Raymond Khoury: The Devil’s Elixir

I’ve got to stop doing this, or: how I stopped worrying and let myself chase the ideas that led to a series. (Includes tiny spoiler alert!)

The story for The Devil’s Elixir came out of a desire to explore what we really know about . . . Nope, I can’t tell you. A major spoiler would ensue and you’d hate me, whereas the idea here is to nurture the very opposite feeling in you – well, towards my work, anyway. The book was supposed to be a self-contained, standalone story. Like I’d done with The Sanctuary, and with The Sign.

A series of pesky thoughts subverted that magnificent plan.

First was the fact that, just as I’d finished my research into the theme-that-can’t-be-named and was about to type in ‘Prologue’, an idea ambushed me – an idea for a sequel to The Last Templar, my first book. I’d never considered writing a series or bringing back any characters – not at that point.

Only this story was irresistible, so much so that I put aside what I’d been working on and dived into what became The Templar Salvation.

While writing that book, my fourth, I discovered how much I’d missed Sean Reilly and Tess Chaykin, my leads from The Last Templar, and how much I was enjoying hanging out with them again. And once it was done, I realised that the story of The Devil’s Elixir should be a Reilly and Tess story too.

Not only that, but I also realised that it’s such a personal story for Reilly, that I try another first: to write it in the first person, from Reilly’s point of view. Up until this book, I’d been writing in the third person.

Writing it was a total blast. I got a huge kick out of writing in the first person, but the gremlins weren’t finished with me. As I was writing the last few lines of Elixir, another idea dropped out of nowhere and I typed in a couple of lines – literally, a question and a very brief answer – that meant Elixir had to have a sequel. There was unfinished business for Reilly, someone he’d need to track down, a CIA spook he hadn’t heard about until then.

Looking back, I think this came out of a desire to explore more deeply something I touched on in Elixir, a theme that deserved its own novel. And that generated the next book, Rasputin’s Shadow, which picks up that one line from the last chapter of Elixir and runs with it.

Did I learn my lesson? No. I went ahead and did the exact same thing again when I finished Rasputin’s Shadow. Another idea came, literally as I was about to type in ‘The End’. A question, about the past. About Reilly’s father, who – as those of you with elephantine memories might recall from the pages of The Last Templar – killed himself when Reilly was ten.

Or did he?

One sentence, one question. And the next book was born. Seeded, really. I still had to figure out what the answer to that question was. Which I did; and it’s something you should be able to read sometime in 2015. Which doesn’t give you much time to finish The Devil’s Elixir and Rasputin’s Shadow.


Have you read any of the Sean Reilly and Tess Chaykin books? What kept you turning the pages? Leave us a comment, below!

Raymond Khoury is the internationally bestselling author of five Sean Reilly novels: The Last Templar, The Templar Salvation, Second Time Around, The Devil’s Elixir and Rasputin’s Shadow, as well as two stand-alone thrillers, The Sign and The Sanctuary. Also an acclaimed screenwriter, his credits include the BBC Television series Spooks and Waking the Dead. Follow Raymond on his Official Facebook Page or visit his website.