Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Foreword

“In this game, we're beset by foes masquerading as friends. You were wrongly brought into all this but now you're both here, I need you to create, for us, together, a safe haven, a citadel from which we can operate.”

“Who's to be inside, sir and who outside?”

“That's for you to discover. Good people inside, ordinary folk with no outside agendas. I need you to reveal the faces behind the masks. Report directly to my private secretary - we'll do the rest.”

The Story

This is a long saga in three parts dealing with ordinary people who are forced to discover their ability to adapt, to work out strategies to survive.

They're not superheroes, they're not rabbits, they just find themselves drawn into someone else’s game, wishing to be left alone but once the atrocities begin, it’s clearly time to flee.

The human spirit rebels in such situations, refuses to lie down, they find sympathy among strangers, protection and assistance from fellow human insects and slowly, the little band hardens into a small, intelligent force which can hit back hard and seriously incommode those with the firepower.

That's the storyline but it's also about betrayal at all levels, lust, love, suspense and the grim humour which humans hold onto when all around seems dark.

The characters

All are based on real people, all are authentic, in many cases down to real life verbatim dialogue or else in that idiom.

Some characters, e.g. Liya, Aliya, Alisa, were not only left with their real names but their real scenes in life too – one of the more enjoyable parts for the author.

Jensen himself [male protagonist] was a problem.  He’s clearly the author in Chapters 1-4 and much of that did happen, after which he becomes an amalgam of people.  By the end, he's largely an invention.

Genre

Romantic erotic mystery action suspense thriller, with dead bodies everywhere? My friend Rossa called the raunchier parts ‘intellectual eroticism’. 

In its final denouement, an attempt to describe the last hours of the world, it strays into eschatology.

It's more a series of linked episodes than a single story, a saga in which the characters grow, change, die.

What led to it being written

It began as an attempt to record my new life in Russia from 1996 and so, while my new gf sat at the other end of the divan in summer '96, notes were being furiously scribbled in pencil on graph paper.

The first four chapters were originally my observations of suburban and rural Russia which then ran out of steam, so I began including real life stories from over there which happened to people I knew, not me.  By the time it reached Israel in the third book, it was almost entirely a novel.

The first rewrite was done in 2000, part 2 was finished about 2006 and run past some Russian and French ladies, part 3 was finished in 2007.

There was proofing and some rewrites until 2014.

Long description of the plot

[Spoilers ahead]

Part 1

Hugh Jensen meets two young Russian women in London and shows them around.  His school is about to implode [happened in real life] and he gets an invitation about that time from a third Russian, a head of department, to go there for a year.

He meets a Frenchman [Marc] in his two berth rail compartment who, unbeknowns to him, works for a French security section.  Also unbeknowns to him, a young Russian woman [Ksenia] has slipped a cassette into his cabin bag and now attempts to retrieve it in the town in which Hugh is now living.

Tricked into meeting Ksenia [spoken of by him as Miss Heathrow], he is flying back on holidays, meets her in London and in a rush of blood, goes north with her by train, making it up as he goes.  The two return to Russia to a different sort of welcome for him.

In fact, certain elements have got it into their heads that he is aiding their opposition and that's not conducive to anyone's help in Russia.  Towards the end of his stay, which has now been extended to many years, he meets a lady [Geneviève] from Paris through both his university and Marc and she turns out to be Marc's boss.

The end of Part 1 finds Mr. Jensen south of Paris near Barbizon, about to try his luck with Geneviève after he loses Ksenia in the worst way possible.

Part 2

Now betrothed to Geneviève, things have disintegrated somewhat in the EU and someone is using her section for his or her own purposes.  

Geneviève herself is not as she seems and the situation becomes impossible, to the extent that they must go on the run across Europe, staying in safehouses, protected by a willing group of people who believe in what they're trying to do in exposing corruption in high places.

After most of the ragtag are killed, four survivors meet up again on an island above New Zealand, deciding to build and take a boat back to Europe to continue their work, which has now become a mission.

The end of Part 2 sees Hugh and one of the section ladies [Emma] in London, being offered a security role under the Prime Minister [a fictional character who is actually a decent person].

Part 3

If they've managed until now by some miracle, it promptly falls apart, including their own partnership but it's just a symptom of a wider malaise, the Prime Minister outed in a putsch and seeking refuge on an outlying dependency, with a solid portion of the armed forces and equipment still with them.

All the while they've fought not only the enemy but rampant infidelity among themselves, plus quislings – the enemy within - until even their island is destroyed in a seek and destroy mission.  Under impossible fire, they seek refuge in the Holy Land near Mt. Carmel, are befriended by the Druze and shelter under Har Megiddon.

They essentially await the end but there are still some twists left and one or two duties to perform before they finally shuffle off to a better place.  The final scenes are close to surreal – how does one describe the last hours of the world?


[End of spoilers]

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