A trip to Kazakhstan triggered the idea of this book. I was approached as a barrister by the lawyers for the Kazakhstan Embassy to help invite an English High Court Judge to a grand Opening Event at the New Financial Centre, which was to be held in Kazakhstan. The Centre intended to apply English Law as its commercial arbitrator.
I decided to visit the country as a first step in the task. It was important to ensure I was not enlisting a distinguished judge for a cheap-jack ceremony. The experience left an indelible impression on me.
Astana was created when Kazakhstan became a stand-alone Republic after the breakup of the Soviet Union. It is a country larger than Northern Europe with a population the size of Holland. In winter, the average temperature is below 20 degrees and in the short summer about 30 degrees above. The indigenous people are cattle and horse traders living on the Steppes but Soviet industries brought some commercial business to the region.
The magic ingredient of the country is Mineral Wealth. It has almost incalculable deposits of oil and gas plus substantial iron and other basic materials. As a dictatorship, it has been possible to concentrate the wealth of the country into massive development projects at vast expense.
The city of Astana has been created out of nothing, yet it is filled with the latest building designs and immense public spaces. Richard Rogers and Norman Foster have been given carte blanche to put their imagination to work in creating a city like a vision of an eccentric filmmaker brought to life. Within this setting, the life of these people has altered, as you would expect. The luxury of International Hotels and services is available to those who can create wealth or who have dominated the industries, which provide the resources of the country. There was an undercurrent of concealed power in every facet of city life.
It was in that context that the Opening Meeting of Bankers and Commercial Leaders was organised, more than thirty of the world’s most influential personalities were invited. Yet, a fortnight before the date, the Meeting was abandoned without explanation. It seemed to be a sign of the impetuous or imperious manner of behaviour, which I had detected during my visit.
From this catalyst, the actions of James Ballantyne were born and his struggle to protect a hunted man began. It led him through violence and treachery as he fought his way out.
During that journey, he found the love that he had ignored in his hectic life. His escape and exploits in adjoining countries led him into a labyrinth of double cross and sinister contacts.
This is the first of a series of his rash exploits published following his career.
The Kazak Contract by Paul Purnell (Clink Street Publishing)
James Ballantyne travels to Kazakhstan on a minor diplomatic assignment. A simple task, but he falls for the glamorous aide Ocksana Petrova, sent to guide him through the process. Fate leads him to the rescue of a US special agent who is the target of assassination by the Kazak authorities.
What should Ballantyne do? Should he be led by duty or compassion?
Events force his hand and he recruits smugglers to get the agent away from Kazakhstan. The escape route is dangerous and it becomes clear they are being monitored every inch of the way. Is his new love, Ocksana, behind the surveillance? Or has his own team been infiltrated?
Getting out of Kazakhstan alive will draw upon all of James’s military skills, and a lot of luck. With ambush and deception along the way, will he make it to the border and safety? How can he protect his lover? This journey through a wild country stretches every nerve.
Purchase The Kazak Contract from Amazon.
Based in London, Paul Purnell has worked for over forty-years as a Criminal Law barrister. After serving five years stationed in Germany with the British Army, Purnell began his career as a trial lawyer prosecuting and defending in serious criminal cases across the country. Later he was appointed Queen’s Counsel, a role which has seen him engaged in court cases both across the country and to far flung destinations including the Cayman Islands and Kazakhstan. His extensive experience and understanding of the criminal world has provided the inspiration for his short stories and his latest Jack Ballantyne series. When not writing, or in court, he enjoys racing around the country on his motorbike and spending time with his three children and grandchildren.
Previous titles include a series of well-received short stories; The Hireling (2015), Scaramouche (2015) and The Storm (2016).
More information about the author can be found on his website and you can also follow him on Twitter @purnell14