Is Fiction stranger then Fact

 It was an Australian journalist who said, “Journalists write fiction, and pretend it’s fact – and novelists write fact, and pretend it’s fiction.” And there is truth in this.

Certainly my book of short stories, THE GULF “Reaping the Whirlwind”, is based on fictionalised facts. I call it journalistic because every story springs from an event I witnessed myself during my 40 years living and working in the Arabian/Persian Gulf – or was reported to me by a reliable source.

I have just written my first Australian story, THE SENSE OF LOSS, which is a complete fiction, and yet in many ways is as factual and even more authentic than the stories in THE GULF. I say this because the end result was not the story I set out to write. My fictional protagonist, an elderly Australian widow from rural Australia – a person I have never met in a place I have never been – took over, and behaved as an elderly strong-willed Australian widow from rural Australia would behave.

Graham Greene will be spinning in his grave. He believed that fictional characters are merely constructs designed to carry the authors ideas. I have never found that to be true. Once I create a good strong character they behave as that character would behave. They cannot be directed and told what to do. I believe, mad though I may be,that Margaret McLaughlin, the character in my story, behaved exactly as Margaret McLaughlin would behave.

I am English by birth, education, and upbringing, and assumed before coming to Australia, that Australians would be pretty much the same as myself. After all, almost all of the early settlers and the majority of the population is from the British Isles – and English is the official language (although you wouldn’t think so if you spend a lot of time in Sydney). But I have found that Australians are foreign to me.

Maybe because of their beginnings as a penal colony, and the large percentage of Irish Catholic convicts? Maybe because their hard-scrabble pioneering and suffering is such recent history? Maybe because they became (almost) universally affluent so fast that they are more American than British. There is (almost) no class structure and snobbery here (except in Melbourne)? But whatever, we are related – maybe like distant cousins – but they are certainly not British in their thoughts or actions. As my daughter so succinctly put it “They are lovely people, but rough around the edges”.

To be precious about it, those differences and rough edges have subconsciously permeated my artistic sensibility. So when I came to write my first Australian story, from my English perspective it just did not go the way I thought it should go.

“Good on ya – Margaret McLaughlin”,

because I have written a story that is “pure fiction” – and yet it is as authentic and factual as if pulled from tomorrow’s headlines.

The same cannot be said for the stories in THE GULF. Yes, they are authentic. But all of them are told from the perspective of archetypal British expatriates who washed up in the Arabian/Persian Gulf for whatever reason. People like me. Ordinary people who found trauma in their lives through no fault of their own, trying to cope and make a living in extraordinary circumstances. People I can easily relate to.

THE GULF “Reaping the Whirlwind”, deals with the effect that fabulous oil wealth brought to the region after the quadrupling of crude oil prices in 1972. You can preview my book on Amazon’s Kindle Websites at:

www.amazon.com www.amazon.co.uk

and read the comprehensive 5 Star reviews it has received, and download it if you have a Kindle.

If you prefer a real book in your hands, you can preview my book, and order the paperback from my UK publisher:

www.feedaread.com

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I’ve never known a woman who couldn’t dance

We call it dancing—but why do you think discotheques are so popular with young women?

I have written before about the innate artistry and sensitivity of tribal women in the Middle East—particularly Persia—that enables them to preserve and refresh their nomadic culture and myths by weaving vibrant and stunningly beautiful rugs. Another gift that women carry is the innate ability to sway their supple bodies sensually—and erotically—to music and the rhythm of the drum. This is a talent lacking in most men, except those of African/Afro Caribbean ancestry.

Through all our layers of so-called civilization women have maintained an overwhelming biological urge to choose the best mate, and to reproduce healthy and strong children. And in most societies they do this by making bold eye contact and displaying their bodies the best way they can. Even in Saudi Arabia—where women’s bodies are covered by a black obayah, and their heads and faced covered by a hijab—the nubile maidens make sure that their obayahs are tailored to the contours of their bodies, and their hijabs are so flimsy that you can see their faces, or reveal their heavily made-up eyes. And repressed as they no doubt are, when they are in all female company, off come the obayahs and hijabs and they dance crazy mad.

When I worked in Saudi Arabia I directed a number of training videos, and my professional American cameraman was invited to big Saudi wedding, and allowed to film the womens’ party. (The receptions are segregated into a male and a female gathering). He described it in detail as the most erotic thing he had ever seen, and I have tried to replay this in my story I’VE NEVER KNOWN A WOMAN WHO WOULDN’T DANCE, in my book THE GULF: “Reaping the Whirlwind”

In true journalistic style my story was authenticated by a woman friend who had worked as a teacher in Saudi Arabia for 9 years and attended a number of weddings.

Out of shame that this is not really a work of fiction, I amended the title slightly from COULDN’T to WOULDN’T and added an imagined beginning and ending to give it context. You can read the full story—and many others about the Middle East—by following my URL:

www.amazon.com/author/mikerichards

and downloading the Kindle edition. Or if you prefer a paperback you can order it from;

www.thebookdepository.co.uk

They offer free delivery worldwide.