2 February 2021

Special Guest Interview with Alison Morton, author of Double Identity

Available on Amazon UK and Amazon US

It’s three days since Mel des Pittones threw in her job as an intelligence analyst with the French special forces to marry financial trader Gérard Rohlbert. But her dream turns to nightmare when 
she wakes to find him dead in bed beside her.

This move into contemporary crime is quite away from your Roma Nova alternative history thrillers which have featured on the Writing Desk many times. What’s the story behind it?

It’s all historical fiction writer Conn Iggulden’s fault! He was reading INSURRECTIO for me and threw me a challenge. He commented, ‘You clearly have the knack for fast plotting tension. I kept coming back to see what happened next.’ He suggested I recast one of my alternative Roma Novan heroines as a member of a modern-day European organisation and run the story as a crime thriller. Who could resist that? So I sat down and plotted and let it all swirl round in my head. Double Identity is the result. 

A second motive which fed into the above ‘plotting and swirling’ was a desire to write a heroine with a connection to Poitou in France where I live. Of course, there is a historical element in it, especially in Mel’s name and family.

How have your previous books helped?

Well, although they featured a society run by people descended from Romans and running it on Roman lines, the stories of Carina, Conrad and Aurelia were very much thrillers. As with stories of any Roman society, whether ancient or modern, there was plenty of betrayal, courage, righteous causes, political reality, coups d’état, sacrifice, endurance and toughness but mine were leavened with love and some witty remarks.

Double Identity is very much a modern story, but again a thriller with a tough and courageous heroine, but this one has a different personality and a dual nationality which gives us some lovely internal conflict! 

What are some unusual things you discovered researching Double Identity?

The military scenes for Mel were reasonably easy to write thanks to my six years in uniform although the career structure and unit training were quite different. I pored over French Ministry of Defence and armed services sites for hours! The most intriguing was researching French military voice procedure when using walkie-talkies!  

Another thing is to get transport and communications right – how TGV high speed trains are organised, toll roads, whether you can find a garage open on Sundays in rural France (No, you can’t!). As historical fiction writers, we know how slow ox-drawn carts can be, how long it can take to walk from village A to village B, or ride by fast king’s courier. That same meticulousness has to be applied to modern transport. And as for finding a parking place in central London or Brussels? Now that is an impossible task!

Would you give us a taste of Double Identity?

Mel shivered. A cold breeze drifted over her bare backside. Dieu, the window must be open. Stupid in late November in London. But windows had been the last things on Mel’s mind last night.
   Still drugged with sleep, she stretched out her hand towards Gérard’s face. His eyes were closed, the lashes resting on his pale cheeks. Too much time indoors, Mel thought and smiled. In his early morning relaxed state, Gérard looked more like a boy of seventeen than a man of thirty-seven.
   Her eyelids were so heavy. She closed them. After a few seconds, she realised she wasn’t tired, just thick-headed. Opening her eyes again, she blinked hard then tugged on the duvet to cover them both against the too fresh air, but it was trapped under Gérard’s body. Never mind, she could think of a much more pleasurable way to warm up than hiding under the bedclothes. She stroked his skin with the tips of her fingers sliding over the fine brown hairs on his shoulder, then down his chest and over his stomach towards…
  He didn’t stir.
  He was cold. Stone cold.
  Then the smell hit her.
  She sat up. The world spun around her. She shot her hand out onto the mattress to steady herself, then knelt beside him. Not wanting to, but knowing she had to, she stretched out her hand, two fingers close together, for the side of his throat. Nothing. She pressed harder, desperate for a sign. But he was too still and too pale. And the blue lips…
  Dieu, no. Not her Gérard. Not clever, witty, vibrant Gérard. He couldn’t be gone. But she’d confirmed enough dead bodies during her military life, the last only three weeks ago in a blazing desert wadi in Africa. She sat back, shivered and pressed the palms of her hands into her eye sockets. The sourness ran up her gullet. Clamping her hand over her mouth, she stumbled to the bathroom and threw up in the pan.

Ambulance. She must call an ambulance.

She sat on the toilet seat and gulped down water from the plastic tooth mug. In the bedroom, the green-uniformed man and woman were examining Gérard. Through the gap of the almost closed door, Mel could hear them mumbling to each other. After a few minutes, they stopped talking. They were making a call, giving the hotel name.
  The woman came into the bathroom. Her calm face didn’t seem as sympathetic as it had been earlier.
  ‘What is it?’ Mel asked.
  ‘We’ve had to call the police. We’ve found something and there are marks on the deceased’s body.’
  ‘What? Let me see!’ Mel said and leapt up.
  The woman held out her plastic-gloved hand.
  ‘No, stay here, and don’t wash. The police will want to talk to you.’

  ‘What sort of a name is Mellysand?’
  She clutched the bathrobe tighter and braced her legs to steady her balance. This was surreal. Gérard was dead and they suspected her. Why? How was she supposed to have done it? She shook her head which seemed full of mush thumping to escape.
  ‘It’s pronounced “Mél-i-send-uh”,’ she said. ‘And it’s the name I was given by my parents.’ 
  ‘Not very English, is it?’  
  Le bon Dieu save me from these parochial Brits, she thought. And this cop was even worse than most. He didn’t look like one either in his jeans, tan leather jacket, unshaven and with a single earring. But his warrant card looked genuine, and the two uniformed police outside had let him in.
  ‘You got any ID?’ he barked.
  Mel pulled a pale turquoise and blue card with her photo and signature out of her purse and offered it to him. 
  ‘French?’ He frowned, flicked it over to the other side, then back. ‘You don’t sound very French.’
  ‘That’s where I was born. My mother is English.’
  ‘What are you doing here?’
  ‘Visiting friends and doing some shopping.’
  ‘I’ll need a list of those friends and dates.’
  ‘Why? Am I under suspicion?’
  The cop looked down at the bed, duvet pulled back, bottom sheet stained by body fluids.  
 ‘When there’s a dead man in your bed and you were presumably the last person to see him alive, let’s say you’re at least a person of interest.’

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About the Author

Alison writes award-winning thrillers series featuring tough, but compassionate heroines. She blends her deep love of France with six years’ military service and a life of reading crime, historical, adventure and thriller fiction. On the way, she collected a BA in modern languages and an MA in history. Now Alison continues to write thrillers and drink wine in France with her husband. Find out more at Alison's website  https://alison-morton.com and find her on Facebook and Twitter @alison_morton


  1. Thank you, Tony for hosting Double Identity today. Yes, the research is just as challenging as writing historical fiction thrillers!

  2. Thank you for starting our 'official tour' Tony - if an author doesn't get the detail of research right, the whole story can become unbelievable, so research is important.


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