It's a hot summer's morning and I'm driving to Margaret River to meet former Fremantle mayor Ray Glickman to discuss his debut novel, Reality.
I'm meeting Glickman at an artist- friendly cafe-restaurant in Prevelly called Sea Gardens, where the the chief executive of Amana Living penned the taut tale of a corporate psychopath who extends his victim pool to the community.
As I drive, I wonder how the picturesque home of an internationally claimed professional surfing contest could inspire a story of deceit and destruction set in Perth and Fremantle.
About 30 minutes before I arrive, the unrelenting sun turns into overcast clouds and the sky becomes coloured with shades of grey.
The moody conditions produce a stunning view at the Prevelly road clifftop, as the villas provide a firm backdrop to smashing waves and an ocean threaded with blue-green tides.
It's then I understand the inspiration - sometimes things can turn in an instance. Other times, it's a slow drift.
Glickman's Reality tells the tale of an unnamed Melbourne import who earns his keep at the helm of an anonymous State Government agency.
After running down his senior management team and restructuring its members out of the service provider, the lead character develops a plan to meddle with the lives of six random people chosen from the telephone book.
The perpetrator-manipulator calls his Big Brother-style social experiment the Master Plan, and sets out to manoeuvre his "housemates" into each other lives by taking on certain roles - the friend, the journalist, the client.
Glickman's Master Planner then sets up tests of his victims' moral fortitude and details his manipulations in a diary-style first-person narrative not unfamiliar to readers of premiere psychological thriller, John Fowles' The Collector.
Unlike similarly disturbing classics, where the perpetrator and victims' stories are told in diary form, Glickman adopts multiple points of view in his reality-TV-inspired tale.
He uses short, sharp third-person chapters to showcase the secondary characters' sometimes-flawed decisions made amid the despair of their own lives.
Sipping a coffee while outdoors at "Seadies", Glickman says he believes manipulators and bullies like his antihero need for victims to be aware they've been played.
"It's all very important that they know," he says.
"People are who are sociopathic, like this guy, it's not enough that you (the perpetrator) know that you've been in charge the whole time, the people have to know how wonderful you are."
The Master Planner shares this viewpoint.
"He says 'I crave your admiration, not your respect. If the tree falls in the forest and no one hears, who gives a s…'. He wants the shock-and-awe effect on people," Glickman says.
Reality's colourful cast of characters is very WA-familiar, with readers likely to wonder who the so-called housemates were based upon.
UK-born Glickman is a former social worker and says his cast has the characteristics of real people, including a narcissist leading man who has a reverse leadership style to his democratic approach.
Besides the Master Planner, there's elder stateswoman Hannah. The nazi-era survivor auditions a potential heir, young married tradesman Garry who is lured by her morality test, a happened-upon ring and envelope of cash.
Then there's western-suburbs wilted flower Julia - a school-run mum whose long-time husband, Stephen, is recruiting her womb for teen nanny Mai Ling - and tube-tying mon amour Robert, who uses after-hours gynaecology appointments and a cold demeanour as seductive tools.
Meanwhile, partnered-up loan shark Mario pursues high-profile mafia lawyer Kathleen.
Reality was penned over a seven- year period, giving Glickman a chance to draw on reality while exploring his theme.
"The essence of this book is not about the narrator, it's about the characters. The core question of the book is 'Who is responsible for their actions'," he says.
Glickman believes it is important to ask the question about personal responsibility.
"I think that's one of our biggest questions people have always wrestled with," he says.
"Do people take personal responsibility for what they're responsible for - this (book) sets up an extreme circumstance as a way of asking that question."
Glickman says the Master Planner argues his so-called victims are the decision-makers, and if there is moralistic blame it should be directed at them for choosing to have affairs or hide personal belongings.
"He is saying to the reader 'Don't blame me'," he says.
"That asks the question to each reader 'what about me', 'what would I think if I was in that situation', 'what would I think if I was in that situation, would I take responsibility for my actions or would I not feel responsible?'
Glickman feels people should be self-aware so they are not vulnerable to other people's manipulation.
"People need to be personally aware and alive to what is going on around them," he says.
"I think the more people have accepted personal responsibility, rather than making excuses or talking about the circumstances of what happened to them, we would be in a better place."
'The essence of this book is not about the narrator, it's about the characters. The core question of the book is 'Who is responsible for their actions'. I think that's one of our biggest questions people have always wrestled with.'
Reality is published by Fremantle Press ($27)