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:
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: