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With the publication of Stateless I’m pretty much done with Christopher James ‘Babe’ Walker. In fact, I suspect that I’m moving away from the darker side of fiction.

Babe came to me in a number of guises: the first was way back, before I ever wrote stories, when I was going through a phase when I wasn’t a good guy. Not a monster or anything, just a bit of an idiot.

In one of the many stupids situations I found myself in back then, there was a guy I needed to beat unconscious, but I had a serious leg injury. And it made me consider, how do I approach a situation from which I can’t run away? And how do I get close enough to someone, and destroy them so quick, that they can’t even take a couple of steps away to relative safety.

A few months after that, I was in a queue for a nightclub and four smart young guys got out of a Range Rover and walked past the queue, and after a brief chat with the doormen, who were all smiley and friendly, they were allowed in. I asked my pal who they were and he said, ‘Robbers. Armed robbers.’ They were just kids. No older than twenty or twenty-one years old. Apparently even the Range Rover was stolen – every week they’d land at a club in town in an expensive freshly stolen car. They were outlaws.

That same night I had a row with one of those guys, and being hotheaded back then, I flung him up against a wall and threatened to tear off his head. He just looked at me like it was nothing, like I was made of glass and he was looking through me. It turned out, he was the driver, much sought after amongst the criminal cognoscenti, and while he didn’t do violence himself, he wasn’t scared by it either. I let him go and he straightened his clothes and walked off like it hadn’t happened. Unfazed.

The other guys were thugs though, and I maybe should have been worried. But it didn’t matter because within a year, two of them were dead, including the driver, and the other two had disappeared from the planet.

And later still, looking back at those two moments, at the back of my proto-writer’s mind I just thought, hello.

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