Philip Prowse is the author of Hellyer’s Coup, which unfolds against the background of Portugal’s 1974 Carnation Revolution and the guerrilla war in Mozambique, and Hellyer’s Trip, set in Egypt at the time of the Six Day War of 1967. Both are espionage novels.
Why another Hellyer novel?
His character fascinates me and seven years on, a trained professional no longer an accidental agent, he faces the spy’s ultimate dilemma. His task is to infiltrate a chemical weapons programme and destroy it. But in the process, lives will be lost. Can the end justify the means?
I worked in Coimbra in Portugal for two years prior to the 1974 revolution and undertook a government consultancy mission to Beira in Mozambique during the post-revolutionary civil war period. I have felt and still feel a great affinity with the country, its culture and language and have been a frequent visitor ever since.
Why spy fiction?
I spent a third of my working life overseas, learning the language and fitting in. I’ve always relished moments when I was taken for a local. The duplicity of being and not being what you appear to be is seductive. After I returned to the UK, I continued to travel worldwide, and inevitably came across people whose faces did not match their stories.
Do you mean they were spies?
And were you one?
I’ve signed the Official Secrets Act.
What did the press say about Hellyer’s Trip?
“This author knows and conveys his chosen period and place well, aided by a central character who displays exactly the right balance between naivety and foxiness.” — Morning Star 24 May 2018
And why Egypt?
Alexandria was my first posting and they say you never forget your first love. I returned a few years ago to check my recollections and found that, like Shakespeare’s Cleopatra, ‘Age cannot wither her, nor custom stale her infinite variety.’ But the hard-drinking, free-wheeling, promiscuous sixties culture I describe has gone.
Are your novels fiction or faction?
The settings and some of the events are certainly based on my personal experience. As for the rest, I leave it for the reader to judge.
Is this the end of the line for Hellyer?
Not at all. At the end of Hellyer’s Coup, his boss tasks him with a new assignment: ‘Frankly, an enterprise with so little chance of success that I wouldn’t give it to a dog.’ Watch this space.