Peter Bromhead: Life of a modern spy

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Cartoon / Peter Bromhead
Cartoon / Peter Bromhead

Following in the footsteps of Ian Fleming and his illustrious creation, James Bond, I forwarded to my literary agent a precis of a novel featuring my new spy hero: Rob Hacker - licensed to compute.

Unlike 007, Rob is married, has two small children and lives in a semi-detached house just north of Winchcombe in Britain. During the week Rob commutes to the GCHQ headquarters in Cheltenham, Gloucester.

After an exhausting week of intelligence-gathering, Rob relaxes on the nearby golf course, before taking his wife, Monica, and two children for dinner at a sleepy country pub.

Hacker, unlike Bond, doesn't pack a Walther PPK handgun, but he's armed with an array of electronic notebooks and is quick on the draw when intelligence is required from anywhere in the world.

And - again unlike 007 - Rob prefers to work with an international team of like-minded robotic nerds, particularly those employed by America's National Security Agency, sharing a data-mining tool called the "Boundless Informant".

With more than three billion pieces of intelligence harvested from computer networks Rob doesn't have much spare time for romantic interludes and has to be content with sharing a quick coffee break, idly chatting up the department's receptionist.

Hacker also works with other intelligence agencies, including New Zealand's GCSB.

Oddly, his Kiwi counterpart leads a similar lifestyle, lives in Karori in Wellington, plays golf on weekends and takes his wife and children to a family restaurant in nearby Eastbourne.

Clearly, I'm on the verge of producing a completely new genre in spy persona, so I was surprised when my agent called to ask: "So, where's the excitement, the helicopter chases and agents escaping from underground fireballs or being chained up in dungeons by beautiful, half-clad women?"

"Well," I replied. "There is action, but in today's espionage world it's a lot more subtle.

Modern spies have to cope with the horrors of suburban life, I responded defensively.

"For example, Rob has to commute daily on one of the UK's businest roads and has to stay very alert behind the wheel.

"He's also got a mild peanut allergy and has to be constantly wary he doesn't accidently consume the peanut brownies offered in the office cafeteria Trust me, my novel will be packed with excitement."

"My advice," responded my agent wearily, "is to consume a few dry martinis - shaken, not stirred - and stick to producing a weekly newspaper jotting."

- NZ Herald

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