I sat back from the laptop last night after sending myself the latest edit of my now combined novels. I have cut around 10,000 words from the rough draft and managed to bring both stories to their climax at the same time, which feels like something one might call an achievement. The narrative now moved back and forth from the 1980's to 2010, with some of the same characters in both strands - namely Grigory Dankovich who popped into my head eight months ago and started all the trouble in the first place.
Of course, there now begins, or rather re-starts, the process of submission pack and letter writing, which I was half way through when I decided to begin this act of union three weeks ago - thank God I am a fast worker!
To prove this point, I re-opened my lap top twenty minuets later as an idea had occurred to me. In the first book, which is still provisionally titled 'At night, all cats are grey,' there is a crime which resonates from the past to the future. It's rather nasty, as it should be, and involves a man being forced to watch his wife murdered. I won't go into details, but it's based on a true story.
When I say based, I think inspired might be a more accurate term - the seed was planted in my worryingly fertile mind some years ago, and involved my brother.
My brother and a school friend were messing about with some recording material - both now work in the film and sound recording industries respectively - and stopped off for a drink in a local but unfamiliar watering hole. It was rather a 'American werewolf in London' moment when they walked in, and they soon attracted the attention of a rather neanderthal punter, who sat down and proceeded to regal them with drunken tales. My brother surreptitiously recorded him, thinking he might prove an interesting character study (Artists are such leeches!) and the man proceeded to tell them that he and his mate liked to drive around in a van looking for Eastern European migrant workers. They would them kidnap them, take them back to his mates potato shed, string them up from the rafters and punch them until they died.
This is not the sort of chat that makes one linger over a pint, and so my brother returned later white faced with this recording.
He came in a told me about it, and I urged him to go to the police, which he did. He feared that they would brush it off, but they were very serious and investigated it at once. The outcome was that they tracked down the drunk easily enough, and when put on the spot he admitted it was all a pack of lies told to 'impress' some kids in a pub.
Now of course, my writers brain stored this away, and last night I started wondering what if that story was true, and the admission of exaggeration the lie? So I went on line and began looking for articles about migrant workers in the UK, and ones who work illegally and how they end up in that position. I also discovered that Ukrainian nationals have no right to work here, and make up the bulk of illegal migrant workers - don't forget the nice Polish and Romanian chaps who did your extension have every right to be here an work.
Ok, I thought, I see a story about a Ukrainian brother and sister, where the brother goes missing and the sister tries to find him but cannot go to the police for fear of deportation. So I found a website for the Ukrainian community in the UK, and discovered that pre-war, there was a lot of legal migration into the UK from the Ukraine at the time the USSR took over. I then saw the word Holodomor, which I did not know. I read on and discovered this is a word for an enforced famine created by Stalin that killed seven million people in 1932-33, a third of which were children. The Ukrainians are trying to have this recognized as a genocide as part of the general move to have Stalin's crimes recognized as being greater than Hitlers - this is not to diminish these, but to acknowledge that all such crimes must never be forgotten a long with the lessons of history the teach.
Well, this now started to work into a story about Ukrainians unable to work/feed themselves by the state unless they work illegally in 2001 (leaving aside the argument about whether they should be here, as in my opinion, most people would do the same if the situations were reversed to try and create a better life) and a whole nation denied the right to work/eat in 1932 - and of course the figure of the whistle blower - in the case of the famine a few journalists who tried to get the story out, and in the contemporary story someone who might help the sister but even face condemnation from their own society for helping illegal immigrants.
So I went to Amazon and looked up the word to see if I could find a history on the subject. The only book that mentions Holodomor in the title is out of print and massively expensive to buy, but turned out to be a Holodomor denier who writes that the famine never happened, that the USSR did not have control over Ukraine until after 1933 and so Stalin could not be responsible for it anyway; if there was famine it was down to the Ukrainian farm system.
Okay - so now we have nay-sayers and whistle blowers - and, ladies and gentle men, a very very big research project....