Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Here's the last page of the novel. The first page was posted in May.


 If youre sitting in the Alta Praha restaurant in Prague, that is, if youre sitting in the big semi-circular window, then you have an all-embracing view of the river Vltava and the old town with its multi-coloured roofs, old church steeples and huge castle.  If you fancy eating the chefs signature Czech dishes then you order pâté of duck liver and smoked duck breast, cream espuma with foie gras, marinated white radish, espuma of cranberries and red currant, as a starter, followed by baked drake breast, red cabbage confit with apples, warm red wine jelly, and boiled potato dumpling. Chilled Ryzlink Rýnský - late harvest, Habánské Sklepy 2008/09 is a good accompaniment. You finish up with strawberry mousse on strawberry powder with home-made macaron, much admired by the locals.

 The young couple sitting at table 5 have ordered these dishes, although the girl had been tempted to have the pastry pocket of coconut ice cream, strawberries and mango sauce.  Maybe next time.  Their heads are close together when they are not eating and they smile at each other a lot and they seem very happy.  He frequently places his hand on hers.

 ‘Well have to leave for the airport, soon,he is saying.

I know,she replies.  But we will come back to Prague from time to time, wont we?

Of course,he says.

 The young man looks quite well in his dark suit.  He has an amiable face and a confident manner.  But the girl, she is a beauty.  Truly lovely.  Auburn hair piled high on her head, a slender neck with tendrils curling onto it, a heart shaped face, dark eyes under arching brows, a mouth which almost pouts, a feminine and gentle manner….

 The young mans mobile buzzes.   He groans.  Excuse me,he says, raising his eyes to heaven, and looks at the screen.  It is a text message from Dobri,  'Pls call asap.

 ‘I have to call Dobri,he says.  ' Wont be long, I promise.’  He strides off to the foyer.  

 A waiter appears and clears the dishes, smiling at her.  When he has gone she puts her elbow on the table, rests her chin in her hand, and looks out at the town.

 In a corner of the foyer, the young man calls the London number.  When he returns the girl is sitting looking pensively but happily at the rooftops.  She is so beautiful, he thinks, still marveling that she should be with him. 

Monday, October 29, 2012

An Extract from a Screenplay in the Search for Gabriella.

Fellowes steps outside his tent.
Captain Fellowes.
He turns. Amazement, delight and then concern.
Diana! Miss Cameron! What on
earth are you doing here?
[Diana is dressed in cavalry subaltern's
uniform, her hair up under her cap.]
Sssh! Don't give me away!
But what? I've come to rescue my
brother. It's a perfectly natural
thing to do, isn't it?
Yes, of course. Well, no! You're
not in the Bengal Cavalry and
you're not a subaltern and you're
not a - well - a man.
Thank you for the pretty compliment!
And it's going to be extremely
dangerous. You could be hurt!
Oh, phooey!
You're surely not serious about
going all the way to Magdala? The
journey is hardly suitable for a...
... a girl, Captain Fellowes? You
really are rather old-fashioned. I
can ride, shoot, and read a compass,
too. So what is there to worry about?
Well. Firstly it's a very
hazardous expedition - and that
part I do not like at all. Secondly,
there's the embarrassment for you
of being found out.
But it truly isn't a problem! My
younger brother is a subaltern in
the Bengal cavalry - a real one -
and he's here, too. We share a
tent and nobody can tell us apart.
So there!
I don't like it at all.
Don't you, sir!
Who's going to look after you?
What if anything happens to you? I
really don't like it at all!
You've already said that.
Your brother - what's his name?
Well, be so kind as to tell Malcolm
to come straight to me if anything
untoward should occur.
You may tell him yourself, sir!
I damn well will! Oh! I do beg
your pardon, Miss Cameron.
Not at all, Captain Fellowes. But
if you give me away, I shall never
speak to you again. Au revoir.
[Fellowes looks furious.
Neither he nor Diana notice that De Benham is watching them from
a distance, a bitter smile on his face.]

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Is it a Leonardo? An extract from The Search for Gabriella.

Mr. Slama leads us into the restaurant which is empty except for one table at the back, at which sits a large man with a low forehead.  On the table are four glasses and a bottle of vodka.  He heaves himself up and greets us.  Mr. Slama says,
“Mr. Kakonin.   Mr. Fletcher and Mr. Denn from London.”
 Mr. Kakonin grunts and sits down.  His heavy features and small eyes are obviously not used to smiling a lot.  
“Wodka,” he says, pushing two glasses towards us, which he fills to the brim.  Slama helps himself.  I raise my glass to them.
  “Good Luck.” 
“Hah!” shouts Kakonin and we drink.
"You interested my pictures, yes?" We both nod.
"What for?"
"What for?" I ask.
"What you do with them?"
"That depends on many things," I say.
"What things?"
"First we must clean them to see what they might be. If they are of no importance artistically, then too bad.  If they look like they might be old then we must restore them. A long and expensive business.  A big risk.  If they restore well, then we must establish who painted them. That would decide their value.  Then we sell them."
"What kind of profit, you make?"
"That depends entirely on the current market value of the painting.  Is the artist fashionable?  Are there potential clients who are interested in that particular artist?  And so on."
"My paintings worth 100,000 euros.  Very good paintings.  All old.  One is signed with letter  'L'."  I tap Dobri's heel.
"Is Leonardo da Vinci, probably," says Kakonin.
"Every one of Leonardo's paintings is accounted for,' says Dobri. 'Only his drawings are not fully catalogued. Is it a drawing?"
He turns and bellows, "Karenina!"  A young woman enters the restaurant behind him. She is wearing white thigh-length boots, a black and very short plastic mini-skirt and matching tank top. Her blonde hair is cropped and she has a face tattoo of three small gold stars and she carries three old gilt-framed paintings. Kakonin looks at them and shouts at her again. She turns round and struts out but returns immediately with a fourth painting, which he grabs from her.
He lays it on the table before us.  "Is Leonardo!"  Dobri and I lean forward.

Friday, June 1, 2012

Zoetrope and 'The Search for Gabriella'.

The second screenplay featured in the novel 'The Search for Gabriella' was a finalist in the Zoetrope screenplay competition.  This competition was set up by the famous Hollywood director Francis Ford Coppola (the 'Godfather' series, 'Apocalypse Now', 'Dracula', etc.) to encourage new script-writers.  But no movie was made of the screenplay.  A Hollywood agent said it was too British to have an international appeal, while a British agent said it would be too expensive because of the elephants in it (they appear only once).  A French director friend thought it was unusual and lively, but couldn't get anybody interested to put up the finance.  So here it is, in a novel!

Saturday, May 12, 2012

This is not a restaurant review....

.....it's the first page of 'The Search for Gabriella.'

If you’re sitting in the Bennelong restaurant at the Sydney Opera House, that is, if you’re sitting in the big semi-circular window, then you have an all-embracing view of the harbour and the bay with Sydney’s skyscrapers (none of them overly tall) in the background. If you fancy eating the chef’s signature dishes then you order his raw yellowfish tuna in a basil and mustard soy seed sauce vinaigrette, followed by blue-eye trevalla roasted on an etuve of baby summer vegetables (trevalla is a butterfish from the Antarctic). Chilled sake is a good accompaniment. You finish up with Valrhona chocolate cream. This is chocolate ice cream and gelato mixed with praline ice cream and caramelised candied pecans, and is much admired. 

The young couple sitting at table 5 have ordered these dishes, although the girl had been tempted to have the vanilla bean crème brulee with green apple sorbet. Maybe next time. Their heads are close together when they are not eating and they smile at each other a lot, although they seem a little sad. From time to time he places his hand on hers.

“So when do you have to leave?’ he is asking.
“Term starts again on the 16th. So I must leave next weekend,” she replies. “And you? When do you go back?”
“I’m almost finished here now, so I can go pretty soon. I wish neither of us had to go.”
“Yes,’ she says. "So do I. But you will come to Prague soon, won’t you?”
“Of course I will. As soon as I can. As soon as I get the go-ahead from my client. Maybe I’ll be there for your concert!”
“Yes. Please try.”

The young man looks well in his dark suit. He has an amiable face and a confident manner. But the girl, she is a beauty. Truly lovely. Auburn hair piled high on her head, a slender neck with tendrils curling onto it, a heart shaped face, dark eyes under arching brows, a mouth which almost pouts, a feminine and gentle manner…. The young man’s mobile buzzes. He groans.

‘Excuse me,’ he says, raising his eyes to heaven, and looks at the screen. It is a text message. ‘Ur Uncle Edward seriously ill. Pls call asap.’ and it gives a London number.

“I have to make a call,” he says. “It’s urgent. Won’t be long, I promise.” He strides off to the foyer.

A waiter clears the dishes, smiling at her. When he has gone she puts her elbow on the table, rests her chin in her hand, and looks out at the bay.

In a corner of the foyer, the young man calls the London number. It is his uncle’s solicitor. His uncle wants to see the young man as soon as possible. He is very ill. The young man walks slowly back to the table and the girl. He knows he has to go to see his uncle, without delay. They were very close. But it is difficult to leave her, the girl sitting looking pensively at the bay. She is so beautiful, he thinks, still surprised that she should be with him.

“Oh," she says. "I am sorry. For you and for me…” He takes a long look at her as though trying to record every detail of her face.
“I’ll come to Prague as soon as I can.”

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

What Genre is 'The Search for Gabriella'? Where does it fit on booksellers' shelves?

An acquaintance – widely read from Jane Austen to Nora Roberts via thrillers and historical novels – has this to say:

“To describe the book and give it a genre is a hard thing to get right because 'The Search for Gabriella' is an adventure story, a romance, historical, etc. But for me, although it is in part all of those things (and more), it feels most like a mystery. After all, what we are all dying to know from the start is – where is Gabriella? And each element of the story brings the pieces of the puzzle together.

I'd say it's first a mystery and second, a romance, and third, a historical story.

I think the mystery label is accurate in terms of reflecting the story – with the key part being Gabriella, the painting. But then there's Gabriella, the person – quite a romantic figure – and also the romance between the young couple,set today. And as the story starts and ends with the young couple, that makes it feel like a romance. Like all the in-between, with Ben following up his uncle's project and rediscovering Gabriella, which actually leads back to the relationship between him and his young lady.

The historical aspect – the different periods of history, the characterisations and the language – is very important.  Ben's quest to find the answer to his uncle's life's work leads us back through history and around the world. Venice in 1470, Shakespeare's London, Gin Lane in London in 1790, Abyssinia in 1868, and Prague today.  I think this all makes it a romantic mystery 'spanning time and location'."

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

The Kindle.

The Kindle is a phenomenal piece of kit. We no longer have to stuff our carry-on bag with half a dozen books to read on holiday. And if you love Dickens and Austen, they are yours to read for free, weighing almost nothing.

Of course, many people don't fancy the idea of reading a book in that format. They would feel more comfortable with a bigger page size.

What is perhaps not generally known is that you can download Kindle on to your computer for FREE. And so, for those who want a bigger page size, no more problems! As many of us take our lap-top with us when we go away, downloading Kindle is an excellent way to extend its usefulness.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

A News Release about TSFG.

Post-Modern Novel Breaks New Ground.
A new work by author John Problem - 'The Search for Gabriella' - has recently been published. The novel is described as a mystery/romance/adventure/time travel quest, and unusually, contains two screenplays in addition to the normal text. Because of its originality, the work has been described as post-modern although the author insists the book is 'simply a good read.' A reviewer on amazon said: “This book is unusual - set in different time periods with different sets of characters, but the theme that runs through it is really clever and keeps you hooked til the end”.

Friday, March 2, 2012

The Bar-Room Brawl.

Almost every action/adventure movie has a bar-room brawl. 'The Search for Gabriella' is a novel but also features two screenplays, one with a bar-room brawl.  Here it is, from the screenplay 'Tancred', set in renaissance Venice:

The door to the tavern is thrown open. The drunks have returned with reinforcements.
SIEGFRIED: Look at that, now.
ORSO: There's a thing.
VIOLETTA: I'll accept your offer this time, gentlemen. But don't let them damage my chair.
SIEGFRIED: Why don't you move it out of the way?
VIOLETTA: Because it's screwed down. Come, boy.
She and the boy stand back and watch. During the brawl that follows, the golden chair is in great danger of being hit by flying chairs, staggering drunks, men who have been hit hard or thrown by Siegfried or Orso; but each time, in the nick of time, it is saved by them. Also at risk, but protected with great dexterity, is the bottle of wine which loses a few drops, but no more, despite being picked up, put down, and thrown between Siegfried and Orso at dangerous moments in the fighting. The brawl continues until Siegfried and Orso are the last left standing - in front of the chair, Siegfried holding the wine bottle.
THE BOY: Whew!

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

What kind of a book is 'The Search for Gabriella'?

Reader 1:  For me it’s a mystery story.  About Ben’s quest to find the answer to his uncle’s life’s work.

Reader 2:  Yes, I see that.  But for me it’s a sort of historical novel.  Look at the different time periods where the action takes place - Renaissance Venice, Elizabethan England, out in Abyssinia in the time of Queen Victoria, and present day London and Prague.

Reader 3:  That‘s true.  But for me, it’s a romance - or two romances. There’s Gabriella and her beau, there’s Ben and the girl who isn‘t named.  But I forgot!  There’s Tom and Diana.  It’s full of romance!

Reader 4:   Well, for me, it’s an adventure story. With a lot of action.  I love the brawl in the bar in Venice, and the gondola chase, and the rockets firing away in Abyssinia, and the sly Kakonin in Prague, trying to outwit Ben.   

Monday, February 6, 2012

Authenticity makes it real.

A great number of novels today are set in the past.  The authors either skate swiftly over the customs of the time - how people talked, what interested them, their food and drink - and get on with their story.  Others take time to research the period in which they set their novel and give us the benefit of authenticity.

‘The Search for Gabriella’ falls in the second category.  Particularly in the screenplays, one of which is set in Renaissance Venice and the other in Abyssinia during Queen Victoria’s reign. 

In Renaissance Venice mercenaries, or condottiere as they were called, played a large part in the events of that time - not as much as the merchants who created Venice but even so…. still today there is a huge statue of a condottiere in Venice central. 

The army expedition sent to rescue the consul in Abyssinia did indeed include a naval rocket brigade, Captain Speedy was a hero of the day, and Stanley - the man who found Livingstone lost in Africa - was also there as a reporter, just as portrayed in the screenplay.  In fact, the only people in this screenplay who were not there in real life  are the girl Diana, who disguises herself as a cavalry subaltern, and the fantastic young Abyssinian warrior Welda.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Gin Lane, London.

They have come from Covent Garden, walking along Henrietta Street and turning into Gin Lane, making for The Strand.  Gin Lane is filthy, dirty gutters, wretched houses with broken windows, ("Beware the slops, Master," says Forlan), windows patched with rags and paper and, out behind, hideous stinking drains and latrines and, behind them, the dark hulk of Newgate Prison. The only building in good repair is the pawnbroker's shop, its windows heavily barred.
A drunken woman sprawls on the pavement while her child picks about in the gutter.  A man fights with a dog for a bone. Old men, drunken, besotted, stagger by.  Wretched, broken-down, miserable women shuffle along.  A group of young men standing on a corner look at Grotius and Forlan, with feral eyes, move forward, but then hesitate.  Grotius and Forlan step round a drunken fight between labourers in the gutter. A man dressed like a parson stands in the middle of an ill-coloured puddle reading loudly from a tattered  bible. 
In a doorway is a group of young women.  
(Extracted from 'the Search for Gabriella.')

Thursday, January 12, 2012


There are innumerable dogs in literature but not many come to mind immediately.  There's  'Bulls-Eye' in Dickens, 'White Fang' in Jack London, the 'Hound of the Baskervilles' in Conan Doyle, and 'Tinky-Woo' (?) in James Herriott, to name a few. 
Shakespeare has a lot to say about dogs - there are 156 references to dogs in his plays.  However most of them are derogatory.
'Out dog!' 'Out cur!'  'Thou damned execrable dog!'  'Let gallows gape for this dog!'
'You bawling, blasphemous, incharitable dog!'   
'Thou drivest me beyond the bounds of patience!'   
'Un-mannered dog!'   'Unpeacable dog!'   'Thou issue of a mangy dog!'
And so on.  Could it be said he didn't like dogs?
In 'The Search for Gabriella' there is a scene where Shakespeare is trying to write his play 'Antony and Cleopatra' (Cry havoc and let slip the dogs of war!) and is constantly interrupted by a dog.  And the dog is not immune to insults, alas.