Jack Malaney is an agent with MI6.
The first time we meet him, he isn't. He is an engineer onboard a Russian fishing trawler in the North Atlantic. Rather a strange occupation for a Scotsman but unique enough to be interesting. An act of heroism in saving a Russian crewman of another nearby vessel who had fallen overboard, or an act of suicidal stupidity to ask any of the other Russians on the ship, would bring a meeting with the female captain of that vessel and that encounter would lead to a whole new line of work.
I especially enjoyed the brief repartee between the MI-6 recruiter and Malaney as when asked by the recruiter how Malaney would feel about serving his country, Malaney asked back, "You want me to play for Scotland? It's always been a dream of mine to play for my country, but I don't know that my knees could stick the abuse". That shows the kind of humor that Malaney routinely demonstrates, though the recruiter in this case was less than thrilled with it.
Malaney had joined the Russian supply vessel in order to get away from the poverty and hopelessness that he had experienced in the tenement home he grew up at in Glasgow, not to mention the trouble he routinely found himself in as a young man. It would be that job, working as an engineer on the engines of that fishing ship, that Malaney will be offered a position with MI6. It all took place in the last years of the Soviet Union and the British interests in what the Russian fishing fleet was doing around the western Scottish coast that would prompt MI6 to ask Malaney to return to his position on the ship and take up spying on it for them.
His new career will take off from there.
- When asked if he knew what Britain's Secret Service was, a police friend of Malaney answers, "A bunch of public schoolboys pissing around with real people's live."