Khaled Talib is a former journalist with local and international exposure. He has worked full time for magazines, and his articles have been published and syndicated to newspapers worldwide, while his short stories have appeared in literary journals and magazines.
Khaled is also the author of The Little Book of Muses, a collection of personal muses for writers and aspiring authors. The author is a member of the Crime Writers Association and the International Thriller Writers Association.
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I didn’t set out to write INCOGNITO, my second thriller novel. I accidentally stumbled upon it. The experience was bizarre, I tell you. It started after my encounter with two different women in Switzerland.
The first story took place in Geneva. I was looking out my hotel room window one cold night when I noticed a tall, large woman in black standing stiffly under a street lamp. Later, I decided to go downstairs to talk to the hotel receptionist in an adjoining office as he had invited me for coffee. I took the stairs instead of the ancient traction elevator since my room was only one floor down.
Descending halfway, I saw the same woman in the lobby. She glared at me. There was no one else. I realized she was mentally challenged, but her behavior gave me the creeps. I ran back up and locked myself in the room. Something about her reminded me of a character in a horror movie. And how the hell did she get in? Every guest had a password to open the digital door lock. She was not a guest.
In the second story, I was hiking up a snowy mountain in Saint Moritz. There, I met another woman. I asked her for directions as I wasn’t sure of my surroundings. She then introduced herself and told me she visited the alps regularly for inner peace. She added that she followed a certain religion although she was not born into it. She also complained about how Switzerland was no longer the same. She even denigrated the country’s politicians and bankers. Then, with a finger pointing at Italy, she ranted about the Vatican.
All this while, I was praying the woman wouldn’t ask me about my faith. I was concerned she might also have issues with it. I got the impression she had issues period. She was carrying a hiking pole unlike me. I was worried she might get a bit creative with the stick. If I had to defend myself, it’ll be my word against hers since there were only the two of us on that mountain section. How fast could I run with snow boots on, anyway? But the idea for a story had transpired. Some 3,000 feet up high on the Swiss alps, I suddenly realized I was looking at the vista of a new thriller novel!
Then I visited Italy, which gave me more ideas about what to include in my manuscript. It was like picking fruits in the garden. I had visited several other countries that I felt would be relevant to the plot and theme. So I began crafting with all the ingredients in the pot. Trial and error, rewrites, back and forth… and then it was all done.
In weaving the tale, I wanted a cocktail thriller set on the international scene without the usual players. No CIA, no Mi6… none of those kind of people. I wanted something different – something fresh. So I added a few new elements that in my view sounded plausible. I am happy with the outcome. Honestly? I didn’t think I would ever finish writing the manuscript. But I did. Phew!
I’ll skip the boring details about how I went about writing the story. Every author does the same thing. We research (lots of research), fact check, interview people, make observations — that kind of thing. Nothing glamorous about that. But I knew the story had to be different
Well, I hope you’ll read INCOGNITO when it’s released. And yes, l couldn’t help it, the novel does contain a secret message. Please don’t tell when it’s finally revealed to you … that’s the fun part about sharing a secret.
Over and out.
p.s. A special thanks to Jörg-Thomas Weidtke who worked at Hotel Stille, Saint Moritz for letting me take as much chocolate as I want from the bowl at the reception desk.
There are some images based on my upcoming thriller, INCOGNITO,. These images were taken during my trip between the Italian-Swiss border. Some people buy souvenirs, I stock up ideas in my mind. These pictures were taken during a train journey between Italy and Switzerland. So what do you think?
World Castle Publishing is proud to unveil the cover for Khaled Talib’s highly anticipated thriller, INCOGNITO, scheduled to be released next year. Early buzz from thriller fans across the globe and social media platforms is anticipating this novel to be a huge success.
The book cover’s overlaying fiery red ruby communicates the intense theme that brings together incongruent elements in a striking finish. It personifies a story that is mysterious, suspenseful, action-filled, and tumultuous all at the same time.
The author’s new protagonist, Ayden Tanner, is a former British SAS commando who happens to be officially dead. He and his crew are dispatched by a covert division of the international hacker group, Anonymous, to find the pope, who is missing. In the story, Anonymous has created a covert division called The League of Invisible Knights, which aims to bring about the triumph of good over evil.
INCOGNITO was inspired by the author’s chance encounter with several individuals and visits to places during trips to Switzerland, Italy and Istanbul.
There was a two-storey Lebanese restaurant behind the grand old Sultan Mosque in the old area here. The front of the establishment and the back entrance of the mosque was divided by a thin road. The restaurant owner was stationed in the Middle East. He visited occasionally to check on things.
I used to frequent this place when it was newly opened. Some time later, the management, a group of Singaporeans, decided to host an official launch party. Apart from having a live band, they planned to have a belly dancing performance. I was invited.
I came with a friend, a Malay-Muslim, but with no intention of joining the party. I requested a table outside the restaurant, right at the end of the walkway, in a really dim spot.
The waiters pestered us to go upstairs to join the party. In fact some guests, who were familiar faces, also urged us to join them. I refused.
We ordered food and two apple-flavored sheesha, then sat there quietly in our own space.
My friend was wondering why I chose this boring, isolated spot. I told him to trust me.
The party began. You could hear the drums reverberating, tambourines banging, the loudspeakers yelling incessantly, and shoes thumping on the wooden floor.
About forty minutes into the gig, the mosque Imam, dressed in his white robe and Haji cap, showed up. With a frown, he was accompanied by two clergymen. They marched upstairs.
The music and the craziness stopped.
Later, a senior waiter told us how lucky we were because the revelers received a telling off from the Imam, who felt disrespected.
I turned to my friend. “Now you know why I chose this spot,” I said. “You have to know your surrounding. I saved your face today because the next time you go to that mosque, at least you won’t feel embarrassed when you see the Imam.”
This was years ago, I attended a church funeral of an industry colleague’s husband. I was in the same car as the widow when another passenger, a woman, made a joke about something. The widow’s reply left me wondering for years if she knew what she said or was it lost in translation somehow within the Singapore context. I didn’t dare ask, but her exact words were, “Oh, please let me play the role of the grieving wife.”
I just kept looking out the car window throughout the journey… brain freeze.
I was walking down the street just now when I suddenly heard a little girl whining.Then came the mother’s voice telling her to stop embarrassing herself in public.
I continued walking toward the traffic light and waited for the signal to change. The whining drew closer. I turned and saw the little girl pulling her mother’s arm, pleading for something. The mother, hiding under an umbrella from the day’s heat, ignored her daughter.
I could hear my little voice screaming, “Stop whining, will you! There’s enough noise in the world already!” But of course, I didn’t say anything. I just stood there with that angelic face and pretended I was listening to a choir.
As I waited to cross the road, I noticed a book in the little girl’s other hand: Enid Blyton’s A Book of Naughty Children.
I tell you, it t took a lot of strength to restrain that bubble of laughter.
This happened back in the 80s. On the eve of Christmas, about 3 o’ clock in the afternoon, my family members and I were having coffee at the back of the house when we alerted by a trespasser. We lived smack in the middle of the city near the shopping belt. The trespasser was a woolly sheep.
It ran straight to us, paused, then went to the back of the house. It was trying to hide. All this while, we were quiet, thinking maybe our eyes were playing tricks with us. Maybe it was the coffee.
Minutes later, some men from a nearby hotel came and asked us about the sheep.
It seems the sheep was part of the hotel’s Christmas decoration. It took five men to convince the sheep to go back with them.
Met an Iraqi academic in Singapore.
He spent a decade as a military officer during the Iran-Iraq war. Rockets, bullets used to fly over him like nothing, he said. Not even a scratch. Even the RPGs and the jets couldn’t get him when he used to drive a jeep across the desert.
Then he comes to Singapore. A few months later, he gets hit by a taxi that jumped the curb. He ends up in a hospital with a foot fracture.
I don’t know. If you don’t believe in fate, maybe it’s time to reconsider?
This happened to me a few years ago here in Singapore. I was introduced to a female executive who did not pay attention to my presence. But she had the audacity to ask me questions while shifting her eyes left and right. So I decided to bounce her around. She didn’t even know what hit her. The conversation went like this:
Singapore Female Executive: So what do you do?
Me: I am the public relations consultant for Hamas.
Singapore Female Executive: What exactly do you do?
Me: Well, each time they launch a suicide bomber, I will issue a press statement.
Singapore Female Executive: Oh, that’s interesting, where’s your office?
Me: Shenton Way (Singapore Business District).
Singapore Female Executive: Oh, okay.
Did I ever tell you of the time a taxi driver here in Singapore looked at me in a funny way?
Throughout the journey he kept looking at me in the rear view mirror. I told myself if this guy tries anything, I’ll show him my Chuck Norris moves.
When we arrived at the destination, he took out a pen and paper, turned around, and asked me for the name of the perfume I was wearing. That was it… that’s all he wanted.
Author of the New York Times Bestselling novel Once A Spy
Khaled Talib’s novel Smokescreen is a cocktail of Deighton, Ludlum, Hitchcock, and two parts adrenaline.
Million-copy NYT bestselling co-author of Hooked and Brainwashed
Devious! Diabolical! Lurid! Intelligent and deftly plotted. Pick it up if you dare. Put it down if you can.
Author of Drift
In this action-packed thriller, Khaled Talib explores the little known relationship between Singapore and Israel, spinning a web of international intrigue that expands across the globe as inexorably as it tightens around his protagonist’s throat.
Author of The Umbrella Man and The Ambassador’s Wife
I have published two novels set in the police and security services in Singapore, and I am here to tell you that SMOKESCREEN is nearer to the truth of that closely controlled little country than you might believe. It is a gripping and creepy tale of how governments can rig the way we all see the world.