From Australia to the Canary Islands – I’m Halfway Around the World from Where I Want To Be.

I’m sitting at my desk all rugged up on a cold and sunny day. I’m a British-Australian living down under, and if you drove a spike through the centre of the earth from my place you would just about end up in the Canary Islands. Which is where I want to be. And can’t be.

It’s a pretty weird feeling looking back a year or so to when I was last in Fuerteventura. That was when I looked around and decided that the Canary Islands were definitely where I wanted to live again, having lived in Lanzarote in the 1980s.

My last visit to Fuerteventura was February 2020. Brexit loomed large. Coronavirus was not yet a thing. With joy in my heart and a lot of fear, I hopped on the plane back to Oz in early March thinking I was about to sell my house, pack up my things and relocate in time to beat the Brexit deadline. I even gave a lawyer power of attorney so she could act on my behalf to buy a house.

Then, everything changed. Two weeks later, Australia became a fortress. Covid went viral. Even if I managed to beg my way out of the country, I couldn’t take the risk.

Which means I am now in the same position as tons of others who yearn to be where they cannot be, except that I am so so far away.

To bring myself closer, I am blogging. It’s a way of staying connected. Until, well, maybe one day…

I took this photo in that February of 2020. Just look at that incline! I was renting an apartment up that hill. I’d gone down to the port as I was looking at buying a flat nearby.

Puerto del Rosario

I was drawn to the area because one of the few locations that 19th century travel writer Olivia Stone stayed in is nearby. Back then, the building was a hotel. Now it’s a ruin.

Olivia Stone came on a tour of the Canary Islands with her husband in the 1880s. Her travel diary Tenerife and Its Six Satellites is well worth a read. I dip into it from time to time. It’s like entering an alternate universe. You know the places mentioned, you can feel the same heat, the wind, the sun on your face, but back then Fuerteventura was nothing at all like it is now.

These two volumes are a vital historical document. Olivia Stone documented the traditional ways of the islands. The section on Fuerteventura opens with a description of Corralejo as a collection of small fishermen’s huts. Here’s what she says about Puerto del Rosario, then Puerto Cabras:

Puerto Cabras is officially, but not really, the principal town of Fuerteventura. Several towns in the interior are larger and more important. It is, however, the only port, and hence its priority. The anchorage is not good, and the roadstead wide and open. The little village is built on the most hilly part of the shore, and so steep are its streets, that there is scarcely a house that not a view of the sea. The streets are very broad, grass-grown, and deserted; the houses are low, a few being two-storied, but are mostly in cottage style. They are neatly built. What vegetation there is being confined to the patios is consequently invisible, still further helping to give the dead appearance. A cannon-ball fired up a street would hurt no one.

Tenerife and its Six Satellites Vol II, p 354.

What a vivid image! It really makes you realise the changes that have taken place on the islands in the last 130 years or so. Olivia Stone’s Puerto Cabras is a far cry from the Puerto del Rosario I encountered last year.

I think the modern version is charming. Maybe I look through rose-coloured glasses but as I sit here trying to stay warm at my desk, another memory floats in. It’s of the woman standing behind me in the checkout queue in the Hiperdino supermarket on Calle Isla Graciosa in the last week of my stay. The way she broke out in conversation in Spanish assuming I could understand her, with my mind racing to assimilate her words and form replies. There we stood with her chatting and laughing and me floundering for the gist. I did well enough because she kept nudging my arm and chatting some more.

And I beamed inwardly all the way back to my flat.

How long it will be before Fortress Australia opens its borders and I can at least visit my favourite little islands is anyone’s guess. I can guarantee that all of you Brits will get there before me.

Keep safe. Go well!

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Blackthorn Book Tours: Death of a Young Lieutenant by B R Stateham

About Death of a Young Lieutenant

Meet Captain Jake Reynolds – pilot, adventurer, art thief, spy.

In the opening weeks of World War One, and as a member of the newly formed British Royal Flying Corps, Captain Jake Reynolds is shipped off to Belgium.

Roped in by his squadron commander to prove the innocence of a young lieutenant accused of murder, Jake also wants to steal a 14th Century Jan van Eck painting.

The problem is both the evidence and the painting are behind enemy lines.

How do you prove a man’s innocence and steal a masterpiece while an entire German army is breathing down your neck?

My Thoughts

Stateham has penned an intriguing and well-conceived story told mostly through the eyes of daring art thief and forger Captain Jake Reynolds, who is charged with finding out who murdered Sergeant Grimms. Young Lieutenant Oglethorpe, also deceased, is in the frame. Only Colonel Wingate is not so sure he’s guilty. Reynolds heads off to investigate, a task that means he must sneak behind enemy lines. While there, he plots another art theft. 

There is much to love in this novel. I enjoyed Stateham’s punchy, rhythmic narrative style. Stateham has taken his literary chisel to his daring protagonist Jake Reynolds and sculpted a complex larrikin of a character that can charm his way out of the tightest of spots. The mystery elements combine in intricate ways that make for an engaging and entertaining read. And there is plenty of action to kick things along to a satisfying conclusion.

When it comes to stories based in history, anachronisms can easily slip in. World War One in 1914 was known as the Great War. But Stateham writes for a contemporary audience and perhaps made his choice accordingly. Death of a Young Lieutenant to my mind would not be classed historical fiction, the genre where such things matter, heaps, with historians quick to demolish a novel for getting a small point wrong. And yet the novel is packed with historical details and the author has clearly researched his subject, especially regarding the history of aviation. I appreciated the realism of the backdrop.

In all Death of a Young Lieutenant will please murder mystery fans who love to be taken on a journey to another time and place, to find themselves in amongst all the action. Recommended.

 

About B.R. Stateham

B.R. Stateham is a fourteen-year-old boy trapped in a seventy-year-old body.  But his enthusiasm and boyish delight in anything mysterious and/or unknown continue.

Writing novels, especially detectives, is just the avenue of escape which keeps the author’s mind sharp and inquisitive.  He’s published a ton of short stories in online magazines like Crooked, Darkest Before the Dawn, Abandoned Towers, Pulp Metal Magazine, Suspense Magazine, Spinetingler Magazine, Near to The Knuckle, A Twist of Noir, Angie’s Diary, Power Burn Flash, and Eastern Standard Crime.  He writes both detective/mysteries, as well as science-fiction and fantasy.

In 2008 the first book in the series featuring homicide detectives Turner Hahn and Frank Morales came out, called Murderous Passions.

Also, in 2008 he self-published a fantasy novel entitled, Roland of the High Crags: Evil Arises.

In 2009 he created a character named Smitty.  So far twenty-eight short stories and two novellas have been written about this dark eyed, unusually complex hit man.

In 2012 Untreed Reads published book two of the Turner Hahn/Frank Morales series A Taste of Old Revenge.

In 2015 NumberThirteen Press published a Smitty novella entitled, A Killing Kiss.

In 2017 a British indie publisher, Endeavour Media, re-issued A Taste of Old Revenge, and soon followed by a second Turner Hahn/Frank Morales novel entitled, There Are No Innocents.

In 2018 Endeavour Media published a third novel of mine, the first in a 1st Century Roman detective series, entitled While the Emperor Slept.

Also in 2018, NumberThirteen Press merged with another famous British indie, Fahrenheit Press. Soon afterwards, Fahrenheit Press re-issued an old novel of mine entitled, Death of a Young Lieutenant.

Now, after all of this apparent success, you would think Fame and Fortune would have sailed into my harbor, making me the delight of the hard-core genre world. Ah but contraire, mon ami! Fame and Fortune are two devious little wraths who pick and chooses the poor souls they wish to bedevil. I remain in complete anonymity and am just as bereft of fortune as I have always been. And apparently will continue to be for a long time to come.

B.R. Stateham has a blog called, In the Dark Mind of B.R. Stateham – http://noirtaketurner-frank.blogspot.com/

https://www.amazon.com/Death-Young-Lieutenant-Jake-Reynolds-ebook/dp/B07TBFFMFT/ref=sr_1_1?crid=3E0AXA4WW0B27&keywords=death+of+a+young+lieutenant+br+stateham&qid=1577942808&sprefix=death+of+a+young+li%2Caps%2C406&sr=8-1

 

Isobel Blackthorn is an award-winning author of unique and engaging fiction. She writes gripping mysteries, dark psychological thrillers and historical fiction. She is the author of The Unlikely Occultist: a biographical novel of Alice A. Bailey.