Tim Wickenden on writing Angel Avenger: A Max Becker Thriller
I’d been planning a novel for several years, a family saga spanning the 20th century, with a male, gay couple at its centre: one sent off to Hong Kong in disgrace, the other forced to marry and comply, but I had to put my writing on hold to refurbish a house my wife and I had bought.
During that 18-month period, I went about my day job as a furniture maker, gutted the house, renewed everything and had lots of time to think.
That’s how Max Becker, a 1960s West Berlin detective, was born.
You might ask why a Brit would create and write about a German detective?
My father was in the military and I was born in Zimbabwe (then Southern Rhodesia and Nyasaland). I spent my childhood moving around the world: UK, Hong Kong and, during the 1970s, when I was between the ages of nine and 18, we were in Germany.
I was sent back to the UK to be educated in various grim boarding schools and spent my holidays in Germany (Hannover, Münster and Rhinedahlen). I liked Germany and the people, and visiting Bergen-Belsen, Cold War Berlin, the Eagle’s Nest and many other historic locations set off my interest in 20th-century German history.
Wind forward many years and, while I’m plastering and painting, my idea for a detective develops.
I chose Berlin in the 1960s because it is historically iconic, with its own government: a political island deep within communist East Germany, and the Soviet government’s metaphorical stick, used to beat the West. To a creative writer, a wealth of possibilities.
The 1960s was close enough to the Second World War to have my characters involved in it and for me to relate their experience and the complex stories I have spent years researching.
I didn’t want my detective to be a maverick loner: we’ve got lots of fictional hard-drinking, divorced, maverick detectives (Rebus, Harry Hole, to name but two), many of them superbly written and great characters, but I wanted Max to be a family man, a team player. This allowed me to construct a small group of detectives around him who have become as important as the main character.
It was vital to me to have a strong female character, so I created Ottilie Jäger (Otti), the first frontline Kriminalpolizei (Kripo) detective. Once I had created Otti, it gave a nice balance to the team and offered the chance for a romantic liaison between her and the solid, ex-paratrooper (Fallschirmjäger), Detective-Sergeant Bastian Döhl – but you’ll have to read Angel Avenger to find out more.
Max’s wife, a medical doctor called Anna, ex-wartime Red Cross nurse and amputee, is rock solid and provides a beautiful foil to Max, as do their children, twins, Heike and Markus (aged 12).
Other main characters are pathologist Paul Schmidt (ex-Wehrmacht doctor), forensic expert Lutz Jensen (ex-German navy – Kriegsmarine), the head of the Berlin Kripo, Julius Grob (wartime Nazi party member), and Tobi Klein, Max’s long-time friend (ex-Wehrmacht infantry officer and sniper).
Angel Avenger is a story of revenge. It follows Angelika and her brother Christian (you know early in the novel that they are the killers) both of whom were victims of a terrible atrocity that took place in Berlin during the closing weeks of the war. Angelika, working as a waitress in the Wedding district of West Berlin, encounters one of her attackers and vows to take revenge. The novel tells the story of their quest and how it affects them, Max and his colleagues. It explores how it might be possible for a good person to turn bad – and the consequences. It is a dark story but there is a purpose to the darkness and violence and, I hope, it’s never gratuitous.
I got the idea from reading about an atrocity that took place in October 1944 in a village called Nemmersdorf, and I asked the question: what would I do if such a thing happened to me and I got the chance to even the score? It opened an interesting historical and psychological quest that resulted in this first Max Becker thriller.
Published in July 2019 it has been much favourably reviewed and unanimously enjoyed, with readers looking forward to future adventures.
In March 2019 I published Girl Hunter, a Max Becker short story, which launched the series and that too has been well received.
I am writing, for release in September 2020, the next novel, Lüdke’s Game, and have plot ideas for at least three more. I have plans when Max retires, or circumstances dictate, to write a separate series with Otti as the main character, possibly with Max’s daughter, Heike, as her sidekick (see Angel Avenger for clues as to Heike’s future).
For an author, it is all very exciting and I am so enjoying writing about Max and his team. And the original novel, the family saga? I will write it one day and continue to develop the plot.
Tim Wickenden was born in 1962 and has been a hobbyist writer since his teens, writing many short stories and a number of plays. He lives in the fabulous town of Fishguard and still works as a carpenter/furniture maker, writing in the afternoons, evenings and weekends. Tim always finds time to spend with his autistic 12-year-old son, playing games on the PS4, going swimming and walking. If you want to know more about his work, he can be found on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, and his author website is www.timwickenden.com. Tim’s books can be found on Amazon.