About this book

masquerade-5It started as notes scribbled into an exercise book in a dacha during a hot Russian summer, initially in the first person, an attempt to record impressions of life in Russia – it stayed as notes for some time.

Around 2003, it seemed to me that world events were becoming not good out there and now being on the internet, I read so many reports on the ruling elite, from the UN to the shadow government in each land, clearly trying to bring down society and curtail freedoms of citizens.  Things like WTC7 had been quite iffy and government was lying to its people in every land.

Not long afterwards, the blog began and it seemed to me that the events described on the blog would be a good background plot for a semi-fictional tale, incorporating my real adventures in Russia.  The idea was that it would not be so much about those events in themselves but about the lives of the characters, observing the outside world and society along the way.

What if a group of those characters though had inadvertently offended this hidden elite?  This ‘ragtag’ could then go on the run across Europe and all sorts of plot possibilities were there.  The issue, obviously, was the characters.

I had a femme-fatale right there beside me, so that was easy enough – ready-made dialogues – but once it went to third person and assumed the look of a novel, the main male protagonist could no longer be me, he needed to be an amalgam of various people, plus there was that huge danger of a fan-fiction Mary-Sue, able to leap tall buildings in a single bound.

He needed to be more anti-hero, not all that capable but quite experienced all the same, she needed to be what she was – drop dead gorgeous in real life, but also with character flaws.

If the Russian and French sections of the book seem dominated by females, that’s what I was doing in the 90s and 00s, so there was much ready-made dialogue which could be pressed into service.

The plot

It starts with observations of life in a Russian town, the first discordant element is then introduced where he seems to have offended elements within the power bloc in the country, and that escalates to the point where other similar people come into this sphere and they become, by part two, a ragtag on the run from people wishing them harm – see David Kelly, Philip Hanes, Gary Webb and Seth Rich for character ideas.

I needed to have a situation by the end of part two where the main male protagonist is a sort of security honcho, a SpAd, so that I could use my own time in association with a trade minister, from his palatial office to his various projects I helped work on. The thought came – why not make the head man the Prime Minister and this Hugh Jensen his crazy SpAd – plenty of material around to make that work.

Also, by this time, the last part of part one and almost all of part two had departed Russia and was centred south of Paris, near Fontainebleau – again, my own adventures there provided the copy.

A short distance into part three, it came up to the current day and from there into the future, meaning I was guessing what would happen in Europe and the world.  Redacting the entire story in March, 2020, it was a shock to see how much the eschatology of the last chapters actually described current events in 2020 outside.

Gulp.

The final chapters are about how swiftly, once the disintegration of the west begins, it completely collapses, long white-anted but now imploding and that leads to conflagration and the end of the earth as we know it, described by some of the characters as they observe from a distance. Charming, eh?

Themes and style

While the main plot is dystopic, the mood of the storylines is not always so – it’s fair to say it’s a romantic adventure, punctuated by horror and dark humour, heavy on relationships and how they survive or don’t in a disintegrating world, plus excursions into various firearms.

One of the in-jokes in the Russian part one was The Odd Couple who appear from time to time at Cafe Giuseppe, high above the old town.  He’s 40ish and she’s 20 something – these are the real life us, even down to her wooden hairclip in the shape of two hearts.

The development of Nicolette, first seen on page one of part one, into the main female protagonist of the book in parts two and three, took quite some time – I slowly fell in love with her because she was an amalgam of a few ladies I’d loved, weighted towards their better aspects yet avoiding the Mary-Sue, and though she’s by no means a saint, she’s good-hearted and true, so what more can anyone ask for?

By the end of the book, she resembles a lady I currently know – also a good woman.

Dear reader, if you can find the time to grit your teeth and wade through this tome, best of luck and bless you.

James Higham
04.03.20