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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Saint Peter’s square, Vatican City. Almost every religious thriller novel and movie about the Vatican will have an image of it. It has become the standard.
In fact, authors have covered almost every inch of the Vatican that’s its really tough to produce original scenes and ideas.
But I had a good creative director when I used to work a short while at an ad agency. I noticed how he saw things differently even if something had been overused. It took me a while to see how he sees things, and then an idea hit me.
I saw something at the square that jumped out at me. I realized how this could work for INCOGNITO. As with my first novel, Smokescreen, expect the unexpected.
My driving school days experience: I got into a cab and instructed the driver to take me to the school. Halfway, the driver got into a situation with a biker. Problem with the blind spot.
But for some reason the driver got so riled up that he forgot he had a passenger in the backseat.
The driver gave chase and tried to run the biker over several times. He wound down the window and cursed the biker.
The biker looked at the driver, then said calmly, “You’re a mental case” before speeding off.
When I reached the school, the driver turned around, gave me a big smile and said, “Good luck with your lessons.”
I visited Jordan’s capital city once. I got tired after touring a bit, and decided to rest in a mosque.
I woke up an hour later to find a young Malayan student sitting with his back against a pillar. I expected him to be a student at one of the Islamic universities in Jordan. I also knew the young fellow wasn’t expecting me to speak his language because I look like everyone else in the Mideast.
So I went up to him and said in his language, “I am the Angel of Death. Your time has come. Follow me.”
The young fellow turned blue, and I had to console him that it was a prank. I found out that he’s also from Singapore, so I took him for lunch. The least I could do after scaring the X*^%*! out of him.
I’ve been asked this question a lot: What inspired me to want to be an author? For some authors, it’s the case of reading another author’s novel. For others, it could have transpired after attending a book festival or meet-the-author session. There are plenty of reasons. A life experience could also be a catalyst to push you to want to pick up the pen – well, keyboard, these days… at least for most of us. I, for one, have never understood my own reason. But I would attribute some author-themed movies as having a strong influence on my decision to pick up the storytelling pen. Here’s a few of my favorites:
Tom Selleck plays a mystery novelist Phil Blackwood who is having trouble finding inspiration, so he goes to the courthouse to observe real criminals in action. There he
encounters a gorgeous immigrant charged with a gruesome murder. Convinced she’s not guilty, Selleck furnishes Nina with an alibi and a place to stay. But, as the two begin to fall in love, Phil finds he has grave doubts about her innocence.
Even though Robin Masters was never seen, his mysterious persona was inspiring enough to want me to pick up the pen while Tom Selleck (Thomas Magnum) went about solving cases.
Author! Author! is a 1982 American comedy drama film starring Al Pacino, Dyan Cannon, and Tuesday Weld. The plot concerns a Broadway playwright trying to solve his family and relationship troubles while trying to get a new play into production. My favorite line in the movie: “We’re all depress in this family. We will all stay depress — together.”
Stand by Me
After the death of a friend, a writer (Richard Dreyfuss) recounts a boyhood journey to find the body of a missing boy. The finale scene where Dreyfuss types out the last sentence in his manuscript was meaningful. He wrote: “I never had any friends later on like the ones I had when I was twelve. Jesus, does anyone?”
One of my top favorites, a cunning and resourceful housewife Roseanne Barr vows revenge on her husband when he begins an affair with a wealthy romance novelist played by Meryl Streep. I was rooting for Streep. Funny as hell.
The life of a Depression-era family in Virginia’s Blue Ridge Mountains is the subject of this wholesome series. The TV series is seen from the point of view of eldest son John Boy, who becomes a novelist.
A writer (Johnny Depp) is accused of plagiarism by a strange man, who then starts haunting him for “justice.” Yikes!
Michael Nouri plays a Detroit taxi driver with aspirations of becoming a crime writer. He picks up a woman (Joanna Pacula) who turns out to be on the run from murderer.
The movie, adapted from Stephen King’s novel of the same name, revolves around a writer returning to his hometown to discover the citizens are turning into vampires. Freaked me out, this one.
Ever wondered why many Italians have “Al” in their surnames?
That’s because of Arab influence. In medieval times, an Emirate was established in Sicily, southern Italy with Palermo as its capital. This took place between the 9th and 10th century. Monumental remnants can still be found in the region.
The word “Al” in Arabic means “The” like Allah, which literally means The God. “Ilah” in Arabic is “God” and “Al” is “The.”
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.”
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.