The Dangerous Lady

04 October 2017

Our Managing Director Ali Karim had a few days off recently attending the launch party for the Crime Thriller "DAMAGED" by his very dear [and long-standing] friend Martina Cole. As a former Transport Manager & Industrial Chemist, Karim is also a published writer, literary commentator and crime fiction critic; he wrote a little about his week, which we present here.

My wife Muriel and I were in London celebrating with my dear friend Martina Cole as she launched her latest novel DAMAGED from Headline Publishing. Martina and I have been good friends for well over twenty years, but we recently discovered a most surreal coincidence; but first a little context.

I championed Martina’s work in those early days (over two decades ago) as she was dismissed [in some quarters] by a few literary commentators as purely a pulp writer - but I knew different because of her strong narrative ability in telling a great Crime Story; she was commercial not literary but foremost - a born story-teller. Today Martina Cole is one of Great Britain’s most widely read novelists, as well as having many of her work televised, as well as produced for the theatre - as she is the undisputed Queen of Gangster Fiction.

Earlier this year we discovered a surreal coincidence in our lives, which indicates the curious nature of fate, chance, and what a hard work-ethic can produce, from the humblest of humble beginnings.

Martina’s late Mother Eileen and my elderly Father Dr Syed Karim must have known each other back in the 1960s. Martina’s mother was a Psychiatric Nurse, a Staff Sister at Warley Hospital, part of Brentwood NHS [Essex]; while my Father at that time was a Psychiatrist, a Junior Doctor who worked at Warley and Runwell Hospitals for the mentally ill in Essex employed by Brentwood Regional Health Authority.

My wife Muriel [who coincidentally like Martina also has roots in Southern Ireland] was amused when learning that Martina and I had parents who both worked with the mentally ill in the same Hospitals, saying "…it helps explain the odd and eccentric nature of you and Martina….." Though in our defence, our eccentric natures could be attributed to us both being the Children of Immigrants and who came from very, very humble beginnings.

Martina’s parents came to England from Cork, Ireland [where Muriel and I coincidentally spent our Honeymoon]; while my parents came from Northern India, not far from the birthplace of Eric Arthur Blair [aka George Orwell]. Our parents were [to quote the title of a Robert Heinlein novel], strangers in a strange land when they came to England, a lifetime ago.

Both Martina and I have a strongly ingrained work ethic which comes from our hard-working parents. We work hard but we also play hard too, for in my opinion lives should have some form of narrative balance.

I studied Chemistry [at Liverpool Polytechnic] and worked with the Production and Logistics of Dangerous Goods throughout my career. My fascination and interest in the storage and transportation of Dangerous Goods stemmed from my time working for London & Coastal Oil Wharves Ltd in the late 1980s and early 1990s on Canvey Island & in Dagenham, where I was an Industrial Chemist. Later I would work in the Middle East, as well for the German Engineering Group Linde AG of Munich [who now own BOC Gases] and United Transport / Interoute Transport Services. All the experiences & knowledge I picked up along the way about the Logistics and Carriage of Dangerous Goods would eventually culminate in being part of the team that set-up Hazchem Network.

At the turn of the Millennium and in-concert with the late Jim Scanlan, HW Coates, Deltion Software & Ken Hackling, I became a Businessman setting up the UK’s only Pallet Network dedicated to the Carriage of Dangerous Goods. The very first roots of Hazchem Network can be traced back to my time and experiences as a young chemist working in Essex.

Around the same time, Martina was a single Mother who sat down and wrote a crime novel entitled Dangerous Lady, which she eventually published in 1992. It was a remarkable thriller set in London’s criminal underworld. Over 25 years later Martina Cole became not only one of the UK’s biggest writers of commercial fiction, but also emerged as a Businesswoman.

Martina Cole and I are the children of Immigrants who found ourselves in Essex and so both of us took from our surroundings what we needed; and from which, we made of it something more.

For amusement as Martina knows of my fondness for Detective fiction [and how reading helps enhance problem solving abilities] featured a cameo with DC Ali Karim, who is part of the investigation of a serial killer in her latest novel DAMAGED [from Headline Publishing].

Though within the logistics industry many refer to me as Chemical Ali - Martina refers to me as Heisenberg [the underworld Chemist from TV’s Breaking Bad]; so she was very surprised last week to bump into Bryan Cranston [the actor who played Walter White / Heisenberg] when she checked into the Covent Garden Hotel [in preparation for the launch of DAMAGED]. In a surreal twist of fate, Martina found that Cranston was staying in the same hotel. As Martina and I are big fans of the show Breaking Bad, she snapped a selfie of Bryan and her, and enthusiastically emailed it to me from her phone.

She told me that she spoke excitedly with Bryan Cranston about the odd Industrial Chemist friend of hers who manages a Chemical Distribution Network in Rugby, England and who she refers to as Heisenberg. She also asked Bryan Cranston to say "Hello to Chemical Ali and his team at Hazchem Network Rugby" while posing for the selfie-photograph.

For those who don’t know the humble origins of Martina Cole, the five minute film "The Making of a Dangerous Lady" [aka ‘From Fags to Riches’] by Barry Ryan which was shown at the launch party for DAMAGED is most amusing as well as life-affirming.

Barry and Martina's company TWO-QUEENS PRODUCTIONS have uploaded it to the YouTube platform >

And if you want to know a little about Martina Cole [from my vantage point]; an elegant writer who is celebrating over 25 years as a published novelist click HERE – The article has many embedded links that may provoke thought as well as amuse.

I smile looking back over the hard work that a single Mother from Essex deployed using her talent as a story-teller which started in Essex with DANGEROUS LADY; and the work our team in Rugby put into their work managing the Hazchem Network, the UK’s only pallet network dedicated to the Carriage of DANGEROUS GOODS – the roots of which can also be traced back to my time in Essex in the late 1980s to early 1990s; not unlike like the work ethic that Martina’s late Mother and my elderly Father taught us.

When pondering upon the surreal nature of life and fate; I am reminded of a writer named Thomas Harris who I championed way before he published a novel that altered the direction of the crime / horror genre. It featured a deranged psychiatrist as its anti-hero, which always made my Father [a former psychiatrist] smile.

"Typhoid and Swans, Officer Starling - they come from the same place"

Dr Hannibal Lecter,

Johns Hopkins - Baltimore, Maryland

If you need assistance in the Logistics of Dangerous Goods, please feel free to contact Hazchem Network’s Nada Marinovic, as we’re here to help as we are the UK’s only Pallet Network devoted to the Carriage of Palletised and Parcel Dangerous Goods under ADR with our award-nominated emergency response service

TEL 07712 662431


Martina Cole’s latest novel DAMAGED is available for purchase with a generous discount from This Link.

© 2017 Ali Karim