Anthony Carilla’s ‘Convergence’: Audacious and compelling tilt at the future

Anthony Carilla’s debut novel Convergence takes on the core question of our existence. This audaciously ambitious book builds on physics, biology, pharmacology, brain science and theology to create a complex thriller that goes way beyond the mundane. That’s not to say that that the conventional elements are missing: There are dashes of romance and action to balance the slow-burn plot, and the settings are seductive – the jungles of Cambodia, high-tech laboratories in Europe, and the super-luxury playgrounds of a billionaire businessman.

Carilla takes some big risks with this book: A large cast of characters, attention to detail that can sometimes overwhelm, and a lot of science. But the gamble pays off, with compelling portraits of the main protagonists, and a sense of inexorable progress towards an ending that promises to blow the reader’s spiritual socks off. I confess I didn’t see the simple one-sentence conclusion coming, even though the hints – in retrospect – were there along.

Convergence is a book that will provoke a plethora of questions across the spectrum of readers from the faithful to the faithless. Some will question the science, especially the claims for quantum mechanics (but then it is set in 2038), and some will have reservations about the beneficence of big business and the US government in these days of the Trump ascendancy. But the sublime central message of the book will have universal resonance.

Convergence will be published by Austin Macauley Publishers Ltd. in the very near future.

I was given an ARC by the author and asked to provide an honest review.

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You’ll need a wheelbarrow for this 99c box set!

Two of my favourite indie authors, Don Bailey and Kerry Donovan, are part of this fourteen author eBook box set.

Crikey, what will they think of next? Two box sets for the price of one? Discount for seniors? Free popcorn?

If the other twelve authors are as good as Bailey and Donovan, then it will be 99c well spent. You can get it on Amazon here.

Five-star advance reviews rolling in for Cairo Mon Amour

Read what my advance reviewers are saying about Cairo Mon Amour.

… a clever, fast paced thriller full of twists, turns and blind alleys. Campbell’s knowledge of the Egypt of the early 70’s allows him to take the reader right there, tasting the foods, inhaling the smells, seeing the sights and gaining an intimate insight into Egyptian life. – Sarah Bourne, Australia

… a brilliantly written work of “faction.” Cairo Mon Amour is a great read, and it was intriguing to learn about the goings on in Cairo in one of the most tumultuous periods in Middle Eastern history. – Peter Ralph, Australia

… brilliant in so many, many ways. As I read, there were times that I felt as though I was walking out on a narrow gangplank. I couldn’t breathe, then I gasped for breath. – Fran Guenette, Canada

… sharp and incisive prose … The book is a tour de force. I can’t wait for the promised sequel. – Kerry Donovan, France

Full versions of the reviews can be found at the Cairo Mon Amour Facebook page  here.

Cairo Mon Amour will be available at the end of June 2017.

The story of my beautiful book cover

This beautiful book cover for Cairo Mon Amour has an interesting evolution. It was actually designed for a self-published edition of the book, but I offered the artwork to my publisher, who was happy to take it over.

When I first discussed the project with my designer Rachel Ainge of Tribe Creative Co, I imagined a cover that tried to tell the story. I cooked up the idea of an aerial shot of Cairo with a pair of women’s shoes (containing feet) on the ledge of a building.

Rachel took things in hand: “Don’t try to tell the story.  Leave it with me.” We’d had this discussion before when I’d talked her into creating covers that told the stories of two other books of mine. They were lovely covers, but did they help to sell books? I wasn’t sure. Here they are, along with one of my crude sketches:

 

 

 

 

Rachel came back to me with the idea of branding the three books under a common theme, including new covers for the older books, and a new title for one of them.

Over to me for the theme. I thought hard about what linked the three books: A contemporary  Australian political satire, a psychological drama set in England, and a thriller/romance set during the Yom Kippur War. How were they connected?

It came to me in a flash while I was walking on the beach (that’s where my most creative thinking takes place): Love, betrayal and redemption. That’s what I really write about.

This gave me a formula for uniform subtitles for the three books:

  • Love, betrayal and pure theatre
  • Love, betrayal and genteel crime
  • Love, betrayal and espionage

Incidentally it gave me my elevator pitch: Stuart Campbell writes quirky novels about love, betrayal and redemption.

Next, Rachel asked me for an iconic scene for each book. “I’ll give you the blockbuster treatment – a big dramatic sky and characters looking into their destiny,” she said. I came up with Martin Mooney looking at the distant mountains, Jack Walsingham approaching a rural cottage, and Pierre Farag and Mark Bellamy riding towards the Pyramids.  This is what I got:

And I’m very happy with the result!

Cairo Mon Amour will be published in late June 2017 by Austin Macauley Publishers, an independent trade publisher with headquarters in London and New York.

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The Middle East conflict that inspired Cairo Mon Amour

War makes an irresistible setting for fiction, as the never-ending flood of WWII novels and movies shows. Gulf War thrillers are almost a genre in their own right.

The Yom Kippur War has its novels – Herman Wouk and Tom Clancy both weave stories around it. But I wanted to do something different – my novel set during the Yom Kippur War Cairo Mon Amour, is set in Egypt – not Israel.

I felt especially well qualified to write this book: I was a student at Cairo University when the war broke out in October 1973, and I had a ringside seat – or sometimes a seat under the kitchen table when the air-raid sirens went off.

If you can’t remember the main points about this particular conflict, Egypt invaded Sinai to reclaim land lost to Israel in 1967, and Syria attacked the Golan Heights. The conequences of the war included the 1978 Camp David Accords and the final withdrawal of Israel from Sinai in 1982.

What compelled me to write this book was the extraordinary lengths that Egypt went to in concealing the date of the attack. How did President Sadat keep preparations for a massive ground and air attack secret? And how could I spin a story of espionage and romance around this?

Details have emerged in memoirs and works of research: Hospital wards in Cairo were emptied under the pretext of epidemics in anticipation of floods of wounded troops; a military sports carnival was scheduled for the day of the attack; false stories were planted about the attack date. When I did my research, I found so many events that I could dramatise: The sudden evacuation of Soviet families just days before the outbreak of war; the last ship to leave Alexandria, crowded with Americans desperate to get away.

I also wanted to write a very human story, so I created a handful of flawed characters who all have a personal stake in finding out – or concealing – the date when the attack will be launched. We have a Cairo private eye of mixed Armenian and Coptic background; his childhood sweetheart who is now a notorious actress; a Soviet diplomat with divided loyalties; and two British spies who happen to be former lovers.

I made a decision to stick closely to the historical record: The chapters in the first part of the book follow exactly the days just before and after the start of the war. When the Soviet diplomat Zlotnik, drunk in his flat, hears the rumble of the huge Soviet aircraft flying in armaments, it is real; I heard them on that very night myself.

And I tried to capture the day-to-day atmosphere in the streets of Cairo, when, as a British student taking Arabic courses at Cairo University, I found myself in the midst of a populace that swung between elation at the first flush of victory, and distress as the dead and wounded began to stagger home.

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Thriller writers Peter Ralph and Dave Stanton do it again

 

 

 

 

 

Two of my favourite thriller novelists snuck into my Kindle last month with Dying for the Highlife and Blood Gold in the Congo . I’m a fan of both US author Dave Stanton and Australian Peter Ralph, and I’ve watched their work develop over the last few years.

Peter Ralph’s forte is financial/political thrillers ranging from riches-to-rags story The CEO to the almost epic environmental saga Dirty Fracking Business. When you read a Peter Ralph thriller, there’s always the suspicion that the plot is over the top. Could the corporate world be quite as poisonous as Ralph portrays it? Well, have a look at his background on his author profile; this is a guy with a serious knowledge of the seamier side of business.

Blood Gold in the Congo take us into literally new territory – Africa – and again the plot feels eerily authentic. Joseph Muamba , illegally adopted as a child, becomes a top US athlete and returns to the Congo to smash the international corruption rackets that are robbing the Congolese of their mineral wealth. The hallmark Ralph denouement is there, with the chief villain meeting his just desserts. With Blood Gold in the Congo Peter Ralph’s writing is getting tighter and more economical, with the story allowed to flow unimpeded. I raced through it.

Stateline was my last Dave Stanton novel. I loved the winter setting of this Dan Reno story, but in Dying For The Highlife, things hot up as private eye Reno (‘as in no problemo’) hooks up again with his buddy Cody Gibbons. This time, Dan’s South Lake Tahoe PI business is on its knees until the ‘nearly beautiful’ Sheila Marjorie propositions him in a casino. Her stepson has won $43 million in a lottery, and now the jackals are circling.

I’m not a great fan of book series, but the Dave Reno formula works so well that I go back for more. Dave Stanton achieves a consistent mix of complex plotting, characters that grow with each new book, and  – number one for  me – California-Nevada setting. Keep it up, Dave!

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Stuart Campbell’s new novel Cairo Mon Amour will be published in July 2017.

Cairo Mon Amour: Recreating 1970s London

The fourth and final part of Cairo Mon Amour is called Exile, and includes two long chapters when I send Pierre and Zouzou to London, and Lucy and Bellamy to Moscow. I thought that recreating 1970s London would be easy – after all, I was there. But there were some tricky challenges.

There’s a mystique about seventies London. People younger than me have said they envy the fact that I was there. Well, they wouldn’t have envied the ratty bedsits where I lived, and they’d be shocked at the lack of money, the strikes, and the IRA bombs. They’d be puzzled by the primitive technologies and by living in a pre-silicon chip world. On the other hand, I think they’d be astounded at the intellectual freedom of the time.

I had two distinct challenges: One was to make a seventies London that would resonate with the natives – readers who had been there, and at the same time that would convince the tourists – those born after about 1970 who missed it.

For the natives, small tokens will evoke the era: Green Shield stamps, pressing button B in a phone box, the Benny Hill Show. But I felt I had to work a bit harder for the tourists. How many thirty-year-olds know what a trading stamp is? Can they imagine a city with no ATMs?

And this is where the second challenge comes in: How much detail? How can the writer prevent making the text a cluttered museum to the seventies? Somehow, I had to sketch the background to the seventies, leaving the foreground free for the drama.

The public phone box was one of my favourite strategies. The technology gives an instant distinctive edge to seventies life. Phones had wires. There were no answering machines. You could get ‘stood up’ (a rare phrase these days) because your date couldn’t call you on the mobile to say they were delayed. London phone boxes had a special smell -stale fag smoke, old piss, and damp cement. They had little glass windows that steamed up and invited itchy fingers to write initials or draw hearts or penises. They were often adorned by little cards coyly advertising prostitutes.

One evening, my exiled Armenian-Egyptian private eye finds a card on his door. It’s from his hard-boiled landlady and she’s reminding him not to over-use the shared bathroom. Later he’s in a phone box. ‘Call Rita for French polishing’ says the square of cardboard stuck to the window.

This is Pierre’s seventies London: a ‘city of little cards’.

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