Book Extract: The Asymmetric Man by Alex Rushton

I’m pleased to be welcoming Alex Rushton to Novel Kicks and the blog tour for The Asymmetric Man.

Embark on a gripping journey of sacrifice and self-discovery in The Asymmetric Man, a thrilling tale set against the tumultuous backdrop of the Vietnam War.

Follow Blake, a young recruit turned undercover agent, as he navigates the treacherous world of espionage, survival and forbidden love.

From war-ravaged Saigon to seemingly impenetrable jungle and the tranquillity of a Buddhist monastery, this riveting novel explores the power of recognising and embracing one’s true calling, no matter the cost.

Alex has shared an extract from The Asymmetric Man today. We hope you enjoy. 


*****beginning of extract*****


In this extract Blake Carter, undercover MI6 agent in Vietnam in 1967, makes contact with Tranter, who is to supply him with the names and details of Blake’s Viet Cong assassination targets.


Chapter 5

Blake decided it was time to make contact with Tranter, using the recognition protocol described in the file he had found in Coulter’s flat. He was aware of the risk; the file might have been found, decoded and replaced for Blake to find, in which case tonight’s meeting would be a trap. However, he had no choice. To approach Tranter in any other way than the one agreed would only raise his suspicions. Blake entered El Paraiso bar on the first Wednesday in June. As before, it was thick with cigarette smoke and smelling of alcohol. Blake stood at the bar. He had a drink and surveyed the area, again evaluating possible escape routes.  He immediately recognised Tranter from Coulter’s description, a portly, balding man in a crumpled soiled white suit, with a cigarette between his fingers. The only other people were a few locals, absorbed in conversation. It seemed like as good a time as any. Blake took a deep breath and seized the moment.

‘Mind if I share your table?’ said Blake.

‘Of course, old chap,’ said Tranter in a slow English drawl, retaining the remnants of a public school accent, ‘glad to see a new face.’ He leant across the table extending his hand. ‘Name’s Tranter, by the way.’

‘I’m John, John Miller,’ said Blake, and shook the wet limp hand. He brought the recognition protocol sharply to mind.

An inebriated waiter in a stained apron walked up and hovered nearby.

‘Can I buy you a drink?’ Blake asked. ‘I’m new in town, what’s the local brew like?’

‘Poison,’ said Tranter, ‘I’d stick to Coors if I were you.’

‘OK, two Coors, please.’

The waiter nodded his head vacantly and wandered back to the bar. Tranter took a drag on his cigarette and puffed the smoke up into the air. Blake noticed that his white suit had a faint ash-grey tinge to it.

‘What do you get up to in Saigon?’ said Blake. At first impression, Tranter looked ineffectual, unkempt and the worse for too much dependence on alcohol or chemicals or both, but as Tranter’s eyes bored into him they were as sharp as razors.

‘I’m in import-export mainly, but my cash flow situation has been a bit poorly recently.’

‘Well, I hope that will pick up again now.’

‘What about you?’ Tranter’s voice started to rasp. He coughed.

‘I’m a translator at the Embassy.’

‘What languages do you speak?’

‘Mainly Vietnamese, Thai, French, with a bit of Cantonese.’

‘I’ve picked up a bit of Vietnamese over the years. I’ve been here over twenty years now, after things got a bit warm in Germany.’

Tranter flicked the ash off the end of his cigarette and it landed in the ashtray a few inches away.

‘You married?’ said Tranter.

‘No. What about yourself, are you a family man?’

‘No one regular. I’m on my own.’

The waiter approached, struggling to balance the bottles and glasses on the tray he held precariously in his right hand. He placed them slowly, one by one, on the table. Standing upright was a greater challenge; he leaned backwards, almost keeled over and swayed from side to side until he found his balance. Blake eyed him curiously. Tranter didn’t react. The waiter staggered back to the bar and propped himself up against the counter. Blake poured the beer into his glass. Tranter drank it straight from the bottle, then took a final vicious drag on his cigarette, extinguished it between his fingers and threw it into the ashtray, where it lay smouldering with several others. Blake felt the smoke tickle his throat and took a few swigs of his beer.

‘Any good places to eat?’ said Blake. ‘I haven’t had a decent meal since I arrived.’

‘If you want French food, the place to go is Chez Jacques. If you want local cuisine, you need to go to Pok-choy; it doesn’t look good from the outside, but inside it’s always full of locals. The food’s good, not expensive, authentic Vietnamese cuisine.’

‘Thanks, I’ll try one of those. Is there anything particular to see in Saigon?’

‘I like the Botanical Gardens, an interesting array of plants. I often spend my afternoons there in the café, reading The Economist,’ said Tranter.

‘Maybe I’ll see you there,’ said Blake.

Blake got up and shook Tranter’s hand. He felt something transfer into his grasp, a flimsy piece of paper; he put it straight into his pocket. Once inside his flat he read the scrawny handwriting. It was a list of signals for clandestine communications between himself and Tranter. Blake memorised the details then burnt the paper, turning it into ash under his fingers. He had a shower, wrapped himself in a towel, poured a stiff whisky and sat in one of the wicker chairs. His head was heavy with the drunken, debauched atmosphere, his mind alert to the dangers, risks and realities of his undertaking.


*****end of extract*****




About Alex Rushton–

I worked for many years as an academic and later in the NHS as a therapist.

Initially I wrote academic papers before branching out into fiction writing. I joined my local writing group Walton Wordsmiths nearly fifteen years ago and the group is still going strong. Here I found companionship, inspiration, encouragement  and a group of likeminded friends.

I write because I feel inspired… the novel wants to be written, although I often have no idea where the ideas come from, it’s like a stream of consciousness! I find editing the most challenging, but it has to be done. Each novel takes me at least a couple of years to complete. I have now written three novels. The first two have already been published by SCRIPTORA, in association with the Society of Women Writers and Journalists (SWWJ). The third ‘The Asymmetric Man’ will be published shortly – also by SCRIPTORA.

Ironically, ‘The Asymmetric Man’ is the first in the trilogy, but the last to be published. ‘The Girl at Conway Place’ and ‘Sunrise at An Lac’ come next.

I am a member of the SWWJ (Society of Women Writers and Journalists) and the SOA (Society of Authors). I am a regular participant in the SOA Novelists in London zoom group.

Say hello via Walton Wordsmiths, my website, Twitter (X) and Facebook

The Asymmetric Man was released by Scriptora on 23rd November 2023. Click to buy on Amazon UK and Amazon US


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I’m Laura. I started Novel Kicks in 2009. I wanted a place to post my writing as well as give other writers like me the opportunity to do the same. There is also a monthly book club, a writing room which features writing prompts, book reviews, competitions, author interviews and guest posts.

I grew up by the sea (my favourite place in the world) and I currently live in Hampshire. I am married to Chris, have a cat named Buddy and I would love to be a writer. I’m trying to write the novel I’ve talked so much about writing if only I could stop pressing delete. I’ve loved writing since creative writing classes in primary school. I have always wanted to see my teacher Miss Sayers again and thank her for the encouragement. When not trying to write the novel or writing snippets of stories on anything I can get my hands on, I love reading, dancing like a loon and singing to myself very badly. My current obsession is Once Upon a Time and I would be happy to live with magic in the enchanted forest surrounded by all those wonderful stories provided that world also included Harry Potter. I love reading chick lit. contemporary fiction and novels with mystery.

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