her already pale face had drained of all colour.

What’s the matter?” I asked.

She reached her quivering hand out and pointed to the stage. “That’s her! That’s the woman who came looking for you.”

***

I turned back to the stage. Miss T was singing a melody with a touch of old school cabaret and the smallest hint of raunchiness. She wore a silver dress which glinted underneath the stage lights. Her voice was sultry and deep. It was a pleasant tone, soft and warm like honey.

Theresa remained frozen in her chair, staring at Miss T until the performance was over, complete with appreciative calls from the crowd. I stood.

Where are you going?” Theresa cried gripping my arm.

I’m going backstage to find out what she wanted.”

Theresa shook her head furiously. “Please don’t. Just leave it. Let’s go home.”

If I’m not back in ten minutes alert the police.”

Theresa’s hand instinctively went to her mouth to conceal the true level of her grief.

I was surprised that no on stopped me as I slipped backstage. At the end of a long hall, carpeted in a very rich shade of purple, lay a door with the letter T on it. I assumed it to be Miss T’s dressing room. I knocked.

Come in,” came the same silken sound to match the singing. As Theresa had said, her voice was sprinkled with the harsh but musical tones of West cliff accent. I pushed open the door. The cabaret singer was facing the mirror so she spoke only to my reflection.

You are very lost, my man,” she said. A smile formed. There was a larger than normal gap between her front teeth which gave her an almost child like quality. She had removed some of the pins from her hair so her chestnut brown tresses were in disarray.

I’m Sam Crusow,” I said with some severity. “You came to my house.”

She smiled. “You are mistaken. I don’t make house calls.”

I became more frustrated. “My wife is outside waiting on me. She recognised you. She told me you were from Westcliff.”

The woman’s smile widened. “I’m not the only one to leave dear old rainy Westcliff for the opportunities of the big city. Look at yourself.”

I could feel tension building in my shoulders. “Just stay away from me and stay away from my wife!”

As I proposed to storm away the singer finally turned herself to face me. She pulled me back with a ferocious grip. “Now, Sam, let’s not get excited. Your name, is it a family name?” she asked.

I found myself replying, “My grandfather was named Samuel.”

My name is Tabitha. I’m sorry if I frightened poor little Theresa. I’m not going to harm you. I’m trying to protect you.”

There are people out there who would seek to destroy what your father built.”

Having never known my father or anything about him, other than his name, this came as quite a shock. “What do you know about my father?”

Tabitha lowered her eyes. “Nothing that I can discuss with you now. I’m due back on stage in a few minutes. If you go outside you’ll find that Theresa has already left. I believe you told her to alert the police. She doesn’t mess around does she? I suggest you stop her before she does something childish like tattle to the authorities. If you come back to the club tomorrow I will give you everything I have.”

***

I managed to catch up with Theresa just outside the club. She embraced me tightly and kissed my cheek. “What happened?”

Nothing, it’s fine. Like I said just someone playing silly beggars trying to stop me covering the story on Mayor Feltz.”

Theresa wrapped her arm around mine and brought herself close to me. She still seemed to be a little shaken but the crisp night air did some work in taking away our cares.

We found our bright green door lying ajar. We both stopped suddenly.

Wait here!” I instructed, leaving her and venturing into the house to assess the damage.

The door hinges were broken. The furniture overturned. In the initial inspection it appeared that nothing had been taken. Someone had been just trying to shake me up. What was clear though was that whoever it was, they were relentless.

Wiley reporter Sam Crusow has gotten himself in way too deep.

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EPISODE 1 

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Name: Raphael Diorra

Age: 36

Nation: United States

Status: General

Known world wide for his military prowess, Raphael Diorra is the General that most nations would love to have on their side. Former General of the elite group ‘Rogue Battalion’ Raphael slipped quietly into retirement having been stripped of his titles.

Raphael is quick witted, courageous and experienced in the art of war. One of the most elite soldiers the Conflict will see.

Away from the battlefield Raphael is a dedicated family man. His wife, Mila, and his son, Rio, are his entire world. He would take up arms against the mightiest of foes should their lives be in danger.

As noble as Raphael can be he also has a darker side. When provoked he can become a most dangerous and unforgiving enemy.

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Times are desperate for the people of Coldford. Once upon a time executives reduced to rummaging through their neighbours trash to find a meal. Hunting for shelter wherever they can find it – like stray cats. They’re once well tailored suits now hanging in rags. Its surreal to see proud captains of industry reduced to the indignity of soup kitchens. No where to go, no means of rising back up to their ivory towers.

My name is Samuel Crusow. When the depression hit, two industries were saved. Entertainment and news. People always need to know what’s happening in the world and people always need an escape from their reality. Luckily for me I’m with the former. I have been a freelance writer ever since finishing college. I realised quickly that no newspaper was willing to hire on a full time basis. They were fewer however, willing to buy any story I had written for them so It basically amounted to the same thing. I thought I had managed to successfully navigate through the choppy waters of recession until the day I made the discovery that beneath the harsh surface lay an even more terrifying truth.

But I get ahead of myself. I write these notes so that no one else has to suffer as I did. Chances are I will be gone by the time you read this. I will have taken my own life with the pistol I have perched at the edge of my desk. It will be my only way out.

It began just as winter was beginning to break. Autumn had held champion over the city long enough. It was time for the next season to bring its snow and hail.

The Mayor of the town – Gilford Feltz – had disappeared without a trace. That morning he had kissed his wife – a voluptuous and formidable woman named Silvia and his sixteen year old daughter, Olivia goodbye. He straightened his red power tie in the mirror and made his way to the office to wade through the city’s financial crises. If you were to believe the tabloids was largely his fault. Normally he would have been escorted to the office by some security of some kind. The citizens of Coldford riled and the very sight of the Mayor only made matters worse. However, that day he had braved it on his own. He never arrived at his office. Making his way down his street in his luxury silver car was the last anyone saw him. Some of the neighbours remembered hearing loud music blaring from his open windows as he passed which was most unlike the buttoned down, conservative man that he was.

I had been covering the story as it developed. This meant that I had been spending more time at the offices of The Coldford Chronicle which had been lapping up my articles. The Coldford Chronicle was the premier source for news and the city’s largest newspaper. It was also the provider of food on my table. I guess hiring freelances had been their way of protecting themselves. It meant that they were only paying for the material they could use when the needed it without any full time mouths to feed.

I never liked Mayor Feltz. I certainly didn’t vote for him. As I pursued the story I uncovered gambling debts and a mistress at the far end of town. His political misdeeds had been just the beginning. When I interviewed his mistress she told me that he was planning on leaving his wife (which is probably what the all say). On the morning he disappeared he had been planning on visiting her. The mistress, Cindy, had waited for him for most of the morning in her lavish apartment which the city had paid for. She flipped between anger and worry as time drew on. By the afternoon the police swamped her, acting quicker for such a public figure than they would have for ordinary folk.

His wife, his mistress and his gambling associates could offer the police no idea as to where he went. On a frosty morning weeks later I made my way to the stretch of tower blocks that housed the newsroom. My mind was occupied by ways in which I could spin the same story or offer a new angle.

Close to the office the clang of metal bins falling over drew my attention. From behind the cans crawled a middle aged man. His greasy chin was covered in thick, black stubble. Like others forced to live on the streets he still wore a suit. It was long past its better days. His eyes were dulled by the effects of alcohol. He reached out with a gloved hand and sdug out the core of an apple from the spilled waste and made breakfast of it. Sights like these were shocking when the recession first hit but the mind learned to ignore them as they became more common. The mighty had fallen and those who could help were desensitised to their plight. With very little I offer him I carried on past and into the tall grey building with the large towering sign on top that read ‘Coldford Chronicle’.

The newsroom was hot and thick with the smell of coffee. Full time reporters had become scarce but those of them who did remain in work dashed back and forth trying to perfect their articles. The approaching deadline spurred them into action like bloodhounds that had caught a scent. The brown leather satchel I carried my writing was dropped on an unoccupied table. I rested at the desk, drew out my notes and began to review them. I had to ignore the hum and chatter around me to focus on the words.

Hey Sam,” came the voice of Madeline Lower. I looked up and briefly acknowledged my long term friend. Madeline and I had been friends since college. She too was a freelance writer although she would admit her stories weren’t selling as well. It wasn’t that my writing was any better than hers, its just that the editor, Eric Waddle, was a bit of a chauvinist and what articles of hers he did accept were probably grudged. Madeline was an athletic woman in her late twenties. Her long black hair was piled on top of her head In a messy bun. Her skin was a warm bronze like she had come from a sun kissed land. Her pale blue eyes were sharp and feline like. That morning she wore a black turtle neck with a pin striped grey skirt. She sat herself on the edge of my desk with the leap of a soccer player and no feminine grace. “Waddle was looking for you,” she informed me. “He told me to kick you into his office as soon as you got here.”

Thanks,” was my reply, still absorbed in my reviewing. I brushed my auburn hair away from my face. I was always pale but I trust in those days of hard work and little reward I seemed even paler. I gathered my strength. Discussions with Waddle took a lot of energy. He was the kind of man who didn’t talk to you but talked at you.

You look like Hell,” Madeline commented – ever the crusader for honesty. “Go see what he wants and I’ll get us some coffee.

Madeline slipped off the desk and made her way to the further end of the rectangular room where the fresh coffee was being brewed.

I knocked on the oak door of the editor’s office. I could hear Eric’s voice inside having a one sided conversation. He was either conducting a telephone call or some journalist was on the listening side of a hostage situation. I pushed the door ajar. I caught a glimpse of Waddle standing behind his desk. His back was to me. He had a black telephone receiver clamped to his ear. He heard me as I stepped inside because he swivelled round, smiled and waved at me, gesturing me to sit down.

I gotta go, sweetheart,” said Eric. “If I hear anything I will let you know.”

I took the seat across the desk from Eric laying my papers on top. True to his name, Eric Waddle was a colossal man. He was a giant at foot three and a barge at two hundred and fifty pounds.

That was Silvia Feltz,” he informed me even though I hadn’t asked. “Poor thing is still in shock. Trying to piece together what happened. Gil and I go way back. He never told me he was in trouble.”

I have nothing new really,” I ventured.

Eric reached his heavy hand across and slid my papers towards him. “It doesnt matter. People can’t get enough of the story. They’re swallowing it down like buzzards and coming back for more.

I think I’ve spoken to everyone he ever met. That is everyone but you…” Eric had been quite adamant that he not be included in any of the articles but I didn’t become the reporter I was by not chancing my luck.

I have nothing to say,” Eric snatched up a glass bottle filled with whiskey and poured himself a generous share into a square shaped glass by his hand. “I asked you to come here because there is something that I wanted to talk to you about.”

Go on…”

As you know, times are tough. We can only handle best which is why they want you Samuel.”

Want me for what?” Normally I hated the name Samuel but in Eric’s case I made the exception.

I’m talking about full time,” Eric said. His face beamed with excitement.

I don’t know what to say,” I stammered.

Say yes!” he bawled before emitting roars of laughter. “These kind of opportunities aren’t easy to come by these days.”

I stood. My actions became subconscious. “That is a great offer. I am very grateful. Thank you.”

Don’t thank me, just do what you do best,” Eric dismissed, downing his glass of whiskey in one single gulp. The bottle was less expensive than he was used to but decent alcohol was difficult to come by. “You don’t have to be hanging around here all day. Go home and tell your wife the good news.”

My wife, Theresa, had studied journalism too. In fact that’s where we met. When Theresa and I married she gave up a career. Her mother blamed me for this but the truth was I had been the one tried to discourage her from dropping her changes of a job. Theresa didn’t want to take any chance on a writing career when housewife was the most stable job to be had. I never corrected my mother – in – law as to who’s decision it had been to give up. She already hated me anyway. She thought me too self absorbed to be a suitable husband for her daughter. Her concerns weren’t completely without merit. I was caught in my own world. Theresa was a large part of that world though. I couldn’t wait to tell her the news.

***

I was out of breath by the team I got home, my heart beating forcefully with exertion and excitement. The drums of anticipation crescendoed in my ears. In fumbled for my keys in the pocket of my oversized grey coat. The coat had been a kindly donation from a colleague when they saw I had nothing warm to wear through the winter. I leant against the door as I reached deeper into my pockets. The door creaked aside. It was very unlike Theresa to leave the door unlocked even when she was at home. She was a cautious little thing and home invasion robberies were on the rise.

Our humble home was on the outskirts of town. It was a small, one bedroom terrace amidst an array of similar granite buildings. What separated ours from the rest was the addition of an emerald green front door. Green was my favourite colour and it matched the shade of Theresa’s eyes. I called for my wife but there was no response. Heaps of blankets lay across the worn brown sofa which kept us warm without the cost of heating. The scent of baking apples danced from the kitchen. Theresa had been baking apple pie. She always did when she had had a rough day. The kitchen was a direct off set from the living room. I found Theresa in there lurched over the cooker. She was weeping heavily. Her mousey brown hair uncombed. When she heard my footsteps she gripped a knife that was close at hand. She stumbled backwards emitting a frightful shriek.

When she saw it was me she dropped the knife, ran at me and threw her arms around my neck. She didn’t ask why I had come home so early. It was I who asked the questions.

What happened?” My heart was now beating to a completely different rhythm.

I’m so glad you’re here. That woman was looking for you. She was horrible. Just horrible!”

Calm down,” I urged, more as a mantra to myself as I had tried to decipher what happened to get her so upset.

Theresa gathered her wits. She took a deep breath and a tear began to roll down her cheek. “A woman came asking for you…”

And who was she? What was her name?” I enquired, assuming it to be someone I had been questioning on the Feltz story.

Theresa shook her head. “She didn’t say. She had a Westcliff accent, same as yours.”

Westcliff was a small island a short distance away where I had been born. My mother had brought me to Coldford as a baby but I developed the harsh but musical tone that the accent carried listening to her.

What could she possibly have said that would have gotten you so upset?”

Theresa wandered into the living room and dropped herself amongst the blankets sobbing. “She told me that you were in danger. She told me that you would return to me one day in pieces.”

I sat beside her and put my arm around her shoulder. “That’s all nonsense, I promise.”

Theresa shuddered. “She gave me this.”

From the pocket of her skirt she gave me a card. It was a black business card. On the front read ‘Knock, Knock’ across an ominous grey door. It was a cabaret club from the look of it. One which I would visit that night and my life would be changed forever.

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EPISODE 2

“Mr Baines! Mr Baines!” the little boy came running to the door to greet him. “I’ve been practising.”

“That’s good,” said Vincent as he crossed over the threshold and into the warm mansion home of the Peterson family.

“I’m getting much better,” added the little boy with pride.

Vincent sat his violin case down. “Glad to hear it.”

He doubted it. Oliver Peterson had been struggling with the same piano piece since lessons began four months before. He was a cute kid but he lacked the musical ability his mother had expected of him. He couldn’t fault his enthusiasm though. Oliver’s twin brother, Osmond, on the other hand had shown great promise on the cello.

Vincent felt long fingers grip his shoulders.

“Can you stay an extra hour this evening? The ladies are coming round and I would love to hear them play.”

‘So I can take responsibility if they sound awful?’ Vincent thought to himself.

“Of course,” he replied. As their teacher it was his responsibility anyway.

Most of the families in the mansion houses of Filton had staff to clean, cook and perform all the domestic chores. Mrs Peterson took pride in controlling these things with her own hands, whilst still finding time to head several charity committees, social chairs and school societies.

“I’ll leave you to it,” said Mrs Peterson as she dashed off to retrieve something from the oven.

Vincent followed Oliver to the music room. Osmond was seated on the stool holding his cello. He wore the white shirt and grey trousers of his school uniform but he was barefooted. Oliver sat at the piano and started pushing the keys with no melody in mind.

The identical boys in different poses seemed surreal. The features were the same but the expressions different. Their chosen instruments were different. Their sounds were different. Their screams would crescendo through the hallways of the large mansion house like an echoing choral of a tragic opera.

***

“Why do you feel that way?” asked the professor.

Vincent leaned back in the chair. It rocked a little. It gave a grudging squeak as he reached both hands up above his head and rested them on top, smoothing the brown curls beneath.

“Those two little boys have a world of Hell coming their way.”

The professor showed no emotion. “Why is that?”

“I can just tell. I can hear it every time I see them.”

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