Joni Dee: Unfathomable Treachery

Recently I’ve been reading novels by newer, largely unknown indie writers. By way of helping them along, I’ll be introducing some of them here. These authors are up-and-coming, at varying stages in their development as writers. They may not all have the polish of traditionally published authors, but I think they all have potential and deserve encouragement.


Espionage, political corruption, and international terrorism are a potent and frightening mix. Joni Dee dares stir in with them news still fresh in many people’s memories to deliver a seat-of-the-pants thriller centered in London but stretching around the world. It begins when Yochanan (John) Daniel, an Israeli computer programmer living in London, is flattened by a man desperately trying to escape pursuit. The man whispers a cryptic message to Daniel before picking himself up and continuing his flight, only to be killed by a subway train a few minutes later. Turns out the dead man was an informant of now-retired British handler Adam Grey. Grey and Daniel link up and embark on a journey that uncovers a chilling connection between a former KGB agent, Islamic terrorists, and Britain’s top security officials.

The premise has a ton of potential, and it does keep you reading. Alas, And the Wolf Shall Dwell suffers from a few shortcomings common to first-time novels by indie writers. I found the plot rather confusing owing to the number of important characters involved and the way the action jumped around. I expected John Daniels and Adam Gray to be the main characters, but by the end I wasn’t sure they had contributed all that significantly to events. Some of this may be the circumstances under which I read the novel: my wife had been hospitalized for eleven days. Nevertheless, the level of detail on the political background and the convoluted nature of the interactions between the characters made it hard for me to follow.

The writing needs a fair bit of tightening, and the text contains too many grammatical errors. According to Dee, the novel underwent two “translations” due to changes in publisher: first from British English to American English, then back to British English. I’ll grant that some of the editorial problems may have arisen from this convoluted history, but they get in the way.

This story has the potential to be 5 stars and could be a real nail-biter. But the execution falls short of that, even allowing for my distracted state at the time of reading. I’ll give it a 3.5. The writing, allowing for it being a debut indie novel with a troubled editorial history, gets a 3. Overall, then, call it a 3. That’s not bad for the first time out.

I recently asked Joni Dee about the novel and his writing. Here’s what he said:

Like the real world, Adam Grey’s is a complex place: a tangle of government agencies and personalities, both at home and abroad. How much of it is real and how much of it is your imagination?

Hi Dale, thanks for hosting me.

Funny that you should ask about Adam Grey, as for me John Daniel is really the main protagonist. However, a UK based blogger has made the same assumption, which kind of means that the person you relate with the most, if he has an equally prominent role, is your protagonist. This is something with which I’m happy to roll!

In any case, both Adam and John are fictional. Adam Grey’s entire very English personality is fictional and is not based on anyone in particular, but perhaps is a mix of a few people, if you may. His role as a former MI6 spy is also extremely fictional. I have no knowledge of how MI6, or “The Service,” do things except from popular fiction and from non-fiction reading/research, which included analysing the British Ministry of Defence’s financial reports.

Having said that, it is a well-known secret that I had a background in an intelligence service of a different Western country. The methodology and different branches, as well as their interactions, is pretty much taken from my experience, translated to “British”. Is it accurate? For sure it isn’t. Is it close to the truth? One assumes that the methodological work is similar between all Western intelligence communities. I’d like to think that without revealing too much of what I did and where I served, I managed to hit pretty close to base.

I don’t want to give too much away, but at the end of the novel I felt some key issues hadn’t been resolved. Certainly the principal “bad guys” had been put out of commission one way or another, yet a lot of questions seem to remain open, like gaping wounds. Did I miss something, or did you intend to end on a somewhat ambiguous note?

I intended to leave a few things open, indeed. While I think that the general plot and main scheme is done and dusted, I specifically left a few open issues such as (without giving away any spoilers): John’s future relations with MI6, John and Liz’s love-hate relationship, Katie Jones–who is one of my favourite characters in this novel–wasn’t given enough “screen time”, and of course the fate of one of the most prominent “villains”

Is this a one-shot deal, or might Adam Grey and John Daniel pop up in another thriller?

There’s a second book in the Daniel-Grey series which I’m currently working on. It has the working title Terror Within and it sends John and Grey head to head with what’s left of the Islamic State’s terrorist cell-activity in Europe. Surprisingly enough, they are driven by English and French right-wing extremists, politicians who are trying to use fear for their own agenda of nationalism.

Brexit is on. Grey is in coastal England. John is in a protest-stricken Paris. And the heat is on! Katie Jones will have a more prominent role, but both Liz and the villain which I mentioned before are absent. If there is ever a third book, they’ll return

Had you written anything before And the Wolf Shall Dwell, and what’s next for you?

And the Wolf Shall Dwell is my debut novel. I have attempted to write a few novels in the past and had always ended up throwing them into the bin. It took me nearly five years to finish, and I certainly hope it won’t take me as long to complete this one.

I’ll definitely find a platform to publish Book II. As for making this into a career … I wish! But realistically, I’m not sure I will ever get the big break I need to make a living as an author. One can only dream, though.

Meanwhile, I’m one of the founding fathers of BookGobbler.com, an initiative which sets out to get more reviews for indie authors or small publishers. I am a huge believer in this project. It already has a readership of 200+ with 1,000 unique visitors monthly, and that’s with zero advertising. In essence, it’s like NetGalley without the fees. I urge anyone who likes a free quality read and isn’t afraid to rate/review the book he or she reads to give it a try and register.

(One small disclaimer for my readers: I’m one of the volunteer staff reviewers for BookGobbler.)

What advice do you have for readers or writers?

Without getting into clichés such as “believe in yourself,” which is really a must in these sort of things, my best advice would be to keep an open mind, for both parties.

For readers I’d say, give an indie or unknown author a chance. Imagine you are in his shoes, trying to get your long-lost dream fulfilled. As readers nowadays, you have the power to help him or her make it so.

Writers, keep this same advice in mind: not everyone will like your book, not every review you get you’ll agree with, not every platform (whether a small publisher or a new service like BookGobbler) will look appealing. Keep an open mind, and keep the faith.

Where can readers find you?

So, my author website has all the updates about my projects, including how to be a character in my next book! You can also find me on Facebook. And the Wolf Shall Dwell is available from Amazon and from Blue Poppy, my publisher. They have other fantastic titles there.

Finally, I implore: I just hit 50 reviews on Amazon.com. Everyone knows how important reviews are, but not everybody knows that you need 100 on Amazon to get your book to appear in more searches. Please, if you’ve read, give me a rating and an honest, even short, review. Many thanks!