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I have always admired The Outsider, or what Albert Camus called L'Étranger in his 1942 novel, the one that
was different to the rest of the herd – not unlike the Englishman TE Lawrence
eponymously of Arabia, or a young lady from India, who as a girl battled adversity
while schooled in America.
Priyanka Chopra was born in Bihar,
Northern India, where my own family originated from.
At the age of thirteen, Priyanka
Chopra moved to the United States to study, living with her aunt, and attending
schools in Newton, Massachusetts, and Cedar Rapids, Iowa, after a stop in
Queens, New York, as her aunt's family also moved frequently.
While in Massachusetts, she
participated in several theatre productions and studied Western classical
music, choral singing and Kathak dance.
During her teenage years in the
United States, Chopra sometimes faced racial issues and was bullied for being
Indian by classmates.
She has said, "I was a gawky
kid, had low self-esteem, came from a modest middle-class background, had white
marks on my legs ... But I was damn hard working. Today, my legs sell 12
Sometimes it’s the ability to
overcome adversity that is the making of us, as is the fear that surrounds us
when we are children.
For she overcame adversity and helped
others to face their fears, and troubles, as this video indicates.
January is always an
‘interesting’ month, for as a new year commences - we all trudge back to our
work, following our Christmas / New Year / Winter holidays.
Cognitively it can
be hard to mentally re-adjust after the extended break. For bibliophiles we
often look to our reading to keep us safe from the vagaries [and randomness] of reality with its dark
edges - as our thoughts from time to time create existential problems, as we
contemplate existence [……as worthy as this all sounds……].
Peter May’s latest
Keep You Safe” sees a return to the Scottish Islands, like the work he’s
most renowned for, The
Black House Trilogy, which has garnered many international awards.
Reviewers and literary commentators often comment on the evocative nature of
the backdrop that May uses; making the location as vivid in the reader’s
imagination, as the author’s characters.
As Peter’s new work
“I’ll Keep You Safe” is released on 11th January 2018 in the UK and Ireland and
on March 16th 2018 in US from Quercus Publishing, we’ll share what readers have
in store; to help manage The
Two Faces of January.
Husband and wife,
Niamh and Ruairidh Macfarlane have come a long way with their cloth company,
Ranish Tweed, from their small Hebridean home to the world of high fashion. But
on a business trip to Paris, cracks in their relationship start to appear. When
Niamh receives an anonymous email informing her of Ruairidh's affair, she is
distraught. Only hours later Ruairidh is killed by a car bomb, leaving Niamh’s
life in ruins. And when the police declare Niamh as the prime suspect in her
husband’s death, her life as she knows it ceases to exist. When Niamh is allowed back to her home on the
Isle of Lewis to return her husband's remains, she is followed by French
detective, Sylvie Braque. As Braque digs deeper into the couple’s relationship
and Niamh replays her life with Ruiairidh, distant memories resurface and past
feuds are reignited. As the past and present move closer together the two women
find themselves drawn to a killer who will not back down.
We should point out
the novel contains a very useful glossary of Celtic / Gaelic pronunciation to
assist the reader.
Peter’s readers will
be familiar with the high level of research that goes into his work, as well as
how prescient much of his imagination is, and he kindly provided some
background to his latest work –
relation to the criminal element of the story, I explored the so-called Dark
Web. This is the flip side of the
internet we all know and use. It is
where you will find society’s creepy-crawlies when you take a peek into the
shadows that lurk beneath. The Dark Web, however, is not really that dark. It is a collection of publicly visible
websites that hide the IP addresses of their servers. Anyone with a modicum of IT know-how can
access it by downloading a special anonymity browser called Tor. Suddenly you have access to sites selling
illegal goods and services in secure anonymity - child pornography, weapons,
drugs, and the services of hitmen.
Payment is made, again anonymously, with the use of Bitcoins whose
derivation and destination are untraceable.
Who knew it was that easy?
into the world of ground-breaking forensic technology, where newly developed
techniques allow investigators to recover fingerprints from bomb-blasted
particles. Previously both criminals and
investigators believed fingerprints were obliterated by bomb blasts. That was indeed the case with conventional
fingerprints. It meant that bomb-makers
were unconcerned about leaving fingerprints, on the basis they would be
destroyed anyway. However, a new type of
fingerprint has recently been discovered.
It is left by the oily residue of the fingers which when exposed to
extreme heat reacts chemically with metal, effectively etching itself invisibly
into the casing of a bomb. Undetectable by conventional procedures, these
fingerprints can now be recovered by applying a powerful electrostatic charge
to the piece under examination, then dusting it with a fine carbon powder. And bingo!
There is the fingerprint which had previously been so undetectable.
PARTS AND BURIAL
death in a car explosion means there is very little of him left to repatriate
for burial. I wanted to explore the
practicalities of this. A consultation
with my pathology adviser, Dr. Steve Campman, introduced me to the complex set
of international rules and regulations that govern the transportation of human
remains by commercial airlines. What was
left - a limited number of pieces of charred flesh and bone - would be vacuum
sealed in plastic bags following examination by a pathologist. A State-approved undertaker would supply the
requisite paperwork once he had sealed the bags in a leakproof container. Only
then would an airline accept the remains for transportation. These are the
awful practical mundanities in the aftermath of such a death, and I thought it
was important for Niamh to be seen dealing with the shock of them. There was also the question of burial when
the box was flown back to the island.
The French investigators would not allow it, but also there are no
crematoria in the Outer Hebrides. So I went to visit the only funeral director
on the Isle of Lewis, Alasdair Macrae. He suggested the tiny coffin containing
Ruairidh’s remains would be placed within a normal-sized coffin and braced to
prevent movement when the bearers carried it to the grave. I was also keen to
respect island tradition in my portrayal of the burial itself. When I first went to the islands nearly
thirty years ago, women did not go to the graveside and usually they would not
even take part in the procession.
However, I was fortunate on the day I went to the cemetery at Dalmore
Bay on the west coast of Lewis - where the burial was to take place in the book
- there was an actual funeral in progress.
I witnessed a rare occasion, where the female mourners led the
procession to the graveside carrying flowers, while the men followed on with
the coffin. It was perfect for the circumstances of the burial that I planned
to write, allowing me to break with island conventions describing events at the
cemetery. I watched with fascination as
the male mourners then picked up shovels to fill in the grave themselves.
research took me to numerous island locations, including the home of Harris
Tweed Hebrides at their Shawbost Mill; the independent mill at Carloway, only
recently rescued from closure; the Grimersta Estate, with its impressive
fishing lodge and complex water system. And of course the impressive Scottish
baronial castle at Amhuinnsuidhe on the Isle of Harris, where I stayed
overnight to absorb its distinctive and rarified atmosphere. On my final day on
the Isle of Lewis I visited a legendary location; a stone bothy built into the
cliffs of Mangersta, on the south-west of the island, by the parents of aid
worker Linda Norgrove who was kidnapped by the Taliban in Afghanistan, and died
during a failed rescue attempt by US forces. The bothy rests perilously on a
ledge just below the top of towering cliffs of granite and gneiss that are
hundreds of feet high, standing resolute against the relentless assault of the
location research also took me to Paris, around the Place de la République,
where only fifteen months earlier terrorists had rampaged through boulevards
and alleyways. The aftermath of those
attacks were still very much evident in the nightly gathering of armed police
and vehicles along one side of the square. I also visited the world famous
Paris cemetery, Père Lachaise, where I had the unsettling experience of coming
across a full-sized bronze figure on the grave of French journalist, Victor
Noir, who was shot dead in 1870 by Prince Pierre Bonaparte, the great nephew of
Napoleon. The reason I found it so unsettling was that the face of this figure
was the spitting image of myself as a young man.
search for authenticity I conducted in depth interviews. I had long conversations with the young
island entrepreneur, Iain Finlay Macleod, whose Breanish Tweed became the
inspiration for my fictitious Ranish Tweed. Gaelic actor and broadcaster, Derek
Murray, showed me the arcane world of teenage island boys who, by tradition,
steal the gates of their neighbours on Halloween. I also journeyed across the sodden moorland
of north-east Lewis to the remote ruins of a house and church built by a
pioneering baptist called John Nicholson.
I picked this as a crucial location in the book, where the denouement is
played out on its storm-lashed cliffs.
The ruins of Nicholson’s house are also the basis for the book’s iconic
closing it is worth noting Harris Tweed is the only cloth in the world to be
defined by Act of Parliament, and is described in the 1993 Act passed by the
Houses of Parliament in London, as “handwoven by islanders at their homes in
the Outer Hebrides, finished in the Outer Hebrides, and made from pure virgin
wool dyed and spun in the Outer Hebrides”. All Harris Tweed must also be
examined by an inspector from the Harris Tweed Authority, and stamped with the
famous cross and orb once it is established it has met all legal criteria and
standards of quality. Through my connections with Harris Tweed Hebrides, I
gained access to Première Vision, the twice-yearly fabric fair in Paris.
Thousands of stalls are enclosed by lit plastic walls arranged in rows that
criss-cross, in the giant exhibition halls of the Parc d’Exposition. This vast
fair has cloth-makers from all over the world exhibiting their fabrics for
designers and manufacturers ahead of the seasonal fashion shows which will
determine what some people will be wearing in the spring or the autumn.
And remember Peter
May commences the Promotional Tour shortly, and as he is a most amusing
raconteur, so we urge you to attend one of his events, not only to grab a copy
of his latest novel, but also to gain some insight into this author and listen
to his tales.
I enjoyed finding
myself at lunch with Peter May and my bibliophile colleagues, who like Peter have
many amusing asides with anecdotes and reflections which are life affirming
when confronted by Janus. All of us are journalists, writers, commentators –
and so with a glass of wine in hand, there was much mirth over a fine lunch.
Though Barry Forshaw
made us all laugh like Hyenas when the topic of deadlines came up, something
that as writers we all fear. As apart from Peter May’s latest work, Barry
Forshaw has his Historical Noir coming shortly as does Bookbrunch’s Nic Clee
look at the literary award process.
about the work of Peter
May CLICK HERE
So after thanking
Jon Riley Publisher, and Hannah Robinson Publicist [Quercus Publishing], and of
course Sophie Ransom for an excellent lunch, where the laughter was as
infectious as Peter May’s anecdotes – we all headed back into a chilly London;
but were all energised, as only the company and laughter of Bibliophiles /
Raconteurs can provide when there are bottles of wine.
Clutching my copy of
Peter May’s “I’ll Keep You Safe” – suddenly The Two Faces of Janus / January
didn’t feel as depressing as it did when the alarm clock sounded on the 2nd of
You can get a copy
at a heavy discount from this
link from the Book Depository, with free delivery worldwide.
Photos © 2018 A
Karim [and Nicholas Clee]