Wednesday, April 6, 2011

The Russian Renaissance

Today on the blog we have writer Ian Kharitonov to talk about his new book The Russian Renaissance.

What is your earliest memory of writing?
I began writing an Indiana Jones fan fiction story when I was about 6 or 7. Shame I didn't finish it!

How does it feel being published?
It's a great feeling to get your book out to readers. I'd never imagined anyone would care about my novel when I started, I did it purely for myself, but my novel ended up winning an award from Clive Cussler.

When did you decide to be a writer?
I've always been creative, and I realized that I wanted to be a writer when I was 15.

Do you get writer's block? How do you combat it?
When I get writer's block it means that something is wrong with the story. The only way to combat it is improving your work, by editing weak areas or doing more research on the subject you're dealing with.

Where do you write? Do you write longhand, typewriter or computer?
I still jot down notes in an old-fashioned exercise book, and write on my Macbook at home.

Tell us about your Latest Book.
The Russian Renaissance is an award-winning international thriller. Following the tradition of Cussler, Ludlum and Morrell, it's full of high-octane action, intrigue and exotic locations. Unlike other thrillers set in Russia, it's been noted for its high level of authenticity and chilling factual detail.

Here's the blurb:

"Constantine can no longer hide in Europe. As he discovers a century-old secret, he must flee back to Moscow, chased by assassins.
Only one man can save him. Eugene Sokolov: an officer in the world's most elite rescue unit, a martial arts legend… and Constantine's brother.
They face an enemy unlike any other. In a game run by a KGB spymaster, the fate of Russia will depend on their survival."

What advice do you have for aspiring writers?
Learn your craft. A lot will come from experience, but at least two books are essential: Techniques of the Selling Writer by Dwight V. Swain and The Successful Novelist by David Morrell. After that, don't listen to any advice and follow your heart.

EXCERPT : The Russian Renaissance



The Soviet Union

Death was the only destination in the train’s five-year-long schedule.

Even its name sounded like a shrill omen. The Felix Dzerzhinsky, a 137-tonne locomotive, was a child of its era—an unstoppable mass of raw power fleshed in metal.

During 1936, its first year of operation, the Felix Dzerzhinsky coursed between Russia’s faceless stations and towns, hauling cattle. The animals had filled the tidy new freight cars with the lingering smell of their sweat and waste, parasites infesting the cracks between the hoof-dented boards, the feeling of imminent slaughter staying with the train forever.

Soon enough, the cattle was replaced by people. Men and women, old and young, most sick, some bleeding, all filled the freight cars heading to the gulags, towards a fate far more dreadful than that of the animals. The luckiest died on the way.

Now, as the war broke out, the Felix Dzerzhinsky carried a special cargo to the safety of Central Asia: hundreds of wooden crates stacked from the secret vaults of Leningrad and Moscow. Special passengers in the form of a six-man Red Army escort occupied the newly-fitted first class carriage.

The single beam of light sheared the night as the Felix Dzerzhinsky roared across the vast Kazakh steppe. The train pushed its boilers to the limits, charging to the invisible finish line. Yet its run was cursed by the presence of the treasured cargo.

Death still waited at the other end.

Inside the confines of the single passenger car, the gunshots boomed above the monotonous throbbing. The Red Army soldiers were too slow to react. They had not expected an attack from within. Not from their commander, Comrade Yehlakov of the NKGB.

At close range, Yehlakov blasted the heads of four soldiers keeping watch, each barely eighteen. While the other two fumbled for their bolt-action rifles, shocked awake from sleep, confused, Yehlakov finished them off.

The new car was now also smeared with death.

Yehlakov replaced the empty clip of his TT semiautomatic, and entered the driver’s cabin, gunning down the crew. The driver clutched his throat, trying to clog the wide open hole, and the torrent of blood gushing from it mingled with the soot on his hands. He stumbled, gurgling, looking at his black blood. A second gunshot destroyed his face, and he crashed over the corpse of his fireman.

Stepping over their bodies, Yehlakov pulled the brake handle. The brakes locked onto the wheels and the enormous friction showered sparks in every direction. A piercing screech of protesting metal reverberated around the compartment. The train shook as it tried to restrain its own momentum. Gradually, the Felix Dzerzhinsky came to a stop.

Yehlakov climbed down from the cabin and looked around. The gloom was impenetrable. The train’s lamp would serve as a position marker.

Leningrad, the origin of the Felix Dzerzhinsky, was a city commanded by evacuation mayhem. Fuel, provisions, armaments and entire factories were being relocated from the advancing Germans, and many consignments lost in the process. The disappearance of the train, if it were ever noticed, would be written off to a Luftwaffe raid in Moscow by Army staffers fearful of repercussions. Yehlakov didn’t care much. There was little chance of Moscow surviving anyway.

A column of trucks appeared in the distance, their flickering lights drawing closer. The huge ZIS-5 vehicles stopped in front of Yehlakov, washing him in the beams of their headlights. In the blinding light he couldn’t make out the faces of the men approaching him.

“Right on time,” Yehlakov said, squinting.

“Too bad for you,” the man from the lead truck replied. Three figures leveled their machine guns at Yehlakov—the recognizable silhouettes of American Thompsons.

Yehlakov’s cry was cut short by a hail of .45-calibre bullets that shredded his body.

“All right men,” an order sounded. “Move, move, move!”

The tiny figures of two dozen soldiers scurried to the Felix Dzerzhinsky like scavengers ravaging a beached whale.

Reloading all the crates into the trucks proved to be a massive job, but the attackers carried it out with efficiency. Trouble arose only once. A crate crashed, bursting open, and antique icons poured from it onto the dusty ground. Gleaming through the darkness in their radiant halos were the faces of saints. The holy men gazed at killers with divine serenity, their eyes full of suffering and forgiveness.

After it was all over, raging flames engulfed the empty cars, and the attackers vanished back into the night.

The dead metal beast had completed its final, blood-drenched journey.


-- Ian Kharitonov

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