Today’s guest blog is by novelist Paul E Hardisty. Canadian by birth but a resident of Western Australia he is a university professor and Director of Australia’s national land, water, ecosystems and climate adaptation research programmes.
At the start of The Evolution of Fear, Claymore Straker is alone, a fugitive. He is also a prisoner of his past. As a young solider on the front lines of the dirty proxy war in south west Africa in the early 1980’s, when apartheid South Africa was fighting for its life against communist aggression, Clay came face to face with a specific and unique brutality that left him scarred and lost. Now, thirteen years later, as paid assassins close in, he realises that the woman he loves is also a target. To survive, to protect her, to have any kind of future, he must reassess everything. He must either evolve – learn to change - or accept the consequences.
Evolution, both as philosophical construct and scientific theory, is a compelling idea: that all life is guided by an impulse to survive, and so to pass on its genes. Individuals exhibiting traits that ensure survival – better health, a beak better able to access available food supplies, a bigger brain – will live long enough to reproduce and those genetic traits will, over time, become better represented in the general population. Over time, the characteristics of the species will evolve as the traits of the successful individuals come to dominate the population. But can individuals also evolve? Can human beings change themselves, fundamentally, through experience and learning and applied will, to alter their own lives, and the lives of others? These ideas form one of the central themes of the book.
The Evolution of Fear is the sequel to the CWA Creasy New Blood Dagger award short-listed The Abrupt Physics of Dying. The story carries on where the first book left off, with Clay Straker hunted by the Russian mafia and wanted for murder in two countries. The things he has done in his life, both during the war in Angola, and more recently in Yemen and the UK, have shaped who he is, have left him with profound regrets and severe post-traumatic stress. The basic idea for the sequel came in the form of a journey. To find Rania, the woman he loves – also a target for the mafia’s wrath – he must cross storm-swept seas, track into the Swiss Alps, to Istanbul, and finally to Cyprus, where events climax and Clay learns what matters in life, and what does not.
There are friends along the way, too – old comrades thought lost regained, and unexpected acts of kindness from strangers. There are also the inevitable counterpoints of fear and loss, betrayal by those thought closest. For evolution’s natural partner is extinction. Some prosper and grow, some wither and fade away. Every journey is punctuated with crests and troughs, with moments of realisation that can, if we let them, shape who we are.
The Evolution of Fear in many ways wrote itself. I know the places – Switzerland, Istanbul, Cyprus – well. Each has called to me at different times in my life. The journey of realisation was one that Claymore Straker the character had to take, if he was to continue living. I originally wrote the first book as a standalone, with Clay dying in the end. Because he survived, the journey became inevitable, necessary. Either he evolves, or he dies.