Thursday, 18 October 2012


Hey guys! I'm glad to present another new book to you guys - THE OLIGARCH: A THRILLER by G W Eccles.

From the author himself:-

The devil's in the detail 

One of the key problems an author has in setting a novel in Russia is that Russia is not like everywhere else. Of course, if you wander around the centre of Moscow and St Petersburg for a few days, the only apparent difference may seem to be the Cyrillic. But if you scratch below the surface, then you will find the way that the average Russian lives and behaves is very different. If you move out of the big cities in western Russia and cross the Volga into Siberia, where the heart of Russia lies, then you are most definitely entering a different world.

Of course, one can read about Russia, search the internet for photos of possible settings, or buy a travel book, but to be honest this doesn't get around the problem. The best novels set in Russia effectively turn Russia itself into one of the book's characters: as you read them, you feel they could be set nowhere else because, otherwise, one of the main characters would be lost. How does one achieve this? Well, it is not easy: the devil's in the detail. Let me give some examples to show what I mean.

Everyone has read about the political and business corruption in Russia, the questionable means by which some oligarchs amassed their fortunes, and the activities of the so-called Russian mafia. However, corruption in Russia runs much deeper than this and permeates right through its officialdom to the lowest levels. People expect to make bribes in Russia, it is part of their way of life. The traffic police, known colloquially as GAIs, operate outside the system of the mainstream police force and comprises simple people, very badly paid. They will stop cars at random, accuse the driver of speeding, dangerous driving, drinking or having deficient papers, and threaten to take the driver down to the station. As a matter of course, the driver will then make a bribe and be allowed to go about his business. As an expat, it is important to know how much to bribe: if you give too little, then you will be stopped by another GAI a little further on and be forced to go through the same procedure.

Getting your own goods in or out of Russia can be an ordeal in itself. For example, having lived in the Former Soviet Union for many years, I was finally leaving and made arrangements for my two dogs to be flown back to France. A few hours before the flight, my secretary received a call to say that the customs office's network had gone down, so they would not be able to process my dogs that evening. I asked my secretary to call them back and ask them how much it would cost for the network to start working again, and without any shame she was told $200.

It is perhaps instances like these that has helped bring about the mistrust most Russians have towards officials. In particular, the horrors of the Soviet system significantly affects the way older people behave: if you are walking along a main street, for instance, you will be struck by the way that older people look steadfastly ahead of them or stare at the pavement, reluctant to catch a stranger's eye. This goes back to the days when acknowledging someone who might be 'under investigation', albeit accidentally, was a dangerous practice. On one occasion in mid-winter, the temperature about -20C, I watched from my car window pedestrian stepping over a drunk lying unconscious on a centre traffic island and in severe danger of dying of hypothermia. No one would risk helping a stranger.

Rich people have bodyguards - often not just one, but half-a-dozen. They will drive around in their four-wheel drive with blackened windows accompanied by the bodyguards in similar cars in front and behind of them. Neither drivers nor bodyguards ever wear uniform, but tend to be scruffy and look like 'hoods'. On one occasion, a friend of mine was stuck in a traffic jam in Tverskaya (Moscow's main street) when such a car behind him began hooting repeatedly. After a few minutes, my friend got out and walked back towards the car. On reaching it, the car window opened to reveal a gun appeared aimed at my friend, who walked resignedly back towards his car, discretion being definitely the best part of valour.

The first sight of a their allocated accommodation is normally a shock to most Westerners when they first arrive in Russia. Of course, there are now many modern apartment blocks in Moscow and St Petersburg, normally somewhat flashier than in the west, but with all mod-cons. However, these don't exist in Siberia at all, and even in the main western Russian cities ex-pats will tend to live in apartment blocks which were formally communal flats (apartments which would be shared by four or five families). While the apartments will have been subject to an expensive 'remont' (the Russian world for renovation), many of the other apartments in the same block will still be communal flats. Westerners are normally horrified by: first, the entrances to the blocks, which often stench of urine from passing down-and-outs who have sought shelter under the stairs ; second, the walls of communal area being literally covered with obscene graffiti; and finally, the fact that no amount of rent-a-kill will manage to eliminate the cockroaches from the walls their apartments. Some of your neighbours might be somewhat dubious too: one day soon after I moved into an apartment not far from the Kremlin, my young son drew my attention to a man in his vest sitting on the balcony across the courtyard cleaning his guns.

Shopping is another activity which is different for most Russians. The oligarchs and their wives may drop in and out of Tiffany or Gucci, but in Siberia (and elsewhere) the average Russians do most of their shopping in their local open-air market. There is no formal structure to these markets, just rows of makeshift stalls, manned by elderly men and women but operated by a local criminal cartel. Food, clothes, second-hand electrical goods, spares for cars or televisions and so on occupy stall after stall in a very haphazard fashions, and the aisles stream with shoppers barging their way through the crowds. Much of the food looks almost inedible to Western eyes. Every now and then there will be a young man selling branded electrical goods (almost certainly either fake or 'fallen of the back of a lorry') from the open back of a van.

Restaurants in Siberia, in particular, have hardly moved on from the Soviet days. They tend to occupy enormous, garishly painted, unatmospheric rooms with very high ceilings. In winter the heating will be totally inadequate. Do not be fooled by the long menu a surly waitress might toss down on your table: most of the dishes listed will not be available, and those that are may well be inedible. I can remember being confronted, inter alia, with a whole tongue with protruding veins clearly visible, horsemeat, raw fish soaked in strong vinegar and raw onions, and 'white caviar' (little bubbles that popped in the mouth excreting a sour, smelly liquid). Stick to the soups which are often bland, but normally edible, as you listen to the obligatory local pop group miming to very loud taped music and watch groups of local Russian women dancing with one another.

In The Oligarch: A Thriller I worked very hard to get all the detail as accurate as possible. I was helped enormously in this task by my wife who lived with me in Russia and Central Asia for ten years. I am sure we didn't get everything right, but I made every effort to ensure that this thriller is one of the most authentic. As I said at the beginning, if you are going to set a novel in Russia, then Russia itself has to be one of the main characters. I hope I have achieved this.

The Book:-

THE OLIGARCH: A THRILLER is available from Foyles, Amazon, Barnes & Noble and all other major online book stores. Links to these stores can be found on the novel's website: .

\Synopsis: Following his controversial election for a third term amid widespread protests and allegations of vote rigging, the Russian President is determined to destroy the oligarchs before they destroy him. When the global economic meltdown decimates their wealth, the President seizes this chance to demolish their power base. His greatest opponent - Anton Blok, owner of the mighty Tyndersk Kombinat - has a secret agenda and faces far more than just financial ruin as his empire threatens to fall apart, and the President knows that his old enemy will stop at nothing to avoid catastrophe. With battlelines drawn, he turns to Alex Leksin, a business troubleshooter of Russian descent, to thwart Blok's plans. Against the challenge of hostile Arctic conditions, Leksin must tread a dangerous path through a labyrinth of corruption, terrorism and obfuscation until the exciting and unexpected denouement takes place in Russia’s northernmost seaport. Set in Moscow, Ingushetia (Chechnya’s neighbour), and Tyndersk, a Siberian mining town inside the Arctic Circle and geographically cut off from the rest of Russia, the plot twists and turns within an authentic and disturbing background.


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