ABC journalist launches new novel
A deep respect for news is at the heart of a new novel, launched in Melbourne on July 25 at Readings book store in Carlton.
The author Tim Ayliffe is the managing editor of television and video for ABC News in Sydney.
He visited his 30th bookshop while in Melbourne to promote the fourth in his series of global thrillers.
The protagonist of Killer Traitor Spy is John Bailey, an old-style journalist. “He’s always confident and attentive. He’s given his life over to the craft,” Ayliffe said.
Bailey knocks on doors and he’s on the scene if anything is happening. “It’s not enough for him to get the job done quickly over the phone. The connecting with people is an important part of the job.”
Many of the tools of trade of the journalist are also examined in this story of intrigue, including checking sources and verifying facts.
At one point in the novel, the son of a dead man informs Bailey that his dad had lunch with a missing Russian. The journalist’s editor insists upon checking with the café to verify.
“If it’s a big development you have to check those facts,” Ayliffe said, drawing on his ABC experience. "Two sources might not be enough."
The plot of Killer Traitor Spy deals with the way Russian operatives have infiltrated governments and hacked into digital systems.
Bailey is on the case with the help of a tough CIA agent and is forced to cross the line between journalist and operative to save his friend.
In a novel there is more freedom to spruik in favour of characters who appear to be shady or on the run, whereas conventional journalism treats people more crudely as sources or turns them into celebrities by putting them under the spotlight in profiles.
In novels, characters have more agency. Ayliffe is the kind of guy who loves action and relishes the chance of getting his characters up and running.
He writes fiction on Saturdays and waits until he has a plot idea. He doesn’t worry about word count.
The issues he covers in the news go into the fiction which gives him the x factor when it comes to portraying the world of global politics in short, snappy prose.
“I pluck from real life to tell stories,” he said. “In fiction you can really get close to the truth. You get to create the story to address the problem.”
Killer Traitor Spy has impeccable timing, great narrative drive and is up with new weapons such as those used in the Havana Syndrome attacks on CIA agents.
But this tale is not one of gratuitous violence or showing off. The novel grounds itself firmly in the characters and their struggles as they criss-cross Sydney in search of the truth.
Killer Traitor Spy, Tim Ayliffe, Simon & Schuster, 2023
Caption: Tim Ayliffe centre stage at Readings.