The Story Behind Unity
Unity: Peace for All, Freedom for None is my first novel. It is, as you’ll have seen from the home page on this site, a Cold War spy thriller, set in 1967 and largely in London. But it needs a bit more explanation than that.
The story begins with the resignation of MI6’s top operative, a man of principle and high values. He discovers something that angers him, and he slams his resignation on his superior’s desk and storms out. We’re not sure what he’s discovered that has upset him so much – all we know is that he’s fuming.
If this sounds familiar, it’s because it’s not my idea; you might remember this scenario – if you’re old enough or have seen the re-runs – as the opening sequence to an enigmatic British television drama series called The Prisoner.
What? Wait, (you’re saying), you stole the idea from a TV programme? No, I didn’t, but I’m the first to admit that the programme inspired my novel. So there are some things I need to make very clear from the get-go.
The first and most important is that you do not have to have seen The Prisoner or know anything about it! Unity is a stand-alone spy thriller, and the positive reviews and high ratings from readers who’ve never seen the programme are testimony to that. So don’t dismiss it.
The second thing is that when the original 17-part television series concluded – and I use that term loosely – it left viewers bewildered and beguiled. Instead of neatly tying up all the loose ends in the programme’s storyline, viewers were left none the wiser and in a state of some confusion. There remained more questions than answers, and the broadcaster’s phone lines went into meltdown with calls from angry viewers.
THE GERM (WARFARE) OF AN IDEA
I was 13 when I first watched The Prisoner. I loved it, but was left just as confused as the rest of the viewing public, and for decades I’ve pondered those same burning questions: who was the agent? Why did he resign? Who controlled The Village where he was held captive? What information was in his head? How could all the bizarre scenarios of the episodes be explained rationally?
It was during the Covid lockdowns that an idea formed in my head – a way of finally answering the show’s mysteries: as a spy thriller. It gave me the impetus to draft a full-length novel based on The Prisoner, but which, unlike previous works that have desperately tried to continue the storyline, tells the narrative contemporaneously and from the point of view of the operative’s captors.
Because of this undeniable link to the TV series, I cannot claim ownership of the original storyline, nor of those characters that originated with the programme.
As a result I am resigned to not making any money from Unity because I can't. I cannot - in fact am not allowed to – profit from this work because I do not own the rights to the original work itself, the TV series. They are now held by television company ITV. And before you ask, yes I did attempt to acquire the rights, but was met with a blank refusal, along with a warning to 'seek independent legal advice.' Unity, therefore, must remain a work of (ugh) ‘fan fiction’.
CHARITY BEGINS WITH UNITY
As emphasised in my foreword, the book aims purely to entertain, not to swell any coffers, and if there is any eventual profit it will go to the Royal National Lifeboat Institution, the RNLI. There’s a neat irony in that my storyline, which sees over a million lives threatened, could, if really successful, actually contribute to saving some lives.
I've self-published the book as, to be honest, I couldn't be arsed sending it to publishers or agents who these days don't bother reading anything and don't respond anyway. Also, as a TV tie-in novel they're unlikely to be interested. But don't let self-publication put you off.
But where, then, do I get my reward? Well, I have thoroughly enjoyed writing Unity over the past three years or so, and that in itself is profit of sorts. If readers actually like it then that also is a bonus, as are any favourable reviews (and they’ve all been positive to date).
But there's more; while I openly admit to having used the basic storyline of The Prisoner as my muse, I have in the process created a raft of original characters within the zeitgeist of 1967 London and the British intelligence community.
I've grown to like these people, and as I wrote the last few pages of the book it dawned on me that I could craft a sequel, only this time using my own dramatis personae, and a story not related to the TV series - in fact having no link to The Prisoner at all. This makes the next book a stand-alone intellectual property of mine, and one which, fingers crossed, I can make as much money from as people will throw at me. Form an orderly queue.
All I can tell you at this stage is that it's set in Britain and the island of Ireland in 1970, and is called (working title) The Liscannor Intercept. Yes it's another spy thriller, and yes I have started writing it. I’ll let you know when it’s published.