I thought I'd explain some of the more obscure references, or secret histories, behind some of the stuff in the Jimmy Coates novels. If you have a particular question that I don't answer here, or elsewhere on the site, then send me an email (firstname.lastname@example.org).
-Dr Higgins is the great-nephew of Professor Higgins, the character in the play Pygmalion (or the musical My Fair Lady, if you prefer). Well, he might be. That's where the name comes from. His first name, Kasimit, is an invention of my own, created when I mis-typed 'Massimo', which would have been a terrible name for him anyway.
-I find it very hard to take the book Pride & Prejudice seriously, because all of the characters seem to be called Miss Bennett. That's why I gave that name to Jimmy's form teacher, and why her first name remains a mystery. I know what it is though.
-The characters are all named alphabetically. This way, there shouldn't be any two characters whose names begin with the same letter. It also means that characters who are related have alphabetically adjacent names. For example: Georgie, Helen, Ian and Jimmy Coates are my G, H, I and J, respectively. Eva and Felix are close friends of the family, so they're nearby: my E and my F. If you had the time, you could go through the book and pin down which other characters go with which letters. Then you'd know which letters still don't have names to go with them, and you could have a guess at the names of characters which will come up in future books. now wouldn't that be a fun way to spend an afternoon?
-Izgaru: The fictional Turkish Restaurant from which Chritopher Viggo runs his operations IS FICTIONAL. Everybody has suggested different REAL Turkish restaurants that it might be, but 'Izgara' is a generic name for a Turkish restaurant, because it means 'grill' in Turkish. I changed the last letter so that the name couldn't possibly refer to a real restaurant. That hasn't stopped you all having your theories, though, has it? Having said that, there is a real Turkish Restaurant (called Izgara - it's excellent) in Finchley Central (where Viggo runs Izgaru in the book). It used to be painted green and gold (just like Izgaru), but it never had dirty windows.
There's a video of me visiting the place, and walking from Finchley Central Station, just like Viggo and Jimmy do in the book, on the Jimmy's World page of this site.
-Holborn Underground Station really is right next to a disused tram tunnel that runs down Kingsway. It's pretty obvious if you visit because you can see the entrance to the tunnel right in the middle of the street. What's a bit less obvious is that there is also a disused stretch of London Underground tunnel. That's hidden away in the depths of the station, and it really is used by British Secret Services. No, I'm not winding you up. It's true. They use it to practise anti-terrorism operations, evacuations and things like that.
**Update** The network of tunnels under Kingsway was put on the market in late 2008, so it's no longer secret. Shame.
Here's some trivia on the second book, Jimmy Coates: Target.
-Milnet: This is real. There actually is an alternative network to the Internet, used exclusively by the military. I don't know whether Amazon has a page on it. Let's face it, they probably do - somebody's got to sell the army its helicopters.
-Helicopters & Aeroplanes: All of the military hardware in my books is based on real army technology, either currently in use, or in development for the future. Sometimes I take something real and design my own, fictional, version of what I think the next model up might be. This is to fit in with the setting of the books: very, very slightly in the future.
-Uno Stovorsky: The DGSE agent's name is an anagram of Victor Ostrovsky, who is a real ex-agent of Mossad (the Israeli Secret Service). The character isn't meant to represent the real person in any way, by the way, or make any judgement about what Ostrovsky did or didn't do. I just liked the name. In early drafts, the character was called Victor Vostorsky, but it was too confusing having his name begin with the same letter as Viggo's. I'm easily confused.
-Thoosavliess: This is the name for the meat company that smuggles Jimmy back into Britain. 'Vliess' is Dutch for meat (which is the only way you'd know it's a Dutch company, as I don't think I ever stated that explicitly). So why 'Thoosa'? That's a little trickier. In the early drafts, Jimmy was smuggled back into Britain on a boat, not a meat truck. I was looking for a good name for the boat, so I named it after a Sea-Nymph from Greek legends. Thoosa was the mother of Polyphemus, the famous Cyclops who imprisoned Ulysses in his cave. As the ship was Thoosa, I thought the ship's captain, like Thoosa's son, should be a cyclops. So I gave the captain of the boat one eye that was almost completely closed, and only one that worked. Then, in later drafts, I completely reworked the boat scene so there was no water involved at all, and the boat was a truck. I kept the name as a little tribute to the earlier version, and the driver of the truck is still a cyclops.
-Estafette: This is the driver of the truck (see above). He's also Dutch (though you can only tell from his name). 'Estafette' is Dutch for 'Rider'. Those of you who are familiar with other books in the same genre as Jimmy Coates will know what this is a reference to. If you're not, check out the works of Mr Anthony Horowitz.
-311#279: This is a code that comes up in the book. It's origins will remain secret. With a bit of research, though, you can easily work it out.
-2187: Another code from the book (actually, it's a prison cell number). I was editing Jimmy Coates: Target during the Ashes Summer of 2005. On the day I had to come up with a cell number I was unable to tear myself away from one of the most exciting series of cricket matches there has ever been. I looked at the screen. England were 218 for 7. That became the cell number I needed. It's my little tribute to England's 'Ashes Heroes'.
If there's any more particular trivia you want to know about, email me and I'll put the answers up here.
- In JC:R, there's a door marked 'Knickerbocker' deep within Times Square subway station that Jimmy goes through to meet his new contacts. That door really does exist. You can go and see it if you like. It's in New York. You can find out more about it here. In fact, if you don't believe me, here's a photograph of it:
-I'm particularly proud of the old cover image of JC:R (on the right). I didn't design it, or create it, and, no, I didn't pose for it (thought plenty of people have asked whether that's me on the front). But take a look at the background image. That's the view from Roosevelt Island, in New York, across the river to the East. I took that picture. I never thought that a picture I took would be used on the front of a book - even a book I wrote! Sadly, that image disappeared when the books got a whole new look. I love the new covers, but I'm still a little sad that my photo is no longer on the front of my books.
-One of the visions that attacks Jimmy's mind in JC:R is an image of the letter 'K'. The service doors at the Museum of Modern Art in New York really are marked with letters. Here's the 'K':
I'm sorry that it's a bit out of focus. That's how things go when you're on the run from the Secret Service and you think someone's about to assassinate the US President - there's not much time to focus the camera.
-Eva's brothers are called Quinn and Rick. I won't go into why Rick is called Rick (it's a bit dull), but I'll tell you about Quinn. He's named after Anthony Quinn, an old Hollywood actor. One of the films he was in was The Guns of Navarone, which is a classic adventure thriller. It's a movie thad had a big influence on me while I was writing JC:R.
- One of my favourite fights from any book in the series is at a place called Roosevelt Island, where there really is an abandoned smallpox hospital. Here's a little pic I took as part of my research:
I didn't put the luminous green cabin in the book. You know - artistic licence.
Some of them were easier than others. Before I decided on JC: Survival for the 5th book, I made a massive list of alternatives that I could use for future books. There are going to be eight books in the series in total, and I've sorted out what they're all going to called. But meanwhile, I thought you'd enjoy seeing that list of alternatives:
Jimmy Coates: Commander, Jimmy Coates: Traitor (this was the original title for Jimmy Coates: Target), Jimmy Coates: Underground (what was I thinking? That he becomes a train driver? A mole?), Jimmy Coates: Alone (A very dull book, in which there are absolutely no other characters, just Jimmy and a basketball that he names Tallulah), Jimmy Coates: Soldier, Jimmy Coates: Ally (Ally who? Ally McBeal? What a ridiculous title), Jimmy Coates: Ghost, Jimmy Coates: Prisoner, Jimmy Coates: Fugitive, Jimmy Coates: Victim, Jimmy Coates: Trial, Jimmy Coates: Dead (Again, a pretty dull book. Jimmy lies in a coffin, wondering to himself: I wish I hadn't died. That's really inconvenient.), Jimmy Coates: Tomorrow, Jimmy Coates: Spy, Jimmy Coates: Danger, Jimmy Coates: Prototype, Jimmy Coates: Identity (ID), Jimmy Coates: Supremacy (Sound familiar to fans of the Bourne trilogy?), Jimmy Coates: Destiny (This one made me physically sick. I actually throw up a little bit when I think about it now), Jimmy Coates: Beware, Jimmy Coates: Hostage, Jimmy Coates: Threat, Jimmy Coates: Thunder (I thought that one sounded too much like his stomach was rumbling), Jimmy Coates: Storm, Jimmy Coates: Blizzard, Jimmy Coates: Alarm, Jimmy Coates: Sting, Jimmy Coates: Capricorn (as in the Tropic of Capricorn. I wasn't about to go down the whole horoscope route. Even though I'm a Capricorn... Jimmy's not though), Jimmy Coates: Poison, Jimmy Coates: Predator, Jimmy Coates: Searchlight, Jimmy Coates: Hunter, Jimmy Coates: Hunted, Jimmy Coates: Stranger, Jimmy Coates: Wanted, Jimmy Coates: Exile, Jimmy Coates: Outlaw, Jimmy Coates: Natural Law (What?! More than three words in the title?! WHAT WAS I THINKING?!?!!?!), Jimmy Coates: Superiority, Jimmy Coates: Paradox, Jimmy Coates: Lost, Jimmy Coates: Legacy, Jimmy Coates: Instinct, Jimmy Coates: Escape, Jimmy Coates: Evolution (Actually, that one's pretty good, dontcha think? Probably just one letter too long), Jimmy Coates: Conspiracy (That was the original title for JC: Sabotage, but apparently it was too long to fit on the cover. It wouldn't have been such a good title anyway. Every JC book has a conspiracy in it! See the trivia page for more about this), Jimmy Coates: Betrayal, Jimmy Coates: Illusion, Jimmy Coates: Deception, Jimmy Coates: Enforcer (I really like this title. Too bad I'm not going to use it), Jimmy Coates: Chaos (Probably my favourite of the lot - it's short, punchy, surprising... Oh well. I think the ones I've got are better, but don't be surprised if you see me change my mind and a book called JC: Chaos hits the shelves some time...)
So now you know what the future Jimmy Coates books WON'T be called, do you reckon you know what they WILL be called?
Jimmy Coates: Sabotage is the fourth book in the series. It's out now in the UK and several other countries around the world. I don't want to spoil any of the surprises in the plot for you, so I'll save most of the trivia. But here are a few facts about the book to keep you going:
- My original title for the book was Jimmy Coates: Conspiracy. But then my editor told me that was too long to fit on the cover. So I changed the title. And actually, I'm pleased I did, because I think 'Sabotage' is a much better title. It fits the plot of the book much better as well.
- A reference to the orginal title survives in the book. JC: Sabotage features an oil company called SYNPERCO. I came up with the name by mixing up all the letters of the word 'CONSPIRE', then replacing the I with a Y, because otherwise it would have been been SINPERCO and I didn't want people to think it had anything to do with words like 'sin' and 'sinful'.
- JC: Sabotage features many more locations than any previous Jimmy Coates book. There are scenes in London, France, New York, Texas, the Gulf of Mexico, Iceland and the middle of the North Sea. But the beauty of writing a book is that in my story I can go wherever I like, and it doesn't cost any more. Think of the budget a movie version of this book would need!
- There are more beards and moustaches in this book. I realised that there weren't enough characters in the Jimmy Coates series who had facial hair, so I tried to make sure there were a few really good beards in this one. You can't go wrong with a good beard. Not that I would ever grow one myself, of course.
- Apart from having more beards, JC: Sabotage also needed much more research than any of the previous books. For a start there are loads more helicopters and planes, then there's also a massive set-piece on an oil rig. So I researched all that, then mainly ignored everything I'd learned and made it up instead. Strangely, what I made up is more believable than the truth. And in the words of the great Chuck Jones, don't give me something realistic - give me something believable. And he should know - he directed most of the Bugs Bunny cartoons.
- There are two CIA agents featured in JC: Sabotage. One is called Froy, the other one is called Bligh. Froy's name came from an old Hitchcock movie called 'The Lady Vanishes'. It's a classic. And the fate of the old lady in that film, whose name is Froy, is strangely related to the fate of Agent Froy in my book.
- Bligh's name is a reference to Captain Bligh, who was unfortunately at the wrong end of the famous 'Mutiny on the Bounty'. If you know about that story then you'll have a little insight into how things are going to turn out for Agent Bligh in JC: Sabotage. But there's also another reason he's called Bligh. On the day I was developing his character and naming him, I was walking about in Covent Garden, in London. And I was stopped by somebody raising money for some charity. I can't remember which charity it was, but I can remember the name of the person who stopped me - Aletheia Bligh-Flower. I thought it was such a great name I should pay homage to it somehow in the book. But of course, the characters in the book are entirely fictional and have no resemblance to any real person living or dead and if they do it is entirely coincidental! I just liked her name. If you happen to know Aletheia Bligh-Flower, feel free to mention it to her.
More trivia to come soon - when each new book comes out, and a little more whenever I feel like it!
This is the 5th book in the series (but it will still make sense if you havent read the others yet). It started life as Jimmy Coates: Enforcer, then became Jimmy Coates: Destroyer, until finally becoming Jimmy Coates: Survival only after it was finished.
When I first thought of that title, I was reluctant to use it because I didnt want the book to have the same initials as the previous book in the series, Jimmy Coates: Sabotage (which, by the way, was originally called Jimmy Coates: Conspiracy, but thats another story )
I started the first draft of JC: Survival on July 25th 2007, after about a months planning.
The first draft took 45 writing days, spread out over 3 months, during which time I took two holidays, visited a dozen schools, appeared at the Edinburgh Festival and got engaged.
JC: Survival has a few new characters in it probably more than any book in the series since the first one, where (obviously) all of the characters are new. Heres a bit of inside info on the new players in Jimmy Coates life:
is named after a character in an old movie called DOA, which stands for Dead On Arrival. Its a film that involves a character being poisoned by radioactive material, which fits in with the themes of JC: Survival quite nicely. I dont want to give anything away about the plot, except to say that the title of that movie does have great significance for Marla Rakubian in my book
Lieutenant Commander Luke Love
is named after Luke Love, a reader from Wiltshire, who was one of the first readers to ask to have his name in a Jimmy Coates book.
is named after Friedrich Oskar Giesel, the scientist who independently discovered actinium in 1902 (see below for more about actinium), after it had already been discovered, and named, by André-Louis Debierne in 1899.
I particularly liked the name because Geisel was also the real name of a hero of mine, Dr Seuss (Theodore Seuss Geisel).
Josh Browder and William Lee
are both named after pupils at my old school, and readers of the Jimmy Coates series, who won the right to have their names in the book at a charity auction. Their parents paid handsomely for the privilege.
What about some of the locations? JC: Survival has more locations, spread over more of the world, than any Jimmy Coates book so far. In fact, future JC books will have fewer locations, so this is the most far flung book. (Thats why I wanted there to be a map in the front of the book to give you a better idea of where all these places are and how theyre related to each other.)
Heres some info on a couple of the stranger locations:
is the focus of most of the action in JC: Survival. I wont tell you what it is or where it is, so you can find that out for yourself in the book. But I will tell you that the name is simply an anagram of Ultimatum my little homage to the movie, The Bourne Ultimatum, which came out while I was writing the book and inspired me to keep going.
is one of the few locations in a Jimmy Coates book that isnt real. (Neptunes Shadow, from JC: Sabotage, is the only other one I can think of.) In JC: Survival, Tlon is a small town in Western Sahara. I named it after a fictional place in a short story by Jorge Luis Borges, one of my favourite writers.
The Gregors Elbow Pub
is based on a pub thats actually called the Fiddlers Elbow. The location as its described in the book is accurate to the pubs location in real life. Its in Chalk Farm, North London. I re-named it honour of a friend who lives in the very block of flats where Helen, Georgie and Felix are being watched by NJ7. This is me outside the pub:
And opposite the pub, here's me standing right outside the flat where Jimmy's family is held:
Camden Snooker Club
plays a small but important role in JC: Survival. Its where Viggo gathers support for his campaign against the government. Im a regular at Camden Snooker Club, but just a week before JC: Survivals publication it was announced that the place is going to be torn down to make way for some flats. Theyd better be nice flats, thats all I can say.
As always, all the military technology in the books is based on real technology either what is currently the state-of-the-art, of what is in development to be used by armies and navies around the world in the future that includes the boats, the guns, the cars, the bikes everything. You can always Google the names for more info on the military hardware, but watch out for small changes that I make to the model numbers (for example, I changed a Type 45 Destroyer to a Type 48).
plays quite an important role in the book. Its a real radioactive element, and Ive tried to keep the science in the book as true to life as I could, though I have taken a couple of liberties here and there. Apparently it really does give off a blue glow, though.
The Return Of The Cleaner
Yet again, cleaners play an important role in the plot. This time, at a service station and at Liverpool Street Station. Theres been a cleaner in every Jimmy Coates book so far (with the possible exception of JC: Sabotage, but Ill have to double check that). So I was pleased to be able to get more cleaners in here, and I plan to continue the habit with JC:6, JC:7 and JC:8
I loved the response I got to this page, so here's some more random trivia for you:
My favourite paragraph in the whole of Jimmy Coates: Target isn't a twist or a bit of the action, it comes on page 114 (of the UK edition), when Jimmy throws a bottle of water at the wall. Why's he so upset? Well, hopefully it's clear by then that he's worried about the situation with his father. But what is it about the bottle (or the bottle top) that makes him particularly angry? The answer is all the way back on page 9 of the first book, Jimmy Coates: Killer (or pages 2 and 3 of the US edition, Jimmy Coates: Assassin?). I don't want to give away any more than that, but now I've told you where to look you should get it. If you still don't, email me: email@example.com.
P.p18N.2300 - this is the code that Uno Stovorsky uses to tell Viggo where to meet him in Paris. Take a look at a map of Paris and see whether you can work out what it means. I'll give you a clue: the first 'P' stands for 'Paris' - obvious. Work out what the second 'p' stands for, then count the number of those things that there are on the map. You might need a French dictionary for this one.
The standard of Ian Coates's French - did you notice that in Jimmy Coates: Target, Jimmy's dad says 'Hands up' in French, but he says it differently to how the French Secret Service agents say it a few pages later? I thought it would be more realistic if Ian Coates didn't speak the language perfectly. The phrase he uses is probably not the one a real Frenchman would use.
By the way, I think David Somen deserves a mention here for his fantastic theory about 311#279. He emailed me to say:
"I was wondering if the numbers you gave on your last newsletter as a secret: 311 #279, have anything to do with the years in which the Wall of Yan (part of the great wall of China) was built. Built in c.311-279 B.C. it is located Southeastern Inner Mongolia-northern slopes of Yanshan Mountains-Liaodong."
Thanks again, David. I'm very impressed, and I learned something. But that's not the origin of the code. The hunt goes on.