The next guest Patrick Brigham is very interesting for me. The reason: He lived for many years in my country. He was in Sofia during the most controversial years in Bulgaria – late 90s. So here we are with the next Q&A:
– Patrick, Tell us more about your last book Abduction: An Angel over Rimini?
– Look at http://www.PatrickBrigham.co.uk and see the synopsis (I posted it below the interview).
– When was the first time when the story came up to your head and why you decide to make it as a novel?
– Rather like you I do not like trivial stories and with a background in journalism, the stories which capture my imagination are usually important. One of the EU’s great secrets is the story of illegal immigration. Bulgaria has had dreadful problems over the years, with refugees coming across its border with Turkey and elsewhere across the Black Sea. But Greece has been a favorite crossing point on the River Evros at the border where it meets Turkey and Bulgaria near Svilengrad. Inspired by the sad story of Madi McCann – who is just one of many unfortunate children abducted from within Europe – I modeled a fictional tory around an incident in Italy. This allowed me access to the Adriatic and to pursue a well traveled smuggling route from Greece, through Bulgaria and up into Western Europe.
– What was the biggest challenge during the write up process?
– You are a journalist and used to having deadlines! Having mapped out the story in my head – with many diversions I might add – it is a matter of good research and detailing, before embarking on the writing process, which comes with practice and of course my allotted time.
– What about your main character? How do you find him?
– Michael Lambert has been around for a long time. He is not a loud mouthed bully or a drunk and is a thoughtful and diligent detective. But he has suffered the usual policeman’s torment of a broken marriage, which inhibits him a bit, having been married for a number of years. In Abduction: An Angel over Rimini, there are some romantic interludes, which at the end of the story give both our main character and my readers a little hope.
– How long did it take to finish the story and publish it?
– I usually take about six months to complete a 85,000 word book. I have written three books in the last 18 months but that is just ‘the tip of the the iceberg!’
– Who are you?
I am an Englishman now living in Greece but I also lived in Sofia for some years where I started the first English language news magazine in Bulgaria, called The Sofia Western News.
– Writing is about – lets say – 20% of the any project, the rest of the time being devoted to promotion and getting ones profile in front of the reading public. This accounts for the remaining 80% and these days, which is the difference between success and failior.
– What is the current interest of the book and do you already plan your next one?
– It is early days to map out the success of this book which was only launched some three weeks ago but so far I have been interviewed on American radio and managed to fill up a few pages on Google.
– I know that your wife Madi is a PR specialist, but what do you think about promotion and marketing of the book?
– She is the expert but a word of caution to other writers: don’t be in a hurry, don’t expect things to happen quickly, and don’t be afraid to do some promotional work yourself.
– Tell me more about your first book Herodotus: The Gnome of Sofia?
– Herodotus: The Gnome of Sofia, is a fictional and humorous story about the British Embassy in Sofia, just after the changes. Herodotus is in fact a garden gnome which has been tampered with by MI6 – the British Secret Service – and is now a small and inconspicuous telephone base station, situated in the front garden of the embassy, and equipped to send and receive secret encrypted messages form its network of spy’s.
– How you ended up in Sofia and what do you think of the city?
– I first came to Sofia in 1985, during the old regime, and met many of the names and faces which have either been forgotten or have become a footnote in some historical account of the changes. Sofia in those days was bleak and rather grey and the only places of interest were hotel restaurants or if one was lucky a private party at a friends house. Artists, writers, musicians and actors, have always been the life blood of any capital, and Sofia was no exception. I haven’t been to Sofia for a while, but from memory it now looks much like any other modern European city.
But in the beginning, and after the changes, it became clear that the so-called democratization of Bulgaria was a myth and that the same people who were in power under Todor Zhivkov continued to pull the strings of those puppets who miraculously claimed to be politically unique and newly enlightened. You must tell me if this has changed – and by how much too – because people get old and die, and inevitably the mantle of power is then handed on to their young lieutenants.
– What is your Top 3 of the Bulgarian dishes?
– Bay Ganyo Restaurant serves up many good Bulgarian dishes – tongue cooked in salty butter, chicken kavarma, shopska salad and a good bottle of Khan Krum sounds about right.
– What is the difference between Bulgarians and the people from Western Europe in your personal view?
– The difference is how Bulgarians see themselves and this rather depends on how old they are too. The older generation were brought up to despise westerners under Communism. In those early days many would tell you that Bulgarians were generally disliked by the rest of Europe, and that consequently they had come to dislike other Europeans in return. But this was Bay Ganyo speaking on your behalf and having been a pawn at the Yalta Conference, it was no surprise that Bulgarians felt that they had been badly treated, and these memories do not go away in a hurry! But they are not your memories and this plethora of political contemp has now been swept away with modern technology the internet and the world wide web. Young Bulgarians are now open minded, uncomplicated, well educated and very ambitious. Good!
– You’ve been in Bulgaria during so called hungry democracy years. How you would describe those times?
– You don’t want to hear any more stories about bread cues and helpless optimism. The question is, did the Americans save you or was it the EU? I was there in the square with US Ambassador Saul Polanski outside the Sobranie that famous day in Spring where I heard all the grand hopes for Bulgaria and their US cousins. ‘You know Ralitza Vassilеva is a Bulgarian and she reads the news on CNN’ – there was a kind of forlorn hope amongst the crown that having left the strangle hold of the USSR, that Bulgarians in general would be saved by these kind and generous benefactors. Not true!
– Do you feel the touch of mafia in Sofia during the late 90-s?
– It was how much of business in Bulgaria was transacted. Bulgarian gangsters tried to emulate the Russian Mafia and were heavily involved in some very big frauds including fuel and gas fraud, VAT manipulation and of course drugs and prostitution. They were always on the lookout for new possibilities but generally, they were limited by their own intelligence. Unfortunately, this gangster steriotype has left its mark on Bulgarian society and many young people tend to develop this tough guy image as a matter of course.
– What is the most memorable moment of your stay in Bulgaria?
– The Sofia Western News used to put on a ‘Six a Side’ football championship. Up to 40 teams would take part, and it was managed by the late and great Rouman Yankov, who had been a Bulgarian professional footballer in his time, and also a TV personality. This tournament went on for some three years and took place at the Military Academy – which also had a team and also won the tournament on one occasion – and occupied a whole week. It was so popular that the players – who were all allegedly amateurs – were given time off from work by their employers, who also sponsored the occasion. It was great seeing Mobikom being thrashed by M Tel!
Synopsis of Abuduction: An Angel over Rimini:
Detective Chief Inspector Michael Lambert has left the Thames Valley Police Authority and is now working for Europol as a front-line Europol Liaison Officer at The Hague. He has left England and, because of his recent divorce, now lives permanently in his holiday villa in the Calvados region of Northern France.
In An Angel over Rimini, his first case for Europol involves the abduction of a little English girl from a campsite in Riccione in Italy. It is a cold case, which has been re-opened due to public pressure, the intervention of the British government and the agitation of leading English newspapers.
DCI Lambert goes to Rimini to help the State Police re-investigate the kidnapping of little Penelope Scratchford, only to find that the investigating authorities are quite determined to blame the parents for her disappearance and murder. It becomes clear – as his investigation progresses – that there are too many unanswered questions and that much of the evidence has been ignored by the original investigating officer, Vice Inspector Daniel Bosola.
Whilst in Italy, DCI Lambert also finds time to catch up with his father’s mysterious past, during his wartime service in Bari as an RAF officer in a Pathfinder Squadron. This reveals some interesting, if not spectacular, revelations about his father’s secret wartime exploits and his peccadillos too! For Michael Lambert it is also an awakening, and romance in the shape of Countess Beatrix d’ Aragona finally brings the Europol detective back to life emotionally, somehow blotting out the past and his sterile marriage to Arabella.
Continuing his pursuit of the missing English girl, his investigations take him to Greece and the established smuggling routes through the Evros River delta up into Bulgaria. In Greece he discovers the horrors of organised illegal immigration, people trafficking and the gangsters involved. He also finds out that these established smuggling routes are Al Qaida’s way into Greece and the EU.
In his travels he comes across corrupt lawyers and orphanages in Bulgaria, but in so doing he also manages to pinpoint an established child trafficking trail which ultimately leads him back to Central Europe. The discovery of an illegal child adoption group in Hanover,the criminals who operate it, and the information gleaned during his trip through Bulgaria help DCI Lambert to learn if little Penny Scratchford is alive or dead.