Tuesday, 22 November 2011

Update on work in progress.

Haven't been here for a while... due to having the kitchen completely re-fitted. This took a little longer than anticipated, and  I couldn't re-tile until the wall units were installed. I'm pleased to say that in the interim period, there have been several hits in the Operation Ebook Drop coupon game. This is a really worthwhile project as far as I'm concerned, and consequently I've extended the coupon expiry date. (Let's just hope the Political Masters decide to bring  our forces home before the extended date is reached.)

Meanwhile, the latest novel "A Dollar for the Ferryman" is proceeding slowly... just starting chapter seven at twenty-five thousand, five hundred words. The research for this one is difficult and time-consuming. It concerns the clandestine Air America operations in Laos... and much of the information was classified until the late nineties. However;  that's one of the problems with writing a speculative historical story... accurate facts, because there's always someone out there who can pick up on inaccuracies!

Here's an excerpt. Our Heroine has just encountered a member of the Chinese Delegation ( who were actually Intelligence officers from their Central Investigation Department) in the corridor of her hotel in Vientiane...

    Feeling much more human, she carefully dressed in the cool silk garments, applied the merest touch of make-up, and opened the door to go back down to the lobby. The corridor was deserted… except for a figure kneeling at the far end, tying his shoelace. There was no sign of the Lao guards. She began walking along the corridor towards the figure who continued to fiddle with his shoelaces. As she approached, he glanced up. He was Chinese; about fifty, and a little taller than most Chinese men. He wore thick-lensed spectacles, an expensive silk shirt and tie, and dark trousers.
    She smiled, and made to squeeze past him.
    'Zao Shang Hao! Ging Yuan Liang'… 'Good Morning! Excuse me…'
    The man glanced up at her again and stood up.
    'Dui Bu Qi.'
    Then, he smiled… a typically toothy, Oriental smile, and spoke in English. His voice was soft and the tone was pleasant.
    'You speak Mandarin very well for a Westerner. Where did you learn?'
    She paused, and thought to herself… Be careful of what you say, girl. She gave him a shy smile.
    'My mother taught me as a child… in Hong Kong.'
    Colonel Ming Tsai gave a sage smile and peered myopically at the girl… but, hidden behind his bland demeanour, his steel trap of a mind was collating the gathering pieces of information. The girl spoke Mandarin with a distinct Guangdong Province accent. Hong Kong's Han Chinese majority originated mainly from this area of Mainland China. He detected American overtones in her natural accent… but Hong Kong was a British Crown Colony with little or no American presence or influence. Therefore it would be unlikely that she was with any of the American agencies that infested Vientiane these days.
    The American CIA only recruited American Nationals since the McCarthyism paranoia of the fifties... If there was any American connection at all, it would probably be USAID… The United States Agency for International Development, whose purpose was to provide Foreign aid.
    He decided to press his benevolent interrogation a little further.
    'So, how do you like this beautiful country?'
    Stacey smiled.
    'I'm afraid I haven’t seen much of it yet. I only flew into Wattay airport last night.'
    Colonel Ming nodded. That tied in with the intelligences that had crossed his desk this morning. Only one commercial flight had landed the previous night… a Douglas DC3 belonging to Lao Air Lines. All the other movements for the previous day had been either Air America or Royal Air Lao, with a couple of China Airlines C47 Freighters. The Lao Air Lines flight had arrived from Saigon, and USAID maintained a mission in that city. He smiled again. This young girl gave no outward appearance of being military, with her long, blonde hair and totally feminine aspect. He decided to dig a little deeper.
    'Are you here on a vacation? Or perhaps to study the culture?'
    She shook her head.
    'No; I work for the United Nations International Law Commission. My duties include translation of Lao government documents, collation and research on the origin and personal histories of refugees from northeast Laos to the Vientiane Plain; and research in Lao government archives to create a chronology of political and military events in northern Laos.'
    Colonel Ming Tsai nodded. His expression was benign and impassive. Just as he had originally suspected… this girl might very well be with the CIA. What she was doing here was irrelevant. She was almost certainly just one more Capitalist spy. He smiled.
    'That is a very honourable vocation for one so young in these uncertain times. I am Ming Tsai. I am honoured to make your acquaintance, Miss…?
    She smiled again.
    'Thank you, Mr. Ming. I am Staysha Sharansky.'
    Colonel Ming Tsai's expression changed very slightly. He had heard that surname somewhere before. His gaze remained impassive, but his mind was racing. It was a Russian name. Where had he heard it before?

    Stacey had been briefed back in the Joint Technical Advisory Group facility at Atsugi, Japan, before she embarked upon this mission, that her father had infiltrated North Korea during that war using the legend that he was Colonel Konstantin Sharansky of the Soviet Military Intelligence Service.
    Her mother had told her that she had been christened Staysha… after her father's mother. Now, she chose to use this "Nom de Guerre" to possibly unnerve this Chinese spook. She noticed his sudden change of attitude.
    Colonel Ming Tsai had remembered where he had heard this name before… P'yǒngyang… 'No. 2 Korean People's Army Officers School, in the summer of 1950. Sharansky had been a Colonel… a Soviet Military Attaché; which was actually a smoke-screen used by members of the Soviet Military Intelligence Service. Ming Tsai had been a lowly First Lieutenant advisor to the People's Liberation Army. Yes, he remembered that bastard Russian with the green and red banded visor cap. Was this girl related?... Or even his daughter? If so, was she also KGB?
    Ming Tsai knew that he needed to be very careful as to what he did now. Suddenly the tables might just have turned against him. Russian influence still surpassed Chinese in Laos. There was little love lost between the two powers. The People's Liberation Army was militarily inferior to the Soviet Army, and the Sino-Soviet ideological split between political parties, had decayed into open warfare between states, to the extent that, by January 1967, Red Guards had actually attacked the Soviet Embassy in Beijing. Despite unbroken formal diplomatic ties, the People's Republic of China and Soviet relations had become progressively worse in the ensuing period.
    With this in mind, it was imperative that Ming Tsai now extracted himself from this conversation without losing face, or revealing anything to the detriment of his covert presence in the city. He peered through his thick pebble lenses and smiled benevolently. The toothy yellow smile reminded Stacey of an ancient seaside donkey. He glanced at his expensive Patek Philippe, square, gold wristwatch.
    'Please excuse me, Miss Sharansky, but I have an important meeting to attend, as much as I would like to continue our conversation. I wish you every success in your endeavour on behalf of the United Nations.'
    He bowed slightly and hurried away along the corridor towards the rooms occupied by the Chinese Delegation.