Motivation: Why Borderless Deceit came to be written
I began writing Borderless Deceit before there was a publisher who decided to take on my first novel, The Berlin Assignment. This was one of several reasons why I decided to write a second story that, while still having a foreign service setting, would nevertheless be quite different from the first. The Berlin Assignment is a novel where a place and its historical moment and setting plays a determining role in the development of the plot. Borderless Deceit in contrast has the erosion of privacy in today’s IT-driven world as its driving force.
My fascination with the impact of technology on the workplace, and in my novel’s case, the impact of technology on the government’s intelligence analysis function, was one of the things I had in mind when I began to think about a plot for a new book. What would it be like, I wondered, if information which is nowadays routinely captured each time we travel somewhere, whenever we buy something, or file a tax return, or use a computer or the telephone, were to come together in one giant data base to which intelligence analysts have access?
About the time I started to think about this as an element of a new novel, a fairly effective computer virus invaded the world’s e-mail operations. The effect of the virus was that the computer system of the Canadian department of foreign affairs had to be shut down for a while. This too played into my thinking of a plot. In fact, I decided to begin the novel with that event.
Beyond this kind of broad scene-setting, I also conceived Borderless Deceit with having fewer characters than appear in The Berlin Assignment, where many characters come and go as they make their (small) contributions to keeping the action moving forward. For my second novel I decided on having four main characters, two men and two women, each one as different from the others as possible. A cast of supporting characters exists as well, but the relationships in the novel which develop from the beginning to the ending are really only among Carson Pryce, Rachel Dunn, Irving Heywood and Jaime.
The most ambitious undertaking for me with Borderless Deceit was the time-line, or rather, the interplay between two time lines.
The whole story is an ex post facto reflection by Carson Pryce on his ‘transformation’. He is the narrator. Events and happenings which he could not have personally observed he has knowledge of either through a series of confession-type situations with other characters (such as Rachel and Jaime) at the very end, or through powerful clairvoyant-type insights. Several times he describes moments when he becomes emotionally overwhelmed and in such nearly psychic states he has visions which he treats as accurate descriptions of what happened. In other words, there is a blending of what he knows and what he imagines.
While thus the story is a looking-back, what happened has two starting points. Hence there are two time lines.
The major time-line is relatively short. The action begins in Ottawa with the arrival of the destructive virus and ends some eight or nine months later when Irving Heywood dances out a pirouette which symbolizes his ‘love’ for humanity and technology both.
The subsidiary, but longer time-line is the decade long ‘affair’, or obsession, which Carson has with the idea of Rachel. For Carson, Rachel is both real and unreal. His obsession is with her apparent perfection. In reality Rachel is not so perfect and as the years go by her own demons develop. But relative to many Rachel is certainly competent at life, something which Carson is not. And the reason for his obsession is that he wants to understand that life-competence. Within this time-line, through the thoughts of Carson, the reader is exposed to Rachel’s flamboyant personal life (and her diplomatic career).
I found this inter-weaving of time-lines technically challenging, yet enjoyed the way that it allowed some of the characters and their interrelationships to be deepened.
When I first developed a mental sketch of the novel’s structure, I wondered whether it could work. Would it be possible to weave the two different time-lines, both constituting Carson’s reflections, together into a story that would keep the reader turning the pages? Or would it put them to sleep? Reader feedback so far (see Comments) appears to indicate that it may have come off.
Adrian de Hoog