Spies in History & Literature ~
Inside the World Espionage
Bureau – Q&A with WEB Creator Bill Raetz
By Wesley Britton
“It’s no wonder you've developed a shady
“What I do best.” Attewelle grinned as he
brought the cocktail glass to his lips. “One of the things I
“We”re going to Odessa without any reinforcement . . .
no backup in the field.” Lance reclined his leather seat and
reached for his glass. “Carrying copies of data sensitive
enough to warrant multiple assassination attempts,” Helten
“There is a positive side to all of this.” Bryce
took a sip of Jack, smacking his lips and exhaling when he swallowed.
“You’ll never be able to say that working with me
is boring, will ya?”
Bill Raetz, Surveillance, 2007
Bill Raetz, author of the “World Espionage Bureau”
In the aftermath of the Cold War, the careers of many writers of
literary espionage seemed to mirror the fates of actual agencies like
the often floundering CIA and the dying KGB.
In both fact and fiction, between the fall of the Soviet Union and
9/11, it wasn’t always clear just who the new bad guys were.
Likewise, without the East/West geopolitical duels of the previous four
decades, what fodder did spy novelists have in the new world order?
Some writers, as in Daniel Silva, turned their attention to the grim
realities of Middle Eastern concerns. Old masters like John
Le Carré or Robert Littell either abandoned their stories of
traitors and moles or crafted retrospectives exploring the meaning of
it all. Best-selling creators like Tom Clancy and Clive Cussler simply
handed the torch on to a new generation of fictional offspring –
Jack Ryan, Jr. Dirk Pitt, Jr.
But while these new chips off old blocks didn’t always
become successful franchises like their forbearers, younger writers
spotted fresh opportunities in a genre that wasn’t as cold
as some thought.
Bill Raetz, for example, claims he began sketching out his ideas
for his World Espionage Bureau (WEB) books “around the
time the first brick was knocked out of the Berlin Wall.”
Drawing from his background in law enforcement and information
technology, as well as his interest in foreign languages and cultures,
in 2005 Raetz introduced his WEB agents in his first novel,
His savvy with self-publishing and online marketing then led to a
series of highly successful WEB novels including Romanian
Skylark (2006) and his most recent entry, Surveillance
Spywise.net recently caught up with Bill as we had some
questions about Surveillance, a book we thought any
lover of fast-paced action-adventure would enjoy. We thought
readers who hadn’t experienced WEB might like to learn
about this series and that previous fans might like insights into
Bill’s creative process.
So, for both old and new readers, the interview below is full
of revelations – including news about a major shift in the
WEB universe. For example, his forthcoming The Lie
Detector (2008) won’t be like any WEB book
Bill’s offered so far. What will be different? We’ll
let Bill explain –
Q – What are the origins of your World
Espionage Bureau? What books or films shaped its concept?
I’ve always been hooked on James Bond and
Mission: Impossible, so I suppose there are flavors
of each in the World Espionage Bureau. I enjoy the idea of a strong
agent as the main character, as well as the aspect of him working
within the structure of a team and each member lending a unique
trait or skill to the plot.
Q – For new folks who've not read any
WEB books, can you give a quick overview of your main characters?
My main character is Bryce Attewelle, and he’s about as
no-nonsense as they come. He’s a rugged Australian turned
federal agent who marches to his own beat. Bryce works with a
cornucopia of other talented agents; a southern gent who balances
him, a studious analyst from Stockholm, a square peg of a technology
officer, and a Hungarian femme fatale. The teamwork is dynamic
because they’re the type of people you know from your office
or would rub elbows with in a bar. Look for Bryce to take even more
of a central role and mingling with some fresh faces in future books.
Q – In some ways, your WEB stories and
characters seem to hearken back to thrillers of old with plenty of
action and little in the way of political overtones. With just about
every WEB agent a smoker, these folks aren’t exactly
My mission is to entertain, and to do so without “cookie
cutter” characters. I often hear from my readers that they
love Bryce Attewelle because of his boldness and how he speaks
his mind. I think that the majority of readers enjoy, to a certain extent,
living vicariously through him because he always seems to get away
with what we can’t in our day-to-day lives. For me,
it’s all about crafting tangible characters.
Q – What do you think your WEB
books offer that is new and different from your predecessors?
I believe that my stories fill the void left at the end of the Cold
War when spy fiction was supposedly dying. My focus has been
– and always will be – the heart of a spy’s
mission. It’s there that my readers are captivated by what
unfolds, completely independent of what is currently going on in
Q – What challenges does a new writer
have working in a genre that’s been probed for over a
That’s an excellent question, and one I’ve put
to myself many times, especially early on. As I mentioned, spy
fiction was said to have fizzled out after the collapse of the Soviet
Union. Those of us watching the art of espionage from the
bleachers witnessed a shift from human intelligence to electronic
intelligence. Speaking strictly from an entertainment standpoint,
there no longer seemed to be wind in the sails. I think the struggle
for any writer of this genre is to constantly look for new avenues.
If writers had given up easily, Law and Order would
have never come around after Perry Mason. There
is no shortage of material, but adaptation and packaging have
become more important than ever.
Q – Are the technological and
operational details based on personal experiences or research?
Purely by research. I was once asked, somewhat jokingly, if
my books could be found in a store’s Autobiography
collection. That’s simply not the case . . . but I’ll
accept the compliment.
Q – What were the actual events that
inspired your newest novel, Surveillance?
Surveillance blends the world’s two oldest
professions. I read an article about how a “lady of the
night” could be used to extract information from someone
more easily than an agent – and more effectively, in some
cases. I had the book brewing instantly. I read another piece about
Russian air defense systems being sold to Tehran and decided
that the two ideas would make for an entertaining novel. I did more
research on each story and began my outline. A few weeks into my
first draft, I saw a sign inside a bus warning that the bus was under
twenty-four hour surveillance, and that had me thinking of how few
things these days are not caught on film. That’s what gave
me the idea of a camera in the right place at the wrong time –
and what it catches.
Q – Do you think your characters change
or evolve in the series?
My characters go through a maturation by past experience. None
of them have “seen it all.” Some of them think that
they have, which is always good material for a new novel.
Q – Why did you choose to publish these
books as an independent publisher?
I chose independent publishing for a variety of reasons. Chief
among them – I enjoy having complete control of my work,
from the manuscript to the cover. But with that freedom comes the
responsibility to produce very solid, print-worthy fiction. It’s
an obligation I take quite seriously and willingly. It’s
absolutely a labor of love, and the return on my investment has far
exceeded my wildest dreams.
Q – Are there other writers out there now
you enjoy and recommend?
How much space do I have? Anna Funder’s
Stasiland is a marvelously crafted work. Lawrence Block
is one of my all-time favorites, and I’ll be running to the store
when Hard Case Crime releases his newly discovered book,
Killing Castro. James Patterson is another favorite,
especially Honeymoon. And I suppose it was Mr. Sherlock
Holmes who started my interest in mysteries when I began reading
Sir Author Conan Doyle in the fourth grade.
Q – What are the future plans for WEB?
I’ll be letting my main character guide you in future books.
It’s going to be the same WEB, only a bit more gritty and
hardboiled, and from a fresh perspective. I’m excited about
the new series because it is very noir. Fans of my original series will
not be disappointed, and lovers of classic crime/spy fiction are in for
a treat. You heard it first on SpyWise!
Bill Raetz’s novel Surveillance is available
through Amazon U.S.
To learn more about Bill Raetz’s work,
check out his Author’s Page on Amazon.