Archive for February, 2020

Caught in a Cold War Trap

Miller Caldwell

Listening to a Radio Moscow broadcast on holiday on Jura, Glasgow schoolboy Robert Harvie finds errors in the programme which he reports to the Russians. Then, as a student, the Soviets give him a grant, and so Robert is inadvertently compromised. His first job takes him to Ghana, and soon he has murder on his hands. How can he escape Soviet attention?

Exclusive Extract

Have you ever been to the island of Jura? Not many people have. If you are a whisky connoisseur you possibly toured the island’s distillery to taste the Isle of Jura single malt. Perhaps you were a climber assaulting the famous Paps of Jura, or a sailor assessing the treacherous cauldron of the Corryvreckan whirlpool from the safety of land. Maybe you needed to imbibe the presence of George Orwell (aka Eric Blair) who completed Nineteen Eighty-Four at Barnhill on the north of the island. That’s about all you can do on Jura, which is why not many go there. That however, may be its attraction. I was there during the Cold War and there my spying career took roots. I was on a family holiday in July 1967. In the third week, my life changed forever.
My name is Robert Harvie and on that holiday I turned sixteen years of age. My father was a Church of Scotland minister. Minister’s families were not rich, so the holidays were the only real perks we enjoyed. Dad would bring four sermons with him each summer and the pulpit exchange was complete when our manse in Glasgow was occupied by the minister whose manse we lived in for a month. We usually enjoyed somewhere with fresh sea air, while the other minister and his family explored the culture of the Gallus Glaswegians, their numerous parks and the animated city which ‘Smiles Better’ with its keen sense of humour.
It was a wet morning. I remember that well. A real humdinger of a downpour, I heard my father say. I stood in the small north facing wooden porch while the salty air filled my lungs. The rain made the nearby coastline of Mull of Kintyre invisible. I cursed this four-week island break for being neither summer, nor a holiday. I longed to be home in the city engaging in the many different interests I had.
By lunchtime, the rain had retreated. A tiny patch of blue sky fought through the grey cloud, offering a ray of hope. The land in slow progress began to have a re-birth. Colours became vibrant once more and the single track road’s tarmac glistened. I focussed on a snail crossing the road. It was not risking a car’s approach; few cars were on the island but I feared a seagull might be tempted to devour the slow-moving creature. I ran towards it in haste. I picked up the snail and placed it on the grass verge. It felt good—a good deed accomplished on a boring day. The snail was insecure and unwilling to reappear from its shell at first. I waited in silence. It did too. Then I smiled as it continued its journey into grassy cover.
I turned around and saw the sun settle on a verdant hillock behind the manse. I decided to get to its summit and take the family Bush radio with me. My mother approved my plan and I set off. It was a steep climb and my route was circuitous—to avoid calf strain. I stopped and turned around. I saw a tanker in the distance. It moved slowly like that reluctant snail I helped cross the road. I imagined myself on the ship, going somewhere exotic. It was sailing down the Firth of Clyde after all, and that perhaps meant an American trip, even South America. There again it might just be going to Ireland. My thoughts came back to land.
The swirling wind dictated which way my blond hair would flow as I arrived breathless on the crest of the hill. My foot caught a heather clad mound. Then I saw I had caused a disturbance to the zigzag of an angry adder. It moved like a retracting hose away from me and I relaxed. I forgot to mention—Jura had a number of vipers lurking in the undergrowth in the hills. On warm sunny days, they could be seen on any open land squirming around on the warm ground. I found a flat grassy bank and sat down.
The Bush radio gave me the Home Service and the Light programme. I could not concentrate on their urban offerings so changed the button at the top to short wave and turned the dial. I caught some French programme and lingered to hear an excited high-pitched Parisian woman. It could advance my French studies, which would resume in two weeks’ time back at school. However, after I had heard a sentence or two of her rapid French fire I could not follow her line of thought. I turned the dial further on. This time I heard a farming report. I gave up re-tuning. I kept the station on and lay back to absorb some sun. I could have fallen asleep in a matter of moments but there was something odd about the programme.
The announcer spoke about English Ayrshire cows. What a howler. That was akin to saying Eccles cakes come from Aberdeen. There was more to confuse me. The reporter spoke about the 12 coal mines in Suffolk, the powerhouse of energy for the south of England. Suffolk coal? I knew these facts to be wrong and waited for the punch line. It never came. When the programme ended the announcer informed me that Farming Matters would broadcast at the same time next week, on Radio Moscow.
It was not a comedy after all, but an inaccurate description of British farming and land use. I felt indignation; an urge to respond, to clear up their misinformation. After all, I had little else to occupy my time. So that night in bed I wrote a letter explaining that Ayrshire cows were from Ayrshire, in Scotland, and Suffolk was farming land and did not have a coal seam—as I recalled from my school geography notes.
The following day I took my letter, addressed to Radio Moscow, Moscow, U.S.S.R. to the Craighouse post office, which was in a cottage. A red post box outside gave the clue that the postmistress lived inside. I entered setting off a bell clanger above my head. A woman came through from her lounge, closed the door behind her and sat down on a floor screeching wooden chair by her ink padded desk. She read the address.
‘Moscow? That’s foreign,’ she confirmed in a matter-offact voice and opened a book. Two fingers ran down the columns like sprinters. ‘Anything in the letter I should know about?’ she asked.
I hesitated. My heart seemed to stop beating for a moment. I supposed I could share its contents with her. ‘I have written to them to show there were mistakes in one of their programmes.’
She looked at me through horn-rimmed glasses. ‘I don’t need to know what you write. So, is it just paper inside?’
I nodded somewhat embarrassed. She took her fingers from the list then snapped the book closed.
‘Then that’s nine pence postage. It might take a few days to get there.’
Phew, I expected to pay more. She returned the letter to me and I took it to the post box outside. As it dropped down into dark oblivion I wondered how soon she would retrieve it and have it sent seaward, landward and forward to Moscow.

Publisher: Clink Street Publishing
Publication Date: February 2020
Format: Paperback
Pages: 172
Genre: Thriller
Age: Adult
Reviewer: Faye
Source: Review Copy
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Zein: The Homecoming

Graham J. Wood

The nightmare continues. Returning to Earth, Kabel and Tyson are fighting different battles. Kabel angry and struggling to restrain his feelings for Gemma, and Tyson fighting an internal battle with the methir still coursing through his body; the magics are growing stronger. On Earth, the Cabal are tightening their grip on the control of the zinithium and the fearful population. Their ruthlessness is supported by Zylar aggressively pushing his domination plan forward, and his desire for revenge on the Blackstone brothers is all consuming. The odds seem high, almost unimaginable. Into this despair stride the conflicted brothers with the support of their companions. Despair, defeat and death will face them. Now is the time to fight back, to face the ultimate battle of good versus evil, for the sake of the Earth, the universe and their own internal peace.

Author Interview

What is your favourite thing about writing books?
Escape. I write at 4am in the morning in my hut at the bottom of the garden and it feels like I am in a different world. Just to simply create and expand a work of fiction that never existed before I placed pen to paper is simply n exceptional feeling.

Who is your favourite character in your book and why?
Difficult one now that I have finished over 900 pages but strangely I would have to go for one of the characters who is part of the main group but not a lead character like Kabel or Tyson and that is Bailey. You draw the characters from a combination of people you meet in life and of course sometimes your own traits and his one liners, faithful friendship to Tyson and underlying courage are attributes I like in my own friends and family.

What is your favourite drink to consume while writing?
Haha, good question and since I do like my pale ale beer that would be the answer if I wasn’t writing at 4am in the morning so the answer is a strong mug of coffee with one sugar or a red bull.

Do you have any bad habits while you’re writing?
Oh yes. The biggest one is I drift off listening to the birds who become really noisy around 4 to 5 AM and if it is a nice sunny morning (you would think unlikely in Manchester but it does happen), I sit back and relax. Before I know it the house is moving with my family coming down for breakfast and I haven’t completed my allotted number of words.

How did you research your book?
When the story was on Earth, I used the usual search engines to make sure that the supportive descriptions of places etc were accurate. For example, the first book includes the destruction of Old Trafford Stadium (Manchester United’s home) and I just had to make sure ther layout was correct.

Are you a plotter or a pantser?
Wow, another great question. Well I start as a plotter, probably engrained by working in a Bank for 24 years from age of 16 but though I start like that I quickly turn into a Pantser as my main job is negotiation and I have to change my approach within minutes and sometimes seconds to win the argument / position. I do the same when writing and in every day life. I have a good strawman but when I come to a road block I just let my constraints go. My wife says it drives her crazy as I switch between both and confuse the heck out of her!

If you could live in any fictional world, which would you choose and why?
The Shire in the Lord of the Rings – plenty of food, beer and fireworks…though at 6ft 2 I may bang my head somewhat on the ceilings of the houses.

If you could befriend any fictional character, who would you choose and why?
Tyrion Lannister from Game of Thrones. You could say this is an unusual choice but his wit, one liners and willingness to enjoy himself would make for a great evening.

Publisher: Clink Street Publishing
Publication Date: February 2020
Format: Paperback
Pages: 294
Genre: Sci-Fi
Age: Adult
Reviewer: Faye
Source: Review Copy
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The Vatican Games

Alejandra Guibert

Vera is born on the day an apocalyptic revenge is unleashed, annihilating half of the world’s population.
Her birth marks the beginning of a new world order run by powerful gaming corporations.
A warless existence with no poverty has been secured, until this fine balance becomes once more under threat.
Vera is the female David to beat Goliath and prevent further devastation.
The future lies in her hands. It’s a game that she needs to win.

Five of My Favourite Things About Being An Author

by Alejandra Guibert

I love creating stories, imagining a world that is not my own but someone else’s. As a child, I always created stories during bath time and became lost in my imagination to a point that my mother had to drag me out of the bathroom when I had been too long!

Of course creating characters gives me great pleasure too. Putting myself in someone else’s shoes and feeling what they feel and doing what they would do brings an incredible feeling as I’m putting it on the page. It’s almost as if I were introduced to these characters at the beginning of a book and as time went by and they developed, they would end up telling me what their next step would be.

One of my favourite things of being an author is the ability to be in my own bubble of creation. Spending time in the worlds I’m creating and with those people within those worlds and being able to create meanings and ideas through them.

I also enjoy immensely being inspired by other authors. Alongside my own journey as a writer, I am constantly reading and looking for inspiration from different sources: I enjoy looking into different and inspiring forms of expression from other novelists but I also thrive on the knowledge passed on by non-fiction authors. I usually have four or five books on the go, from which I gain inspiration, as long as they are relevant to what I’m writing.

And last but not least, I love the interaction with readers, I enjoy learning of their own interpretation of events and characters and sharing deeper meaning to a story or a poem. Some of my ideas and wishes translate into a kind of message that I want to convey. In brief, communication with the reader is paramount to my writing. Showing viewpoints and concepts that might help change reality for the better, whilst somehow moving or touching the reader is my ultimate goal.

Publisher: Clink Street Publishing
Publication Date: January 2020
Format: Paperback
Pages: 242
Genre: Sci-Fi
Age: Adult
Reviewer: Faye
Source: Review Copy
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