Publisher: Orenda Books
Fresh from events in Yemen and Cyprus, vigilante justice-seeker Claymore Straker returns to South Africa, seeking absolution for the sins of his past. Over four days, he testifies to Desmond Tutu’s newly established Truth and Reconciliation Commission, recounting the shattering events that led to his dishonourable discharge and exile, fifteen years earlier. It was 1980. The height of the Cold War. Clay is a young paratrooper in the South African Army, fighting in Angola against the Communist insurgency that threatens to topple the White Apartheid regime. On a patrol deep inside Angola, Clay, and his best friend, Eben Barstow, find themselves enmeshed in a tangled conspiracy that threatens everything they have been taught to believe about war, and the sacrifices that they, and their brothers in arms, are expected to make. Witness and unwitting accomplice to an act of shocking brutality, Clay changes allegiance and finds himself labelled a deserter and accused of high treason, setting him on a journey into the dark, twisted heart of institutionalised hatred, from which no one will emerge unscathed. Exploring true events from one of the most hateful chapters in South African history, Reconciliation for the Dead is a shocking, explosive and gripping thriller from one finest writers in contemporary crime fiction.
I’m so pleased to welcome you to my stop on the blog tour for Reconciliation for the Dead today. I have an extremely interesting guest post from the author himself.
Paul E. Hardisty
There is a scene in my new novel, Reconciliation for the Dead, set in apartheid-era South Africa, where the protagonist (Claymore Straker), comes upon a herd of elephants. It is 1981, and Clay is a young South African soldier fighting the communist insurgency in Angola. This is a war that his parents, the leaders of his country, and the officers who command him, have cast as a struggle for survival. The elephants Clay happens upon are dead. They have been slaughtered and their tusks hacked out with chainsaws. Even the babies were killed, and the little milk tusks dug out. The image stays with him, haunts him, even as the bodies of his human enemies and brothers-in-arms stack up.
The scene is one that, in reality, was repeated across Africa during the conflicts that raged in the continent during that cold-war period, including in neighbouring Rhodesia and Mozambique. Teak and other hardwoods were cut extensively to pay for weapons and ammunition, and diamonds were mined using slave labour to enrich warlords and corrupt officials. Hippos were machined gunned in the rivers by jumpy ill-fed recruits in guerrilla armies. Rape was widespread. It was a time of plunder. With the breakdown of law and order that comes with civil war, protection of common assets disappears, and those who are armed take what they want. As the Roman philosopher Marcus Tullius Cicero said: ‘In times of war, the law falls silent.’
And of course, in many parts of the world, this same kind of behaviour continues. Civil strife leads to war. Factions resort to plunder to support their cause, and always it is the poor and the innocent who suffer most.
Claymore Straker, as a young man, comes face to face with one of the more cynical examples of wartime plunder in modern history. Unable to stand by and do nothing, spurred on by his idealistic friend, Eben Barstow, he begins to peel back the layers of deception and secrecy thrown up by the apartheid regime. What he finds will change his life forever, and fundamentally shape who he is.
The historical events described in Reconcilation for the Dead happened. As I writer, I try to create a thrilling, breathless ride for the reader, so that by the end, he or she feels as if they had gone ten rounds in the UFC cage with a top fighter. In short, I want to entertain. So hold on tight. But I also hope that by placing the reader right in the middle of the chaos, with the kind of immediacy that allows them to see and feel the action as it unfolds, that I can inform. The wars in Africa during that period are still recent enough to be relevant. It wasn’t until 1994 that Nelson Mandela was elected first black president of South Africa. So, while Claymore Straker wants to forget this time of plunder, perhaps we still have something to learn from it.
About the Author:
Canadian Paul Hardisty has spent 25 years working all over the world as an engineer, hydrologist and environmental scientist. He has roughnecked on oil rigs in Texas, explored for gold in the Arctic, mapped geology in Eastern Turkey (where he was befriended by PKK rebels), and rehabilitated water wells in the wilds of Africa. He was in Ethiopia in 1991 as the Mengistu regime fell, and was bumped from one of the last flights out of Addis Ababa by bureaucrats and their families fleeing the rebels. In 1993 he survived a bomb blast in a cafe in Sana’a, and was one of the last Westerners out of Yemen before the outbreak of the 1994 civil war. Paul is a university professor and Director of Australia’s national land, water, ecosystems and climate adaptation research programmes. He is a sailor, a private pilot, keen outdoorsman, conservation volunteer, and lives in Western Australia. His debut thriller The Abrupt Physics of Dying was shortlisted for the CWA John Creasey (New Blood) Dagger.