Alan Cormack and Tony Woodward are the two main characters throughout what has become known as the ‘Cormack and Woodward’ series – The Dutch Caper, Emerald and Berlin Endgame. During that time, their relationship has changed quite considerably, but, originally, there was no intention on my part to use them for more than the one book – The Radar Job (or The Dutch Caper as it now is). The idea was to have an ‘Odd Couple’ – a mis-matched pair having to team up and eventually forming a very effective partnership, so they were deliberately chosen from very different backgrounds. Cormack comes from the East End of London and is proud of it – he still has his working-class accent even though he’s an expert linguist and could get rid of it very easily if he wanted. He’s very much a maverick operator, but is also regarded as being a top-class undercover agent; very capable, resourceful, ruthless when he has to be, and cynical. Yet he’s plagued by self-doubt – his own reason for putting himself into danger is because he thinks he’s too scared to say no – he doesn’t want to seem a coward, even though he’s proved his bravery several times over. He will also move heaven and earth to protect any member of his team from danger, no matter the risk to himself. But he lives on his nerves… he’s also a lot less cynical than he likes to think he is, when it comes right down to it. As one character says of him – ‘he just needs a worthwhile reason to talk himself into risking his neck.’
He’s a complete contrast to Woodward, who comes from the landed gentry, went to public school and is a pilot in the RAF – one of the best there is, which is why he’s chosen to partner Cormack in the first book, where they have to steal a German night fighter in order to bring back its onboard radar. He will volunteer for any mission, now matter how hazardous, simply because he feels it is his patriotic duty to do so – he and Cormack despise each other when they first meet, but, by the end of the first book, each of them has saved the other’s life and there is an undeniable bond between them.
This bond is strengthened during Emerald, the second book – indeed, the success of the mission hinges just as much on Woodward’s maturing undercover skills as on Cormack’s; Woodward has lost his innocence two years earlier in Holland and is more hard-bitten than before. As a result of what they’ve been through, there’s already a close friendship by the time the two of them meet up again in Berlin Endgame – Cormack has just been appointed Head of Army Counter-Intelligence in Berlin (a case of using a thief to catch a thief – using his undercover experience to try and trap enemy agents) and Woodward is now a civilian pilot taking part in the Airlift. This book gives the opportunity to take a closer look at the relationship between them – these days, it’s called ‘bromance’, but I was thinking more in terms of that ‘bond’ when I was writing it. Endgame shows Cormack at his most vulnerable, if anything and we find out more about his back story than in the first two books put together. By the end of this third book, they are a true partnership – but both of them would laugh outright if you were to suggest it to them (while privately acknowledging the truth of the statement).
Yet there is still a lot left of their original characters: Cormack still describes Woodward as ’tilting at windmills’, while Woodward calls Cormack a ‘taciturn son of a bitch at the best of times’. Both are still accurate assessments, but they are now delivered with pure affection, between two men who feel utterly at ease with each other. They have grown over the three books – even I know far more about them now than I did when I started.
Will I use them in another book? Probably – there are still some loose ends to tie up at the end of Berlin Endgame, but I also have another idea that would fit in immediately after Emerald, which might make things a little more complicated, I suppose…