“The Lisbon Portfolio” — A Photographer Thriller by Kirk Tuck

(Here’s a great post by a photographer I highly admire for his mastery and versatility, Kirk Tuck, writing a photography suspense novel! I myself won two literary awards, but boy don’t let me talk about my earlier days as an aspiring writer… Kirk’s (Leica rangefinder!) thriller sounds like a great book for anyone interested in a good read and photography. Got my copy and enjoying it!)


As some of you might know I write the Visual Science Lab blog and am also a working, corporate photographer. About 12 years ago I started working on a novel about corporate espionage and a photographer who also worked as a researcher for an agency charged with protecting American companies’ trade secrets overseas. The novel is set in 1999 at a corporate trade show in Lisbon, Portugal, just before the bursting high-tech bubble and right at the intersection of film photography changing over to digital. The novel is entitled The Lisbon Portfolio.

The literary category of “action/hero/photographers” is small and underserved and I feel like this will book will really appeal to THEME readers in particular. The novel is resonating with readers and, in the short time it’s been available as a Kindle e-book it’s already racked up 10 five-star reviews. The paperback version, which will come out in mid-August, is 472 pages of suspense, action, fun and photography.

All through the mid-1980s through 2004, a large part of my business was documenting corporate events. Many of those corporate events for IBM, Tivoli Systems, Motorola and other companies were in locations like Rome, Paris, Madrid, London, and even Monte Carlo. One that I remembered well was a trip to Lisbon, Portugal. I spent eight days there; five at the corporate showcase and three more on the back end just walking around with a camera. The big events are kind of in my blood by now…

The Lisbon Portfolio by Kirk Tuck, a thriller full of suspense, action, fun and photography.
The Lisbon Portfolio by Kirk Tuck, a thriller full of suspense, action, fun and photography.
At any rate, I’ve always been a fan of spy novels like the James Bond series or action novels like Vince Flynn’s, Mitch Rapp series, but I didn’t like that the characters were impervious and infallible. And I always wanted to write a novel…

In 2002, I had some health issues that sidelined me for a couple of months and while recovering I wrote about 95% of The Lisbon Portfolio. Then I got busy again and the book ended up on a CD-ROM somewhere, unfinished. This year my son, who is about to go off to college, challenged me to “get the darn thing finished.” So I sat down and finished it.

Here’s a synopsis of the novel:

Henry White, our hero, had a long career as a researcher for a series of intelligence agencies. His last assignment was for an agency that safeguards American trade secrets overseas. His cover identity was always that of a corporate photographer. It gave him lots of access and a reason to be around traveling American business people.

He had a close call in St. Petersburg, Russia, in 1994 which almost killed him and gave his a lasting dose of anxiety. He resigned from his job, but still needed to earn a living, so he fell back on what he knew and became a full-time event photographer.

He is assigned to cover a corporate showcase for a global software company. The show takes place in Lisbon in 1999. In the same time frame an employee of the world’s biggest tech firm has stolen, byte by byte, the plans for a miniaturized nuclear detonator from their secret weapons lab. He and his partner in crime, Angela Cho, plan to sell the blue prints to agents at the same show in Lisbon.

With a shortage of manpower in Lisbon, the CIA and the agency that protects trade secrets taps Henry White and bribes him to come out of retire just this one time. He’s promised that it will just be a situation in which he’ll need to observe a potential courier and, once the package trades hands, real agents will swoop in for the dangerous stuff. But that’s before four murders take place in a convention center bathroom. And before the plans go missing.

Since Henry White was in the bathroom during the violent action in the convention center and, scared to death, he’s gone into hiding while every one suspects that he’s gone missing because he has the plans. He must stay alive, figure out who actually has the plans, avoid the Russian mafia and a Chinese gang of ex-intelligence agents, as well as security personal/assassins from the company that let the secret plans out, all the while convincing his own country’s espionage services that he’s on the right side.

There are many betrayals and twists and Henry White uses his wits, experience and the every day tools in his Domke camera bag to: blow up a Range Rover, save a Russian Mafia chief from a massive heart attack, and create a tactical stun gun to protect himself and another somewhat innocent victim from an enraged and persistent gun man.

Through the whole story are woven moments of photography and memories of image making and cameras. Henry White’s description of using his rangefinder Leica and making street photographs will be compelling to many photographers while his basic humanity and normal fears will cement his persona as one of the most sympathetic characters in the spy novel kingdom.

That’s the story in a nutshell. I’ve written five non-fiction books about photography and all of them have sold very well. The most recent is LED Lighting. I’ve always wanted to write a novel and at some point in 2002 I believed I’d found the perfect story. This is it. And I was so anxious to get it done and out that I decided to self-publish rather than going through the time and disappointment of finding a publisher who might take a chance on a writer whose track record is all non-fiction books.

So far the gamble is paying off. Sales are good, maybe I should start thinking about the sequel!

The Lisbon Portfolio is available on Amazon.

  • Kirk Tuck

    The Novel is now available as a trade paperback from Amazon. Hope you enjoy it.