For all Tarantino and Meiko Kaji fans out there: Check out this video on YouTube.
I first got to know this singer and actress through Kill Bill, the legendary movie by Quentin Tarantino. The hip seventies tunes influenced by Japanese music style made for an intriguing combination. After a long search, I ordered a CD through an international music store, and several weeks later a box arrived… through Belarus of all places! I still wonder why it was sold by a one man shop in one of the last dictatorships in Europe.
Great music, I kept on playing the CD in my car. I still do not know what the lyrics are about, I once stumbled across one translation, which was some jive about Ginza gangsters, unfamiliar stuff. I decided to buy more. I had to wait until my next trip to Tokyo to be able to pick up a box with seven CDs pure Meiko Kaji ! I also got one of her movies, vintage Japanese, with Kaji-san as the proprietress of a house of gentleman amusement, very talkative and yes, boring for the first 95%, at which points she pulls out a sharp samurai sword and kills of her opponents in a bloody battle. Curtain.
We met in the lobby of the Aswan hotel at three in the morning. Outside it was dark, and not much cooler than during the day. “Hurry up, hurry up,” shouted the manager of the hotel. I think he had gotten out of bed especially for us, and wanted to go back to sleep. My wife (at that time my girlfriend) and I, together with three French tourists, piled into a taxi. The taxi driver gave gas, and off we went: to the temple of Abu Simbel. This was a five-hour drive through an unwelcoming, hot desert; the reason why we had to leave so early. We would arrive at Abu Simbel at around seven in the morning, visit the famous UNESCO-protected Egyptian temple for two hours, and arrive back at the hotel before the hottest time of the day.
And Aswan was hot. We visited Egypt in late winter/early spring and had both brought a flu along, which quickly developed into bronchitis. In Luxor, famous for its many temples, we had to organize a home visit by an MD, who gave us a large array of drugs to get us walking again. I experienced the temples of Karnak and Luxor through a fever- and codeine-induced haze. We had arrived in Aswan by train from Luxor a few days before and had spent the afternoons in the Old Cataract Hotel, drinking tea and eating sandwiches, convalescing, and escaping from the oppressive heat.
Nevertheless, now we were reasonably fit and ready for adventure. The taxi driver drove like a madman, overtaking other taxis and tourist buses along the way. We had a short stop halfway, just after the sun had come up, which hung like a burning metal plate above an endless and completely flat desert. I found some dung and saw a few flies, and was surprised that anything could live in this place. Another taxi hiccupped towards us, and over the next half hour several taxi drivers tried to repair its accelerator, but if I recall correctly, they didn’t manage to fix it. I don’t think those tourists ever arrived in Abu Simbel.
We did arrive at the temple, which is both an impressive architectural feat by the pharaoh as well as modern man, since the temple was moved five hundred meters so that it wouldn’t be covered by the waters rising in the gigantic Aswan reservoir. I can’t remember the temple well, except that its back is covered by an ugly dome of modern concrete, and the presence of a large airfield for the richer tourists. We were poor students at the time, traveling with backpacks and staying at three dollar hotels in obscure sidestreets, cheap because they were located closely to a neighborhood mosque. This was Ramadan time, so we didn’t need to set an alarm; the recorded singing of the muazzin and a 500 Watt loudspeaker took care of that.
After visiting the temple, we arrived back at the taxi, the driver already impatiently pacing about. We waited and waited for the three other tourists. “Let’s sit in the front,” suggested my wife. “that’s cooler anyway.” Finally, the three others arrived and climbed into the back. The taxidriver cursed and cursed, but as they didn’t speak English, I don’t think they realized what was happening. He didn’t pay them much respect anyway, as the women wore skimpy dresses, showing a lot of leg and chest, which doesn’t resonate well in Muslim countries. Off we went again, burning rubber! This time we had a few more stops as the heat began to take its toll on all of us. First, we paused for tea at a military post (at that time there was considerable tension with Sudan), where we had a chance to chat with the drivers.
A hundred miles north, we passed by an overturned taxi. It looked as if it had careened off the highway, hit the soft desert sand, and had gone topsy-turvy. There were many tracks and footsteps in the sand, but no humans. “Probably helicopter, bring to hospital,” shouted the driver over the hot wind, shaking his head. “Only for good driver. Desert danger!”
The three Frenchmen in the back had conked out from the heat; these taxis didn’t have any air conditioning, and we survived by the hot air that blew in through the the windows.
We arrived at a burnt-out ruin, and the driver roiled the taxi next to a few other parked cars. Tea time apparently. He got out, men hurried towards him. They spoke, and our driver started shouting and cursing. No tea this time, he immediately got back into the cab and we set off again. We continued to race north. “What happened?” I shouted at the driver, the wind blowing away my words.
“Whose father? How?” I thought I had misunderstood him.
“That taxi.” He pointed toward the back with his thumb.
“Is he in the hospital?” I shouted, almost afraid to press the point.
The taxi driver put his right thumb underneath his left ear and pretended to slit his throat. “Dead.”
“What’s he saying?” asked my wife. I repeated the conversation to her. “Jesus.” We didn’t know what to say, and stayed silent for a while, stealing occasional glances at the driver, who looked straight ahead, seemingly unperturbed, which made the entire affair even more unbelievable. As far as we could understand from the driver, the tourists had indeed been transported to Aswan by helicopter.
The issue is that a trip to and from Abu Simbel followed an extremely straight and tedious highway. There’s nothing to see but tarmac and flat sand. To make ends meet all taxi drivers held multiple jobs; they would drive a taxi in the morning, work in a garage during the day, and sell clothing in the Souk until ten in the evening. Due to exhaustion, accidents were bound to happen.
At the next military checkpoint, my wife and I swapped places. The soldiers already knew what had happened, and shook hands with our driver. He didn’t react much. Up to that point, the driver had occasionally already started to nod off, struggling to keep his eyes open. My wife began to ask him questions to keep him awake. I was struggling with sleep myself. The three tourists, deep asleep in the back, looked like pale meat overdone in a microwave.
Finally, the driver managed to pull open his eyes and sit up straight: Aswan came into sight. Taxis stood parked on the street, the drivers waving at our cab excitedly. News had spread around fast. “I am sorry,” we said to the taxi driver, as we gave him a generous tip. He shrugged, and hurried across the street to his colleagues.
“What ‘ees ‘appening?” asked one of the French tourists.
“His father died in the accident in the desert. The overturned car we passed?”
“What? What ‘appended?” Obviously, they hadn’t seen or noticed anything. We didn’t hang around to explain, why spoil their vacation?
My wife and I returned to the Old Cataract Hotel for tea, which had a bitter taste, which no sugar in the world could cure.
“[…] Alan’s character, […] certainly does evolve over the course of this book, and his interactions with the other characters reveal a lot about his character as well. I found his clinical approach to almost everything completely believable and just part of his personality rather than a lack of character development. In fact, his scientific viewpoint is charming even. Then, as his journey continues, he keeps using his training and knowledge, but he also gets scrappier as time goes on, propelled forward by a raw emotional passion to get to his family rather than analyzing every single event and detail. He feels compassion for the people that he meets even as he analyzes their motives and inner-workings, but he never gives off an inhuman vibe to the reader. He comes across as very human—the time he is almost brought to tears by the meal fixed by Mikhail and Artyom, his instinct to reach out to the despairing Laura, his analysis of Yrina’s losses, his attachment to Bo and King. There are countless examples of the depth and humanity of his character. He is original and yet familiar.”
TWO JOURNEYS here, as paperback or eBook.
The editor of Two Journeys wrote a couple of very nice lines: “Your other characters are also compelling, and none of them rang false or unbelievable. I loved the trio back in Krasnoyarsk. Even though I wanted Alan to go home and knew he had to, I was sad when he left Leonid and the others behind. I even liked the characters on the space station. Urs was creepy from the very start, believably so. Victor was interesting, and I like how his real story or secret is never revealed. I also liked how you never revealed what went awry between Mikhail and Artyom. Some loose ends in a big book are good.” TWO JOURNEYS: find it here, as paperback or eBook.
The apocalypse may be upon us. Experience it in Two Journeys and Fields of Fire.
Coffee has been shown to be potent against nervous disorders such as Parkinson’s, dementia and Alzheimers, so while it may be a good idea to drink hot tea to combat flu and corona symptoms, remember: A nice hot cup of joe can and should be enjoyed anywhere, anytime.
And while you are drinking your coffee, take a look at the Corona site from the World Health Organization, which explains in detail the best way to act: www.who.int/COVID-19.
As this situation deepens, be very critical of myths. Here a few that I picked up:
As the epidemic worsens, the toilet paper supply chain will collapse. People who spread this rumor either have no running water installed or aren’t aware that the pages of their gutter press newspaper are a sublime bog roll replacement.
A pandemic will help reduce overpopulation. This is a crackpot, juvenile argument, which is debunked right away: remember the post-Second World War babyboom? Consider that your parents, grandparents run the highest risk in any epidemic, perhaps too high a price to pay? Off course, in my novel TWO JOURNEYS I exactly describe this last-man-on-Earth scenario – but hey! that is FANTASY, folks. Separate fact from fiction.
Ibuprofen may worsen the symptoms of Covid. I received this one as an actual recorded voicemail, which is being passed on; a bit embarrassing for the lady who is speaking. It sounds very convincing, especially as the message explains why MDs are apparently afraid to officially spread the message; that “archenemy of humankind”, the “evil Pharma industry” might sue them (aren’t they the ones who create those horrible vaccines?). You couldn’t make this up. Well, apparently somebody did. A quick scan of all official sites shows that no link between covid and ibuprofen has officially been confirmed by any one. The more convincing any rumor sounds, the more virulent it becomes – but that doesn’t make it more true.
Part two! These are the comments of the editor of Two Journeys – a great review, you will agree. “I almost wonder whether if in the promotional descriptions you may want to tone down any emphasis on a dystopian or post-apocalyptic society so that you do not alienate (no pun intended) readers who may not normally gravitate toward that genre, only because I truly believe that readers not typically interested in such topics will enjoy your book as much as someone who seeks them out. Your book was extremely engaging, intelligent, entertaining, and well-written. I thoroughly enjoyed editing it […] Overall, the writing was incredibly strong. This is a great book. I rarely cry at the end of books or movies, but I cried when he made it to Hansen’s…”
Get your copy of TWO JOURNEYS: how-to-order-the-books-by-clemens-suter/
High speed adventure novels – available today
Sample from Two Journeys
“Our route took us between hundreds of cars parked in the traffic jam. Most of the passengers had turned into skeletons with very little flesh on them. Due to the decaying process, the interiors of the cars were disgustingly dirty, and I realized that I couldn’t use any of them for transport.
Arriving at the head of the traffic jam, I turned around and looked back. For the first time in days, tears ran down my cheeks. Turning around, cursing, barefoot and dressed only in a blanket, I left the scene, almost delirious, hardly able to make a rational decision, just continuing, like an automaton.
The road went up and down slowly, crossing some minor hills. I vaguely remember passing through wooded areas, black birds singing obscenely loud from the branches. The rising sun stayed hidden behind the clouds and doused the landscape into gray depressing light. The road was mostly empty, although some debris had collected here and there: dust and ashes, leaves and dirt.
At some point, my feet started bleeding, but I can’t recall that I noticed any pain.
The road climbed another hill, and I walked towards the top. I was dead tired, so much so that I was actually just shuffling along. The dogs were far ahead of me. The air was cold, and I had to pull the rough blanket closely around my shoulders.
A parked car stood just over the apex of the hill. I looked inside. It was empty. I tried the door. It was open.
I let myself down onto the driver seat. I almost fell asleep as I sat there, but my hand found the keys in the ignition and I started the motor. It kicked into action right away. I stumbled out again and opened the passenger door for the dogs.
The car was of a make that I had never seen. It wasn’t very big, but the tank was half full. I gave it gas and steered it onto the middle of the road.”
The adventure novel TWO JOURNEYS tells the story of a man who is the sole survivor of a post-apocalyptic event.
How is it possible to survive as the last man on earth? In adventure literature, Robinson Crusoe is probably the most famous imaginary character in such a situation. But real-life people have been separated from humanity for extended periods of time – if not the remainder of their life. These include the likes of Thorgisl, Grettir Ásmundarson, Fernão Lopez, Juan de Cartagena and Pedro Sánchez Reina, Gonzalo de Vigo, Marguerite de La Rocque, Jan Pelgrom and Wouter Loos(the first westerners to set foot in Australia), Miskito Will, Alexander Selkirk, Philip Ashton, Pedro Serrano, Ada Blackjack, Jesus Vidana, Salvador Ordoñez, Lucio Rendo, Leendert Hasenbosch, Chunosuke Matsuyama and Charles Barnard – and there are many more names of people that were forced to live in isolation over extended time periods. Some lived isolated for a few months, others for years… What unites these involuntarily castaways is their tremendous drive to return to humanity.
Some also select to be alone for extended periods of time, such as Gerald Kingsland and Lucy Irvine or Tom Neale (the latter spent 16 lonely years in solitude on the Cook Islands – by his own choice).
Survival is possible, and depending on the character of the castaway, might even be seen as enjoyable … one of the reasons why I selected this theme for my novel Two Journeys: how does an individual thrown from modern society, deal with the prospect of being alone…perhaps for the rest of his or her life?
In my novels Two Journeys and Fields of Fire, this shocking situation is caused by a global epidemic. Humanity has gone a long time without a major pandemic. But recent outbreaks of viruses such as SARS, corona or influenza (e.g. H2N2 or the Asian Flu H3N2; or bird flu) have occurred again and again in the past years. Is humanity prepared? In my books, I show a different path than what some so-called “preppers” or the “prepper movement” appears to advocate. If catastrophe strikes, keeping to the higher ground morally shows that we are human.
Learn more about the adventure books by Clemens P. Suter here.