<![CDATA[ - Author Blog]]>Sat, 17 Feb 2018 12:47:36 -0800Weebly<![CDATA[Clive Cussler]]>Sun, 28 Jan 2018 11:01:34 GMThttp://cjryall.com/author-blog/clive-cusslerPicture
Many authors, over the years, have inspired me in my writing, including Stephen King, Dan Brown, John Grisham, Barry Eisler, Barry Lancet, Matthew Reilly, Clive Cussler, Rob Parnell and so on. Dan Brown taught me to start my novel with a bang (a murder or assassination for example). Matthew Reilly gave me the idea of using a book (or diary in this case) within a book. Stephen King provided lessons on fleshing out characters and making them seem real. Barry Eisler and Barry Lancet gave me great insight into writing about Japan; living in Japan for twenty years helped me, too, of course. But one of the key events in my book is the discovery of a hoard of treasure looted during World War Two by Japanese agents seeking to help Japan finance the war effort. Nobody has been as inspirational as Clive Cussler when it comes to writing about such kinds of adventures. Today’s blog is about Clive Cussler.
 
Clive Cussler was born in 1931 in Illinois in the United States, and grew up in California. He served in the Air Force during the Korean War as an aircraft mechanic and flight engineer. After the war, back in the States, he became a copywriter and later a creative director for two major advertising agencies. Cussler was also an award-winning writer and producer of television commercials. However, his real career began in 1965 when he started writing action novels. His debut novel, published in 1973, was called The Mediterranean Caper (also known as Mayday!) and featured the protagonist Dirk Pitt. Pacific Vortex, a novel written later in 1983, is a prequel to this initial book about Dirk Pitt. The first book I read featuring this character was Sahara, and I was hooked immediately. I began reading any and every Clive Cussler book I could find, which had Dirk Pitt as its main character.

However, Clive Cussler doesn’t limit himself to writing just action novels, but is also the author of several non-fiction books and two Children’s books as well. Cussler’s books have made the New York Times best-seller list more than 20 times. His action novels comprise five different series, based on the characters they portray, and these are the Dirk Pitt Adventures, The NUMA (National Underwater & Marine Agency) Files, The Oregon Files, Isaac Bell Adventures and Fargo Adventures. In total, he has written almost 80 books so far over the course of his career as a writer. One of his non-fiction books, The Sea Hunters, was published in 1966 and resulted in him being awarded a Doctor of Letters degree from the Maritime College in the State University of New York, as it was considered a Ph.D. thesis.
Clive Cussler is also the founder of the National Underwater & Marine Agency (NUMA), a non-profit organization focused on American maritime and naval history. As a writer, I am fascinated by the way Cussler writes historical fiction, weaving real history into the plots of his novels. I have tried to replicate this in my debut novel, The Gold of the Rising Sun.
 
NUMA’s marine experts, along with an army of volunteers, have discovered over 60 underwater wrecks that are considered to be historically significant. The rights to these wreck sites and their artifacts are then turned over to museums, universities, other non-profit organizations and sometimes various government bodies. He has received the Naval Heritage Award from the U.S. Navy Memorial Foundation for his efforts. Naturally, Cussler is a fellow in the Royal Geographic Society in London and the American Society of Oceanographers, as well as the Explorers Club of New York. He doesn’t just write adventure novels, but is an adventurer in real life. This is a trait that began early in his life, evidenced by being awarded the rank of Eagle Scout at the age of 14.
It’s this sense of adventure that makes his action novels such a thrill to read. Dirk Pitt, undoubtedly his most famous action character, chases adventure with every chance he gets. Some of the most well known Dirk Pitt adventures include Cussler’s debut novel The Mediterranean Caper, Iceberg, Raise the Titanic (which sealed Cussler’s reputation as an action/thriller writer), Treasure, Pacific Vortex!, Treasure of Khan, Cyclops, Dragon, Deep Six, Inca Gold, Atlantis Found, Trojan Odyssey, Night Probe! and Sahara (which has been turned into a Hollywood movie starring Matthew McConaughey). Like Matthew Reilly, Cussler’s fiction novels are fast paced with spectacular action and fantastic plots. Dirk Pitt is often seen as similar to other famous action heroes like James Bond and Indiana Jones.
Apart from Dirk Pitt, Cussler’s other novel series include the characters Kurt Austin (The NUMA Files), the fictional leader of NUMA’s Special Assignments division; Juan Cabrillo (The Oregon Files); Isaac Bell, a tough, no-nonsense investigator working for the Van Dorn Detective agency in the early 20th century (allegedly based on the real-life Pinkerton detective agency); and Sam and Remi Fargo, a husband and wife treasure-hunting team that go off in search of long-lost treasure, solving mysteries and getting into strife along the way.
Typically, an adventurer like Clive Cussler also loves cars, and Cussler maintains an amazing collection of classic cars, some of which are written into his novels. Cussler’s daughter Teri manages the Cussler museum in Colorado where many of his cars are kept on display. These include convertibles from the 1950’s and cars with some of the finest custom coachwork. Notable amongst his collection are a Rolls Royce Silver Ghost, a Mercedes Benz 630K, a Packard V-12, a Cadillac V-16 Roadster and even a Ford Cabriolet Hot Rod.
If you are not already a Clive Cussler fan, and are looking for a great action novel, I highly recommend his books. Start with the Dirk Pitt series – they’re my favorite. Have a great week and best wishes.
 
Kind regards

Chris

See you on the shelf!
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<![CDATA[Hideki's Diary: Chapter 12]]>Sat, 30 Dec 2017 08:00:00 GMThttp://cjryall.com/author-blog/hidekis-diary-chapter-12Picture
After leaving Cam Ranh Bay, Hideki’s ship followed the Yamato and the Musashi out into the South China Sea. Gradually, the two warships turned north and began to sail up towards China.

Burdened by guilt, Hideki took a stroll on deck. The captain saw Hideki and handed him some documents on China and Hong Kong – their next destination. Hideki read them later in his cabin, learning both his Chinese contact’s name and a little bit of history about Hong Kong. They passed Macao on the port side, and then finally sailed into the territorial waters of Hong Kong.

On the horizon loomed the massive Chinese mainland, and the large southern city of Guangzhou, also known as Canton. The sun was just setting, casting a golden glow over Victoria Harbor as they entered its deep waters. It was the deep water and the protection that the harbor offered which made Hong Kong so popular. Originally called Hong Kong Harbor, it was renamed Victoria Harbor by the British in honor of their Queen. Hong Kong was, after all, ceded to Britain in the Treaty of Nanking in 1842.

According to the captain, their port was called Kowloon, meaning ‘nine dragons’ in Chinese. Ironically it wasn’t on the island of Hong Kong itself but rather across the harbor from it on the southern tip of the Chinese mainland, although it was regarded as being part of the Hong Kong area. Hideki was surprised to see just how built up the whole area was; there were people everywhere – so many in fact that it reminded him briefly of Kobe or Yokohama. While many of the buildings were distinctly English in form and appearance, there were hundreds of Asian rickshaws visible along the docks and waterfront, all manned by eager Chinese ‘drivers’ ready to haul their passengers to their destination with haste.

The British residents were either in ‘prisoner of war’ camps or had already been shipped back to Japan to work as slave labor in war factories. It was rumored that thousands of Chinese women were forced to work as ‘comfort women’ for Japanese soldiers, and the Chinese men were herded into local labor camps. It was with some discomfort then that Hideki read that his contact was in fact one of those Chinese men, separated from his family, and put to work in the service of the Japanese troops; meanwhile his wife and daughter were apparently ‘prostituted’ in one of the many hastily prepared ‘war-brothels’. ‘The spoils of war’, he wrote in his memoirs.

His contact’s name was Zhi Tsui. As Hideki strode onto the dock that day, his senses were immediately assailed on all sides by the sights and sounds of Kowloon, Hong Kong. Shouts in both Japanese and Chinese raged all around him, as people rushed around to various orders and commands. While many of the Japanese soldiers wore caps, the Chinese were either bald or they wore conical straw hats and were mostly dressed in white. His men gathered around, and together they disembarked and waited on the dock.

Within moments a Chinese man of about forty with a shaved head slowly separated himself from the mayhem and approached Hideki. He resembled a Buddhist monk in his appearance, making Hideki think back for a moment to the tragedy at Cam Ranh Bay. The feeling passed, and he nodded in response as the Chinese man bowed low before him. To his astonishment, the contact introduced himself in flawless Japanese.

Having made such formal introductions he briefly mentioned the weather, which is the correct thing to do in Japanese etiquette, and Hideki was impressed. Zhi Tsui then directed Hideki and his senior officer to a waiting car, with Hideki’s men climbing into a truck that was idling just behind. Hideki was just thankful that he didn’t have to ride in a rickshaw, as he saw many of the soldiers from his ship doing. The captain had approved shore leave and many of them were off to see the local shops, restaurants and women.     The ship was going to be in town for a couple of days while supplies were loaded for their troops in Shanghai. This gave Hideki time to achieve his mission in Hong Kong. They eased away from the dock and into the throng of people, the horn being applied liberally to clear a path. Zhi Tsui explained that they were heading down Nathan Road into central Kowloon, where Hideki would meet the Japanese commander.
An hour later, upon leaving the Japanese military office, Zhi Tsui escorted Hideki and his two officers to a nearby warehouse. The shipment of oil, rubber and steel that had been prepared for Hideki’s arrival was visible as soon as they walked inside. There were also four large heavy-duty chests, full of gold and jewels. Zhi Tsui explained that it had been gathered from several banks, businesses and private holdings.
           
The amount of treasure was considerable, and the gold itself was worth a small fortune. Hideki thanked him very much. His contact smiled and then bowed low and formally, expressing his desire to see peace between Japan and Hong Kong in the future. He then further explained that the treasure was a collection of gold and jewels and precious artifacts from China, as well as some English and Portuguese gold that had been gathered over time. Hideki was extremely grateful and bowed to Zhi Tsui again, thanking him. It was certainly generous. He had his soldiers carry the chests out to the British army truck. Zhi Tsui escorted them back to the dock area, where Hideki’s officers stepped away to supervise the men as they loaded the gold onto the ship.
           
Suddenly, standing beside Hideki, Zhi Tsui whispered that he had a business proposition. Hideki knew that something had been on his contact’s mind since he had first laid eyes on him. He already had an idea of what Zhi Tsui might want to request, namely Hideki’s assistance with liberating his wife and daughter. He spoke to Hideki softly, imploring him as much with his manner as with his words. He confided that he knew where there may be more gold. He suggested that as Hideki still had time left in Hong Kong, they could help each other. Hideki asked him what he wanted, and as he suspected, Zhi Tsui begged him to use his influence and free his family.
           
Hideki fought to remain patient. Then Zhi Tsui said that he knew about the monk at Cam Ranh Bay, and that Hideki shouldn’t feel bad because it was the monk’s choice to die that way. He added however that Hideki could redeem himself and ease his guilt by doing something good for someone else, an act of kindness, such as arranging the release of Zhi Tsui’s family. On one hand, Hideki wanted to hit him and scold him for such bold words. But on the other hand, he desperately wanted to do something that might assuage his conscience. Also, being Japanese, Hideki believed in Buddhism and wanted some good karma. So Hideki relented and asked Zhi Tsui what he had to offer. And that’s when he told Hideki that Hong Kong used to be a favorite base for pirates.
It sounded like a child’s wild adventure, but his contact assured him that this was no fantasy and that he had recently acquired knowledge of a ‘very real’ hoard of gold. He had waited for this opportunity to retrieve it, as he didn’t want it for himself but rather to free his wife and daughter. Besides, he admitted, even if he had retrieved it himself somebody would have seen him and it would have been confiscated. Hideki decided to trust him at his word. After all, he was a Buddhist monk. He informed the captain that he would once again need some men for another ‘quick mission’. The captain was surprised, but asked no questions. With a stern look that reminded Hideki of some of his Yakuza colleagues, the captain told Hideki that he had twelve hours to be back on the ship.
           
Half an hour later, Hideki and his men were accompanying Zhi Tsui on a Chinese junk boat to the island of Hong Kong. It was expected to take only an hour or so, and as it was already nighttime, most of Hideki’s men tried to get some shuteye. Zhi Tsui said that his job as a monk included counseling, and that he offered counseling for the bereaved, and also guided those who have strayed from the path. He looked at Hideki meaningfully.
           
The monk explained that pirates often had support from coastal villages and that they existed in a kind of symbiotic relationship – they both needed each other’s help from time to time. The pirates needed a base and the villagers occasionally needed supplies. The pirates were extremely powerful, and at their peak had over a thousand pirate ships and almost a hundred thousand men. They sometimes defeated the Qing dynasty’s navy in sea battles, but the modern British navy finally defeated them. He said that some of their ships were destroyed, and many damaged, and that they took refuge there on Hong Kong Island. One of the ships was a treasure ship, and the men were all badly wounded. They didn’t want the treasure to fall into mainland Chinese or British hands, so they had the local villagers assist them to hide the treasure in a place that wouldn’t be searched.
           
He told Hideki that both the Chinese authorities and the British navy searched the entire Hong Kong area, but they couldn’t find the treasure. Villagers were interrogated but revealed nothing. Frustrated, the authorities finally gave up the search. For whatever reason, the pirates never dug up the gold. Hideki believed him because the monk knew that if he couldn’t find the treasure, he wouldn’t get his family back.
           
They landed on the actual island of Hong Kong and quickly commandeered an army jeep and a truck that weren’t being used. Zhi Tsui drove the jeep, while Hideki’s senior officer drove the truck with their men in it. There was no chance of an ambush, Hideki wrote in his diary, because the trip hadn’t been planned. As they drove Zhi Tsui explained that the British navy eventually discovered the remains of the treasure ship, and the bodies of some of the pirates who died, along with the only clue to the treasure’s location. Written in the pirate’s own blood on a cave wall was ‘Heung Kong Tsai’.
           
The story goes that Hong Kong got its name from an error in communication. Apparently the British military were once interrogating some coastal villagers many years before, and one of the questions that came up was the name of the island. The villagers misunderstood the question, and instead told them the name of their village, Heung Kong Tsai. Hence, the British called the entire island Hong Kong after that.
           
The pirates’ bloody clue was a reference not to Hong Kong Island, but to the village from where the name originated, according to Zhi Tsui. He said that was where the gold was buried. The village of Heung Kong Tsai had been renamed Aberdeen a century before. Zhi Tsui drove down the main coastal road of Aberdeen, which was actually quite a large place. There were hundreds of sampans bobbing to and fro in the harbor to the right, and it looked as though the hills to the left were home to thousands of little houses and shacks. He drove the jeep past a large dark patch on the left side of the road, landward. There were no lights whatsoever, and Hideki wondered if it was a park or some Chinese gardens. Zhi Tsui slowed down and then a minute later he stopped. He smiled at Hideki and alighted from the vehicle. After briefly looking around Hideki ascertained that the area was in fact a very large cemetery, built right across the road from Aberdeen Harbor.
Zhi Tsui confessed that a few years ago, just before the war began, an old man came to him for spiritual guidance at the Buddhist Temple. He told the monk that he had lived on the sea, which is not unusual in Hong Kong, and that he wanted to be buried in the cemetery next to the harbor. He added that he wanted to be just like his ancestors.
           
Zhi Tsui guessed that his ancestors might have indeed been pirates, because of the tattoos on the man’s arms, one of which bore the Chinese characters for Heung Kong Tsai. He requested to be buried in the Aberdeen cemetery, in a plot of land that he had bought next to ten others. All of the ten were unnamed graves, but well looked after. Coincidentally there were ten bodies recovered from the pirate cave by the British navy. He had said, very oddly, that he wanted to achieve ‘Golden Enlightenment’. There’s no such thing as ‘golden enlightenment’, Zhi Tsui told Hideki. But the man had paid the monk a lot of money, in gold. In fact, he paid about ten times the usual amount, and no regular fisherman or person who lives on a sampan could have afforded that. He had also referred to the village as Heung Kong Tsai, not Aberdeen. The burial itself was a secret affair, conducted by ‘unknowns’.
           
Hideki’s officers and men had exited the truck and joined them as they spoke. Turning on his flashlight, Zhi Tsui pulled a piece of paper from his pocket, and then turned and pointed ahead. He explained that he was the Buddhist priest who performed the death rites for the man, and still had a record of where his grave was. Aberdeen cemetery is huge, and the graves are positioned side by side all the way up the terraced hillside, numbering in the many thousands. If the dead could ever sit up, a creepy thought to be sure Hideki wrote, they would have a wonderful view out over Aberdeen Harbor.
           
They had gone about half way up the steep slope when Zhi Tsui halted, consulted his piece of paper again, and then turned left and began walking along a flat, horizontal path. After a few minutes of this, he stopped. Hideki looked at where the monk shone his torch, and there on the gravestone of the man whose death Zhi Tsui had presided over were engraved the Chinese kanji characters for Heung Kong Tsai. Ostensibly it was a tribute to the place in which he spent his final years, but the village had been called Aberdeen for over a hundred years. Zhi Tsui opined that it was no coincidence the old man had deliberately used the same name that had once been scrawled on a cave wall, in dead pirate’s blood, so long ago. It was as clear as any X on a pirate map, he told Hideki.
Then he shone the torchlight over the ten graves lined up beside the pirate’s gravestone, all unmarked. Slowly Zhi Tsui turned around to Hideki, and simply nodded. That was the place. Hideki turned to his soldiers and told them to dig. All of the soldiers had carried up digging tools, which were ‘borrowed’ from a tool shed near the base of the hillside cemetery. It was tough at first but the ten unmarked graves were only covered in grass and soil, not hardened dirt or rock. An hour later they took a break; it was midnight and much cooler at that time than earlier in the day. After continuing again, it wasn’t long before the soldiers struck something… wooden. Hideki wrote that Zhi Tsui looked like a frightened but excited boy as he ran over to inspect. Changing from a shovel to a garden spade, he assisted in exposing the surface of the coffin. Work had stopped on all the other gravesites as the other soldiers gathered around to look. Finally the last patch of dirt had been removed, revealing the surface of an old style wooden coffin.
           
Everyone held their breath as the lid was lifted off, and then a big groan of disappointment sounded around the group. Zhi Tsui looked the most crestfallen, as he had a lot riding on this. A very heavy silence dropped like a shroud, when Hideki suddenly recalled what had happened in Rangoon, Burma. He ordered the coffin removed from the grave. Everyone looked doubtful but they did as they were told. Finally the coffin was lifted up and out of the hole. Visible below was a cloth sack.
           
The entire group was stunned, including Zhi Tsui. Suddenly the men yanked out the cloth sack. Being so old, it ripped open and a shower of gold, silver, rubies, emeralds and pearls as well as some ivory and coral carvings rained down into the grave. Despite it being so late and quiet and dark, everyone gave a little cheer. The troops practically ran back to the other graves and continued digging. Zhi Tsui put a hand over his mouth, his body trembling, as he realized two things: the mystery of the buried pirate treasure had been solved, and if Hideki Tanaka kept his word, the monk’s family would be freed.
           
The work that night produced nine sacks of treasure. As Zhi Tsui had suspected, the old man who came to him at the temple had indeed known about the treasure, and had used some of it – one sack to be precise. It will never be known if he was the descendant of the original villagers of Heung Kong Tsai, or a direct descendant of the pirates themselves, as records weren’t kept back then, but Zhi Tsui would never forget him.
           
He became teary when Hideki assured him that he would keep his promise about freeing his family. He had to physically stop the monk from bowing to him, but something inside Hideki felt a little better too. Part of his guilt felt relieved, he wrote. He left Zhi Tsui some gold for him and his family to survive on (and to help compensate them for their pain and humiliation in the island brothels). Hideki asked him to donate part of it to both his own temple and the site in Rangoon where the monk there and some of his men had died. Zhi Tsui told him it would be done. By the time they said farewell to each other the following morning, Zhi Tsui’s wife and daughter had already been released. Hideki had insisted. He returned to his ship satisfied that the mission had been a success for both men.
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<![CDATA[HIdeki's Diary: Chapter 11]]>Thu, 30 Nov 2017 08:00:00 GMThttp://cjryall.com/author-blog/hidekis-diary-chapter-11Picture
             Hideki’s ship sailed with the Yamato and the Musashi to French Indochina. The French called it that when they controlled the region in the 1800’s. It comprised three countries, namely Laos, Vietnam and Cambodia, all under French control until 1940.
           
During that year, Japan arranged with France to station troops in northern Indochina. Trouble began when Japan was allowed to station more troops in southern Indochina. This led to protests by the United States, as well as Britain and Holland. These countries froze Japanese assets under their control and the United States even imposed oil embargoes on Japan. Japan suddenly had no access to oil supplies as oil deliveries from the Dutch East Indies had also been cancelled. The Japanese government declared that this was why it was forced to go to war, and why it chose to bomb Pearl Harbor – in retaliation for the oil embargo. It hadn’t realized that it had just woken a sleeping bear.
           
Japan quickly moved to take complete control of Indochina. However, it suited the Japanese authorities to leave the French in power as a puppet government, while Japanese military administrators controlled the country from behind the scenes. The Japanese soon established military dominance in the area, and transferred troops in to a large garrison that had been built in Cambodia. By 1941, Japan also controlled Saigon and had taken over the Cam Ranh Bay naval base. Cam Ranh Bay, on the southeast coast of Vietnam, was Hideki’s next port of call. His ship arrived there on the 5th of October 1943.

Hideki was surprised to see so many Japanese warships gathered there, and the sight of so many Japanese flags almost made him feel at home again. With such a heavy Japanese presence in the area, he felt more at ease with his mission there. As they sailed into the harbor, with the Yamato proudly leading the way, there were many shouts of “Banzai!”
           
Joining the captain on the bridge, he was informed that Cam Ranh Bay was one of the most picturesque deep-water harbor ports in Asia. As they finally docked, he walked back to his cabin with a sense of confidence that this would be a simple, straightforward mission. His contact was a French man by the name of Andre Durante, who had been living in Vietnam for the last decade. He spoke both Vietnamese and his native French, but needed someone to translate it into Japanese. The captain informed Hideki that one of their men, Takahashi, had lived in France as a boy and spoke French fluently.
Takahashi was already waiting for Hideki as he strode down onto the docks of Cam Ranh Bay, along with Hideki’s senior officer and a dozen troops. A diminutive looking Vietnamese youth ran up and delivered a message to Hideki. It was written entirely in French, which Takahashi translated for him. Apparently Durante had been researching some religious archaeological site for the past ten years, and claimed that he has discovered the existence of some artifacts that may be worth a lot of money, and mentioned the possibility of gold. However, he couldn’t get near the site anymore due to the presence of Japanese soldiers and religious monks.

He offered Hideki half of the loot and proposed a meeting that night in town. He wrote that if Hideki was not happy with that, he could just proceed to a French-based bank in Nha Trang, where apparently some gold, oil, rubber and steel had been prepared and was ready to pick up. He seemed to have some authority there and supplied the address. He advised Hideki to do this in any case, as that would fulfill his official responsibility for this mission. However, he assured Hideki that this was a paltry sum compared to the treasure that existed under the historical religious site. Hideki consulted his senior officer who seemed to think that it would be a good idea to pursue this further.

On one hand Durante appeared generous in his offer, but Hideki was also aware that without help, the French man couldn’t access the supposed treasure at all. On the other hand, Durante could simply wait it out until the war was over, and dig up the treasure then. The only risk was not knowing whose hands the country would be in after the war – French or Japanese – assuming the war ever ended. After organizing two trucks from the troop commander at Cam Ranh Bay, Hideki, his senior officer, Takahashi and their Japanese troops drove fifty kilometers north to the town of Nha Trang.
Ruins of towers that were built centuries before could be seen on a hilltop just north of the town. They were part of the religious site that the French contact had referred to in his note. They stopped at the address provided, in front of the French-based bank. While it was officially closed, there was a bank officer inside. He was an effeminate Vietnamese man who spoke rapid, fluent French. Takahashi translated, and after showing the man the letter from Durante, they were shown inside. The bank was deserted, obviously closed for business during this time of war, and it was completely empty of staff and furniture. But locked inside the huge vault was a briefcase full of gold bullion, three barrels of crude oil, a large crate of scrap metal – mostly steel, and a couple of boxes of rubber collected from various places. The goods were carried outside and placed in the rear of the trucks but Hideki held onto the briefcase of gold. After it was all loaded onto the ship, they returned to Nha Trang with a larger troop of men.
           
That evening, after dinner in town, just three of them approached the rendezvous point for meeting the French contact – Hideki, his senior officer, and his translator. However the area seemed to be deserted. Guns in hand they scanned the surrounds. A bush moved behind them and the French contact, Andre Durante, emerged with his own gun. He spoke in smooth flowing French and Takahashi translated his words for Hideki.

They both holstered their pistols, and discussions began. Durante explained that a famous local religious site, the historical Cham Towers, existed not far from there. Hideki suggested that he take them there. On the way to the site itself Durante told Hideki that there were originally eight towers, dating back to sometime between the eighth and the thirteenth centuries, and that they were built to commemorate a famous woman, Po Nagar. She was revered by the people, and often referred to as the Goddess Mother.
           
Buried with her in her tomb was a large assortment of treasure that she could take with her into the next world, according to Durante. However he was frustrated because the Japanese military authorities were using the towers for security purposes, and refused to let Durante anywhere near the place. Hideki agreed to escort him inside along with his own Japanese men. Hence they drove back to town first and then Hideki’s men followed them in a second truck. As they neared the site, Hideki realized that as he had had no meeting with any military administrators in Cam Ranh Bay, he held no official papers of authorization. But he did have his official papers from General Tojo’s office in Tokyo.   As they reached the checkpoint, he got out of the vehicle and his senior officer joined him so that the guards could see their officer’s uniforms. The guards saluted them, but then also looked behind them and saw Durante. Hideki said he was using Durante as his guide, and added that he was there on official orders from General Tojo, and showed him General Tojo’s letter. The guard immediately opened the gate and let them pass.
Breathing a sigh of relief, they continued on through to the base of the towers. They then walked the last short distance to the foot of the ancient towers, bathed in an orange light from a large number of floodlights set up around the base. Durante explained that the Japanese troops had purposely lit up the towers, and camped there, knowing that any western planes wouldn’t bomb such an ancient, religious, historical site. Hence they felt safe but security was tight, and only local monks and priests were allowed in there to carry on religious duties, he explained. Hideki wondered just how the monks and priests would react to them hauling out ancient religious treasure from their sacred shrine.
           
Barely a moment later a nearby monk, upon seeing Durante, became angry and started yelling at him. The monk accused Durante of intent to steal artifacts from the site. The senior Japanese officer ran over, and Hideki told him that the monk was causing a fuss unnecessarily. He ushered the furious monk away. Durante led them around the back of the structure, where there seemed to be a staircase descending under the main towers.   They followed Durante down, carrying lanterns to light the way. The passageway was solid and well built, but there was a lot of dust in the air, and Hideki couldn’t help but cough continually. Takahashi didn’t seem to be affected by the dust, and Durante held a handkerchief to his mouth. They entered a kind of antechamber, with images of Buddha carved into the walls. Ducking down to pass through a narrow, arched entrance, they entered a larger room, which had nothing in it but a solid stone altar. There were no other exits, and Hideki briefly wondered if Durante had made a mistake. He said something in French, and Takahashi said that the Frenchman needed some help to move the altar.
           
Durante insisted that, as crazy as it sounded, a secret staircase existed beneath it. It must have weighed a ton! After a massive effort by all of Hideki’s men combined, the heavy rock altar moved; and true to Durante’s word, a dark stairwell was revealed below.
           
However the movement of the heavy altar also stirred up a lot of dust, and once again Hideki began coughing, this time without a break. He quickly exited the room into the smaller antechamber, where the air was undisturbed. Breathing in a huge lung full of stale air, he reentered the main room, and saw that the men had finished moving the altar.
           
Durante, with a sparkle in his eye, beckoned Hideki to the edge of the stairwell and they peered down. It was pitch black, and they descended into darkness, until their lanterns lit up a room about the same size as a small temple. The ancient walls were solid stone blocks and there were thousands of images and strange illegible words carved into them, but it was what was in the center of the room that captured Hideki’s attention.
           
Beautifully crafted golden statues of a woman, perhaps of Po Nagar, as well as golden likenesses of Buddha, various religious artifacts made of gold, encrusted with jewels, and traditional bowls full of rubies, emeralds, diamonds filled the room.
           
Unfortunately they were all covered in a fine coat of dust, and as soon as Durante began picking things up, the dust rose into the air and Hideki began coughing repeatedly again. He suddenly felt as if he couldn’t breathe, and he panicked. He ran up the stairs to the room above. However dust rose up off the stairs as he climbed them, making him cough even more. So he walked back up to surface level, the clean night air making its way into his lungs. His senior officer and Takahashi followed him out of the entrance to see if he was okay. Thanking them, he noticed a monk with a miserable expression and a particularly bulky cloak walk past them towards the entrance. He bowed as he passed them and they assumed he wanted to go down and check that nothing had been damaged.
           
Something struck Hideki as odd, he wrote, but he couldn’t decide what exactly. Then out of the corner of his eye he saw other monks hurriedly walking out the main gate of the compound. It seemed too coincidental with the other monk going down into the chamber at the same time. A horrible thought then occurred to him but he quickly dismissed it as paranoia, which he regretted afterwards. He wrote that he would never forget suddenly seeing the entranceway shake to and fro, as an almighty roar rose up from below them.
           
The ground below shook violently, enough to make them lose their balance, and the three of them fell over together. There was an awful rumble echoing from below, and Hideki knew then what had been odd about the monk. His cloak had been stacked with explosives, and his face was miserable for a good reason. He was on a mission, a suicide mission; a one-way ticket to hell or wherever, and he was taking his victims with him. He stumbled back in horror as he thought about what had just happened down there. His senior officer just stood there stunned and Takahashi swore under his breath in shock.
           
Hideki scrambled to his feet, but his two men held him back from the entrance. He couldn’t enter the hidden entrance anyway, as dust was pouring out of it like smoke from a burning building. As the dust hit him in the face, he had to turn away before he started coughing again. Hideki spun around to look at the gate, but the monks were long gone. Running towards him was the high-ranking officer with a troop of men, panicked looks on their faces. Hideki quickly explained what he thought had happened, and the officer barked orders to his men. A few of them had brought makeshift gas masks to protect them against the dust, and with bright flashlights, they entered the dark chamber.
           
A few moments passed, and then footsteps were heard from below. Two men, still wearing gas masks, emerged from the dusty entrance. They shook their heads and confessed that they couldn’t get through. They had called out but there was no response. They further explained that the bottom of the altar had been destroyed and once again partially covered the stairwell. However, from what they could see, the stairwell had caved in on itself and it would take days to excavate. Any survivors would be trapped.
           
Hideki wrote that anger rose up in him like lava in a volcano. He wanted to erupt, to explode, to release his anger, but there was nobody to direct it at. In frustration he swore and resorted to kicking the ground like a mad man. He knew that Durante and his men were probably dead, but the officer promised that his troops would work through the night, just in case any of the men below had survived and were simply unconscious. However Hideki had had a schedule to maintain. Accompanied by his senior officer and Takahashi, he returned to the ship and the three of them gave a report to the captain. They sailed away that day in silence.
           
In a footnote added later, Hideki wrote that he had since heard that three of the men did in fact survive, and they were shipped back to Japan to recuperate. However, he couldn’t stop thinking about the monk who gave his life to protect religious relics; on one hand it made him furious to think that he had killed others in the process, but on the other hand, he reflected on the monk’s courage. He had made the ultimate sacrifice and given up his own life to protect that which he probably supposed belonged to the Gods. A Japanese soldier or monk doing the same thing in Japan would be considered a hero. It also made Hideki wonder about all the other treasure he had taken so far, and how much it had mattered to the people from whom it was taken. This represented the first real failure on his mission, and together with the terrible loss of his men, he felt severely depressed. For the first time since leaving Japan, he felt racked by guilt and self-doubt.
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<![CDATA[All Hallows Eve]]>Wed, 11 Oct 2017 10:06:20 GMThttp://cjryall.com/author-blog/all-hallows-evePicture
I'd like to share with you a story, written as a narrative poem, about Halloween on the North York moors. I was going to leave Halloween until the end of the month, as is traditional, but considering that this Friday is Friday the 13th, I felt that posting it on that particular day was more fitting. So for my author blog this month, here is a piece of halloween-themed narrative poetry called All Hallows Eve. I hope you enjoy it. Have a Happy Halloween, and best wishes, Chris

All Hallows Eve

In the cold, barren, North York Moors, where 'it never rains but it pours', the mist was thick and low.  
As far as the eye could see, all the way to the bleak North Sea, the place seemed full of woe.
It was a two-tone landscape, and there seemed to be no escape, from the desolate terrain.
The endless rocky moors were grey, the same color as the day, and then it began to rain.
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But invisible to the eye, was a small valley nearby,
though it was more of a 'hollow'.
In this valley was a stone house, the front of which faced the south; from inside there was a glow.
The valley was covered in heath; a small stream existed beneath,
and an icy wind blew.
T'was a pitiless place to live, your life you would happily give,
if the devil asked you to.

It was the day of All Hallows, and in this valley of shadows, evening came early.
But inside a man was waking, much time he seemed to be taking, his expression rather surly.
His eyes were yellow, his skin was white, and he lived his daily life by night; he didn't like the sun.
Some said he had 'anemia', he filled the children with fear; they called him 'the strange one'.

His teeth were even scarier, were no dentists in the area, and his 'canines' were like fangs.
His tall body looked rather thin, like it were only bones and skin, and he suffered hunger pangs.
A window banged against its sill, and he was fixing it until, his ears caught a cry for help.
He discerned a foreign accent, his nose picked up a female scent; then he heard a kind of yelp.

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She was a Los Angeleno, who had divorced in Reno,
and loved rugged hiking.
She had been hiking there for days, and had totally lost her way,
and now her heart was spiking.
Stumbling upon the moors, exhausted she fell on all fours,
fearing she could not cope.
Suddenly he was beside her, which startled and surprised her,
and her heart filled with hope.

Long a fan of 'Wuthering Heights', she traveled there to see the sights, and her name was Catherine.
His appearance seemed like magic, but his expression looked so tragic, yet full of seduction and sin.
Irrational love is blind, and he seemed to read her mind: 'was this love at first sight?'
He held her warmly in his arms, she was seduced by his charm, and dark became the night.

Her romantic heart began to race, she felt so warm in his embrace, although he felt quite stiff,
As he bent down to her ear, he then whispered, "Do not fear, for it is me, Heathcliff."
His yellow eyes like moons, in them she felt herself swoon, around her fell his cape.
She wanted him so badly, she fell in love suddenly, madly, with no desire to escape.

He carried her back to the hollow, to stay the night until the morrow; his door closed with a thud.
And then before an open fire, they ignited their desire; a sudden rush of blood.
The last words he said to her that night, as he extinguished the fire light, were "Happy Hallowe'en",
They gave up searching the moors, when they could find nothing at all; never again was she seen.

Copyright  ⓒ  Chris Ryall  2017
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<![CDATA[Hideki's Diary: Chapter 10]]>Sat, 30 Sep 2017 12:53:39 GMThttp://cjryall.com/author-blog/hidekis-diary-chapter-10Picture
The next morning Hideki oversaw an important operation.  There was too much gold on one ship, and it needed to be distributed evenly in case of attack.  So following breakfast he supervised the ‘operation’, which consisted of dividing the gathered gold and jewels into three equal shares aboard Hideki’s ship, the Yamato and the Musashi.  Afterwards, everyone involved felt relieved that the treasure was protected more securely.
 
His next port of call was to be George Town, Penang, just off the coast of Malay.  This would turn out to be one of his strangest missions yet, and as Jack discovered upon reading it, Hideki went back to being a gangster for a brief time.  His contact’s name was George Peng, a Chinese man.  The problem with the Chinese population on Penang, as far as the Japanese were concerned, was whether or not they could be trusted.  Despite Penang being a British protectorate, over half the population of Penang were Chinese residents.  The rest of the population was made up of Malayans and Indians that were brought in to help with the burgeoning rubber industry at the time.  
 
Hideki’s ship arrived off the coast of Penang late that afternoon, and anchored just north of George Town.  The next morning, Hideki Tanaka double checked his officer’s pistol and strode down the gangplank to the docks at George Town feeling confident and ready for anything.  His contact was waiting there for him, and they bowed and exchanged greetings in the Japanese style, and then the contact introduced himself in Japanese.  He spoke like a native Japanese, and happily explained that he was fluent in Chinese, Japanese and English.  Hideki was not surprised at his confidence with English of course, as Penang had been under British control for quite a long time.

After organizing a truck for his men Hideki climbed into an army jeep with his most senior officer, Peng and his Chinese driver.  They drove into Georgetown and Peng introduced him to the Japanese commander, who handed Hideki some papers of authority with his personal seal on them.  The commander informed Hideki that Penang has a lot of tin and rubber, as well as some oil and timber, and that supplies had been arranged for shipment back to Tokyo.  Hideki thanked the commander, shared some green tea together, and then said farewell before stepping back outside with his Chinese contact. 
 
Peng pulled Hideki aside, and informed him that he knew of his reputation as the ‘gold man’.  He added that he knew where that could be obtained, too, and that it was a well kept secret.  The Japanese had conquered the island in December 1941, and the British authorities were forced to flee.  In their panic to get out before the arrival of the Japanese, they left behind a fortune in gold, jewels and local currency.  George Peng said that he’d explain the details along the way, and ushered Hideki and his most senior officer into a waiting jeep, the other men getting into the truck behind them.  He gave his assistant directions, and they drove off, the truck with Hideki’s men following closely behind.
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After being ambushed by Chinese guerrillas on Singapore, Hideki was extremely wary of trusting his Chinese contact.  Like a lot of the Singaporean Chinese, many of the Chinese men on Penang were rumored to have sent funds to support the Chinese forces when they were fighting the Japanese Imperial Army on main land China.  Hence much caution would be required on this sudden unexpected mission, Hideki knew.
 
George Peng explained that when the British won the war against the Dutch on Malaya, in 1824, the Dutch surrendered all their possessions to them.  This included a number of secret vaults hidden under the city that still contained a hoard of gold and treasure, accumulated by the Portuguese before them and by Muslim kings before them, dating back to the 1400’s when the Muslim kingdom of Malacca was established on Malaya.  The British were thrilled, never knowing that it was only half of what once existed, and whisked the hoard of gold and valuables back to Georgetown, on Penang Island.
 
Over the years it was used to finance their administrative capital on the island, as well as developing the island’s rubber and mining industries.  Hideki noticed that they had turned into a narrow street in the business district, and he looked around for any hint of sabotage or ambush.  Seeing no signs of danger he turned back to Peng, who was explaining that the British authorities hid the treasure in a basement vault when they learned of the planned Japanese invasion.  They then sealed the vault with a solid steel door, and had a Chinese locksmith secure it with a new style combination lock.  Finally they bricked in the entrance to the vault to conceal its existence.  Agents shot the locksmith several days later, to ensure that the British were the only ones with the combination, but they didn’t know that the locksmith had already confided the numbers to his friend, namely Peng.
 
George Peng wanted the building’s current tenants out of the way, so they could retrieve the riches hidden below ground.  He needed Hideki and his men to help him do that, and also to provide military explosives in order to access the vault.  They stopped and picked up the necessary explosives from a Japanese military depot on the way.  Peng wanted to split the treasure evenly between himself and Hideki, but Hideki scoffed at this and asked why it should be an even split when he and his men were doing most of the work.  Peng argued that he had provided the information of the treasure’s existence, along with the location, and that he also knew the combination of the vault door.  Hideki was impressed but by the time they had arrived at the location, he had used his skills of persuasion that he had learned as a gangster to convince Peng to take just a 25 percent share and ‘life’.  Peng was wise enough to know that 25 percent and his life were better than nothing.
 
The jeep stopped and they jumped out onto the busy sidewalk.  It only took moments for Hideki’s soldiers to storm the building and order everyone out, on the pretense that there was a bomb inside about to explode.  Chinese company workers occupying the building put up an argument until they were walked out into the street at gunpoint.  Hideki then took some more men inside, Peng leading the way.  They looked around carefully, but the interior was deserted.  All the windows had their curtains closed and they detected no movement.  Hideki’s men uncovered the false floor and placed explosives on the bricked-in entrance to the basement vault.  They all took cover in preparation for the explosion.

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Moments later a huge boom was heard outside on the street as the explosive charges were detonated.  After the dust cleared, Peng and Hideki were happy and relieved to see a stairway leading down into the vault.  As they descended, the steel door securing the vault gradually became visible, and it was the largest door that Hideki had ever seen.  However Peng, who had memorized the combination, walked up to the door and began spinning the dials on the huge locking mechanism.  After a few moments, an audible click was heard and the heavy solid steel door slowly opened on its massive hinges. 
 
Like a band of thieves, they grinned and entered the spacious underground vault.  Peng turned on the lights and Hideki gasped as he looked around.  Peng had not lied - the room glittered with gold.  Amongst the gold and valuables were many historical artifacts, paintings, sculptures and so on.  There were half a dozen crates full of ancient treasures, jewelry from the Malaccan era, gold coins showing both Portuguese and Dutch engravings, old British coins made of silver, and a myriad of other colorful gems and valuables.  Peng reminded Hideki about their agreement, and received a chest of unidentifiable gold nuggets and a box of cash in current Malayan currency.  Hideki knew that the Malayan currency was useless to Japan anyway.   He asked Peng what he would do with the money.  George Peng turned to Hideki and admitted that he ran a gambling den and a brothel, and that he bought and sold girls on the black market.  The money would be used to expand his business, set up a new brothel and stock it full of girls. Hideki couldn’t believe that the loathsome man bought and sold girls and turned them into sex slaves!  He was disgusted and decided to change the topic. 

Joshua laughed out loud reading this, and then quickly looked around, wondering if anyone had heard him. He strained his ears for any sound, but he only heard silence.  He looked back at the diary, grinning widely. He was bemused to read Hideki’s thoughts on people who sold girls for money, and tried to imagine his opinion of his grandson who was right now engaged in the human slave trade – all young Asian females. It also amused him to think of Tetsuo Tanaka’s reaction when he read these words in his grandfather’s diary at a later stage. But Joshua knew that he would probably rationalize it as a ‘sign of the times’.
 
The treasure was amazing.  Hideki’s soldiers covered the crates in cloth found in one of the boxes, and carried the concealed treasure up to the waiting trucks.  The bed of the truck sat a few inches lower over the wheels with the weight of it all as they drove back to the docks.  There, Peng and Hideki exchanged farewell greetings after it was loaded. 
 
Later that night, after the crates of valuables from Penang had been split up and loaded onto the ship and the two accompanying warships, Hideki had time to reflect with the captain on the day’s events.  Hideki was still angry with Peng for buying girls on the black market and forcing them to work in his brothel, but he admitted in his diary that the Japanese Yakuza had historically dealt in prostitution, and that young girls had often been bought or abducted to be raised and trained in Geisha houses in Kyoto.  However in Peng’s case, he felt complicit.  That night, Hideki wrote that he struggled with those thoughts in his sleep, and felt more troubled about that than all the people he had killed. 
 
Joshua heard a knock on his door, but he relaxed as he understood the word for breakfast and listened to the sound of fading footsteps.  He thought about the latest saga in Hideki’s Diary for a moment, ran through the highlights in his head, and then got dressed and went up to breakfast.  It was a beautiful day, without a cloud in the deep, blue sky.  For a moment, it was hard to tell where the sea ended and the sky began, but after a second or two, Joshua discerned the horizon.  And sitting before him at the table in front of that horizon was Hideki’s grandson, Tetsuo Tanaka, Yakuza boss, slave trader, drug runner and murderer.

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<![CDATA[John Grisham]]>Wed, 16 Aug 2017 07:22:37 GMThttp://cjryall.com/author-blog/john-grishamPicture

​​John Grisham is a writer synonymous with legal thrillers. I have just finished reading The Whistler, one of his most recent novels, and I loved it. It has a heady mixture of organized crime, legal drama, corruption, murder, American cultural references and a whole lot of money. It is realistic and has intriguing characters. Like Stephen King, John Grisham has the ability to let you into his character’s heads, and make them appear familiar to the reader. These are people whose lives you can relate to, and you can’t stop reading what happens to them when they are put into tense situations and life-threatening scenarios.

​I grew up watching police dramas on television, or ‘cops and robbers’ as I used to call them, but eventually I became more interested in the next step of the law – courtroom dramas and lawyer stories. I remember seeing old legal-drama movies such as ‘Anatomy of a Murder’ (James Stewart), ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’ (Gregory Peck), ‘The Verdict’ (Paul Newman), ‘Legal Eagles’ (Robert Redford), ‘Suspect’ (Cher), ‘And Justice for All’ (Al Pacino). However, apart from the book, To Kill a Mockingbird, I hadn’t read any good novels about lawyers and courtrooms until John Grisham came along and released his debut novel.
 
I became a John Grisham fan from reading that very first novel, A Time to Kill (1989). A few years later, I saw the movie, but the book had a much deeper impact on me. Not only did it hit right at the heart of the civil rights movement, but the hard-hitting story itself as well as the writing style of the author inspired me as a writer. I went onto enjoy reading such thrillers as The Firm, Pelican Brief, and The Client, all of which became hit movies with famous actors such as Tom Cruise, Julia Roberts and Susan Sarandon.
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​More best-selling novels were to come: The Chamber, The Rainmaker, The Runaway Jury, The Partner, The Street Lawyer, The Testament, The Brethren, The Summons, The King of Torts, The Last Juror, The Broker, The Appeal, The Confession, The Racketeer, Sycamore Row and many more. Recent novels include Rogue Lawyer (2015), The Whistler (2016), Camino Island (2017) and his soon-to-be-released novel, The Rooster Bar (October, 2017).

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​While Grisham is best known for his legal fiction, he occasionally writes non-fiction and books not related to the law. I thoroughly enjoyed his book about Ronald Keith Williamson, titled The Innocent Man: Murder and Injustice in a Small Town (2006). It’s the true story of a minor-league baseball player who was sent to death row for a crime he did not commit.  Fortunately, he was exonerated and released in 1999 thanks to help from the Innocence Project who submitted new DNA evidence.

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In addition to his novels and books, John Grisham has also released several collections of short stories. I particularly liked Ford County, containing 7 short stories about the residents of Ford County, which was the setting for his first novel, A Time to Kill. Various themes are explored in each story, such as revenge, evolution, acceptance, justice and so on.
 
John Grisham has won many awards for his writing, and his books have been translated into over 40 languages. Writers often say, ‘write what you know’, and before he was a novelist Grisham was a lawyer. Born in Arkansas in 1955, he moved with his family to Mississippi when he was just four years old. Graduating from the University of Mississippi School of Law, he practiced criminal law for about a decade, and was also served in the House of Representatives in Mississippi for six years. He is passionate about justice and baseball. He retired from law and politics when his writing career took off after the publication of his second novel, The Firm. Thankfully for those of us who love reading his books, he has been writing ever since.


See you on the shelf!

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<![CDATA[Jackson and the Dog (A post-apocalyptic excerpt)]]>Mon, 31 Jul 2017 07:00:00 GMThttp://cjryall.com/author-blog/jackson-and-the-dog-a-post-apocalyptic-excerptPicture
The post-apocalyptic scenario fascinates me, although I'm not really into the idea of zombies at all. However the concept of a lone character walking through an empty world intrigues me. Of course others may exist, but until trust is earned and friendships are made, this guy walks alone. I'd like to share an excerpt from a post-apocalyptic story I'm writing along these lines. (Set in the U.S. after the end-of-society.)

​As Jackson continued walking along the old bitumen road, what seemed to be a town began to emerge in the haze of the dust storm. The wind picked up slightly, and an old McDonalds grease wrapper bounced past his feet. McDonalds! How long had it been? Buildings started to appear on either side of him, and he instinctively reached for the gun on his hip.

That grease wrapper was a tumbleweed, he told himself. Here I am, the outlaw with no name entering town against the sheriff’s orders, six-shooters on both hips, cowboy hat just back far enough on my head to scan the windows on the second floor. He could almost hear the old western music in his head. Suddenly the wind died down, the dust was gone, and a McDonalds restaurant was visible just thirty meters ahead. The western vision vanished.
 
It was a small town, but large enough for the fast food giant to place one of its franchises there. As he walked past the burger restaurant, he saw the usual buildings that one expects to be in a town this size: the petrol station, the garage, the bank, the post office, an old supermarket, and a corner convenience store. One peek inside the super market showed it to be completely cleaned out. He continued on to the convenience store, where at least there would be a toilet. All the food was gone. The fridge was also empty. Strangely, there was still money in the open cash register, which had definitely rung up its last sale.
 
Turning and making his way down the aisle towards the toilet at the back of the store, he walked past the magazine rack. Most of the covers showed naked girls in sensual poses, many with large breasts and seductive smiles. Bizarrely, the magazine rack had not been ransacked. But then, who needs girlie mags in an apocalypse? He laughed at this thought, and the sound of his own laughter surprised him in the midst of the all-encompassing silence. He spun and headed to the bathroom, before turning around again and grabbing a magazine to take in with him.
 
Emerging from the toilet after about twenty minutes, he threw the magazine back on the rack and looked at the other covers. His lust now spent, the images of the nude girls no longer turned him on, but rather reminded him of how populated this empty world used to be. So many girls, guys, workers, colleagues, friends, family… people. Then something moved in his peripheral vision and he realized that he was not so alone after all.

​The wild dog poked its head in the door, perhaps picking up on his scent – something new in town. It looked a little like a wolf, and fearing it could be feral or rabid, he slowly reached for his revolver. The dog looked at him, but the animal’s eyes only portrayed a passive innocence mixed with a slight wariness. There didn’t seem to be any aggression evident. Its lolling tongue signaled thirst, and it didn’t run off as Jackson slowly moved toward the front counter. The fridge was empty, but he knew from his days as a part-timer in a Seven-Eleven store that spare water was kept out back near the office. If he was lucky, looters might not have known about it or bothered to search for it when the shit hit the fan.
 
He lifted the section of the service counter which workers used to access the cash register, and walked through the door labelled ‘Office’. The room that was once the manager’s office was in complete disarray, and he exited through a side door into a kind of small store room. Against all expectations, there were two large plastic barrels of water up against a wall. There was also some canned food on shelves, which he immediately piled into his backpack. Then he opened one of the barrels of water, and dipped his finger in. It tasted just fine, and he filled up his ceramic water bottles. Then he poured some into a bowl off one of the shelves, and went back to the dog. The animal backed off a little, but eyed the water. Jackson slowly put it down in front of the dog with his left hand, his right hand on the handle of his gun, just in case the wolf-like creature decided that he would be an easy meal.
 
The dog didn’t move. Jackson stepped back, but the dog just looked at him, a hopeful look in its eyes. Jackson removed his hand from his gun, and gestured towards the bowl. He also read somewhere once that if you blink, as opposed to maintaining a stare, it lets the dog know that you are a not a threat. Some people smile, a human custom, but showing one’s teeth to a wild dog is not the right message either. Jackson blinked, and relaxed his body.
 
“Go on boy, drink. It’s okay.” Whether it was his tone, or his unaggressive stance, the dog barked appreciatively and moved forward and began to lap frantically from the bowl. The whole time, Jackson stood still and observed the only living thing he had seen in days. As the dog kept drinking, Jackson looked up and scanned the street outside. Nobody. Nothing. No sign of life at all, apart from the dog in front of him. The wind picked up again and more refuse blew down along the road. The wind whistled between the buildings, but the dog’s ears didn’t indicate that anything was amiss.
 
“What should I do next, dog?” The animal glanced up at him before continuing to lap from the bowl. “Should I try and find a place in town to hole up for a while?” The dog looked at Jackson. “And what about you? Should I leave you here, abandon you, take you with me?” The dog barked once, seeming to answer the question.
 
At that moment, he saw the dog’s ears twitch and it raised its head. Jackson strained his ears but didn’t hear anything over the wind. The dog looked around, back out through the store entrance. Then Jackson heard it. A scrape… then a step! The dog emitted a very low growl, and Jackson grabbed the gun on his right hip. Removing the gun from its holster, he waited silently for another sound. After a moment, however, the dog turned back to the water bowl, dipped its head and continued drinking. Had somebody been out there? In this dead world? He wasn’t sure if he wanted to know or not. Damn it, I need to know.
 
He stepped outside the store and quickly realized that the dog was beside him. Jackson looked in all directions before walking out into the street. Amazingly, the dog stayed beside him, his ears pointing forward. Jackson proceeded to the nearest intersection and looked down each street. He saw nobody, but beside him the dog began to growl again. Somebody or something is here! Was it an animal or a human? The dog barked and Jackson almost jumped out of his skin. He followed where the dog was looking, and walked in that direction. When he reached the corner, he saw the intruder… a deer with an injured leg!
 
Jackson ran to it and the dog kept pace with him. The deer didn’t even try to run. Its leg was broken and it was in pain. It bayed at him, but Jackson knew there was nothing that he could do. Meanwhile, he and the dog were hungry and had no fresh food. The dog sat obediently next to Jackson, eyeing the deer but keeping its distance. Jackson looked around while trying to figure out what to do. Shit, there’s nothing else I can do, he thought. He raised his gun, apologized to the deer, and shot the wounded animal through the head.
 
That night, Jackson and the dog ate venison together and became a team. He named the dog, ‘Radar’, for obvious reasons. The dog’s sense of hearing and smell was much better than his and would detect anyone or anything before he could. A dog such as that could be life-saving in this new terrifying world. A kind of relief washed over him as he knew that he could relax a bit more than usual. Radar would be a good watchdog, Jackson realized, and he was also aware that it just felt good to have a living companion next to him at night.
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<![CDATA[Hideki's Diary: Chapter 9]]>Thu, 29 Jun 2017 10:58:04 GMThttp://cjryall.com/author-blog/hidekis-diary-chapter-9Picture
        Hideki’s ship, accompanied by the warships, left the port of Rangoon and sailed back into the Andaman Sea. On the evening of the following day, they anchored off the southwest coast of Thailand. Until recently the locals had referred to the their country as Siam, but after a public revolt against the king in 1938 that resulted in a constitutional monarchy, the new Prime Minister formed a military government and in 1939 renamed the country Thailand. However the Japanese referred to the country simply as ‘Tai’.
           
           Japan invaded Thailand in 1941, but in order to avoid losing their country and freedom, Thailand’s Prime Minister Phibun and his government reluctantly agreed to cooperate with the Japanese military. Thailand’s railroad system, airports and harbors immediately fell under Japanese control, and the country was used as a Japanese base from which to launch attacks on Singapore, Malaya and Burma.
           

           Despite the government’s approval, many Thai people showed resentment towards the Japanese. A secret group consisting of anti-Japanese Thai government officials, calling itself the ‘Free Thai Movement’, had been operating since 1942. It was also widely believed that these men might have been covertly working together with the allies. The Thai government in Bangkok had assured him that there was no need for concern. They had been informed of Hideki’s mission and had made the necessary arrangements. However, although the Thai government and the Japanese authorities were situated in Bangkok, the place where they would be docking and carrying out their mission was to be Phuket which was over five hundred miles to the south. Phuket is Thailand’s largest island and the country’s door to the Indian Ocean.

​            The next morning Hideki’s ship docked at the port on the southeast tip of the island of Phuket. When Hideki disembarked, his Thai contact introduced himself as Taksin. In the papers that were handed to Hideki by the captain there was a small history section, which mentioned a powerful warlord by the name of Taksin. In the eighteenth century this warlord led an army of Thai warriors against a foreign enemy and won, driving the invaders out of the country. Hideki asked the contact why he chose that name for the purpose of this mission. The contact seemed surprised, and so Hideki politely suggested that perhaps it was because his official Thai name was extremely difficult to pronounce. The contact refuted this and replied that he revered Taksin because he drove out ‘foreign invaders’, and restored peace and prosperity to Siam. His disdainful tone and expression made Hideki feel uncomfortable, and he was immediately distrustful.
 
            As Joshua read further, he learned that Hideki’s suspicions proved correct.
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           Taksin did indeed lead Hideki and his men into a trap. Their trucks were fired upon as soon as they reached a rural area, but no shots were fired at the cabins where Taksin and his men sat. Bullets tore through the canvas sides of the truck and some ricocheted off the metal frame of the back of the truck. Hideki and most of his men survived the ambush by diving to the floor of the truck, the low metal sides providing protection from the hail of bullets. However, some of his men were not fast enough to seek cover and were killed.

            Hideki vowed revenge, and he and his men began returning fire. In the ensuing shootout, the more experienced Japanese soldiers quickly annihilated their unskilled attackers, although two more of Hideki’s men died. The shocked look on Taksin’s face was sweet indeed, Hideki wrote. He then pointed his pistol at Taksin’s chest, and the Thai fell to his knees and begged for his life. Hideki gave him a minute to collect himself, after which he accused Taksin of ordering the ambush. He raised the gun to Taksin’s forehead but the Thai man boldly forced a smile and told Hideki that he’d never find the gold.

            Under the threat of torture though, Taksin admitted working for the “Free Thai Movement”, and offered to trade the gold for his freedom. Hideki agreed, and getting back in their trucks, Taksin directed them off the main road. They drove for half an hour along a dirt path to a derelict little mud brick house in the middle of an open field. It looked like it used to be a farm, but seemed overgrown and untended. Yet there were three Thai men with rifles standing out front, disguised as farmers, guarding the structure. Taksin yelled at his men to surrender.

            The gold was actually buried in a cavity beneath the floor of the hut. In addition to the gold was a small pile of precious stones – rubies and sapphires from central Thailand. Taksin’s plan was to kill Hideki and his men that day, and to keep the treasure that he had been entrusted with to pass on to the Japanese. Taksin confessed that he had planned to give most of the wealth to the “Free Thai Movement”.

            Hideki Tanaka told Taksin that as part of their deal, he would let him and his men live, but they beat them badly and then left them stranded there in the middle of nowhere. Hideki watched them disappear in the truck’s rear view mirror as he and his men left and headed back to the dock at Phuket. Night fell as the gold and stones were loaded aboard the ship. Despite the tragic loss of some men, the mission was considered a success.

​           Joshua became aware of the shock he was feeling, and whistled softly through his teeth, amazed at the ‘close shaves’ that Hideki had endured, and the lives that had been lost during his perilous mission. He decided to stop there for the night and go to sleep.

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<![CDATA[Matthew Reilly]]>Sun, 28 May 2017 07:23:49 GMThttp://cjryall.com/author-blog/matthew-reillyPicture
​Sometimes you just want to read a book for the fun of it, one of those novels that start with a bang and don’t let up. Let’s face it – there are times that we don’t want to be burdened with a heavy literary plot, a long emotional backstory, or characters with lots of baggage and personal dramas. We simply want to be entertained and enjoy a thrilling, fast-paced story with some intense action and a few unexpected twists. The author you need at those times is none other than Australian best-selling action novelist, Matthew Reilly.

http://matthewreilly.com

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​Initially, what intrigued me about Matthew Reilly was not a book, but rather reading how he as a first-time, unknown writer became a successfully published author. It was an article in a magazine about how this author managed to ‘get himself out there’. The article was partly written in support of his second novel, Ice Station. Soon after reading that, I saw the novel in an airport bookshop and picked it up. I loved it. When you’re traveling, you just want something light and fun to read, and it delivered in spades. After finishing the book, I wanted to know more about the author and I looked up his bio on the internet.

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​Matthew Reilly hails from Sydney, Australia, and studied law at university (not something usually associated with pulp fiction writers, unless you’re discussing John Grisham), during which time he wrote his first novel, Contest. To be honest it wasn’t that great a book, and being a first-time effort from a previously unpublished writer it was rejected by every major publisher in Australia. Undeterred, Matthew borrowed some money from his family and self-published his debut novel. He even went to the trouble to produce advertising material, and personally asked bookstores to help him promote his book. Some of them obliged and it caught the notice of an agent from Pan Macmillan. The publisher then offered Matthew Reilly a two-book contract (including Contest) and so the author wrote his second book, Ice Station. This was a well-written, fast paced thriller and was immediately picked up in the United States, the United Kingdom and in Germany. A fascinating start to a stellar career.

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​I was truly inspired by reading how Matthew Reilly had ‘cracked the market’ on his own. He didn’t let rejection stop him from achieving his dreams of being a published author. His grit and determination to succeed won through and with the help of Pan Macmillan, he was on his way to becoming an internationally renowned thriller writer. Many critics panned his literary style, writing that Ice Station lacked substance and depth. If critics want depth and perhaps a historical background, then they need look no further than Matthew Reilly’s period piece, The Tournament (2013) – a great novel with a skillful blend of fact and fiction.

What Ice Station didn’t lack was amazing action sequences, a frenetic pace with plenty of thrills and spills, and terrific characters such as the popular ‘Scarecrow’ otherwise known as Captain Shane Schofield. Shane Schofield, a kind of a James Bond character although more of an action figure rather than a spy, has become so popular that he even has his own Wikipedia page (see link below), and currently appears in six of Matthew Reilly’s novels.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shane_Schofield

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After Ice Station Matthew Reilly went on to write Temple, one of my favorite novels of his and a book that provided much inspiration for my own writing ideas. I particularly love how there is a book within a book, a technique that I have incorporated within my own debut novel, Gold of the Rising Sun.
http://cjryall.com/gold-of-the-rising-sun.html

Matthew Reilly then continued writing novels in the Shane Schofield series with the blockbusters Area 7 and Scarecrow. (Later came two more: Hell Island, and Scarecrow and the Army of Thieves.) He also invented another popular character, Jack West Jr, who has appeared in some of the best adventure stories ever written such as Seven Ancient Wonders (also titled Seven Deadly Wonders), The Six Sacred Stones, The Five Greatest Warriors, and his latest novel, The Four Legendary Kingdoms (2016).

Matthew Reilly has since gone on to sell over seven and a half million copies of his books, including novellas, as well as short stories, film scripts and the movie rights to some of his novels. He is finally being given the recognition he deserves, and his success is being acknowledged not only in Australia (where in 2011 his book Scarecrow and the Army of Thieves was the biggest-selling fiction title that year) but in America, England and around the world. Despite being Australian, he currently lives in Los Angeles and likes to play golf. 

One of the things that shines through in Matthew Reilly’s books is his child-like (and I mean that in a good way) love of adventure and his enthusiasm for all things Hollywood. His novels are fun and exciting because his own excitement of telling stories drives his writing. He loves movies, enjoys going to Hollywood events and collects movie memorabilia; he is in fact the proud owner of the DeLorean DMC-12 (the car in the Back to the Future franchise) and the life-size ‘Han Solo in Carbonite’ display (from the original Star Wars trilogy). 
Matthew Reilly is an inspiration to other writers, especially new writers who dream of emulating his success, and his novels are a joy to read. If you haven’t read any of Matthew Reilly’s books as of yet, I highly recommend them. You’ll love the pure escapism.
 
See you on the shelf!
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<![CDATA[Dan Brown]]>Sat, 29 Apr 2017 06:29:16 GMThttp://cjryall.com/author-blog/dan-brownPicture
In my previous blog, I wrote about Stephen King, who has without a doubt been my greatest inspiration as a writer. If you haven’t read that blog yet, you can check it out here:
 
http://cjryall.com/author-blog/stephen-king
 
Another dazzling inspiration for me was Dan Brown, an American author who has so far written seven novels. I had already read his two stand-alone novels, Digital Fortress and Deception Point, when his best-selling blockbuster The Da Vinci Code came out. I was gob-smacked by this amazing thriller. It made me restructure my own debut novel so as to start with an assassination, rather than a historical prologue or ‘back story’ that I had planned.

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​The Da Vinci Code started with action, and then kept up the high tension and pace continually throughout to the end. It inspired me to try and do the same with my novel. Another thing that fascinated me was reading in one of his subsequent interviews that he ended up using only about 10 percent of his historical research in his finished novel. One of the areas in which my debut novel lagged was in the large amount of historical background that I included. I have since cut that right down. Thank you, Dan. 

Dan Brown and I were born in the same year, 1964, although he was raised in New Hampshire, America. Interestingly, Dan began his career as a pop singer / songwriter, focusing on piano and synthesizer – so popular in the 80’s. I must admit that I was a big fan of Gary Numan in my youth, popularly known as the ‘father of the synthesizer pop / rock movement’, but I had never heard of Dan Brown at that time in my life. I was actually in a garage rock band that played cover songs from bands like AC/DC, KISS, CCR (Credence Clearwater Revival), the Rolling Stones and the Beatles. Later, while in Shizuoka, Japan, I played rhythm guitar in a band that played the same kind of songs, and we even performed at a live event in a jazz café / music hall. A live CD was made but it is not ‘easy listening’ by any stretch of the imagination! Still it was a dream for me to do that, and I ticked it off my ‘bucket list’. "Been there, done that!" LOL.
​Ironically, there is yet another similarity between Dan Brown and myself – we both became English teachers, Dan in America, and me in Japan. However, he went on to teach Spanish, and then later became an internationally best-selling novelist. I can only dream of achieving that honor one day. It was renowned novelist Sidney Sheldon who inspired Dan Brown to write novels, and the rest is, as they say, history. The Da Vinci Code went on to sell over 80 million copies, making it one of the most popular novels of all time. Another inspiration for both Dan Brown and myself is Robert Ludlum’s The Bourne Trilogy. I quote Dan Brown:
 
            “Ludlum's early books are complex, smart, and yet still move at a lightning pace. This series got me interested in the genre of big-concept, international thrillers.”
Personally, I loved the Bourne Trilogy, and thoroughly enjoyed the movies (with Matt Damon as the lead) as well. For me, great fiction requires both a strong protagonist and a gripping plot. Any less is just literary grandstanding. One of the reasons I admire Stephen King so much is due to his marvelous characters and incredible storylines. Dan Brown has achieved that with his main character, Professor Robert Langdon, and his fantastic stories.
 
I eagerly anticipate Dan Brown’s new novel, due this year, titled Origin. And in my next blog, I will discuss an author from my own country, Matthew Reilly. He is one of the most exciting Aussie writers to come along in a long time, and although critics complain about his lack of depth and cardboard characters, nobody can argue that his books are fast-paced page turners that are almost impossible to put down. See you on the shelf!
 
Best wishes,
 
Chris
 
http://cjryall.com/index.html

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