Hello, I’m Andrew Sharp, and am next to walk the plank into the Picnic blogosphere. My first novel, The Ghosts of Eden, will be out with Picnic’s 2009 list.
Let’s jump straight into the world of The Ghosts of Eden. We’ll start in the 1950s, two hundred years on from the grime, pox and mud of Caroline’s intriguing novel, Kill-Grief. Go south to picture yourself under a wide blue sky in the grasslands of East Africa. Sit yourself on some rocky vantage point, feel the warmth of the equatorial sun on the back of your neck and hear the susurrus scratchings of insects in the dry grass. Nearby, you see two young herd boys tending their father’s long-horned cattle. It’s a way of life their ancestors have followed for generations. The boys are playing, twisting strands of grass to make toy cows and bulls, but every now and then they look up and call out the name of one of their charges. The cow raises its head or moos.
On the horizon, way beyond the boys, you see a column of dust that marks the passage of a vehicle on a new road. The boys turn to look and you hear them murmuring to each other; you sense the younger boy’s excitement, but the older boy turns away. You can see his eyes. There is fear, as if he has seen a portent.
Now you’re spirited away just over the horizon to hill country where you find yourself standing on the lawns of a school for missionaries’ children. It’s an idyllic location by a lily-fringed lake. You watch as the children set off on an outing – you overhear that they are going up Crystal Mountain behind the school. A seven year old boy with a beatific face is telling his friend what he will do with the diamond he finds on the summit.
When the children have gone, you go and sit on a swing under a pepper tree overlooking the lake. A squall picks up from nowhere, agitates the water and envelopes the mountain. You get goosebumps. The same presage of change that the herd boy feared is coming also to the missionaries’ child.
So brothers Zachye and Stanley, friends Michael and Simon, find the certainties of their world crumble away. Soon rifts build between brothers, between friends. Tragedy follows.
Years later, Michael, the child from the mission school, now turned gifted surgeon, returns to the country of his birth for, what he hopes, is a flying visit. But he had not reckoned on falling for a beautiful woman. A married woman. As if drawn by a siren he follows her out west to where the ghosts of his past linger. But Zachye is out there, somewhere in the wild landscape, nursing a serious grudge – and after the same woman.
This is now reading like the longest and most leisurely back-cover blurb you’ve ever seen (is a blogged blurb a blurg?) so I’ll finish with a summary: blackmail, murder, mental breakdown, ancestral spirits, diviners, emergency surgery, buried grief, spurned love. Not necessarily in that order.
And for those who like history and setting there’s: HM Stanley, The Mountains of the Moon, the East African coast where Victorian explorers and missionaries made landfall, Idi Amin (a march on/march off appearance), a Citroën DS, a disease they called Slim, and the Uganda mail train (of Man Eaters of Tsavo fame). Not quite sure now how I joined the dots on all those.
I’d be delighted to respond to questions and comments. Tomorrow: in search of paradise!