Today I am so pleased to welcome Christian Beck to Joyfully Jay. Christian has come to talk to us about his latest release, The Last Enemy. He has also brought along a copy to give away. Please join me in giving Christian a big welcome!
Why Simon Monk? Why now?
My inspiration to write a character like Monk was born of a love of old thrillers by John le Carré, Leslie Charteris and the like. But the world really didn’t need another relic. What I mean by that is the male hero archetype, while the mold, is a bit dusty and dated. I wanted a character that was at his core a good person while at the same time being required to be a cruel, merciless killer when necessary–what kind of moral compass that gave him. That’s Simon Monk. But Monk was needed an update himself as he’d been shelved for a while. Making him timely was a simple as looking at the state of the world today. Don’t Ask Don’t Tell was the crux of his new origin. Here you have a highly decorated and dedicated 4th generation soldier at the top of his game– a former Army Ranger to Delta Force Tier 1. Monk loved his country with an intensity that was almost painful, serving with the same distinction and it didn’t matter once his being a gay soldier came out amid an espionage scandal. The top Army brass saw nothing else and Monk was drummed out of the service despite killing all the traitors involved. That’s the reality some gay men face. Discrimination despite proven ability. That betrayal shaped the character into who he is and the relationships he would allow himself to have. That made Monk relevant enough to me to put new word to page. Fortunately, the CIA didn’t care about Monk’s sexual preference. They needed someone who loved their country and would stop at nothing to protect it. Again, the epitome of Simon Monk. The Agency was Monk’s second chance to do what he had been prepped by four generations of soldiers to do: Protect the homeland. In Monk you have that international level spy, the next action hero, and he just happens to be gay.
Ben glanced at his watch as the twin engine Gulfstream taxied to a stop in front of him. He pulled the dark sunglasses down from atop his head as he stepped from the tinted, refrigerated shelter of the embassy loaner and into the fierce bright sun. It was only midmorning, but already the heat was barely tolerable.
The call from Tim Kilburn at the CIA to join Monk in Cairo had come as a complete surprise to Ben. It had been three years since he’d seen Monk, with only a sparse few e-mails back and forth. When they had been enlisted men, their long-distance relationship had always been unconventional, as they rarely found themselves on the same continent at the same time.
To remedy that, Monk and Ben took their thirty days of leave together in the Caribbean, spending every waking moment enjoying each other, often only leaving the bed to shower and eat. It was always like that at first, the thrill of a new relationship, but their intensity didn’t wane. Perhaps it was the distance, Ben reflected, that had constantly rejuvenated them.
When Monk retired from active service, he stayed in Los Angeles and took a consulting job with an international private-security firm. Ben was reassigned stateside to Fort Bragg to coordinate missions. They made the best of their distance. Ben felt his cock stir recalling their many Skype sex sessions. The repeal of DADT meant that Ben could serve while being openly gay, and they no longer needed to hide their relationship. Monk even spoke of selling his place in LA and making the move to North Carolina.
The CIA changed all of that for them.
Monk’s new job required he move to DC. For the first time since they had been together, Monk was MIA for Ben’s leaves. Ben wasn’t privy to much of what Monk did for Langley. They kept in casual touch, and while neither ended it, it was clear their relationship was over. However, for Ben, the feelings he felt for Monk had moved beyond lust. There was real affection, at least on his end. He couldn’t speak for his elusive lover.
Ben’s eyes played across Simon Monk as he disembarked the Gulfstream. He was a splendid figure of a man, clad perfectly in navy slacks, a white shirt, and an unlined blazer. His mind drifted back to their last day of their leave together in Belize. It was the last time they’d seen each other. Ben remembered how urgent and desperate their lovemaking had been that day. How his mind still recalled Monk’s last kiss like the body did a lost limb. It was almost as if he wanted the taste of him to stay with him forever, and damn him, it had. He wondered if Monk knew then that he wasn’t coming back.
Monk put on a pair of Wayfarers, then took off his jacket. He rolled up the sleeves of his shirt as the parched, hot air welcomed him back to the desert.
Ben took stock of Monk as he strode toward him with a sense of déjà vu. The man’s chiseled features looked harder in the stark sunlight than Ben remembered, but most men, or women for that matter, would freely follow him anywhere, he thought.
Ben greeted him, the smile rakish and wide, clearly happy to see him, the affection rolling off him in waves.
“Welcome to Cairo, Simon.”
“Ben,” Monk said, smiling at him and following up with an enthusiastic handshake that mirrored both his strength and confidence. Monk’s manner was no-nonsense, but his usually impassive face betrayed how pleased he was to see Ben. Still, Ben half expected something a bit more personal than this rather casual greeting, which barely seemed to register with Monk. He’d thought his lover would show up, but instead he got a colleague.
“How long’s it been?” Monk asked crisply.
“Fuck you’s how long,” Ben said, good-natured.
Ben hated the part of him that still felt the pang of sexual hunger for the man upon sight of him. His light eyebrows drew together as he gazed into Monk’s strong face. Even when they’d been romantically involved, Ben found that he was still struck by Monk’s air of casual self-confidence and intense sexual allure, so overpowering he always had to catch his breath before he spoke. Ben stamped down his first instinct to grab and kiss the man’s thin lips that he knew so well. If only he didn’t find the man so damn attractive!
“Look,” Monk began tersely, “I know I’m an asshole, and I was the one who ran out. But I asked for you on this op because I need someone I can trust. So how about we table us for now and focus on the job.” Though the words left his lips, the sight of Ben’s easy smile and windblown hair stirred a warm tingle in Monk’s groin.
Focus on the job…. The words hit Ben like ice water and cleared up any misconception about what they were to each other.
Monk had asked for him because he trusted him in the field, and for no other reason. His position could not have been made any clearer.
“Us,” Ben said flatly, “is so ancient a subject it’s a history lesson, Simon.”
Highly decorated Delta Force operator and Iraq war hero Simon Monk loses everything when his romantic partner defects to Beijing after being caught selling US secrets to Chinese Intelligence. Monk is drummed out of the Army from the blowback but gets a second chance at a career when he is recruited into a covert group within the CIA.
Years later Monk’s latest assignment sends him to Cairo, where the head of station has disappeared amid a highly publicized sex scandal. But things are not what they seem. When the base chief turns up dead and the Egyptian government looks the other way, Monk and his team hunt down the assassin.
All roads lead to a ruthless and lethal cult from Egypt’s ancient past who discard every unwritten rule of espionage to win. Monk is forced to take to the shadows to find and destroy his most dangerous adversaries yet, as a chain of events threatens to ignite war in the Middle East.
Christian Beck saw Doctor Zhivago and Lawrence of Arabia when he was a wee boy on a giant white drive-in screen in Super Panavision 70 amid the dusty Iowan cornfields, shaping his idea of what storytelling was. It stuck. Seldom does he write anything less than sweeping, epic adventures that pit his characters against some instrument or agent of death, pushing them beyond their every limit to survive. Simply put: Cinema put in words. He does that on a Surface Pro tablet sitting somewhere in the desert with his family – far, far away from those cornfields of the American Heartland.
Christian has brought a copy of The Last Enemy to give away to one lucky reader. Just leave a comment at the end of the post to enter. The contest ends on Tuesday, July 5th at 11:59 pm EST.
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