A guest post by André Jute
In the last two years I’ve twice had heart surgery. The first time I was cycling again on the third day but the second time I nearly died from a stupid, minor, unforeseen complication to do with an allergy to iodine which — you won’t believe this — doesn’t kick in until the second time you have the stuff injected into your body to act as a contrast in keyhole surgery to enable surgeons to see what they’re doing inside your body. Since then I’ve lost a stone in weight without even trying: I think twice before putting anything in my mouth, and on second thoughts put it down.
But what, you may ask, has this to do with my new book, which isn’t a diet book (I don’t write diet books — or at least I haven’t yet). I have been writing the series COLD WAR, HOT PASSIONS for a quarter century, and just now the first volume, DREAMS, is being published. There are seven further volumes to follow: a series to suck you into the lives of the ten Russian and American families whose story this is, as it it all our stories.
As a young man I partook of lethal blood sports like auto and offshore boat racing, racing sailing yachts across the Antarctic Ocean and around Cape Horn, and I was a professional polo player during one of my political exiles in South America — and my politics were of the sort that causes governments to send assassins after you. Even in an office job, in advertising, I lived in such a pressure cooker that all my partners were dead of various stress-related diseases before they turned 33. Hell, it was natural for me to think of myself as lucky, a perpetual survivor, pretty near indestructible.
So, when I wrote about how the young idealists of the Bolshevik Revolution turned into the creators of one of the the most lethal tyrannies the world has ever seen, the Soviet Union whose eras are named for their Great Terrors, I often felt sorry for them, and that somehow gave me a better understanding of them.
Back in the Little Perestroika, during the Brezhnev years, I toured the Soviet Union lecturing on the applications of market-led statistics, then a new idea to Russians. You could still cut the fear with a butter knife; a decade later all my star students had been disgraced and a few shot.
In the series of eight books which make up COLD WAR, HOT PASSIONS we’ll see how people lived, and loved, and raised families even through this constant haze of fear. It is one of the most impressive things about the twentieth century, that the human side of people, of families, survived the social engineering of the best organized and most brutal dictators the world has ever seen.
We’ll also see the flip side of the coin, how American families made something positive out of the constant fear which resulted from Soviet paranoia and empire-building during the almost half-century that we call the Cold War.
If you read DREAMS, don’t let the horrendous murders of Lenin and Stalin overwhelm you: notice that even monsters have a human side. It’s just another of the weird and wonderful revelations in this series of novels, together longer than War and Peace, which are all historically true. I especially enjoyed writing of the love of the schoolgirl Nadeshda Alleluyeva for Koba, which was Stalin’s name before he became a monster.
Ah, yes, fear. It turns out, on rereading DREAMS, that I knew about fear all along. See if you agree.
André Jute is a distinguished writer of novels and of non-fiction on the arts, engineering and cooking. The New York Times described him as “wild but exciting”. He is probably the most influential teacher of creative writing in the world through his WRITING A THRILLER, the choice of most professionals, which over many editions refocussed the thriller from plot to character. There are about 300 editions of his books in more than a dozen languages. He is married, has one child, and lives on a salmon river in Ireland. André is on Facebook and Twitter, and you can join him for conversation at the discussion group ROBUST. His blog is Kissing the Blarney, his publisher is Coolmain Press, and there is more information on his personal website. His current e-books are available at Amazon. His other current project, just starting, is HENTY’S FIST 1: GAUNTLET RUN, a collaboration with Dakota Franklin and Andrew McCoy, which will be free to read on Wattpad.