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

I TOLD YOU SO!

King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia died recently. But before he died a former US Ambassador to Riyadh took the opportunity to thank him for not saying “I told you so”.

While successive US governments pushed for (and violently forced) democracy and free market capitalism in THE GULF and the Middle East, (and now face the chaos of the aftermath of the Arab Spring revolutions) – the Saudis valued social stability and slow evolutionary change above everything else and have come through unscathed and stronger than ever.

Egypt is now a spent force only kept alive by billions of Saudi dollars; and Iraq and Syria are fragmented by bloody sectarian and tribal battles to the death. This leaves Saudi, with the support of the UAE, the dominant regional player representing Sunni Islam in opposition to Iran/Hezbollah as the aggressive proponent of Shia Islam. But Saudi Arabia and the UAE have more oil – and more money.

As I have always said the Middle East is all about oil – and the fabulous wealth it brings.

I hate to say “I told you so” – but I told you so in my plays and in my book of short stories based on 40 years experience in the oil patch in The Arabian and Persian Gulf.

My first play EXPATRIA written 20 years ago loosely based on my experiences in the Iranian oilfields had a background in the CIA’s deposing of the legitimate democratic government of Mossedeq and replacing him with the despicable and corrupt Shah and his cronies. And the story TRIBAL WEAVING in my book THE GULF “Reaping the Whirlwind” had a similar theme.

My second play THE GULF written 16 years ago and loosely based on my experiences in the Emirates of Qatar, Dubai and Sharjah concerned the rise of fundemantal Islam in response to America’s naïve? Cynical? Brute force and ignorant? exploitation of cheap oil from The Gulf. It ended with the beheading of an American. And this was long before the grisly beheading of Daniel Pearle and others.

I TOLD YOU SO!

Unfortunately, my plays never got produced – although THE GULF came close with a rehearsed reading at the Soho Theatre in London. But I think that they are important enough, and still contemporary enough to warrnt publication and I am trying to put together a Kindle edition.

In the meantime, if you want insights into The West’s relationship with the Middle East and its complexity from the perspective of the weird and wonderful oilfield trash, expatriate characters who washed up there in the oil patch from 1960 to 2001, preview my book THE GULF “Reaping the Whirlwind” at:

www.amazon.com/author/mikerichards

and download it if you have a Kindle.

Or if you prefer a real book you can order the paperback edition from:

www.thebookdepository.co.uk

The ISBN number is 978-1908147097

They offer free delivery worldwide.