Blog Tour: Turbulent Wake by Paul E. Hardisty

From the PR: “A bewitching, powerful and deeply moving story of love, loss and grief. This extraordinary departure from the critically acclaimed thriller writer Paul E Hardisty explores the indelible damage we can do to those closest to us, the tragedy of history repeating itself and ultimately, the power of redemption in a time of change. Paul drew on his own experiences of travelling around
the world as an engineer, from the dangerous deserts of Yemen, the oil rigs of Texas, the wild rivers of Africa, to the stunning coral cays of the Caribbean.

Ethan Scofield returns to the place of his birth to bury his father, with whom he had a difficult relationship. Whilst clearing out the old man’s house, he finds a strange manuscript, a collection of vignettes and stories that cover the whole of his father ’s turbulent and restless life.

As his own life unravels before him, Ethan works his way through the manuscript, searching for answers to the mysteries that have plagued him since he was a child. What happened to his little brother? Why was his mother taken from him? And why, in the end, when there was no one left for him, did his own father push him away? ”

I’m in at the start here… first on the BlogTour for Paul E. Hardisty’s new novel Turbulent Wake. This means I’m gonna be the first to dish out the superlatives for this astoudingly affective and brilliantly written story. Let’s get to it then…

Taking a step away from the Clay Straker series, Paul E. Hardisty has delivered a richly detailed, evocative journey of a novel that was an absolute joy to read.

In my review for Hardisty’s The Evolution of Fear I stated that  what “elevates Hardisty above the pack is the sheer quality of his writing, the intelligence and complexity of the plot” along with his ability to draw on his own experiences and historical knowledge and render them as important elements in his stories, more than just setting. That still holds true: Hardisty finds the poetry in fact and transforms it into compelling and moving prose, finding its home in literary fiction with Turbulent Wake.

Hardisty has drawn on many elements of his life and knowledge to deliver a  masterpiece. Turbulent Wake threads a compelling, multi-layered story that’s enthused by vivid evocations of both time and place and told with a rich prose and narrative. As much as the world-tour of locations are masterfully detailed and bought to life and add to the story, it’s the characters that really make Turbulent Wake such a great read – their personal journeys as much as their geographical. It’s impossible not to be caught up in the life of ‘the engineer’ or his son,  to feel for their losses and root for their ‘happy’ ending as Ethan begins to understand more about his father’s life and what made him and, as a result, Ethan, end up as he did. We’re talking about a real talent here.

I really don’t want to drop any spoilers here so I’ll try and talk in broad brush strokes… but there were moments of quiet devastation in Turbulent Wake that cut me as much as those of, say Juame Cabré’s Confesssions or even recent de Bernières novels; such is the quiet grace and unassuming power that enthuses Hardisty’s prose.

Other people on this BlogTour (do check out those other stops) will, without a shadow of doubt, pour further much-deserved praise on this book and tell you that you really should read it. So let me take the position afforded to me as the first on those stops to say: Turbulent Wake is a serious contender for book of the year, it’s a novel of intense power and soul and is definitely worth getting your hands on.

My thanks to Karen at Orenda for my copy and to Anne Cater for inviting me to take part in the BlogTour.

When the sky is torn…

Claymore Straker is a man on the edge. A civilian in a dangerous land at a dangerous time. Kidnapped, held at gunpoint and lead into the depths of Yemen to be given an ultimatum by a man believed to be behind a number of terrorist acts including one which resulted in the death of Straker’s colleague. The tension is palpable and it’s only a matter of time before the inevitable eruption as Straker makes his break…

Before the old man could react, Clay bought his left knee up hard, smashing the old guy’s pelvis. The Arab’s mouth opened, the first note of a groan hanging in space, truncated an instant later as Clay’s right fist smashed into his face. Clay felt the key go in, the give as a membrane flexed, heard the slight pop as it broke, then the sucking sound as he pulled back his fist, the key with it.

Lovely, right?

abrupt physics of dyingThis is the start of The Abrupt Physics of Dying by Paul E Hardisty. It’s also the point at which you realise you haven’t put this book down for four chapters and probably won’t until you’ve reached the last page.

Having worked around the world for 25 years as an engineer, hydrologist and environmental scientist, Hardisty survived a bomb blast in a cafe in Sana’a and was one of the last Westerners out of Yemen before the outbreak of the 1994 civil war. This should come as no surprise having read Abrupt Physics… as Hardisty details Yemen, the political climate and the science with an authority that’s never questionable and with a delivery that’s polished enough to make you wonder whether he hasn’t secretly been publishing thrillers under a different name for years.

Clay Straker is  trying to forget a violent past, working as a contractor for an oil company as it seeks to expand it’s grip and presence in Yemen. His job is simple – complete the environmental surveys in a manner that gets approval for Petro-Tex and pay off any locals that need their palms greasing to remain calm. Until he’s kidnapped, of course.

Held at gunpoint and with his friend / driver taken as hostage by a terrorist organsiation, Clay is tasked with finding out what’s causing a widespread illness among the local children.

Of course we know it’s got to be something to do with the oil company but the hows and whys lead us into a world of political and corporate corruption and greed, violence and conspiracy – all set in a country on the verge of being torn apart by terrorism and civil war.

As events unravel the plot is dotted with twists and people with questionable allegiances that will leave you guessing until the end all the while rooted in strong, compelling characters and attention to culture – with dialogue liberally sprinkled with local and Afrikaans phrases to add further to the sense of immersion.

Everything you look for in a good thriller is here in abundance: a brooding hero with a troubled past, faraway locations, shady characters with even shadier motives, a love-interest, taught dialogue, corporate and moral deceit, the underdog risking it all with potentially disastrous ramifications, plot twists and counter twists and, of course, a bit of action.

The violence comes hard, fast and often. Straker takes so many and so severe a beating at times it’s hard not to wince while reading and wonder just how much one man can take. However, unlike so many thrillers which rely purely on such violence and action, The Abrupt Physics of Dying is driven instead by a compelling plot and well-crafted story telling, with near-poetic descriptions in some of the most unlikely of places:

A tendril of blood trickled from the dead soldier’s neck, a thread unravelling, scrawling a strange calligraphy onto the sand.

That being said, I do think it could find itself with an honourable mention in the Literary Review’s Bad Sex In Fiction Awards for the line “She was as slick as a tidal flat in a flood tide”.

This isn’t a no-brain, thirst-for revenge type thriller. At the heart of The Abrupt Physics of Dying lies an exploration of just how far corporate greed will go in its neglect of morals. As Clay questions his own morals and values its hard not to do the same. The atrocities and body count not celebrated but lamented and the concern for the damage being wrought on the local population reads as genuine.

So: Thriller? Thriller with a conscience? Eco-thriller? Geo-political thriller? How about bloody good book? It’s all of these.

In his first book Hardisty has created a thriller as assured, gripping, well paced and finely detailed as they come.  There’s a sequel in the works, The Evolution of Fear. Judging by the first chapter included in ‘Abrupt Physics’, it can’t come soon enough. 2016 seems a long way off now.

A great first publication from Orenda Books from whom I’m sure more greatness will arrive.