By Alix Norman
In common with many others, each summer, I head to the coast, there to be transported to other places by the only ingredient necessary for a beach day: a good book. I’ve been to medieval Gloucestershire with Cadfael, to Tilling with Lucia. I’ve seen Maycomb with Scout and Corfu with Durrell, visited Bryson’s Australia and the Arrakis of the Atreides. But this year, I’ve decided to stay right here on the island.
Because, with the ever-growing number of books by local authors, Cyprus itself is now regularly popping up in works of both fact and fiction. And surely there’s nothing more intriguing than basking on the beach while reading about the very place you’ve set your towel…
Firstly – and literally – A Piece of Advice. Written by Nicosia-born author DK Mita, this is a rollicking read of a book set in Italy, Syria and – yes – Cyprus. Intrigue, adventure, and global conspiracy meet in a novel that’s just perfect for the beach; a thumping plot, a dollop of romance and more than a soupçon of clever humour. The plot centres on Sam Culpeper, heir to a shipping dynasty, who discovers the family empire is entirely based on a scam. “Even worse,” we’re told, “Sam discovers that his father was acting as an intermediary to supply $1.4 billion worth of arms to a country known for its terrorist affiliations, through the Mafia.” Andwith the down payment – a mere $350 million –mysteriously missing, Sam is now being held responsible…
Like all the best authors, DK Mita has written about what he knows – not, I hasten to add, that he’s ever been held accountable by a cartel for the loss of a small fortune. But he has had a lifetime of dealing with the world of global shipping. “Like most first novels, mine is based to an extent on personal experiences,” he explains, adding that the plot is – thank goodness! – from his imagination. “Most of my characters are based on real people that I have met in my everyday dealings: the housemaid who was allergic to dust and had a penchant for fishnet blouses, the giant ‘Painful Willy’, ‘Mrs Ethelred’ (so-called because her husband was jokingly referred to as ‘King Ethelred the Unready’) and so on, are based on real people.”
Similarly, John Goodwin’s The Last Olympiad is another product of a lifetime career, this time in the construction industry: “When Gavinder, a disaffected British-born Muslim, helped install an explosive device in the concrete undercroft of London’s new Olympic Stadium he thought it was set to destroy the structure and cause the cancellation of the games. But other forces are at work and the consequences are far more than his conscience can reconcile.” Exciting stuff indeed, packed with all the elements (murder, revenge, faith, extremism and loyalty) of a rip-roaring summer read.
“There is a large element of the technical side of the construction industry, as the bulk of the action takes place around the building of the Olympic stadium,” explains John, who retired from a directorship of a PLC to write. “And I’m glad I did,” he adds. “I chose Cyprus as a place that gave me the peace and inspiration to pursue something for which I have always had a passion. I love the English language for all its foibles, and a challenge from the Paphos Writers’ Group to write something commercial that came as London was awarded the 2012 Olympic Games resulted in a plot outline and first chapter which I later developed to novel length.”
Still on the action-packed beach read, Matthew Malekos’ Snow Wasted is a tale of “vicious murders, ruthlessly corrupt officials, and a mafia-funded drug trade” set against “the beautiful backdrop of a Mediterranean summer” – in Cyprus, of course. Following on from Peroxide Homicide, this is the second novel to feature forensic pathologist Dr Karen Laos as its protagonist and, this time, she’s been recruited by the Ministry of Defence to solve “a series of perplexing events which are terrorising the British Bases…”
From action to interaction, with a book that’s been over three years in the making: Socratis E. Socratous’ The Monastery of Fools. “I wanted to tell my version of everyday life and people’s relationships and interactions, as well as my ideas on happiness, love, success, God and the meaning of life,” says the author, explaining how he came to write the novel. Basing the action in Cyprus, Greece and London, Socratis has drawn on “things experienced, heard and imagined” to create a story of journeys: “Three people, three strangers, start off from different paths of life and meet under very peculiar interweaving circumstances. Among [sic] a backdrop of Greece, Cyprus and London, friendships are confirmed and renewed, talents emerge, souls are bared, sins are forgiven and hurts start to be healed…” A book for the more philosophical sun worshipper, perhaps?
If you prefer your summer reads to be a bit of light-hearted fun, then look no further than Malcolm Leonard Poulton’s The Pre-Converted Try. Set in the seventies in one of London’s most historic hostelries, this is a story that brims with “improbable characters and impossible situations, as it meanders its way through London, South Africa, Cyprus and back again”. Charting a chain of events that cause the publican landlord to put together a team of “ill-disciplined and unsuited locals” to challenge Knole Park RFC to a memorial match, it’s a delightfully chaotic romp through the world of rugby, timed nicely to coincide with the hosting of the Rugby World Cup in the UK later this year.
Lastly, if you’re more into fact than fiction, check out local writer Tom Kane. Author of more than eight books, two in particular might be of interest: Living in Cyprus: The Cyprus Ex-Pat Blog, and A Pat on His Back: A Brit’s Life in Cyprus – both of which will have you rolling on the sand with sympathetic chuckles. After all, who really needs to be transported to other times and places when all the action is happening right here on the island? And, who knows, you might just be lying on the beach right next to the author!
All books mentioned in the article are available in e-book format from Amazon. The Last Olympiad, Snow Wasted, The Monastery of Fools and The Pre-Converted Try are also available in print. Readers of the Sunday Mail are also offered the chance to read DK Mita’s A Piece of Advice completely free of charge: simply visit the Facebook page ‘Books by DK MITA’ and message the author directly to receive your copy in pdf format