Tuesday, 12 April 2016

Why 1946 by Gavin Scott

Gavin Scott is a British Hollywood screenwriter who spent twenty years as a radio and television reporter for BBC and ITN, and has worked in film and television with Steven Spielberg and George Lucas. His films include Small Soldiers and The Borrowers; among his television series are The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles and War and Peace.

I chose to set The Age of Treachery, the first in my series of Duncan Forrester adventure mysteries in 1946 because I wanted to write about someone, like my own father, returning from World War II eager to get back to a peacetime existence, but who finds that the demands of the postwar world push him back into the middle of big events. 1946 was therefore a logical year to begin but I had no idea when I started researching it just how extraordinary a year it was. And how perilous.

Much of Europe was still in ruins: ports, roads, schools, shops and homes smashed to pieces by six years of bombing and shelling. In the wreckage of Berlin women sold themselves for cigarettes and food. Millions died of hunger and there were millions of refugees either on the roads or in camps for displaced persons: former prisoners of war, former forced labourers and the wretched survivors of the death-camps. More than ten million Germans were pushed westwards by the Russians and over two million people in Western Europe were forced into Russian control, often at gunpoint by the victorious Allies to fullfil the deals made by the wartime leaders. When Ukrainians rose against the Soviets tens of thousands were killed. Winston Churchill himself saw it as the beginning of a new dark age of cruelty and squalor.

But that wasn't all he foresaw. In a speech at Westminster College in Fulton, Missouri that March he prophesied an apocalyptic death-match between Democracy and Communism. He told an audience that included President Harry Truman that “an Iron Curtain has fallen across Europe” and that Russia’s “desire for the indefinite expansion of the power and doctrine", meant "catastrophe may overwhelm us all."

A catastrophe that might well be nuclear. The Soviets did not yet have the Bomb, but they were scrambling hard to discover its secrets. On July 26 a single American nuclear bomb detonated on the Pacific atoll of Bikini wrecked an aircraft carrier, sunk two battleships and sent four submarines to the bottom. So little was understood about the dangers of radiation that American sailors were sending to examine the damaged ships only hours after the blast, and during the lifetimes of those children in the 1946 cohort hundreds of such bombs, each more powerful than the last, would be tested all around the world with its deadly cargo of strontium 90. Before long, of course those children would grow up knowing that there were thousands of nuclear weapons ready to rain down on them: a threat which would last for most of their lives.

And the dangers continued to pile up. This was the year Mao Tse Tung declared all-out war between his Communist forces and his nationalist opponents in China, setting the stage for that vast nation to become part of the Communist bloc in 1949. It was the year that the French bombed Hanoi, the capital of their own Vietnamese colony, and declared war on the nationalist forces of Ho Chi Minh, so laying the foundations of America's Vietnam War in the 1960s.

It was the year in which the terrorist group known as the Irgun, led by future Israeli Prime Minister Menachim Begin, blew up British headquarters in the King David Hotel in Jerusalem. It killed more than a hundred people, and encouraged Britain to leave Palestine and the soon-to-be born Jewish state amidst a sea of Arab hostility.

Overall it looked as if one world war would soon slide into another, worse one. And yet, despite all the horrors, it didn’t quite work out that way. War continued, but there was no repeat of the vast bloodbaths of the first half of the century. With America, the one nation that had emerged from the wart stronger and richer than ever, holding the ring, the West began to get back on its feet. Gradually, and painfully, the remaining colonial empires were dismantled, millions of people in Asia and Africa were given their freedom and standards of living began to rise.

And what fascinating personalities strode the world stage in those days! For me, part of the pleasure of writing the Duncan Forrester books has been finding opportunities for my hero, a former Special Operations Executive agent and Oxford don, to meet people like Ian Fleming before he invented James Bond, Thor Heyerdahl before the Kon-Tiki Expedition, Margaret Thatcher before she became Margaret Thatcher and J.R.R. Tolkien before he had finished The Lord of the Rings. People we have all come to know vicariously, before the spotlight of fame found them.

As I've continued the series I've discovered another unexpected pleasure: getting to know my hero. When I began writing The Age of Treachery Duncan Forester was a fictional character whose background and exploits I was inventing. By the time I had finished the book he was quite real to me and as I write the second and third in the series he has a life of his own. I look forward to exploring it as long as his adventures continue.

The Age of Treachery by Gavin Scott (£7.99 Titan Books) Out now. The Shots review can be read here.

More information about the author can be found on his website.  
Follow him on Twitter @gavinscott942.  
Find him on Facebook.

1 comment:

ediFanoB said...

Normally I prefer mysteries set in Victorian era.
But especially the paragraph about the meetings between Duncan Forrester and fascinating personalities Like Thor Heyerdahl - I loved to read the book about the Kon-Tiki exedition in my youth - convinced my to buy a copy of The Age of Treachery.

Author Gavin Scott knows how to make reader's mouth water.

Thank you for sharing these information about your book.