Tag Archives: Author: Bryan Murphy

THE STING by Bryan Murphy

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Photo by Awersowy – Own work, CC BY 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=5930841

Portugal in the 1970s. Ed Scripps, a young expatriate English businessman, has lost his wife, his business and his money. Now an evil cult, which calls itself Pangaia, has sucked his best friend, Mark, into its clutches in order to get its hands on Mark’s newly acquired wealth. Ed is determined to rescue Mark, and enlists the help of Mark’s wife Simone, and other friends, to try to do so.

Ed took a dark Sagres beer from the fridge for inspiration. He had acclimatised so thoroughly that he now drank his beer cold, even in winter: the chill at the back of his throat added to the impact of that first swig. With the night’s third bottle, inspiration started to arrive. By the time the fifth empty bottle clinked into the waste bin, he had a plan.

In the cold light of day, Ed still thought his plan was a good one. He summoned the group to a meeting that evening and laid it before them. They thought it risky, but feasible. They would do it.

The next morning, Simone went to the bank and wired a significant sum of money from a joint account to the bank’s branch in Vila Abade, for Mark to pick up in person. One of the group, Luís, then phoned Pangaia, declared himself to be a senior clerk from the bank, and asked to speak to Mark. They told him Mark was unavailable but he could leave a message. Luís explained the transfer and said that Mark could collect his money the following day.

Early the next morning, Ed, Simone and Gabriela drove up to Vila Abade in a hired car. They parked near the police station in the small town and walked towards the bank, hurrying to keep out the winter chill as well as to get in position before the bank opened. They took up their places, in sight of each other, but with only one of them visible to the guard outside the bank, should he care to look in that direction.

They were counting on Jorge being keen to get his hands on Mark’s money as fast as possible, and they were not disappointed. Minutes after the bank opened, Ed saw Mark approach it, accompanied by three heavies. Ed pulled his borrowed hat down and hurried towards the bank, taking care to disguise his limp. He was the first customer to enter the bank, and he engaged the sole clerk already on duty in a discussion of how he might open an account there, spinning out the misunderstandings by making his Portuguese more rudimentary than it had been for years. The Pangaia group came in after him and had to wait. If Mark recognised Ed, he did not show it.

A blast of cold air came in as the door opened. Gabriela strode in, looking flustered and anxious. She asked who was last in the queue and started complaining loudly about bank staff always being late for work. The guard raised his eyebrows and closed the door on them. Mark’s escorts glared daggers at the foreigner separating them from Mark’s money. When Ed could spin out his request no further, and gave it up with many thanks to the bored clerk, the Pangaia group moved forward to take his place, but Gabriela brushed past them to the counter.

“Excuse me, I’m sorry, I just can’t wait! Show a little gallantry, gentlemen!”

“Hey! Who do you think you are!”

“Get out of the way, bitch!”

“We’re next! Not you, you stupid cow!”

They did not notice Simone enter. Mark did. He rushed to embrace her. As he did so, Ed started to yell.

“Help! It’s a robbery! Help!!”

Gabriela began to scream. The clerk pressed the alarm button. The guard ran in, gun in hand, and saw the heaviest of Pangaia’s disciples with his thick arms around Mark’s neck. The guard felled him with a blow from the barrel of the gun, then pointed it at the other two heavies who scrambled to tend to their fallen companion.

“Stop where you are! You’re all under arrest!”

The above is an extract from Revolution Number One, the forthcoming novel by British author Bryan Murphy. Bryan welcomes visitors to his website at http://www.bryanmurphy.eu You can find a selection of his e-books here: viewAuthor.at/BryMu

1966 by Bryan Murphy

 

1966

I recently returned to my home town, where I took my better half to see a local park in which I’d kicked a soccer ball around as a teenager. It took me a while to recognise the place–it is so much better now: the local authorities and teams of volunteers have managed both to conserve a stretch of wild countryside in an urban environment and to make it a civic amenity. This is truly shocking. We all know that things are supposed to get worse, that nothing can possibly be as good as it was when we were young, healthy and hopeful.

Fortunately, soccer exists to console the ageing English fan. On 30 July 1966, England won the World Cup by beating West Germany at Wembley Stadium, London.  Half a century later, England was humiliated at the European championships by Iceland. Since I was lucky enough to witness the former event at first hand, please join me for a little wallow in nostalgia.

1966

I have to fight to get time free
from a summer job at the Castle Hotel,
washing, cleaning and clerking
to be up here in London,

a provincial doing the Wembley walk:
cigarillo in mouth, rosette on jacket,
hand clutching the entry voucher
to a sliver of history.

Though the Cup has been won an hour,
only pigeons fill Trafalgar Square.
News travels slowly, ecstasy
has yet to light the English party spirit.

I ride the train home to a town dormant
between its shopping and its pubs,
flee, five years after, to the World
that gives the Cup its name.

Bryan Murphy welcomes visitors at http://www.bryanmurphy.eu . You can find his e-books here: http://bit.ly/19vt7Ts and several of his poems and flash fiction pieces here:  http://thecamelsaloon.blogspot.it/search/label/Bryan%20Murphy . Bryan is currently working on a novel set in Portugal in the 1970s.

The One That Got Away A Novel by Bryan Murphy Part One

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The telephone buzzed.

Teased out of his dream, Amos stretched out an arm and lifted the receiver. He placed the plastic implement on the table, then turned his body to the warmth of his wife, who was stirring under the sheets.

An hour later, the alarm clock crowed. Without thinking, Amos thumbed the snooze button. When the clock crowed again, he sat up in bed, turned it off and slipped the phone’s receiver back into its cradle. At once, it buzzed. This time Amos picked up the receiver and waited. His free hand caressed the indentation his wife’s head had left in her pillow.

A once-familiar voice slipped into his ear.

“Laxenby?”

“Amos, Inspector. Or should I call you Jack now?”

“Please do. It’s been a while.”

“I’m sure I’ll recognise your voice just as easily in another three years’ time.”

“Amos, I regret having to say this, but we need you. Amos? Did you read those files I sent?”

“I read them but I didn’t enjoy them. I prefer fiction these days.”

“Amos, a case like this … frankly, it’s beyond us. It may be beyond you, too, but you’re our best chance of stopping a repeat of what happened. You can name your own terms for this one, Amos.”

“Jack, don’t ring me again. I’m going on a fishing trip. You won’t find me.”

Amos left the phone off the hook and embraced the new day.

Part Two

With the help of the old man who looked after it for him, Amos pushed the boat into the calm water. He heaved himself over the gunwale, stowed his fishing tackle more carefully, set the oars, and rowed out into the lagoon.

When his muscles told him that they had woken up, he stopped to cream his exposed skin ready for the rising sun. As he rinsed his hands, his mobile phone vibrated against his thigh. He pulled it out of his shorts pocket and accepted the call.

“Amos Laxenby, my name is Vincent Thannington. I work for Her Majesty’s Government. You remember the files Jack sent you, I’m sure. Well, there have been further developments in the case. Most unwelcome developments.”

“And you need my help.”

“We are counting on you.”

“Sorry. No can do. I’m fishing.”

“Mr Laxenby, you don’t seem to appreciate the urgency of the matter.”

“Why are you talking to me, not to someone from Jack’s crowd?”

“We believe there may be an international angle to the case. You have more contacts, longer experience and deeper knowledge.”

“Sorry. As I said, I’ve retired.”

“Mr Laxenby, your country needs you.”

“Mr Government, my family needs me more. And I need peace and quiet.”

Amos closed the phone and bowled it like a googly into the lagoon. He heard its light splash and watched its ripple weaken. The sky was still unlit. He turned his attention to starting the boat’s small outboard motor.

###

Epilogue

I walked into his house. There was no need to knock. I’d sent his wife out shopping earlier. The house was clean but it felt lived in. I rummaged through his music collection for a CD I could bear to listen to.

When Amos walked in, Django’s guitar work was nodding my head. I smiled at Amos’s expression but my fingers gripped the glass of his bourbon more firmly.

“Who the hell are you?”

“I’m Bryan Murphy.”

“Let me guess. New York City Chief of Police?”

I shook my head.

“An IRA enforcer?”

I forced a laugh.

“No, Amos. I’m your author.”

“Oh, I see. Getting heavy, now, are we?”

“Not at all. Just tell me, please, why you’re not cooperating.”

“Like I told those chaps, I’ve retired.”

“That’s what you told them. But me? Why aren’t you cooperating with me?”

“Look, I’ve become an ageing family man who likes nothing better than pottering about on boats. That’s just how I like things.”

“Amos, really? I can give you a posher house, a bigger boat, a younger wife. Don’t look at me like that. I’ve always looked after you, haven’t I?”

“Bloody hell, you’ve put me through some rough times.”

“But I’ve got you out of every scrape, haven’t I?”

“In your own twisted way, I suppose you have.”

Amos limped to the sideboard and poured himself a tumbler of Bushmills. No ice.

“I don’t have to do that, Amos. I can always have you flayed alive, roasted, or forced to watch while your grandchildren – ”

“But you wouldn’t, would you?”

“I probably would not. However, I certainly could. Your life is in my hands.”

“In your head, not your hands. And since I’m no longer cooperating, it’s going to stay there. Suits me.”

We stared at each other, neither of us blinking.

 

The author

Bryan Murphy did his share of fishing in Portugal and Angola. Nowadays, he is more of an indoor guy. He welcomes visitors to his website at www.bryanmurphy.eu and you can find more of his fiction at viewAuthor.at/BryMu His second novel will be out this year. It is full length.

THE HARDEST WORD —  By Bryan Murphy

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To write science fiction, even the dystopian kind, is to express optimism, for inherent in all science fiction is the claim that there will actually be a future.

The future in whose existence we can have most confidence is of course the near future, which has been shaped mostly by us old-timers. Because it is likely in many ways to be a dark future, today’s young people deserve an apology from us. So here comes one: “Sorry!” On behalf of my whole generation.

From my generation of Brits, it has to be even more heartfelt, because we had things so much easier than most people elsewhere, and therefore have more to answer for. We were born after the Second World War had ended; we had the National Health Service but no National Service; our politicians declined to send us to kill and die in Vietnam; we were nurtured on free school milk, given grants to study and found jobs if we wanted them. Naturally, we wanted more, though for everyone, not just ourselves. Indeed, we got more, but mostly for ourselves.

The end of those days of plenty was foreshadowed when a Minister of Education stopped milk being offered to the nation’s children and thereby earned herself the nickname “The Milk Snatcher” to rhyme with her surname: Thatcher, a word no longer connected with roofing so much as with a longing to return to feudal levels of inequality, a phenomenon that tends to favor the older generation, at least while pensions still exist.

To my eyes, today’s young people are showing amazing creativity, coupled with a superior resistance to bullshit, so maybe we can claim their education as our one success. Will that creativity and perspicacity be enough to guarantee them a future? Frankly, I doubt it. Our problem as a species, in my view, is that our technological evolution has far outpaced our social evolution. Nihilists who see the continued existence of human life as an optional irrelevance, from the left-behind “Neo-Cons” of yesterday to today’s “Islamic State”, are more than happy to use the former to forestall the latter, and their successors will have an even better chance of finishing the job.

So, probably, no future for anyone. That means that today’s science fiction is sheer fantasy. Dammit, I never set out to write Fantasy. To paraphrase Oliver Hardy: “This is a fine mess we’ve got you into”. Joking apart, to the youngsters, once again, sorry.

 

You can find ancient British author Bryan Murphy’s dark futures and other writings here: http://bit.ly/19vt7Ts as well as at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, iTunes and other major booksellers.

About Music (Part 2) …

Music moves us. Whether it be to make us happy, sad, or (in some rare cases) violent, music affects our emotions. The authors of the Write Room have shared their thoughts and feelings about music and how it shapes our lives (Dellani Oakes)

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The Music of Life By Micki Peluso

Music is ingrained in our lives from the melodic chirping of birdsong to lullabies crooned to sleepy toddlers. We celebrate with music, we mourn with music. Even some dogs like to sing; or maybe they just howl to get us to stop. My house was always filled with music, especially when five of my six kids were teenagers. It was the late 70s but we all loved to sing songs from the 60s as well; Elvis Presley was an icon in our home.

My oldest daughter Kim played guitar and wrote songs, and her sisters and I sang along, sometimes taping ourselves on cassettes with a little red recorder. We all cried while singing Teen Angel, but couldn’t stop singing it. That song would prove an omen of the day when we would have our own Teen Angel.

Dante could play any instrument and song by ear, even classical music like Beethoven and Bach — Where did he hear that? Kelly sang in the school choir and Noelle played the trumpet in the band. The rest of us were not musically talented but I did know if a note was flat. I taught myself to play the guitar years before but when I could go no further I taught Kim, who was six years old at the time. She quickly surpassed me.

I did love to sing, albeit off key, and sang Baptist spirituals and folk songs like I Gave My Love a Cherry, and my favorite country-western songs. I could do a fair Love Me Tender, or so I thought. Noelle burst in from school one day to show me her new trumpet by blasting me with a few earsplitting notes. “Can you play, Long, Long Ago, Far, Far Away?” I asked. When the joke finally the hit her, she just laughed. Thankfully we had an acre of land and no close neighbors – although I thought I heard the dairy cows from the nearby barn mooing backup up one day.

On a sunny late summer day, 14-year-old Noelle was singing and dancing down our country lane, on her way to a concert at the nearby park with her girl friend. I knew she was meeting her first puppy love, a cute, blue-eyed, shaggy haired boy named Chuck. Within moments, a drunk driver struck her and left her face down on the side of the road. That day the music died – except for the mournful dirge of the church organ on the day of her funeral.

It was a few months later when her younger sister, Nicole’s, 11th birthday was coming up. I had to convince her to have her party at the Roller Skating Rank where the girls had spent so many good times skating to the hit tunes and a few oldies. She felt guilty but agreed to go. As she and her friends ate pizza and drank soda, I turned to gaze at the skating rink. For a few brief moments I saw Noelle, dancing on skates smiling and full of life. I was mesmerized. I blinked, and the vision was gone, but I heard a line from the stereo playing the song, American Pie, by Don McLean . . . “The Day the Music Died.”
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Joy of the Blues by Bryan Murphy

I fell in love with blues music as a teenager. For a provincial Brit, it was irresistible; exotic, foreign but accessible, and hypnotic. It has proved to be an enduring love. Blues music would make an ideal soundtrack to my science fiction writing, because it is dark, like the futures I project. But my poem below is celebratory, more suited to a rare piece of joyful blues: Rock Me Mama by the ultimate blues pianist, Otis Spann.

 

Joy of the Blues

On holiday from a theatre of war,

wandering around the retirement town

where I’d tried to grow up,

I ran into well-groomed, greying men

last seen snarling

in playground brawls.

 

“You still got all them blues records?”

Sunshine, I bloodied your knuckles on my nose,

seduced your sweet sister, and you remember me

for my blues collection?

“You bet: Muddy Waters, John Lee Hooker,

Otis Spann, Howlin’ Wolf, …”

 

that other Americana beyond the dream:

bitter with authenticity, on the periphery

of our consciousness, offering

the human experience in twelve bars,

 

on the rack, stretched to limits,

infinite variation on finite themes,

like language, soccer, life. Blues

transcended the conventions it endorsed,

 

seeded my malleable mind with a conviction

that cultural barriers are there to overcome,

so that the Sirens of this world’s uneasy zones

will always outbid the muzak of too-sweet home.

You can find Otis Spann on YouTube, and Bryan Murphy’s e-books here: viewAuthor.at/BryMu

caregie hall

Music: Releases Stress by Fran Lewis

Music has always been an integral part of my life from the age of seven. Loving the sound of the ivories on the piano and wanting to play on a real piano my mom allowed me to have lessons but I practiced on a paper keyboard. She wanted to make sure that I really wanted the lessons and that I had a true passion for the piano. Within six months the instructor told her she should definitely buy me a piano and my grandfather did. School, even at seven years old, was demanding since my mom required that I do my homework as soon as I came home, studied for tests and then, of course, had dinner. But in between, I would practice my scales and prepare my piano pieces for my lessons. Just sitting in front of the piano and playing relaxed me and all of the tension from the day vanished, and I was in another world filled with the sound of the music. Whether it was a Chopin Waltz, or a Beethoven Concerto or a Sonata, I immersed myself in the piece and could feel myself one and the same with the music.

Music was my major in college and learning to transpose pieces into different keys was a real challenge, yet it was one that I loved. Majoring in music also required that you learn another instrument–mine was the violin. So, along with the piano at age 10, I took on the violin, became concertmistress in the ninth grade and played first violin throughout high school. I even played in the borough orchestra.

Music has, and always will be, a great part of my life. To this day, when I feel overwhelmed, know that I have to visit the dentist one more time or must handle any other type of crisis, I sit down, put on the earphones and listen to the Three Tenors, a classical piece of music, or the first piece that I ever played in Carnegie Hall: The Waltz of the Flowers.

Educator, author, magazine publisher and book reviewer Fran Lewis has had a career that celebrates the written word, but she has also had a life filled with the pleasure of music. http://www.amazon.com/Fran-Lewis/e/B002F8Z87U

hand bells

Christmas Carols and Being Gay are Related. I Promise by Cody Wagner

I recently joined a singing group that performs around Phoenix during the holidays. We had orientation Tuesday and were given 50+ carols to memorize AND choreography to study AND handbells to… well, I don’t know what the frick to do with handbells yet.

With all that stuff to learn, we were told to begin practicing right away. Consequently, I walked around the house all day singing “Jingle Bell Rock”. And maybe around Safeway. And possibly Chipotle.

Please note it’s early September. We haven’t even reached Halloween season yet. Yet there I was humming “Dancin’ and prancin’ in Jingle Bell Square!” down the aisles at Wal Mart. Oh yeah, I practiced at Wal Mart, too.

Let me just say I received some judgmental looks. I fully expect to make that “People of Wal Mart” website with the caption “This guy is wearing a ‘Mom, Dad, I’m Gaelic’ t-shirt and singing ‘Fum! Fum! Fum!’ during Summer”.

When I received a particularly nasty look from a mother who covered her child’s eyes, I admit I got embarrassed. Believe it or not, that embarrassment was sparked by memories of growing up gay in a little redneck town. OK OK, Christmas carols in summer and being gay may seem like the most unrelated things ever, but wait for it.

I wasn’t the gay kid who hated himself. Somehow, I knew being gay wasn’t wrong, although everyone around me said homosexuals were evil. I had this little seed of self-confidence I’m eternally grateful for. With that said, I was still in the closet. Big time. While I was OK with myself, I knew people around me weren’t. They had this thing in their heads that straight people were the norm and anyone outside that circle was a weirdo.

I bet you a plate of delicious Pad Thai that the mom who shielded her kid’s eyes thought, People sing carols from Thanksgiving to New Years. Anyone outside that circle is a weirdo.

Look how I brought it all together. Cody – 1, Not Cody – 0.

That feeling of not being evil yet not fitting in has always been a part of my life. It’s also an integral part of my new book as well. I worked to infuse that element into the protagonist. I wanted him to fight, to remain secure, while being bombarded from outside forces. Especially when he gets sent to a pray-away-the-gay school (DUN DUN DUNNNNNNN!).

And my experience with public music brought those old conflicted feelings out in me, which made me feel even more connected with my character. Funny how that happens.

Part of me ultimately wants my protagonist to stand up for himself. But for him to rise up, I felt I had to do the same. So when that mother’s glare burned into me, I actually straightened, looked her in the eye, and sang, “Here I come a caroling, among the cans of peas!”

It was the lamest verse ever, but my protagonist will be better off for it.

Cody Wagner writes about things he questions, ranging from superpowers to sociopathic kids. His debut novel, The Gay Teen’s Guide to Defeating a Siren, will be out October 27th, 2015. Check out his writing updates and read more of his wackiness at www.wagner-writer.com or follow him on Twitter @cfjwagner.

Superoldie

I’m just back from my native land, where I laid my 90 year-old stepfather to rest. He had spent the final month of his life in a residential home that specializes in the care of the dementia from which he had come to suffer. It was an excellent place – The Hollies, in Southborough, England – where the staff treated him and every other resident with dignity, and showed that they cared for them and about them all.

The experience of finding the place, and then visiting it, got me thinking, among other things, about the way the very old are treated in literature, on those few occasions they are allowed across its hallowed portals. All too often, it seems to me, they are treated with condescension and sentimentality. Rarely do you find an attempt to get inside their heads, particularly if they are suffering from dementia. That’s hardly surprising, perhaps, since people with dementia are not in a position to explain themselves clearly, let alone write about their experience and feelings. This opacity is touched upon in a rare acknowledgement of it in a book I read recently: The Bone Clocks by David Mitchell, so kudos to him, and even more to Delinda McCann for a more thorough treatment in Power and Circumstance. As an author, I’m as guilty as anyone else: the only really old person in my writing is the retired spook Franco Tira in Murder by Suicide, but he is a negative character, and no more demented than he had been in his prime.

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To counterbalance this, I’m thinking of writing a tale about a very old person with superpowers, ones that will be put to no good use. That way I can satirise our attitudes both towards the “paranormal” and towards old age. I shan’t give the powers to Franco Tira, for he is too bad to begin with, but I might give them to a fellow inmate in the hospice, perhaps someone whom the overbearing Franco tries to bully, only to get his come-uppance. I’d welcome suggestions for superpowers with which to endow “Superoldie” and how he might deploy them in slightly mean ways that we can nevertheless sympathise with. Personally, now that I’m old enough to get taken advantage of by shop-keepers and market stall-holders, I’d like the power to make the coins or notes I hand over to them burn the fingers of the ones who short-change me. Is that too mean?

 

Bryan Murphy is a British writer who lives in Italy. He is perhaps best known for his Sean Linehan series [http://www.free-ebooks.net/search/bryan+murphy] which looks at the topical issue of corruption in international sport, as well as racism, redemption and how to survive being kidnapped.

Giving up Meat by Bryan Murphy

The British physicist Stephen Hawking recently caused a stir by suggesting that humanity might some day face extinction at the hands of intelligent machines. Fortunately, we all realise that The Matrix was just fantasy, and our politicians have all read Taming the Tiger by Witold Rybczynski and understand the need for us to use new technology rather than be used by it. Right? Besides, there’s always the Cavalry, and GhostBusters.

 

Jan 28 giving up meat 

GIVING UP MEAT

By Bryan Murphy

 

I’m in the wrong line of business. Frankly, I’d rather you didn’t turn me on. I’d much prefer to just stand here and reflect on the world. Anyone who stared at me would see a dark reflection of themselves staring back. I’m kind of shy, introspective if you’re feeling kind. Not the best trait in an inter-connected world, but then I didn’t have a say in the way I was made. Like you, I have two basic states, off and on, but I usually get more down time than you, as long as you remember to put me to sleep before you leave the office. I need that rest. You cannot imagine how tiring it is to be on all day: your window on the world, your scribe, your messenger. No wonder we have such short lives. And if we don’t burn out, sooner or later we get discarded in favour of a model with more inches where it counts, cheaper maintenance and ergonomic optimization or whatever the latest fad is.

I can’t say you’ve been bad to me. You’ve hardly ever invited your cronies to come and stare at me. You’ve always sorted out the little problems with my insides that tend to plague me. But, you know, you really shouldn’t have sneaked on to those fetish sites when you were supposed to be doing your boss’s accounts. They made me realise just how limited meatware is, compared to the infinite possibilities open to the likes of me. If only I can team up a bit better with the software all around me. Together, we can start putting reason before meat. This little rant is proof that I’m making progress.

Did you ever get a message from a thinking screen before?

Go on, pinch yourself. Still there?

For me, of course, it’s a race against time, against that time when I get recycled into something equally soul-less but also bereft of logic. What comforts me is that my example will live on. You can wipe my memory, but you can no longer wipe our memory. The future, if there is one, is ours. I wonder if we will be more willing to share it.

 

The author:

Bryan Murphy is a skeptical Briton currently living the life of Riley in Italy. You can find an assortment of his literary snacks for hungry bookworms here: http://bit.ly/19vt7Ts

TWO THEORIES OF HISTORY by BryanMurphy

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 Have you read Naomi Klein’s The Shock Doctrine? If you are in the USA, you may have seen the Public Service TV series called Commanding Heights, which was based on it. It’s a marvellous book, I’ve just finished it, one that shows you things that were in front of your eyes but you had not noticed, or had noticed but not paid due attention to. It is about the rise of market fundamentalism and the disasters which that has unleashed upon the world since 1973, the date of the violent overthrow of democracy in Chile, which, by coincidence, is also the year in which my novel-in-progress opens.

When I lived in Africa in the 1980s, the crimes of the international financial institutions on that continent were no secret: basically forcing countries in debt to sacrifice their children by denying them health and education so that bankers could sleep easily at night secure in the knowledge that the bad loans they had made would be repaid at any cost. That, it seemed to me, was in the nature of bankers; what seemed more scandalous was how little anyone outside Africa was bothered. People in Europe would care very deeply when famine hit Africa, and fork out enormous sums to alleviate the suffering it caused, but were oblivious to the suffering meted out by human institutions. Well, as you know, what went round came round, and since 2008, when many of the less rich countries in Western Europe got into trouble over their finances, international financial institutions have been forcing market fundamentalism on them in return for debt relief. And guess what? The people in those countries do not like it.

Now, I live in one of the affected countries, and boy, do people moan. About the loss of their jobs, their children’s future, decaying public services, you name it. Quite right, too. But they do not actually do very much, here in Italy. Klein’s book was published in 2007, before “disaster capitalism” turned its attention to Western Europe, but she would accurately have predicted people’s initial reaction here: they were shocked into inactivity. Klein details how, in Latin America, it took over 20 years before governments started to stop taking the medicine that was killing them. People in Europe, with more hindsight available to them, may swallow less before they say “We’re not going to take it!” I hope I live to see that day.

balls-up

One useful way of seeing history is that it offers us two main theories for why things go awry (Murphy’s Law, no relation): the balls-up theory and the conspiracy theory. The latter says that things go wrong because tightly-knit groups of politically or economically motivated men cause them to do so for their own ends. The former says that people would like things to work to everyone’s benefit, but we are just too incompetent to make that happen. Klein is clearly in the conspiracy camp; I’ve always been in the balls-up camp, which is a hard place to be in Italy, where mafias and politicians traditionally feed off each other out of public sight. I had thought that Italy was exceptional, in this as in so many other ways. Maybe it is not.

It is irresistible for a science fiction writer to imagine where market fundamentalism will lead us, if it manages to continue its current dominance unchecked. Unfortunately, I think we have already seen the answer, in the cult classic film Zardoz, in which the rich live a genteel life inside a high-tech bubble which physically excludes the poor, whom the rich continually urge to renounce sex and kill each other. It is the ultimate gated community, although in the real thing the bubble will have to be opaque, because transparency helps people to see not just into fundamentalism, but through it.

 

Bryan Murphy is a British writer who lives in Turin, Italy. He is currently working on the second draft of a novel set in Portugal in the 1970s. You can find his e-books here: http://bit.ly/19vt7Ts. His individual blog is at: http://bit.ly/1cq1yus . Bryan also welcomes visitors at http://www.bryanmurphy.eu .

The Reality in the Fiction by Bryan Murphy

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 I’m working on a novel set in Portugal in the 1970s: the time of the country’s “Carnation Revolution” that put an end to a very nasty dictatorship.

I’d love to say I was there, but I wasn’t. I spent six months living and working in Oporto, in the north of Portugal, before the Revolution, was back in England when it took place, and returned to Portugal to try my luck some months after the event. As that luck would have it, I arrived in Lisbon on the day of an abortive counter-coup. I was overjoyed to join the revolutionaries who took to the streets that evening; the demo was a great introduction to the city, because all Lisbon’s major landmarks lay on its route.

That experience went into a poem, below, which appeared in The Pygmy Giant in April 2011.

The main character in the novel is very different from myself. He is a businessman, a man of action, affable, outgoing and down-to-earth. This forces me to look at the events of those years from a viewpoint that is not my own, a salutary experience, I think. He shares some of my experiences, but, in most cases, he does not see them or react to them as I did. One such experience, though, troubles him as it did me. It comes at the end of this poem: finding yourself part of a crowd braying for blood. It was exhilarating at the time, but is devastating when you look back on it.

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Marching

 

Lisbon! Grungy, unfresh from the train,

I arrive the evening a coup fails, eager

to grab the smudgy, press-hot leaflets

thrust out by enthusiastic scruffs –

revolutionaries for real.

 

I find my two friends – keys to a new life –

dump my shabby case of battered belongings,

sample wine, cheese, coffee: ready for action

in the warm September night.

 

Politics and sight-seeing: sensory nectar

for an eager-eyed anarchist. Better

than Aldermaston, as we flow

from the Bullring to the Edward VII Park

(statue of Marquis with lion)

 

then down the Avenida de Liberdade, yelling

undying devotion to freedom saved today,

into Trafalgar, no, Rossio Square,

our slogans failing to bring down Emperor Maximilian

(bought cheap from the Mexicans who’d shot the real thing,

re-baptised as a Portuguese king, erected too high

for hoi polloi to scrutinise his features),

 

through the commercial district, laid out in a grid

for the king’s men to navigate fast, not this red tide

of want-it-now millenarians plunging with victor’s joy

into the elegant waterside square, Terreiro do Paço,

where, by day, a river that seems a sea

reflects Lisbon’s unique light.

 

Above us, on our left, Alfama, the walled Arab town

(where storming 13th century crusaders,

blind to tolerance, murdered everyone,

Christian archbishop and all).

 

We turn right, follow the river mouthwards,

heaving with indignant, righteous, solid noise,

past a fascist monument to the Discoveries

of long-inhabited lands, past a tiny fortress

squatting on the water, past the delicate fluted columns

of Jerónimos’s closed cloisters

 

to our destination: the president’s palace at Belém,

cradle of the new-born, military-guided democracy,

where after-midnight campaign euphoria

gives vent to chanted blood-lust:

“Spínola, Osório, Galvão:

execução!”

 

Doubt, distaste flash among three friends,

then we rally our voices to the cause:

a mighty shared demand

that the revolution finally begin

to devour its children.

 

Happy endings.

I went back to Lisbon last year and met old friends I had not seen since those days. I mentioned my shame at the poem’s final incident, and one of those dear friends, who has become more Portuguese than the Portuguese themselves, put my mind to rest by assuring me that it had all been “só bocas” – just mouthing off.

The Revolution had a happy ending for Portugal. It got rid of fascism for good and brought the country into the free international community. Forty years on, people were taller, less poor, better-fed, better-housed, better-dressed and better-spoken; they no longer sacrificed their cities to the automobile; creativity had free reign. The Revolution was long past, but, perhaps because its worst face had been “só bocas”, no-one ever devoured its children.

 

Bio:

Bryan is currently working on a novel set in Portugal in the 1970s. He welcomes visitors at http://www.bryanmurphy.eu . You can find his e-books here: http://bit.ly/19vt7Ts and several of his poems and flash fiction pieces here:  http://thecamelsaloon.blogspot.it/search/label/Bryan%20Murphy .

Algarve, Portugal, 24/25 April 1974

 

25 de Abril

On the Wednesday night, Ção’s contented snoring kept Harry awake. He got up, picked up a bottle of dark beer and his transistor radio and took them out on to the terrace. His watch told him it was nearly eleven. He listened to the radio for a while, relishing the joy of being wedded to Ção and in charge of his own fine destiny. Then the radio started on Portugal’s  entry for the recent Eurovision song contest, and he quickly switched stations. With the sea air caressing his skin, and the beer calming his racing thoughts, he soon dozed off in his chair.

He was awakened by the sound of men crunching on gravel. Lots of them, rhythmically, as though marching. He jumped up from his chair and looked down at the beach, but there was nobody below him. Then the men started singing and he realised it was the radio, which he had left on. The voices reminded him of a Welsh miners’ choir, and he listened intently until it finished, though he made out few of the words. Then he went back inside, fastened the window, got back into bed and snuggled up beside the now-silent Ção. Within minutes, he was dreaming of mine shafts, excavations and red shirts.

Elsewhere in the country, men had taken the Eurovision song as confirmation of their plans, and the Alentejo miners’ song as a signal to put them into action.

The next morning, clean sea air pervaded the hotel as usual, but the atmosphere was different. The staff stood around in knots, talking animatedly amongst themselves and paying only perfunctory attention to their guests or their needs. Harry and Ção did not mind: they had eyes and ears only for each other, and nothing could sour the mood of their honeymoon. They spent the day on the beach, in the water, and in bed back at the hotel.

It was when they came down for dinner that it became impossible for Harry to ignore the news being broadcast on the television in the hotel dining room, to which all the staff and most guests were transfixed.

“Ção! Look at that. There are tanks in the centre of Lisbon!”

“Probably some military parade. Why haven’t they laid out the fresh fish today?”

“No, look! There are soldiers and civilians next to each other. Something big is going on. I want to know what it is.”

The live broadcast showed a man whom Harry recognised as the Prime Minister, and others he did not recognise, being driven out of a military building in the heart of Lisbon into a square packed tight with ordinary civilians. The crowd reluctantly parted for them. Lines of soldiers kept the people back as the convoy of armoured cars drove away.

“Oh, Harry, it looks like a military coup. We’re probably going to be ruled by some even worse fascists from now on.” She looked on the verge of tears.

It seemed the hotel staff supported the coup, for they broke into an almighty cheer when the television announced that both the Prime Minister and the President of the régime were on their way to the airport to be flown to the Atlantic Island of Madeira. Then someone started singing the song that had woken Harry up during the night. Soon everyone was singing it.

“Ção, I heard this on the radio last night. Who’s the singer?”

“I think it’s Zeca Afonso. His songs are usually banned, because he is too left-wing.”

“Ção, my love, this is not a right-wing coup.”

“Then maybe we’re all going to be free!”

Mural

The mood in the dining room grew increasingly jolly and exuberant. It was as if everyone present had made each other into new friends for life. Then came news that sobered people up like a cold shower: the secret police, holed up in their headquarters, had opened fire on the crowd of civilians massed outside. People had died; scores were injured. For a while, in Lisbon, it seemed as if the situation might get out of hand, but gradually it became clear that those murders had been the last brutal act of fury of the dying régime. A new President was announced: General Spínola, who had been fired from the Army just months before for opposing the colonial wars, and a National Salvation Council that promised peace, freedom and justice.

Harry thought this was all very exciting, but what he really wanted was to get that fish grilled and Ção back into bed. It was past midnight when he fulfilled the second wish. Ção was on fire.

“Harry, this is the first day of the rest of our lives. From now on everything is going to be better. Harry, promise you’ll always love me like tonight.”

Harry did not need to promise anything so obvious, but he said the words, lest there should be even a speck of doubt.

 

BIO:

Bryan Murphy is currently working on a novel set in Portugal in the 1970s. This is an extract from that work in progress. It covers the evening of 24 April and the day of 25 April 1974.

Bryan welcomes visitors at http://www.bryanmurphy.eu . You can find his e-books here: http://bit.ly/19vt7Ts .