Rose McGinty’s debut novel, ‘Electric Souk’ is out on the 23rd March. I am absolutely thrilled to have Rose on my blog today with a guest post.
Electric Souk by Rose McGinty
This is my first piece about Electric Souk for a blog review and I am delighted it is for Sonya’s site as her love of reading shines from the screen and she is such a supporter of new writers. Sonya asked me what inspired my story and to say something of my travels. I really enjoyed thinking back to my time in the desert and I hope you enjoy a glimpse into that world too.
Electric Souk started out as a letter home – from the desert. I had taken a job in the health service in the Middle East. The day started early and finished by 1pm. Now, I had always craved living in a culture where you could while away the afternoon in dreams. But I was somewhere that so saturated the senses that sleep was impossible. So while the desert afternoon was still I wrote a diary and long letters home, based on my entries.
My letters at first documented nights in the shisha-smoky souk, or the bizarre scraps I found myself in as a lone, white, western woman. Such as the time when I had a meeting with the Director of the ambulance service and was given the typically hazy desert directions of ‘Go to the hospital and her office is next to the line-up of ambulances.’ I found a line-up of ambulances at the A and E. I had my doubts and the receptionist quickly put me right. The ambulance station was on the other side of the hospital complex.
‘Shukran,’ I called to her as I turned to walk back out. The receptionist and three porters bore down on me, ‘Lady! Lady! Where are you going?’ I was heading to the ambulance station. ‘Are you crazee?’ It was at most a ten minute walk, admittedly in forty degree heat and humidity like a wet velvet towel.
There wasn’t a hope I was going to be allowed to walk there. I was going to be late. I didn’t have time to call and wait for a taxi. Taxis were almost as mythical as magic carpets. If you did manage to persuade a taxi to come and pick you up, you were in for a minimum hour wait in a city where the roads were permanently grid locked with Land Cruisers, and mostly the taxis never turned up.
I could walk I insisted, trying again to exit, managing to get half a foot over the threshold. I should have known better. Within seconds everyone in the A and E was shrieking at me. Step forward my hero in a green boiler suit. Sami was a paramedic and he was heading over to the ambulance station. He would give me a lift. I was so grateful it didn’t click immediately that within the next minutes I would find myself hurtling downtown, the opposite direction to the station, in an ambulance.
Sami explained that the hospital enforced a strict one way system, which meant that whenever the ambulances needed to return to base they had to detour downtown. I gulped, fished out my mobile and rang my office to ask them to let the ambulance Director know I was going to be late. A trip downtown meant a good hour in the snarling traffic, at least. As I explained my predicament on the phone, that I had got a lift but was stuck in traffic, carefully neglecting to mention I was in the back of an ambulance, I felt a sharp lurch. Sami had stamped on the accelerator. The undeniable wail of the siren somewhat gave away my mode of transportation. I got to my meeting pretty much on time, Arabic time, but I never heard the end of it back at the office.
As the weeks turned to months my initial thrill of being somewhere so completely unfamiliar and disorienting wore off, and my diaries and letters became my life line. The ripples of recession in Europe and America lapped at the edge of the desert. Gas and oil prices plunged deep. Threats of purging ex pats from government jobs intensified. Suspicion about foreigners spread. The champagne brunches at seven star hotels lost a touch of their wild abandon. Was it time to cut and run? Would there be a coup? What was the truth about the rumours of a power struggle at the palace? The locals were whispering about it and after all power never transferred without bloodshed out here. You just can’t sweep away the desert, however many times a day you take a broom to the piles of sticky, red sand that insinuated through every tiny crevice.
Why did our mobile phones click, when they never did that at home? Who was the man now sitting on a stool outside my office every day? Who had been in my apartment, gone through my things yet not taken anything, just moved everything by an inch, and left the door open and a stubbed out cigarette – to let me know? And that night, that pitch, blistering night out in the desert – what really happened then?
Back home, free from the sand djinn, they still scorched my dreams. The only way I knew how to deal with them was to write. I took up my letters and diaries and pulled out morsels, popped them in the mouths of the characters that haunted my night terrors and Souk spoke as I put my pen to the page.
If you enjoyed this piece, you can read more about the moments that formed a backdrop to Electric Souk at my blog http://rosemcginty.wordpress.com
‘Electric Souk’ is available from Urbane Publications – http://urbanepublications.com/books/electric-souk/
It can be pre-ordered from Amazon UK – https://www.amazon.co.uk/Electric-Souk-Rose-McGinty/dp/1911129821/ref=tmm_pap_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&qid=1489520881&sr=1-1
Twitter – @rosemcginty