Set in present day, The Five Headed Dragon draws upon ancient inspiration. In a phone interview with the Gazette, Island author Michael G. West said that Enoshima Engi, an 11th century Japanese Buddhist text, provided him with a creative spark for his new novel.

The source material tells the story of a five-headed dragon that has long terrorized the island of Enoshima until a goddess named Benzaiten ends the monster’s wrath. Mr. West said that the polarity of these figures gave him the idea to create a novel with dual protagonists. His main characters, Sarah Benton and Leef Leiden, stand in for the goddess and dragon respectively.

Dr. Leiden is a professor of Asian studies by day and a hitman by night. He has made his career studying the Enoshima Engi. His research provides an excuse for a trip to Los Angeles to carry out a hit. There he meets Sarah Benton, an investigative reporter looking into a string of disappearances (that he brought about, of course). Romance, mayhem and existential crises follow.

The thriller’s plot unfolds over five sections subdivided into 17 episodes. To keep track of this complex structure, Mr. West said he made detailed spreadsheets in Microsoft Excel that broke the work down beat by beat. Then he would sit down, envision in his mind the action of the scene, and type it out—using only two fingers, he noted, because he never learned to type.

“I just let it flow,” he said. “It’s all about the characters, bringing them to life.”

The novel took Mr. West two years of early morning writing sessions to complete—he worked on it before starting his dayjob as an industry analyst.

Mr. West said above all else his book is intended to entertain. There is, however, a moral layer to the plot.

“In addition to entertainment, I’d hope that the reader would think about threads of what’s good and what’s evil in this,” Mr. West said.

The Five Headed Dragon is available at the Bunch of Grapes Bookstore and on Amazon.