Find out the latest indie author news. For FREE.


February 9, 2024
By Karen Clark
BookLife catches up with V.M. Knox.

Indie author V.M. Knox has written a series of crackling World War II thrillers featuring clergyman-turned-undercover agent Clement Wisdom. Following up on our March 2022 interview about her second book, If Necessary Alone, BookLife asks the author about her most recent work.

 Your latest Clement Wisdom book, Code Name Sorrow, takes place in Australia. How did writing a novel set in your homeland differ from writing those set in more far-flung locations?

 I like to set my books in places I either know or have visited, to include those little details that mean something to locals, even if not to others, as well as accurately referring to local weather, flora and fauna, transport and distances. So, setting the novel in Sydney, my home city, made it so much easier as I know all the places mentioned in the book. This was important for Code Name Sorrow as my husband had been diagnosed with leukemia and I wasn’t able to travel to research exotic locations. In addition, I am aware of Australian customs, habits, colloquial language of the era, along with Sydney’s prevailing weather and topography that all make a novel authentic. Although I wasn’t alive in 1942, I remember my parents talking about Sydney during the war.

Like the great noir author James M. Cain, you studied music and were involved in singing opera. Some of Cain’s most memorable novels involve opera and opera singers. How does your musical background inform your work?

Something I am aware of is the rhythm of a sentence and the importance it plays in generating tension. This I attribute to being ‘musical’. A repetitive rhythm to successive sentences is likely to put the reader to sleep. Not something a crime writer, or any writer would want. Varying the rhythm, even adding syncopation in the rhythm increases the tension, and therefore, raises the pulse of the narrative and drama.

Tell us about the origins and inspiration behind West Wind Clear.

This book is the fourth in my Clement Wisdom Series set during World War II. This was the first in the series to be set in the Pacific theatre and I included real-life characters in this story. Even the title was a code for the Japanese to send out to their embassies indicating which countries they intended to attack. I did a large amount of research for this novel, reading over 30 books to understand events in the region at the time and the Japanese Naval Code JN25. Loosely based on a raid on Singapore, the story is one of intrigue and murder underpinned by espionage and wartime spies. The fifth Clement Wisdom book, entitled Code Name Sorrow was released on December 7, 2023, and is also set in the Pacific theater of World War II.

You have a new series underway that does not feature Clement Wisdom. 

This book is the first in a new series set during the Cold War. Loosely based on the life of an MI5 agent, it takes a precocious young man from adolescence to adulthood where he becomes the bait for a lethal sting operation to uncover a traitor in MI5. Told from multiple points of view, I intertwined real events of the era and some personal dilemmas the agent encountered to drive the story of the secret life of a spy in the making. I envisage the second in this series to be released in late 2024.

Clement Wisdom, a widower still grieving his beloved wife, is notable for his chaste behavior towards the opposite sex. Will this precocious young man follow in his footsteps, or might he incline a bit more towards the James Bond model?

The personality of Alistair Quinn in the first of my new series, Neither Despise Nor Fear, is a totally different character to Clement Wisdom. Where Wisdom is mature age and the embodiment of his calling, a rural vicar in the Anglican Church with an acute sense of moral duty, Alistair Quinn is the polar opposite. Precocious for his teenage years, he is egotistical and hedonistic. The story takes him from youthful arrogance, with little regard for authority, to a young man beginning to realize his own limitations. For this series, I intend to write only four novels. The second book will concentrate on Alistair’s father, Frank Quinn, who is a master spy working for MI6 and where we will see the young Alistair and the circumstances that form his character.

Do you think you'll ever write a series featuring a female espionage agent?

Interesting question. I once did write a story about a Spanish woman, (born of a Spanish mother and English father) and set in Spain in the early part of the nineteenth century.  I loved this story, but as it was the first book I ever wrote, I made a great many mistakes.  I rewrote it several times and, in fact, wrote a sequel to it, but eventually, I shelved both stories.  Antonia was a great character and would fit with today's image of a feisty woman.  Perhaps I will look at it this year.  As for my new series Neither Despise Nor Fear, I have in mind a female main character for one of the four novels I intend to write in this series.  So, I suppose it's a case of watch this space.

Karen Clark is a freelance writer, editor, and tutor who received her MFA from the City College of New York after owning an antiquarian bookshop on Manhattan’s Upper West Side for over a decade.