‘Tug of War’ a Classic Espionage Thriller

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Australian author Ross Collier has released his latest book, the espionage thriller, Tug of War. The well reviewed author of Sink or Swim has produced another gripping story of mystery and action but this time set in Australia during World War II.

Tug of War deals with the story of Australia during the early stages of the Pacific war. Under threat from the Japanese, with most of its troops in the middle east and with no offer of assistance from the British, the American response to Pearl Harbour of using Australia as a main base is welcomed by a nation in fear of invasion. The central character, Captain John Garrett of the Australian Army, has been ordered back to Melbourne from Townsville to investigate a suspected intelligence leak in Central Bureau. The investigation is overseen by Australian Colonel Michael Beaumant and American Major General David Bell. Central Bureau has been created by General Douglas MacArthur as an amalgamation of existing Australian and US intelligence units. One of those units was Number 4 Wireless of which Garrett was leader until he was redeployed to Townsville after having an affair with one of his subordinates, Corporal Jennifer Lamb.

Tug of War is fiction based on fact. In the author’s words, “I spent a long time researching the novel. Very little has been written about espionage in Australia during World War 2. But as in any theatre of war the shadowy world of intelligence was always at play.”

Garrett and an American Captain, Al Tucker are placed into the unit ostensibly as intelligence officers with no one, including the current section leader Captain Anthony Myers, aware of their mission. From the beginning Garrett and Tucker do not get along. Garrett has the added problem Myers does not like him. Myers considers Jennifer Lamb to be his girl and Garrett the man who led her astray.

In a reflection of the tension between the Americans and Australians, the investigation does not go well. Tucker shoots and kills the only lead they have and Garrett begins to suspect his motives. The Americans do not trust him and Anthony Myers, pursuing a personal vendetta, takes every opportunity to cast him in a bad light. Meanwhile Jennifer and Garrett realise their feelings for each other have not changed and begin to renew their relationship.

Collier says, “Australia was overrun with US troops who were initially welcomed with open arms. But soon cracks appeared in the relationship and tensions between the two armies began to boil over. This was reflected through the whole military operation, from the troops on the ground to command level. It was important in the context of the times to bring this often glossed over aspect to the story.”

Garrett discovers there have been illegal domestic signals detected by monitoring stations set up to listen to Japanese transmissions but they have not been followed up. He and Colonel Beaumant are determined to investigate further. Tucker begins to work against Garrett who desperately tries to track the spy operating in the city. As he draws closer to the truth, Tucker and Myers become more dangerous. They use Jennifer as the bait to catch Garrett but that fails and Myers is killed. It then becomes a battle for survival between Tucker and Garrett, Tucker becoming desperate as Garrett edges closer to the truth. Eventually the two are locked in a life and death battle with Garrett emerging victorious. In doing so he discovers the most closely guarded secret of the Pacific war.

“The more I researched the more I discovered clandestine activities at the time through now declassified files. During the war some of that information was considered top secret and only known by a few. It formed the motivation for the characters actions and became the centre of the story.”

At a deeper level the story explores the beginning of the US and Australian military alliance which is now a key platform for the defence of both countries. The author points out, “this alliance has grown over the years and through a number of wars to the point where Australia is perhaps back where it started in terms of acting as a base for US troops in the Asian region.”

No matter what level you to read it on, Tug of War will keep you up late at night, turning pages and guessing outcomes. With this book Ross Collier has produced a must read story confirming his place as one of Australia’s foremost thriller authors. His books are available as ebooks or paperbacks from all major distributors.

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