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Wednesday, 28 October 2015

Cuba: The American Bogeyman?


In my series of blogs called ‘Then and Now,’ I explore the changes, which have occurred in Communist countries, during the last twenty years of geopolitical unrest and how they are now perceived. Countries are the people - not just the commercial signs of a modern society - and it is important to understand how these very same people have developed as the years pass us by.


Recently, Cuba has returned to the debating room of the West, where it is becoming increasingly hard to understand why the US stance remains so intractable – despite a few encouraging improvements of late, by Obama –remaining the only country which continues to be swamped in Cold War rhetoric.Obama has opened the door to North America, but has he opened the minds of Republicans and the redneck community, enough to declare that Cuba is on its way to becoming the 51st State.
I was in Havana during Pope John Pauls incredible visit in 1998 and this was the article I published in the Sofia Western News, for which I was the Chief Editor.

***

1998. The old two engine Antonov rattled, shook and then finally took off from Nassau airport New Providence, into the sunny Caribbean sky. On board were mainly Cubans, returning from business trips abroad and a number of Bahamians, most likely off to savour the delights of Cuban nightlife and destined to return home, with copious amounts of cigars, to be sold in the Bahamas to visiting Americans. On the beaches of Paradise Island and elsewhere, one often sees US citizens striding through the sand, purposely puffing on large Havana cigars, perhaps a small symbol of their individuality, where little else exists.
We flew over azure waters so blue that even the romantic descriptions of Buzz Aldren - as he circled the earth in space - did little to truly describe the magnificent beauty which I could see through my grubby window. Over Andros and towards Cuba the sea begins to change colour slightly and becomes a deeper blue, over the salt marsh and Cays, the tips of marine mountains, poking through the surface of the sea to create lush natural gardens with protruding rocks and palm trees. It is no wonder that Pirates like Black Beard, Ann Bonney and Mary Read chose to spend their short lives amongst these islands before suffering an ignominious death.
Havana is a large sprawling city, and flying low over neatly ploughed fields, we finally approached the end of the runway, disembarking with a cheery goodbye from our Cabana Air cabin crew. No problems with immigration, no stamps in my passport, and just the casual question - was I an American citizen? My travelling companion had been in Cuba, on and off, for some twenty years, was well organized and we were met, at Jose Marti airport, by a confident young man dressed in tee shirt and baseball cap, who took us to his waiting Lada. Parked next to old 50’s American cars, in various states of disrepair, with animated conversation he confidently took to the bumpy Cuban roads. Making our way past very familiar Socialist looking buildings, bicycles, old Russian trucks, and people of all age’s types and colours, we finally drove into Havana City.
The Pope had been there for two days, and to underline the sense of occasion, one only had to see the amazing number of posters of him, either by himself, or with Fidel Castro, on buildings, in cars and finally - when I arrived at my destination - on the glass door of the apartment in which I was to stay. It was Saturday, the sun was shining and looking out of my window, I watched the sea lapping the shores of what was considered locally as a prime location, next to the Cococabana Hotel.


Taxis are quite expensive in Havana, despite their often decrepit appearance, and I found a private driver, who agreed to be my guide for the next few days. Jojo, as he called himself, was an older man, who not only had a clean Lada, but a sense of humour. That Saturday afternoon he drove me around Havana on a photographic expedition, which would have taken a gormless tourist a week.
The Old Town is an architectural wonder, so full of Spanish History, so beautifully preserved, full of book shops and art galleries, museums and restaurants. When I asked Jojo, what he had done for a living before retirement, he said ‘I was an architect by profession, but first and foremost a soldier of the Revolution!’ With a bit of French, English, some Russian and Spanish, we got on very well, and he even took me for some coffee and insisted on paying.
Being an experienced traveller, Havana reminded me of Spain during the 60’s, although my recollection of Franco’s Spain, involved far greater signs of state security. In Spain, I remember men wearing various uniforms, lurking around on street corners watching one another, and being watched in turn by men in leather coats. During the Pope’s visit, Havana had many uniformed policemen in evidence, but they were passive and unarmed - except for handcuffs, and batten - and were there, I suspect, mainly to tidy up the many professional ladies who widely inhabit the streets at all times of the day.
These mainly young and friendly policemen seemed to want to create a good impression, to help the large number of tourists - mainly from, Europe and Canada - who now go to Cuba and those like me, who had specially come for this remarkable visit.
In common with many Eastern Europeans I have met in the past - before the political changes, that is - Jojo took me to see some hotels in order that I might realize the strident improvements which socialism had made in Castro’s Cuba. I finally managed to steer him away to sights far more worthy of my meagre photographic skills, which included a fleeting visit to the Hotel Inglaterra; a beautiful portico’d period building full of charm, and a pianist who also sang ‘I did it My Way.’ Followed by the pride of Havana - the Hotel National de Cuba - I somehow managed to steer Jojo into the real world, and the Havana which I had mainly come to see.
That night I went to the famous Earnest Hemingway restaurant called La Bodeguita Del Medio. The walls of the restaurant were covered with hundreds of famous signatures, and with two musicians playing traditional Cuban music, it was an evening to remember.
The food was also good, but what made Havana for me was the music, the architecture - Jojo was great - the sun, the people and of course, the great occasion of the Pope’s visit. There will be those who would like to reduce Pope John Pauls visit to a political scam, but it was not true. In the great Boulevard of the Revolution, Sunday morning proved this to be a myth.
Over a million people attended Pope John Paul’s final mass, which took place on a platform over which the Cubans had erected a canopy designed to look like a white dove of peace, the backdrop to which was the flank wall of a massive office building, which had been painted with what must be the largest painting of Christ in the World. That day, there was undoubtedly a great feeling of spirituality, neatly woven together with the kind of euphoria one might expect from a nation which had been starved of what they must regard, as their Mother Church.
There are Catholic churches everywhere in Cuba and many priests officiate, but somehow forty years in the wilderness - created by the sanctions which only politics can impose - had left its mark. Sunday proved to everyone, particularly to Cubans, that this was no longer the case - that they were unquestionably a part of a World society of Christian believers - that they had a place in this new order, and a human right to be there. On an adjacent wall there was also a large outline of Che Guevara, to remind us all, of the ‘Continuing Revolution.’
The Pope blessed the people and the politicians, and firmly told both the Cubans and the Americans to be more reasonable. Afterwards, the camera crews packed up their gadgets, loaded their vehicles and returned to their hotels, where they occupied whole floors as their studios and editing rooms. In the Capri Hotel - reputed to have belonged at one time to Al Capone - CBS reporters sat back, gazing at TV screens wearing Bermuda shorts, tee shirts and baseball caps – usually turned the wrong way round - with great identity tags swinging from their necks. To them it was, after all, just another World event amongst so many. But it had not only been a media event, it was far more than that!
Cuban National TV had transmitted the whole event live, and watching parts of the broadcast during the early afternoon, one could see in detail what had been missing from view, in the crowded arena, so full of optimism and occasionally rowdy people. It seems that the Pope attracts his own variety of football songs, which means that he also attracts the young. People of all ages went to see him - not as stated in the world media, by presidential decree - but by choice, and in support of an aging President who had the guts to allow the occasion to unfurl with its own momentum.
Fidel Castro was much moved - as were all his people - and the so called ‘tyrant’ undoubtedly seemed to have the same look of supplication as many of those who took mass. This included many attendant onlookers, from the diplomatic missions and elsewhere, supporting this historical moment.


I will never forget the look of submission in the face of President Fidel Castro himself - when he bid the Pope farewell - neither will I forget the look of firm resolve in the face of the Pontiff, as he left this huge and sublimely moved congregation, to return once more to Rome. This was real, and although the politically motivated had their disparaging and occasionally cynical day in the press and on TV, he winds of change were clearly blowing in Cuba and for the best.
Back at the Jose Marti airport, there was a lot of action. It is now Tuesday and the little Antonov airliner had been replaced by a Topolev 154, to accommodate all the babbling multimedia drifting back to various parts of the world via Nassau, many well known international TV personalities interspersed, by otherwise anodyne businessmen. Clasping hand luggage, containing expensive Cohiba cigars, their eyes glazed over with the memory of sultry nights, spent with sultry Cuban beauties - albeit at the local commercial rate – their smuggled cigars would no doubt be sold to American holiday makers, visiting the islands, at a vast profit!
On the return flight, I look at a week old copy of Granma International, one of the state owned newspapers in Cuba. On the front page it stated ‘Colossal Victory- 98.35% voter turnout. The preliminary results of the January 11th elections for Deputies to the National Assembly of People’s Power….. President Fidel Castro and General of the Army Raul Castro were elected with more than 99% of the votes in their electoral districts….. The people say “Yes” at the polls.’
Later that week, the Vatican reported : ‘The secretary of state - Cardinal Angelo Sodano - has been informed that the Cuban government has freed a certain number of detainees, as an act of clemency and goodwill to mark the visit of Pope John Paul to Cub The Vatican is delighted with this notable step which represents a concrete prospect of hope for the future of this noble nation.’ In the end it is the old stories which prevail.
And so, the spiritual voyage had ended and the political stories began. America continued to take its revenge on this virtually harmless nation, claiming all sorts of infamy and conspiracy, where none actually existed. Any fool could see that Cuba had lost its political independence, when the USSR had collapsed and their economic support had finally evaporated. But, this did not stop successive American administrations describing Cuba, as a snarling dog, when in truth – with few teeth remaining – it was only capable of giving the USA – or anyone else for that matter - a nasty suck!

***

Recently a vote was taken at the UN for Cuba to be taken off the long standing US unilateral trade embargo, which has been kept securely in place since the 1962 Cuban missile crisis. Yesterday, the Americans decided to veto an almost unanimous vote - which the great powers now seem to regard as quite unfair - for Cuba to be allowed a normal trade relationship with the its powerful neighbour, the US, as well as the rest of the world.
With the support of their troublesome client state, Israel – a rather belligerent perpetrator of human rights violations, in their own right – it seems that the Obama administration, is held firmly in the grip of some hideously ignorant right wing dinosaur, who still regards the country of Cuba as the Evil Empire!
Whilst they discuss such heady matters, in the smoking rooms and bars in Washington, they no doubt happily puff away at their expensive Cohiba cigars. Not realizing – through their poor geography skills and their firm belief that the little island sweltering in the Carribean is probably Ireland or even Madagascar – and totally unaware, that their favourite smoke comes care of their perceived arch enemies, Fidel and Raul Castro.


Before I flew to Cuba in 1998, I spent some time in Nassau. At that time, Nassau seemed to be full of rather portly Americans – enjoying some early sunshine on the sandy beaches – usually puffing away; you’ve guessed it, on large Cohiba cigars. Overhearing two of Americas finest political analysts discussing Cuba, one of these stalwarts was heard to say, ‘I don’t know why we don’t just nuke Castro, it’s the only solution.’
Well, apart from depriving him of his favourite cigars, it would probably have also blown his rather ample bathing shorts off and anything he still had hidden beneath! This underlines the basic truth that many Americans are not so good at geography, but instead, they are rather good at all aspects of violence and so it seems; retribution.
From this side of the pond, when one hears about school or university shootings, it seems odd when the NRA advocates even more guns. The mind boggles at the thought of well armed teachers and school prefects, pushing their way to the common room, waving a Glock 17 in the air. But that is America and few politicians have been able to curb the US gun culture, which no doubt has its roots in the old pioneer days. Unfortunately it underlines not only US society, but how it is inclined to deal with others.
Castro, in some respects, humiliated the US with the Bay of Pigs fiasco. From then on it was all down hill for most Cubans, who seem to have been on the receiving end of considerable American angst ever since and - dare I say - thoughts of lingering revenge. Leaving out all the Cold War nuances - and the WWII battle hardened soviet general, Nikita Kruschov - by 1990, Cuba, without the support of the Soviet Union simply became another little Carribean island. And, that is also Cuba today.
Fidel Castro no longer controls Cuba and any vestiges of power, now remain in the hands of his extremely moderate brother, Raul. He, like most Cubans, wants d├ętente, equilibrium and calm. He would succeed in his quest, if the US were to present itself as a benign economic power as well as a military one. Because Cuba, not only needs dollars and as many American visitors as it can get, it needs to rebuild its infrastructure and manufacturing base in order to somehow, drift into the 21st Century.
America has always seen Cuba as a bordello, most certainly until 1959, when Batista was kicked out. Practically run by the American Mafia until then – now a part of US folk history – it seems appropriate for US business to plough some of its newly famous transparent cash, into Cuba’s shaky economy. And, what will America expect in return? Well, I expect, the same as before!



Monday, 12 October 2015

The Authors Show 2015 - Writing Competition.


Many people ask me why it is, that I set my stories in Europe and not in England, where I was born? The truth is that, I find my nation has become rather set in its ways and that Europe has so much more variety to offer. Meaning a choice of 30 countries or more, the availability of characters and customs, is unending. Living in Greece, as I do and part of the Balkans, I am intrigued by the remaining vestiges of Bolshevism, still to be found, in ethnically mixed, South Eastern Europe.
Living in a metropolis like New York or London, you might wonder what these differences are? After all, you can eat anything you like in these cities – including Peruvian or Nepalese cuisine, with perhaps the odd spot of Mongolian – and even meet the people who cook it. Chatting with the waiter, in a foreign country, has always been a recognized way, for tourists to enter a foreign culture. But, it isn’t quite as easy as that, is it?
As a journalist, in the mid 80s, I was busy exploring Eastern Europe and well before the so called changes, it was a time when Communism was a byword for treachery and subversion. The players – from both the East and the West – eyed one another with considerable suspicion, as well as with considerable ignorance and hate.
The mindset of an old Communist was often hard to understand, unless you had been in their company, for any length of time. But the same could have been said of any right-wing dinosaur who, historically, like most western pundits, viewed the rest of the world from an ivory tower. From a comfortable Western perspective, there was often considerable cause for contempt – especially for their natural enemy’s enforced austerity - whilst the ex- commies hated all forms of consumerism, even though they very often had no choice. Or, did they?

When the two cultures collided in the 1990s and the old Communist countries, allegedly, became democratized, the silly games began. But, the recently disenfranchised Communist Apparatchiks - spy’s and spooks - needed a new master even though they were very good at playing silly games, or even deadly ones. As in Luigi Pirendello’s play “Six Characters in Search of an Author,” these stalwart commie characters went in search for a new master and conveniently found it, thriving in the world of crime.
Having connived with each other for years – brow beating, bribing and bullying –they had little difficulty in bending the rules. By evading tax, enjoying the wonders of offshore banking and making a fortune of their own; twenty five years on, this has now become the reality of our New World, although these days, you can also add Al Quada and ISIL, into the mix.
From what I have written so far, you can well see how it is that, with all this jiggery-pokery going on, the fear we all experience in Europe - of Al Quada and terrorism in general - is profound. As most Americans have discovered, in the light of the 9/11 tragedy in the US, all these international criminals, fit nicely into the murder mystery genre, for that is what they are!. Baffling the reader, challenging them to understand Islamic extremism, the vacuum left by Communism and the Soviet Union, might be construed as a blight on their private leisure time, but I totally disagree.
We are all sick of the daily news and the media neurosis it causes, because we all know what to expect and generally try to ignore it. Begging the question:
‘How does a TV or newspaper journalist explain, to the general public, with any clarity, how the world works and the pain it inflicts on us all?’
The answer is, with great difficulty!
In my new novel, ‘The Dance of Dimitrios,’ I try to mix some of the horrors of illegal immigration, with everyday things. DCI Mike Lambert, knows about people trafficking and the problems it is causing many governments throughout the world, because, Greece is the gateway from the Middle East, for countless migrants, political refugees and terrorists.
He works for Europol, which is the European equivalent of the FBI and has been sent to Greece, in order to solve a cold case, of a mistaken identity. It involves the discovery of the body of a woman, found floating in the River Ardas, in Northern Greece. Believed to be of Middle-Eastern origin, her body is buried in a communal grave, along with other Islamic victims of drowning and promptly forgotten.
It is one year on and her fingerprints, which were taken at the time of her autopsy, are run through the Europol computer.When it is revealed that she is actually an Englishwoman living in Greece, the British authorities inform the Foreign and Commonwealth Office who in turn inform Europol. Realizing that it probably means murder, DCI Lambert is dispatched from The Hague.
As it turns out, she is not an ordinary Englishwoman, but a well known writer, causing DCI Lambert to look for motives within the world of literature. As a retired war correspondent and an Arabic scholar, Lamberts attention is also drawn her previous life and loves, and further suspicion falls on her past life, in the Lebanon, Syria and Jordan.
This is only a taste of the story, because this essay is mainly about how the world deals with modern history. Are we as authors bound to ignore reality and follow the path set by Agatha Christie, Colin Dexter and Ruth Rendell or do we get in step with Robert Ludlam, Charles McCarry and Tom Clancy?
I for one, would become quite sleepy if I had to write about bodies in haystacks no matter how much fun that sounds. Shouting about, getting drunk and divorced is one thing, but is that how true detectives solve cases? Or, improbable endings, which come from nowhere and tiresome last minute admissions. No thanks, not for me!






Sunday, 3 May 2015

50 Great Authors You Should be Reading


Patrick Brigham, author of the crime novel 'Abduction: An Angel Over Rimini', has been chosen as a winner for '50 Great Writers You Should Be Reading'. Winners will appear in this year's edition of the book. Brigham was chosen through a public voting process.

Crime novels and mystery books are everywhere. Engaging crime novels and good mystery books are fewer in number. Very few address real world political issues, specifically Communism and the Cold War. Patrick Brigham is a prolific mystery novelist and master of the genre. He has recently written three good mystery books, including 'Herodotus – The Gnome of Sofia', 'Judas Goat – The Kennet Narrow Boat Mystery' and 'Abduction: An Angel over Rimini'.


Set once more at the end of the Cold War and Communism, his most recent book features the jazz loving, classic car enthusiast and fictional Europol police murder detective, Chief Inspector Michael Lambert. Faced with political intrigue and in order to solve cases which often involve Eastern Europe, he genuinely needs to understand how an old Communist thinks, during the course of his investigations.

There are few good books on the subject of international crime, especially mystery stories which delve into the shady side of politics. There are also few mystery novelists, who are prepared to address the thorny political issues of arms dealing and money laundering and people trafficking in their mystery crime fiction.

"I was pleased to be chosen this year," Brigham stated, "because I felt that I had matured as a writer and that Abduction: An Angel over Rimini, somehow deserved to be recognized, bearing in mind the actual subject matter. Clearly about the abduction of a little English girl on vacation in Rimini, it also introduces the reader to the horrors of people trafficking and illegal immigration. Not only are these poor unfortunates trafficked illegally, but they also bring terrorism with them and Al Quada in particular, because, one criminal activity supports the other."

Patrick Brigham does not just write about these situations. He has lived them. He was the Editor in Chief of The Sofia Western News, the first English Language news magazine in Bulgaria, between 1995 and 2000.

As a journalist, he witnessed the changes in this once hard core communist country and personally knew most of the political players, including the old Communist Dictator Todor Zhivkov and his successors Zhelev and Stoyanov, but these days as an author, he concentrates on writing good mystery books often revealing diplomatic and political intrigue.

"It is no longer smart to be ‘An Angry Young Man,’ but I think that I am allowed to be a concerned older man." Brigham concluded. "World problems concerning arms dealing, money laundering, illegal immigration and terrorism, are all connected. Citizens turn a blind eye to the activities of terrorists like Al Quada and ISIL, because after years of media bombardment they have become sick of it. My books introduce these unsettling facts, but I surround them with good old fashioned murder, mystery and well thought out fiction, in order to stimulate their interest, and very often to explain to readers, how it is done."

Readers have praised his latest crime novel. One stated, "I am an ex cop - he must of done a lot of research to get so many things right. I felt when reading Abduction that Patrick was relating an investigation, he actually carried out." Another said, "Abduction - An Angel Over Rimini is an entertaining, gripping, and also an astonishing Europol procedural read, making you want to read more. I was drawn into the story right away. I felt close to Michael Lambert and his way of analysing and detecting. All relevant characters became pretty real. Abduction - An Angel Over Rimini is a good read for mystery fans, readers who like surprises, and apparent coincidences."

Patrick Brigham is available for media interviews and can be reached using the information below or by email at patrick.brigham@gmail.com. Books are available at Amazon, Amazon.UK, Smashwords and at his website. More information is available at Patrick Brigham's website.

www.PatrickBrigham.co.uk

Wednesday, 4 February 2015

Zhelyu Zhelev and The Foundation of Democracy - by Patrick Brigham




“Being a rabid anti-Communist does not yet mean that one is a democrat; nor is frenzied anti-fascism a hallmark of democracy. To a democrat, both communism and fascism are abhorrent. Indeed, there has been no greater anti-communist than Hitler, and no greater anti-fascist than Stalin, but neither of them is known to have been a democrat. Moreover, the 20th century has seen no greater butchers of democracy than these two mustached comrades.” Zhelyu Zhelev - Sofia 1997.


The late President Zhelyu Zhelev was an enigma to me. I had watched him on TV in Bulgaria during the early nineties, performing official tasks, much as his predecessor Zhivkov had done. I remember him handing over prizes to the successful Bulgarian national football team in 1996, with jeeps and apartments being liberally distributed, much as before to underline the importance of this event, but nevertheless, it was reminiscent of the heady days of ‘socialist realism,’or to give it its correct definition, Communism!

To be honest, he seemed lost amongst the burly politicians of the day, the demagogic and often devious detritus which was then successfully ruining the country. Each with a cynical smile on their face; most of them were not democrats by any measure, in fact, they were only out for what they could get.

In his book written during communist times and called simply ‘Fascism,’ Zhelyu Zhelev expressed the reality of communism, by hiding it behind the story of Nazi Germany, Mussolini’s Italy, and Franco’s Spain. His tale of communism versus fascism, is couched in intellectual terms, is underlined by the true facts of modern history and the analogies jump from the pages with humour and alas, black irony. For after all repression and socio-political manipulation are the same evil, whatever brand name which may be attached to it.

He once said,‘If democracy seems not to be working, then you need more democracy,’ as if the ingredients of a cake have to be finally balanced with the right amount of baking soda - the instruments of power perched like delicate coloured jars on a shelf in some political bakers shop, ready to be weighed and mixed by the baker - but paid for with considerable angst and occasional pain. Written in 1967 the book didn’t emerge until 1982, and then with understandable difficulty and composed during his period of isolation, it is a good textbook by any academic standard, and unearths the tricks of political psychology, as well as the bare faced lies.

Rather like Peter Pan; Dr. Zhelev seemed ageless. He had the round face of a boy - eyes wide apart, showing generosity and nobility of spirit - whilst displaying a relaxed confidence that one might associate with a man who has come to terms with his own reality. But, nevertheless he was also a man determined to continue on a course towards increasing Bulgarian democracy. No longer the President of Bulgaria, he then created his own foundation, simply called ‘The Zhelyu Zhelev Foundation,‘ in order to pursue his goal. In my interview for the Sofia Western news, I asked him what his greatest success had been.

‘My greatest success was that I was able to create a new foreign policy. For me this was the greatest personal achievement, after Zhivkov, who had turned Bulgaria into a Soviet client state.’

It had been an easy interview, open and frank, his answers were not clouded by suspicion or with other agendas attached, as one often finds with work-a-day politicians and it had been a pleasure to be there. At the time he was
considering the past and carefully reviewing the plethora of historical files littering the archives of the Ministry of the Interior. Maybe now the truth is better known, there will finally be reconciliation.

Wednesday, 21 January 2015

Murder Mystery or Crime Fiction? - by Patrick Brigham

Detective Chief Inspector Michael Lambert, features in all three of my published murder mysteries - or are they crime thrillers - and continues to do so, in my soon to be completed current novel called - The Dance of Dimitrios.

Lambert is a decent, hard working middle aged police detective, who has been seconded from the Thames Valley Police Authority in the UK, to work at Europol in the Netherlands. For those of you who are not resident in the EU, Europol is the European Federal Police Force, which operates in all 28 European countries and is the equivalent of the American FBI.


Having suffered the fate, which many - real and fictional - policemen and women have experienced in the past, divorce is no stranger to Lambert. But in a way he has found new hope in his Europe wide activities and three ‘fictional’ years on, from my last publication, Abduction: An Angel over Rimini, to my newest yet to be published book, The Dance of Dimitrios, he has straightened his life out and has found new hope in the arms of an attractive widow called Beatrix d’ Aragona, who lives in Italy.


A far reach for the once provincial English police detective, perhaps, but it is real in the context of his new job and his new life and it gives us all hope – readers alike – that our lives can change and that the world is not always the dark place, which the media would have us believe.

Whereas Abduction: An Angel over Rimini, is mainly set in Italy and Greece and is about the kidnapping of a little English girl from a campsite in Southern Italy, The Dance of Dimitrios is mainly set in Greece, and is about a murder case which has gone cold; a mysterious body found in the River Ardas.


Both of these stories involve various forms of people trafficking, but there is one common theme which binds all my stories together. It is the tale of honest policemen and policewomen in search of truth and justice. This is also the ethos of the Europol Police Force, which in its short existence has enjoyed many successful results, due to European wide police cooperation as well as help from the American FBI.

Many people ask me why I have moved DCI Lambert from the comfortable leafy lanes of Berkshire in England, to the wilder parts of Southern Europe and the Balkans. The answer is quite simple; that is where I live. I left England many years ago and forgot to go back. But it wasn’t the only reason.

I forgot to go back because of the way that the British mentality was developing. It seemed to me that as a dedicated consumer society, the UK - where I was brought up - was no longer the same, and had lost many of its intrinsic virtues. Is there anything wrong with consumerism? No, but it seemed to me that people just wanted more of the same thing and that recently variety was rarely to be found on the intellectual menu. As a writer of sorts, I am supposed to know about such things and I wanted to introduce a new storyline into this ever repeated literary diet, which would challenge my readers.


Many of us confuse fabulous TV crime shows with literature, where most of the inspiration comes from, to make a good series in the first place. When we pick up a book which does not keep up to speed with the average TV crime drama, many of us get bored. But if it complies to a strict formula of events, can be consumed within a reasonable time and if it has a specific genre, that appears to be the way that choice is determined. But, which came first the chicken or the egg, and what is the difference between chalk and cheese. The confusion is immense and the challenge for a writer is even greater and often, insurmountable.

I put Lambert into a European setting which I have known all my life, and he fits well into the ex Communist countries of Eastern Europe. This is because he has the right kind of mind and the capacity to out-think even the most ardent ex-Communist or retired KGB intelligence officer. This is because he thinks laterally, and uses logic to discover the truth. Also, above everything else, Lambert is not a bully, is not loud mouthed and remains - as far as I am concerned - the living proof that kindness is not a sign of weakness, but a sign of strength.

I was there before, during and after these so called political changes in the Communist countries of Central and South Eastern Europe. I know what a Communist is and I know how, during the Cold War period, Communism successfully warped the minds of four generations of Southern Europeans and filled them with paranoia, intrigue and very little hope.

Now a part of the EU, the mentality of these countries has not changed significantly - as one can see from the vast amount of criminal activity and corruption which takes place in them - and which by our western standards, is generally viewed with disbelief. In our New Europe, we need the kind of policeman that can deal with the hard facts of European crime and DCI Michael Lambert, is that man.

Both Herodotus – The Gnome of Sofia, and Judas Goat – The Kennet Narrow Boat Mystery, are set at the end of the Cold War and Communism. Abduction: An Angel over Rimini is set at a later date, but continues to feature the jazz loving, classic car enthusiast and fictional police murder detective Detective Chief Inspector Michael Lambert.

Faced with political intrigue and in order to solve cases - which often involve Eastern Europe – he genuinely needs to understand how an old Communist thinks during the course of his investigations into the darker side of European crime.

There are few good books on the subject of international crime, especially mystery stories which delve into the shady side of politics. There are also few mystery novelists, who are prepared to address the thorny political issues of abduction, arms dealing and money laundering, in their mystery crime fiction.


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