Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Patrick Brigham - Author Interview by Darmie Orem

Herodotus The Gnome of Sofia by Patrick Brigham

Publisher: Memoirs Publishing

Published Date: 23/1/2013

Paperback - 11.89 GBP

Kindle - 4.64 GBP

Genre: Fiction, Murder Mystery, Espionage

Short blurb:

Against a backdrop of political change in South Eastern Europe, the story embraces disgruntled communists, cold war warriors, intrigue, deception and finally murder. Sir Arthur Cumberpot has an unspectacular career which is swiftly drawn to a close when he is appointed British Ambassador to Bulgaria. Due to some unforeseen mishaps his wife Annabel is accused of being a spy and sent home to their house in Watlington while her background is checked by MI5. Annabel is guilty of nothing, other than being the biological daughter of Jim Kilbey, Britain’s most famous spy. It seems that a jealous god has sought to visit the sins of the father upon her, but so has everyone else. She is the victim of serendipity, but also of cover ups, the duplication of thin evidence and exaggeration. But she is also heartless, treacherous, self indulgent and without shame.


DO: Welcome on Authors' Curtilage, Patrick. I'm glad to be one of your hosts on this virtual book tour.

PB: Thank you for the invitation.

DO: How did you get the idea for the book Herodotus - The Gnome of Sofia?

PB: Most of the entertainment we see on TV or read about in book form takes a close look at a certain groups of people and murder mystery is little different wherever it is. Morse by Colin Dextor was about Oxford intellectuals, Rumpold by John Mortimer was about the legal profession - barristers, judges and bent solicitors or solicitors Clarks - and in their turn, writers have had a sideway glance at the medical profession, at spooks, ending up with the most recent obsession with the so called aristocracy. Peter Jay laughed at politicians in Yes Prime Minister and Rik Mayall remorselessly laughed at the antics of Thatch-rite MP's in The New State man. But the group which fascinates me most is the British Diplomatic Service which, steeped in secrecy, appears to do very little at all. Self serving and elitist - whilst considering themselves to be above the common herd - they have managed to survive most of history by following their famous mantra: 'If you do nothing, you do nothing wrong!'

DO: What are your sources of inspiration?

PB: I lived for some time in Eastern Europe during the changes and after the fall of The Berlin Wall there was a lot of noise being made and very little else. On the whole most so called diplomats didn’t have a clue about Communism or about Communists in general. Little more than a rehash of James Bond, Graham Green and Dear John le Carre, during my time as the Chief Editor of The Sofia Western News (SWN) magazine, I came across many diplomats who perceived the immerging ex-Communist states of Eastern Europe in terms of some sort of Hollywood rehash. Maybe it was their siege mentality and fear of the past, or maybe it was pure unbridled ignorance. But whatever it was, it caused them to hide away in their often over luxurious ivory towers, and to quote a plethora of half baked inaccurate platitudes for consumption by their camp followers and visiting foreign journalists. And me; well I sat in the middle, watched them all very carefully, and laughed my socks off.

DO: What are the things that went into completing the first draft of this book?

PB: On their own, most diplomats do not last more than half an hour in the writers world of fiction, due to their invisibility - their preoccupation with their day to day activities at an Embassy - together with the various staff who are all heavily engaged in, well, not a lot! So I had to find a series of back stories to fill up the pages and to turn these often characterless diplomats into recognizable human beings. This meant a great deal of research. So what did I research? Cover-ups!

DO: How long did it take you to have the polished draft of this story for publication?

PB: I wrote Herodotus - The Gnome of Sofia, in about six months, during which time the story developed within itself, as my memories from twenty years in the Balkans quickly expanded the text. Since the story - which finally takes place in the 1990's - covers a period of some twenty five years or more, the text goes backwards and forwards in time, rather like a series of short stories. I had to justify the rather two dimensional characters with some sort of personal history which involved the Ambassador, Sir Arthur Cumberpot and his dreadful wife Lady Annabel.

DO: What are the steps you took in Herodotus - The Gnome of Sofia, to ensure readers are riveted when they read the book?

PB: Don't forget that I am a reader too, so as with any good murder mystery, I had to keep people guessing and of course, waiting! This is a subtle book in the sense that it is not drenched in blood, but various questions are asked instead. Within the story I touch upon various issues which mast writers would steer away from, including mental illness, and the class which existed at elitist universities at the time, especially Oxford and Cambridge. Destined for a life in the diplomatic service, the erstwhile Ambassador Cumberpot has managed to blot out his real antecedents and to practically deny access to his loving father and mother. You see, he has become a horrible snob!

DO: What are some of the most exciting plots in this book?

PB: We must not forget Herodotus the Gnome. Sir Arthur's father is a goodly soul, who is not one of the world’s greatest potters, but never-the-less, is very enthusiastic about his art. His devotion to his distant son in Bulgaria is absolute and so one day he decides to create a garden gnome, which he sends to his son in the monthly diplomatic container. However, on its way to Sofia it is somehow purloined by MI6 and sent to GCHQ for further investigation. In their wisdom they convert this hideous garden gnome into a Wi-Max mini cellular base station, before delivering it to the British Embassy in Sofia. Sir Arthur is appalled at this arrival of this naf garden gnome which has been forced upon him by MI6. With firm instructions to display it - codename Herodotus - in the front garden of the Embassy building they believe it to be the future of Espionage. With no more dead drops or chalk marks on nearby trees or phony messages or codes, the British Secret Service now believes that it has found the perfect solution to their burgeoning secret activities in ex-Communist Bulgaria and their relationship with their local spy's.

DO: For every story there is a status quo and a sudden bad change that keeps the lead character on his or / her heels to affect a positive turn around or get justice. What is the major conflict in Herodotus - The Gnome of Sofia that flexed the proactive muscles of your protagonist to make things happen?

PB: Lady Cumberpot is probably one of the nastiest people one might hope to meet. She is arrogant, rude, ignorant, toffee nosed and an intellectual snob. She is also the daughter of Britain’s most infamous spy Jim Kilbey. Adopted at a very young age, she has developed some of her natural fathers more unfortunate characteristics, including his constant deception and acts of betrayal. Whilst on leave in the UK in order to deal with family matters she begins an affair with the owner of the local riding stables, someone she had pervious known at Oxford. Impervious to her protracted absences - looking after a house purchased and allegedly their unfortunate son James - she pretends to be heavily preoccupied by domestic duties, when in fact she is simply a self indulgent treacherous bitch!

DO: Hmm. I can't wait to get my copy of this book. Every story worth telling has a point. What is it that you want your readers to take away from Herodotus?

PB: Apart from an insight into the somewhat obvious self serving diplomats and their 'proactive' inactivity? When it is believed that Lady Annabel is following in her father Jim Kilbey's treacherous footsteps as a spy, she is sent back to the UK in disgrace, to be thoroughly investigated by the internal security services a matter which is placed in the seasoned hands of Inspector Squinty - retired, an MI5 operative. It is here that we realize that there is some form of natural justice in this world, especially when Lady Annabel Cumberpot is murdered in her kitchen by an unknown assassin. Discovered laying dead in a pool of blood  by the internal security service MI5 when they go to search the house for evidence, her death is put down to an extra judicial killing and the matter is swept under the carpet. But it is not so, and so dear readers, you will have to read on!

DO: We all dream of writing a bestseller. Based on your experience, what should be the three major steps a writer should take to execute a blockbuster novel?

PB: Of course you have to write a good book, but blockbusters are often no more than the publicity machine at work. Often described by fiction writers of good murder mysteries as 10% writing and 90% publicity, it evokes the old description of success, that - 'I had been a writer for over thirty years, before I became an overnight success!'

DO: All right then, I wish you all the best in your writing career. Thanks for stopping by at Authors' Curtilage.

PB: Thanks, and good luck to you all!

Author's Bio:

Patrick Brigham has been a writer and journalist for many years. He has published many short stories,newspaper and magazine articles. Born in the English home counties, he attended Public School and College before moving to London and embarking on his career. Having spent the last twenty years in South Eastern Europe, many of his stories are set in this part of the world as well as in Oxford, Hampshire and Berkshire.

Does author Patrick Brigham write good murder mystery books?

The author Patrick Brigham writes good mystery books, many of which are set at the very end of the Cold War and Communism. Featuring fictional police detective Chief Inspector Michael Lambert, he is often faced with political intrigue, and in order to solve his cases - which frequently take place in Eastern Europe and the Balkans - he needs to know 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 Balkan politics, neither are there many novelists who are prepared to address mystery crime fiction, like the author Patrick Brigham.

As a recently seconded officer to Europol, the new EU federal police force, Chief Inspector Michael Lambert brings a new slant to European crime fiction.

You can reach Patrick Brigham here! Patrick Brigham Patrick Brigham 

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