Wednesday, January 17, 2018

The Girl in the Gallery Review Tour

Blurb:
Just when you thought it was safe to go back to Dulwich…

It’s a perfect summer’s morning in the plush south London suburb, and thirty-something Beth Haldane has sneaked off to visit one of her favourite places, the world-famous Picture Gallery.

She’s enjoying a few moments’ respite from juggling her job at prestigious private school Wyatt’s and her role as single mum to little boy Ben, when she stumbles across a shocking new exhibit on display. Before she knows it, she’s in the thick of a fresh, and deeply chilling, investigation.

Who is The Girl in the Gallery? Join Beth in adventure #2 of the London Murder Mystery series as she tries to discover the truth about a secret eating away at the very heart of Dulwich.


Excerpt:
As she sped on to the last gallery, containing the current exhibition, Beth automatically stopped for a second opposite one of her favourite still lives – the red, white, and blue bouquet by Jan van Huysum. Eighteenth century flower painters were paid extra for insects, and she loved spotting all the wriggly wildlife. This time, it wasn’t a bug that caught her eye, though. It was something on the very edge of her peripheral vision. Something that jarred, didn’t make sense. Shouldn’t even be there. Something that, she realised with dread, was in the mausoleum antechamber. Something that meant, however much she did not want to, she had to turn back and look.

Beth’s heart started to thud. It was a flash of scarlet.

Wasn’t it Constable who’d added red to all his canvases as ‘the salt in the soup’? Well, Beth felt vehemently her life didn’t need even the tiniest jot more seasoning. She could no longer picture the shade crimson lake without shuddering from head to toe, after her ghastly first day at Wyatt’s School.
No, this time, if anything bad was happening, she was not going to stumble across it on her own. Resolutely shutting her eyes, she sidled back past the niche and then ran straight for the ticket desk. She’d get that girl on the desk to come with her, if she had to drag her all the way. 


My Review:
3 stars

My favorite part of this book was the writing. Vivid descriptions, engaging characters, interesting word choices, this book had it all. I really enjoyed Beth (as well as the fact that she acknowledges that it's a miracle she still has her day job considering how much time she spends solving mysteries), and I liked seeing her balance raising her son with everything else going on. I also enjoyed her chemistry with Harry, and would love to see where their relationship leads. 

I also enjoyed the mystery, as the twists and turns kept me guessing throughout. There were some unnecessary elements that didn't add to the story and slowed it down at times, but for the most part, the pacing and plot were amazing. 

However, the biggest downside to me was the ending. I was underwhelmed. There was so much build-up, and then instead of catching a proper villain, the ending was a moral message about parenting and drugs and almost no repercussions for the two characters who really deserved some consequences (the poisoner and a horrible teenager). I think Beth summed up my feeling perfectly: "Last time, I got quite a sense of satisfaction when the whole mystery was wrapped up. This time, it all seems like fragments." And even if this is "more like real life," it was still underwhelming and rushed. Plus, after all the build-up between Harry and Beth, there was no resolution, just a cliffhanger leading to the next book. Normally I'm okay with stringing along the will-they-or-won't-they aspect, but I did not like how it was handled here, as it came across more like a slap in my face after cheering them on. 

Overall, I think this book had a lot of promise that didn’t fully deliver in the end. However, I would still recommend and give this series a second chance because it does have engaging, realistic characters and interesting writing that help make up for the pacing issues and the lackluster ending. Plus, the book also deals with some hard-hitting issues in a very real way. So if you enjoy a cozy mystery, I would recommend giving this series a try.


*I received this book in exchange for an honest review.*


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Author Bio and Links:
Alice Castle was a UK  newspaper journalist for The Daily Express, The Times and The Daily Telegraph before becoming a novelist. Her first book, Hot Chocolate, was a European best-seller which sold out in two weeks.

Alice is currently working on the sequel to Death in Dulwich and The Girl in the Gallery. The third instalment in the London Murder Mystery series, it will be published by Crooked Cat next year and is entitled The Calamity in Catford. Once again, it features Beth Haldane and DI Harry York.

Alice is also a top mummy blogger, writing DD’s Diary.

She lives in south London and is married with two children, two step-children and two cats.

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Links to buy Alice Castle’s books: myBook.to/GirlintheGallery,  myBook.to/1DeathinDulwich, myBook.to/HotChocolate.

The book will be on sale for $0.99.

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

K.I.A. NBtM

Blurb:
Hildegard lives in a real-life dollhouse, surrounded by prop houses and actors who play friends, teachers and foster parents. Only one man ever seemed real, and after his disappearance, she’s had enough playing along. As Hildegard makes her final preparations to run away from home, a swarm of black clad soldiers appear, controlling the police and swarming across her home town. She can evade them for now, but after learning their mission, she decides to play along one last time, following them to Truman Academy, a lonely building on a freezing Aleutian island. Hildegard knows it for what it is: just another prop, but not everyone feels the same way. Through the hell of endless drills and marching, Hildegard befriends the stealthy Grace and bloodthirsty David, and enlists them in an effort to unravel the plan of the man called G and his monstrous menagerie of inhuman soldiers.


Excerpt:
“Bacteria again,” David says. “A biological weapon?”

“I don’t know.” Islet slurps the last of his soup. “I only sequenced part of it, and they keep the different teams apart.”

“Is that what they’re going to launch from the Silo?” Grace asks.

“You knew?” Islet asks.

“We found out about the Mobile Silo a while ago,” I say. “We saw blueprints for it, orders for parts, too.”

“Well, that’s what they’ve been doing for days now,” Dr. Islet says. “Hauling down the tanks of bacteria, assembling missiles.”

“They’re going to launch.” Grace stands up as she says it.

“Right,” I say. “There’s not going to be any placement in special forces. Or graduation.”

A few students stand up, like Grace. A few gasp. Most don’t seem surprised. “If I had to guess, I’d say that once they launch, they won’t need us. It’ll be a massacre.”

“You think so?” Islet pushes his glasses back up his nose. “It could be, we’ve been getting weapon shipments with the missile parts and replacement components for the Mobile Silo.”

“Stop saying we,” David grunts. “Unless you’re with them.”

“No, no, I’m not.” Islet waves his hands back and forth. “You’re right.”

“We have to stop them,” Grace says. I can’t help but tally up the numbers. At the very least the baggers outnumber the students two to one. Almost certainly more, not counting KU Giant. Then there’s the equipment discrepancy, and the differences in energy from eating and sleeping. I know there are vehicles, too, I’ve seen plenty of personnel carriers and jeeps with mounted guns, as well as the helicopters that are always coming and going.

“Uh, Hildegard,” Grace says. “We were sort of hoping you’d come up with something.”

I only wanted to find out what happened to Cooper. To be honest, I think I might already have lost my chance. It can’t be my priority anymore. By the sound of it, it’s not just the students that are in danger.

“There’s only one way we can get enough supplies, weapons, and bodies to stop the launch.”

“Okay,” Grace says. “What’s that?”

“This should be good.” David leans back on the walls of the cabin. All the students stare at me.

“We have to take over the school.”



Hi Alexander. Let’s start with how you started writing.
I think most people get started the same way, don’t they?

Once you graduate from basic literacy in school, you move on to simile, metaphor and literary classics.

I enjoyed my first writing assignments, even though I had a weird phobia of dialogue, but after a while the teaching on the subject started to seem underdeveloped.

Friends, teachers and family encouraged me to keep writing, but after sticking with writing in higher education I got pretty tired of theory that didn’t seem to go anywhere. I had to try it for myself to find out how things worked, and I think that’s why I keep writing, too. If I didn’t feel a sense of progress when I sit down to develop an idea or edit a wayward paragraph, I’d probably just give up.   

  
What was the inspiration for your book?
I wouldn’t call K.I.A. deep enough to be a meaningfully feminist work or anything, but the inspiration for the book came from what I think of as the most masculine genre: the all-action airport thriller. What would happen if I translated the conventions of an action heavy spy novel and added the elements necessary to transform it into female-led YA?

Along with wanting to try out a faster pace and practice plotting out action sequences, I thought I might end up with something fun, engaging and new.


What’s the one genre you haven’t written in yet that you’d like to?
I’d like to try writing a really complex mystery, K.I.A. has a lot of espionage and intrigue as part of the plot, but it’s not the main focus. I’ve stayed away from mysteries until now just because of their complexity, but I think a really strong mystery is something every writer should aspire to.


Are there any genres you won’t read or write in? Why?
I have to be completely honest here and say erotica, AKA pornography.

I don’t have a problem with people using it or writing it, it’s just than when it comes to indie authors it gets in everywhere.

Is it possible, or even necessary to have a real plot or characters when you can just lean on broad stereotypes and self-inserts for your build up and payoff?


What are you up to right now? Do you have any releases planned, or are you still writing?
I’m currently working over the second draft of Formula Q (working title), and aiming (translation: hoping) for a summer release.

It’s a novel about a high-speed, low-rules racing tournament set on Mars amid an attempted fascist takeover. The heroes, who come from Earth have to survive the Martian’s violent driving and outwit an aspiring dictator to prove their way of life is better, and try to help the impoverished and desperate Martians while weathering their hatred and fear.


Favorite color?
I really like a bright red with just a touch of orange to make it really stand out. It was the inspiration for K.I.A.’s covers, especially the special edition.  


Favorite movie?
I think it has to be a tie between Amadeus and Life Of Pi.

Ultimately I think Amadeus is the better told story, and despite being a little out of date does some really clever things with genre signifiers that people should really be stealing, but Life of Pie has Ang Lee, who gives the whole film just the right abstract, fairy tale atmosphere it needs to complement its themes.


Book that inspired you to become an author?
I don’t think I could point to a single book. I started out with the early Harry Potters, moved up to Lord of The Rings while waiting for J.K. to finish new ones to come out, and then ate through everything Cliff McNish wrote (at the time), those were my foundation.

After that, I drew a lot from Melvin Burgess’ Junk, and even though Ender’s Game in general is pretty pants, the voice Orson Scott Card affects taught me a lot about economy of language.


You have one superpower, what is it?
I think I’d choose the power to “erase” time.

Essentially, I’d pick a point in the future (I’d have to be able to see the future), and then change the amount of time between now and then to zero, choosing what events did and did not happen in the intervening (now erased) time.


You can have dinner with three people, dead, alive, fictitious, etc. Who are they?
I don’t know if I can think of three people.

The only person that comes to mind is Nobunaga Oda. He was an incredibly divisive figure in 16th century Japan, known for being completely ruthless, but also very tolerant, dissolving barriers between rigid social classes and introducing foreign cultures.

I guess I wouldn’t be able to really understand such a complex person over dinner, but I’d like to try. Was he just so far ahead of his time that he knew no-one would go along with him, so he had to force everyone to toe the line? Or, was everything he did that we think of today as good, just theatrics?

Either way, I think in the future I’d like to try to write a novel about a fictionalized version of someone like that, trying to impose change for everyone’s benefit, but having to fight without mercy to put those changes in place.  


Final question. Which of your characters are you the most like and why?
This is kind of a tough one for K.I.A., since it doesn’t have a lot of “normal” characters, but I think I’d probably say Grace. She doesn’t really condone violence, tries to solve everyone’s problems with communication, but sometimes gets into trouble by being too curious or saying something stupid.


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Author Bio and Links:
Alexander Charalambides was born in London and grew up in Berkshire in the UK.

He studied Creative Writing, and graduated from the Open University.

As a freelance writer Alexander enjoys storytelling just as much as editing and analysis, but often takes time off to enjoy wind surfing, do the sickest of motorcycle flips, wrestle with deadly animals and lie about his hobbies.

In 2008 he moved to the USA and now lives in New Hampshire’s beautiful White Mountains with his family and two dogs, Gwynne and Gimli.

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Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Stairway to Paradise Blog Tour

Blurb:
Growing up as Frankie Gershwin's daughter, the sister of George and Ira Gershwin, was quite a challenge. I didn't have the perspective to realize that so much unhappiness in a family was out of the ordinary. But I knew something was off. My mother was often depressed and my father was tyrannical and scary, one never knew when he would blow up. I learned early on that I had to be the cheery one, the one to fix the problems. Both sides of my family were famous; the Gershwin side and my father who invented color film. But even though there was more than enough recognition, money and parties I understood that wasn't what made people happy.

As a young adult adrift and depressed I broke from that unsatisfactory life by marrying Enrico Natali, a photographer, deeply immersed in his own questions about life. We moved into the wilderness away from what we considered as the dysfunction of society. That’s when we discovered that life had other kinds of challenges: flood, fire, rattlesnakes, mountain lions and bears. We lived in a teepee for more than four years while building a house. Curiously my mother never commented on my life choice. She must have realized on some level that her own life was less than satisfactory.

Enrico had developed a serious meditation practice that had become a kind of ground for him. As for me I danced. Understanding the somatic, the inner body experience, became my way to shift the inner story.

We raised and homeschooled our three children. I taught them to read, Enrico taught them math. The kids ran free, happy, always engaged, making things, and discovering. We were so sure we were doing the right thing. However, we didn't have a clue how they would make the transition to the so-called ‘real world’. The children thrived until they became teenagers. They then wanted out. Everything fell apart for them and for Enrico and me. Our lives were turned upside down, our paradise lost. There was tragedy: our son lost his life while attempting to cross our river during a fierce storm. Later I was further challenged by advanced breast cancer.

It was during these times that I delved deeply into the somatic recesses of myself. I began to find my own voice, a long learning process. I emerged with a profound trust in my own authority. It became clear that everyone has to find his or her way through layers of inauthenticity, where a deep knowing can develop. And I came to see that is the best anyone can offer to the world.

Enrico and I still live in the wilds of the Lost Padres National Forest, a paradise with many steps going up and down, a life I would not change.

Buy Links:
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Excerpt:









Behind the Scenes of Stairway to Paradise: Growing Up Gershwin

This memoir is about my bumpy journey toward truth and authenticity with the hope that those of you who read it can glean some value.

You may believe fame and wealth bring happiness. That was not my experience. My mother, sister of George and Ira Gershwin, and my father who invented color film were the primary models in my childhood. Growing up with such talent as I did, you learn early on that it distorts values.

I unwittingly set my brilliant father up as an authority figure, even though he was terrifying and unpredictable. And because the family dynamic was unhealthy I didn’t know whom to trust or even that trust was possible, especially in myself. Later as a young woman I turned away from my background and looked to teachers and professionals for the truth. It took some time for me to realize that their expertise could only take me so far.

After one false start and then another I found a caring partner, Enrico, whom I initially turned to, believing he could impart a way for me to find my own direction and answers, as he seemed to have found for himself. What was so radical to learn was how and where to look. What I learned was going to sensations in the body rather than the thinking mind was where the key to change and transformation lay.

We married and moved out to the wilderness where we faced floods, fire, rattle snakes, mountain lions and bears. In the years it took to build a house we lived in a teepee. We tried to create our own paradise where we raised and homeschooled three children.

Our life turned upside down when the kids became teenagers. Paradise crashed and my relationship with Enrico deteriorated. The grown children struggled to find a place in the outside world. We faced tragedy and I, cancer. This was when my hard earned ability to experience the somatic (inner experience as sensation) helped regulate me and provide me with a chance to find authenticity and authority, as well as a more mature relationship with Enrico. I was able to use this inner working as a way to help others, which I call DanceMedicine, a healing through movement.

We are still living in the wilderness and offer workshops and retreats to anyone who is interested.


Author Bio:

Nadia Natali, author of the memoir, Stairway to Paradise: Growing Up Gershwin, published by Rare Bird, Los Angeles, 2015, and The Blue Heron Ranch Cookbook: Recipes and Stories from a Zen Retreat Center published by North Atlantic Books, Berkeley CA, 2008, is currently working on a second cookbook titled Zafu Kitchen Cookbook. 
           
Natali, a clinical psychotherapist and dance therapist, specializes in trauma release through somatic work. She earned a master’s degree from Hunter College in New York City in Dance/Movement Therapy and completed another masters degree in clinical psychology with an emphasis in somatic psychology at the Santa Barbara Graduate Institute. Nadia is a registered practitioner of Biodynamic Craniosacral Therapy (RCST) and is also a certified Somatic Experiencing Practitioner (SEP) who trained with Peter Levine.

DanceMedicine Workshops is Natali’s creation where participants move through their trauma with dialogue and dance. She also offers the Ojai community, DanceMedicine Journeys. In addition to her private practice, Nadia and her husband offer Zen Retreats at their center.

Born into a famous family that was riddled with dysfunction, Nadia Natali made the choice to turn her life inside out and step away from fame and fortune. Against her parents’ consent she married an artist and moved to the remote wilderness in California. It was there that she found grounding as she and her husband raised and homeschooled their three children and opened a retreat center. As she gathered her own momentum, she enrolled in a doctorate program finally becoming a clinical psychotherapist specializing in psychosomatic work. She and her husband live in Ojai California.


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Tuesday, January 9, 2018

Heaven's Watcher Book Blast

Blurb:
Leather-wearing, motorcycle riding PI Heaven Vaughan is working undercover in a Las Vegas casino for the DA. She must find the evidence to convict the casino boss of ordering her brother killed, but the tall, dark, sex-on-a-stick head of security is constantly watching her. Just knowing he’s got his monitors focused on her makes her hot, and she can’t help but make sure he has something as equally arousing to look at.

Straight-arrow Darius Turner has one job—to safeguard the people in the casino. The feisty redhead dominating his viewing pleasure is playing havoc with his duties and with his libido. All he wants is to take her up on her teasing invitations, but he can’t let her get too close. If Heaven discovers his true identity, there’ll be hell to pay.


Excerpt:
Darrius stepped closer to Heaven. His scent of musk and hot male surrounded her as if for protection.

“Are you all right?”

No way would she believe Darius was concerned for her.

She raised her chin so she could meet the head of security’s eyes. “I’m fine.”

 “I think you should come with me to the office.” Concern laced his words.

Heaven licked her dry lips. Because the behemoth noticed her, she now had to deal with him. “Said I’m fine.”

The corner of his mouth turned up into a generous smile. “Humor me.”

Some might consider him as handsome, but his seven-foot-tall frame and stern expression made him appear menacing.

“Sure.” She smiled.

His expression softened.

Could the goliath be swayed with a smile?

She followed him toward the door leading to the private elevator. He slowed his gait until she walked beside him. As they approached the door, it opened. She knew he’d pressed the switch in his pocket.

He controlled everything in the building. He enjoyed being in charge. So did she.

In the elevator, he gazed at her as his scent permeated the small space, sending a pulsing electricity down her spine. She shifted her weight from her left foot to her right and back again, trying to ease the need building between her legs. Being so close to him suddenly caused the air to escape her lungs.

“You realize this isn’t necessary.”

He straightened his gold cufflinks. “I think it is.”


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Author Bio and Links:
Kayden loves sexy, well-crafted stories of lust and love.  Her sensuous style drives the characters in lustful romps. When she is not crafting erotic romantic stories, she can be found crocheting or making jewelry.

Kayden is a member of Romance Writers of America, Toronto Romance Writers, and Writing Community of Durham Region.

She hopes you enjoy her other books, Hell’s Bounty, Timeless Passion, Red Hot and Tartan Temptation, all published by The Wild Rose Press.

Kayden loves to hear from her readers. You can contact her on Facebook or at her website.

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Monday, January 8, 2018

Collateral Risk Review Tour

Blurb:
After losing her sister to a serial killer years earlier, scientist Mia Lindgren survives by focusing on the most dangerous viruses known to man. She’s become adept at shutting herself off from human contact—until her lab partner drowns under suspicious circumstances.

Forced to accept the assistance of Nick Doyle, an FBI counter-terrorism expert on leave, she soon realizes someone at the Institute for Research of Infectious Diseases is involved in a deadly deception. As she and Nick race to find a killer who will stop at nothing to accomplish his version of Armageddon, they can’t ignore their own chemistry. But can Mia truly put the past to rest?


Excerpt:
Mia Lindgren winced as the bagel knife sliced her fingertip. She wrapped the cut in a napkin and hurried over to the sink, turning on the tap and thrusting her pointer finger into the stream of cool water. Morning sunlight poured through the kitchen windows, warming her face and reminding her how late she already was.

After a minute or so, she pulled her finger out of the water and inspected it. The cut was about a quarter of an inch long, not very deep. Nothing to get worked up about.

She crossed from the kitchen to the bathroom and opened the medicine cabinet, wondering if she would ever be able to cut herself and not freak out. For the past year she’d slipped into panic mode whenever she got so much as a paper cut. She could only imagine what would happen if she ended up with a scraped knee. All that exposed skin would leave her sleepless for a week.

You were the one who signed up for this.

She loved her work, but she still questioned her choice even though three years had passed since she first crossed the threshold of the Institute for Research of Infectious Diseases in Somersville, Maryland. Her friends, her mother, her stepsister, and just about everybody else she knew told her she was crazy to work there. She could still hear Ashley’s horrified tone on the other end of the line when she’d called Burnleigh Hall to tell her half-sister the news.

“So you want to work with Ebola?” Ashley had asked, forgetting to season her tone with the usual dose of teenage cynicism. “Like, on purpose?”


My Review:
3.5 stars

This is my second time reading a Haines' book, but it won't be my last. I enjoyed the ride reading Collateral Risk, as it was an interesting, thrilling read that also kind of freaked me out due to how realistic this was. The book was very detailed, and as a germaphobe, it wigged me out. I could definitely tell the author put her research in, which added to the story. However, I think the details could have been toned down a bit or reworked in better at times because there were some info dumps and pacing issues because of this. 

Overall though, my favorite part was the character development, an area where Haines shines. I think Mia and Nick are some of the most real characters I've seen in this genre, which made this such an enjoyable read. I was able to connect with both characters, even though I am not a science-y person or FBI agent. Plus, they had such witty banter, which I loved. I would love to see more of these two, especially since the ending felt a bit rushed to me (and I really just want to see more of Mia and Nick). 

Even though there were some plot and pacing issues, overall I greatly enjoyed this read due to the realism and the characters. So if you're into realistic characters and scenarios, I would highly recommend reading Collateral Risk.

*I received this book in exchange for an honest review.*


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Author Bio and Links:
Gwenan Haines lives in New England with her daughter and a Siberian husky born on Halloween. She’s been hooked on suspense ever since her mom read her an old Nancy Drew mystery when she was five years old. She also loves romance and fantasy. Her paranormal novella, WRAITH, and novel, SHIFT, the first two installments in the SHADOW WORLD series, are under contract with Wild Rose Press's fantasy line. When she’s not plotting her newest mystery, she teaches community college and writes lots of poetry.

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Deep Sahara NBtM

Blurb:
Recovering from a nervous breakdown preceded by the death of his wife, Klaus Werner takes advice from a family friend and retreats to a monastery in the Algerian Sahara to sketch desert insects for a book. Upon arrival, however, he discovers a fresh crime scene: the monks have all been slaughtered as they went about their daily routine. Violent extremists, active in the area, are suspected. Numb and exhausted, Werner declines a police chief s offer of safe passage.

Despite the shock of the murders, the desert seems to promise solace, a vast nullity against which Werner can take stock of himself and do his work. Yet, over the weeks and months that follow, his solitude is broken by a succession of encounters with travelling hermits, desert warriors, an attractive American paleontologist and others, all strangely connected to him. Each appears to conceal some kind of secret; even the insects he has come to study are mysteriously deformed, embodying an awful, hidden reality ... Soon Werner is forced to confront the echoes of one of the darkest moments in modern history, and to come to terms with the deepest reaches of his own past.

Deep Sahara is as suspenseful as it is a subtle exploration of one man’s emotional resurgence, rendered sparingly and with great physical and psychological precision.


Excerpt:
Prologue: Memoir

The front door has just closed. I’m finally alone in the apartment, using this morning’s stillness to begin the account I’ve been wanting to write for days. It’s a letter to myself after the battering I’ve received from the media – not to mention the anonymous death threats – for attacking our so-called “pillars of society”.

I need to sift through all that happened out at the end of the world, coming back to me now like some dream. For the Sahara’s a place of mirages you can actually photograph: palm trees, oases, expanses of cool water, silent cities – there, but unreal. Conjuring up the past, I want to reassure myself that all I claimed to have found among those shifting sands, on returning here to Rome, far from being the figment of my imagination critics allege, is actually the case: that the experience of unearthing – of understanding - what I have revealed has made me into a new person.

Silence holds heavy. The blankness of this page is as intimidating as the desert itself. Still, I’ve plunged in, covering the paper like a suspect instructed by the police to write everything down. And though I’m no criminal, I’m scribbling both as a release and for the reader I sense exists, but can’t identify. This I do know: it’s someone with whom the self I’ve achieved – as well as how I’ve done so – strike a chord. He’ll see me as the solitary figure I was, in a monk’s habit like a Bedouin’s burnoose, lost against the pitiless Saharan sky. And he’ll find me faced with coming to myself in that emptiness to which life had finally brought me.

Yet, writing, so much I must recall is painful. I’m concerned that I’ve little more than my memory – that mirage – to rely upon, especially after all this time. Nevertheless, I know I must set out fully everything that took place, to see what was actually so, for my own peace of mind.

That’s why I have set aside the book I keep telling myself I should be working on. I’ve no alternative now but to write and finally establish the full story of what happened in the deep Sahara.



John le Carre recently said of his writing: "Out of the secret world I once knew I have tried to make a theatre for the larger worlds we inhabit. First comes the imagining, then the search for the reality."

For me imagining has been prompted by the Middle East where I was born, have spent large periods of my life and now live.  The search for reality dominates the main character of DEEP SAHARA, as well as my efforts to offer it to readers in their wider worlds.

The main character, who lives in Rome, wants to recover from a nervous breakdown provoked by the death of his wife. Taking advice from a family friend he retreats to a monastery in the Algerian Sahara to prepare a book on desert insects. There he encounters unimagineable crimes, actual and suspected. He decides to set them down because:

I need to sift through all that happened out at the end of the world,
coming back to me now like some dream. For the Sahara’s a place of
mirages you can actually photograph: palm trees, oases, expanses of cool
water, silent cities – there, but unreal. Conjuring up the past, I want to
reassure myself that all I claimed to have found among those shifting sands, on returning here to Rome, far from being the figment of my imagination critics allege, is actually the case: that the experience of unearthing – of understanding - what I have revealed has made me into a new person.

Entering the monastery the man finds all the monks have been murdered. He must leave. But, having come so far from home to recover himself, he decides to stay – barely understanding his impulse at the time.  It confronts him with the emptiness of the monastery, of the Sahara - of himself. He is facing his personal zero point.

How is he to survive there? For, as he says:

          Inhabiting the place ... everything took on a feeling of immense emptiness. I found myself floating in an atmosphere of unreality [that] ... could seem as much a delusion as any mirage or wild vision provoked by desert thirst ....
So at this low ebb, I asked myself if I had the will power to sustain the tedium of painstaking study. For what would I be without work, that great calmer of anxiety, of emptiness? Pity those unable to fill their time with routine!
          Here were questions to which the desert provided no answers. Equally mute were starry nights, spent against cooling granite; fiery middays admitting nothing but debilitating heat; blank, grey, shadowless late afternoons. No other sequence existed. Meaningful narrative, drama, depth, the very pattern and sensation of lived life, had apparently slipped away. Whirling sand, reeling clouds, soughing wind, were telling some story of their own: but a tale indecipherable and unrecognised, because measurelessly remote from anything of which I could be aware ...         

Now over the weeks and months that follow, the man's solitude is broken by a series of further disturbing events and strange encounters. They eventually implicate him in what surely began only randomly, like a dream. So he begins to worry out what his time in the desert has really amounted to as he flies back to Rome.

On board, I sat looking at the fast-disappearing capital, with the monastery, the desert, far behind me. They evaporated while I gazed down at a greenish-blue smudge, the sea, just as a Saharan mirage had dissolved months ago: the one beckoning me to pursue a project; to find myself; to be.
A vanished illusion, it had been replaced, I recognised up in the
plane, by a brute reality. Unimaginable horror personal to me had finally
come to match that to which I’d been a mere bystander ...
          It was as if two drivers, total strangers in an otherwise deserted
Sahara, found their cars, mere flecks in the distance, magnetised,
careering towards each other. Regardless of my planned trajectory, I’d
been made an inescapable part instead of all that had happened through
this seemingly chance encounter.

First, as John le Carre says, comes the imagining: the mirage, the dream. Then there's the reality: the reality of DEEP SAHARA.


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Author Bio and Links:
Leslie Croxford is a British author and Senior Vice-President of the British University in Egypt. Born in Alexandria, he obtained a doctorate in History from Cambridge University. He has written one novel, Soloman's Folly (Chatto & Windus), and is completing his third. He and his wife live in Cairo.

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