Wednesday 27 June 2018

Butterfly Ranch by RK Salters @Descend_Orpheus #ButterflyRanch @matadorbooks #MyLifeInBooks

The Britisher lay on his belly, arms cradling his head. He was wearing dirty shorts and there
were beads of caked mud in the hairs of his calves. A washed-out black tee shirt had slid up his torso
and bunched around his shoulders, baring the base of his powerful spine... 

Tristan Griffin is a household name and the author of a universally popular detective series. For the past few years he has lived in self-exile in a remote jungle lodge nestled in the Mayan hills of Southern Belize, with his partner Hedda. Butterfly Ranch begins as he attempts suicide and Hedda disappears. Altamont Stanbury, an old Kriol police constable posted to the local backwater of San Antonio, rushes to the scene with his daughter Philomena, the village nurse.

Philomena saves Tristan but he remains unconscious. Altamont, a bumbler and long-time reader of crime novels, launches a half-hearted search for Hedda by radio but decides to remain at the lodge. In truth his reverence for Tristan the writer consumes all else, and he becomes obsessed with the Griffin books he finds at the lodge.

When Tristan comes to, he is distraught and at times delirious, haunted by flashbacks of his uncompromising, cursed love for Hedda and the dark secret behind her disappearance. His anger and increasingly erratic behaviour only find respite in the presence of Altamont s innocent daughter. But he feels nothing but spite for Altamont himself, and the relationship between the two threatens to have fatal consequences for one or both.

Butterfly Ranch is a story of obsessive love, self-destruction and unexpected redemption.

Butterfly Ranch by RK Salters was published by Matador Publishing in December last year. As part of the Blog Tour, I'm delighted to welcome the author to Random Things today. He's talking about the books that are special to him in My Life In Books.

My Life in Books - RK Salters

To bring some order into decades of voracious reading, I'm focusing here on books that have influenced me as an author...

Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë .   "It is wild, confused, disjointed, and improbable; and the people who make up the drama, which is tragic enough in its consequences, are savages ruder than those who lived before the days of Homer." This is a review of the time, and in its own misguided way it is quite accurate. Wuthering Heights is the ultimate story of cursed, haunted, violent, vengeful love. I got to it late, already an adult, but it blew me away. As the title suggests, the Yorkshire Moors are a character in their own right. That is something I tried to follow in Butterfly Ranch, casting the Maya Mountains as a key protagonist.

The Third Man by Graham Greene .   I read it one rainy Saturday as a teenager after seeing the 1949 film with Orson Welles. This is one of very few instances where you can say that both a book and its screen version are great. That’s no wonder, since Greene actually wrote the novella as an exercise to help draft the screenplay. It‘s a book that keeps you hooked and surprised, but it does so without conforming to formula, which is important to me. It’s about a lot more than cracking a crime, weaving in issues of ethics, friendship and betrayal.

Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad .  Conrad was miles ahead of his time in the way he constructed suspense and in the moral complexity of his characters. I could choose many of his books but I‘m going for Heart of Darkness, because it challenged me to explore uncharted waters - the thin veneer of modern civilisation, unchecked power, descent into madness. Added bonus: transposed from 19th century Congo to 1960s Cambodia, this book inspired the film Apocalypse Now. Another example of both book and screen version being outstanding - maybe not so rare after all.

Then We Came to the End by Joshua Ferris .   There aren’t too many books that give me an all-out fit of laughter, this one did. It‘s also the only book that I know of where the main character is a collective “we”. “We” are the employees of a large advertising company fighting for survival. Along its inevitable descent to bankruptcy, “we” are drawn into hilarious office intrigues and conspiracy theories, and snapshots of individual lives made little by work. Strangely, while mainly using humour, Ferris manages to write a tragic book about corporate alienation. A real lesson in nuances.

Reflections in a Golden Eye by Carson McCullers .  “I am so immersed in my characters that their motives are my own. When I write about a thief, I become one,” said McCullers about this book. I have always been astounded by her ability to get deep into the subconscious motivations and desires of characters. The opening line announces that there will be a murder. Along the path leading to the crime, McCullers reveals undercurrents of despair, desire and repressed sexuality among the main characters. I read it in one sitting, because there’s such a strong sense of foreboding, spurring you on to piece together the different characters’ perspectives to get a complete picture.

Hunger by Knut Hamsun .  “Knut Hamsun taught me how to write,” said Ernest Hemingway. That was reason enough for me to check him out. This is the book with which Hamsun burst onto the literary scene, in 1890, and it pioneered the use of inner dialogue, something we now take for granted, i.e. when the reader gets to read the flow of the character’s mind directly, without intrusions like “he/she thought”. It tells the story of an impoverished, starving intellectual roaming the streets of Oslo and coming to terms with his failure to make it in the city. It’s full of humour, depression, empathy and the strange turns that the human mind takes in private. Genius.

Bel Canto by Ann Patchett . For my birthday a few years ago, my wife went straight to the point and gave me money to spend in a bookshop. I discovered Bel Canto during that birthday browse. A private concert by a world-famous soprano held at a villa in South America is cut short by guerrillas who keep the diva, musicians and audience hostage for several months. Superficially you could say Bel Canto is a comedy about Stockholm Syndrome, but above all else it’s an unexpected celebration of love and friendship. What really touched me is the purity of the emerging relationships.

Into Thin Air by Jon Krakauer .   I know, this isn‘t fiction. Into Thin Air is the definitive account of the ill-fated commercial expeditions to conquer Everest in 1996. Jon Krakauer was a client on one of the expeditions and lucky to return alive. His attempt to piece together and understand the events is probably the most gripping thriller I’ve ever read, fiction or non-fiction. One more reason to include it here: I read it together with my wife while travelling in Belize (the setting for Butterfly Ranch). The day we got to the chapters describing the deadly summit attempt, there was a tropical storm. We found a cafe with a covered porch and free coffee refills, and read, read, read while the rain drummed all around. As a reading experience, hard to top.

RK Salters grew up in Paris in the 1970s to an Irish émigré father and French mother. He is himself an exile of sorts, having left the roost to study abroad and subsequently lived in a number of countries. His approach to writing is eclectic, drawing influences from classic and contemporary, genre and literary fiction alike, across both sides of the Atlantic.
He is now settled in Lithuania (Baltics), where he earlier met his future wife while exploring the collapsing Soviet Union. He is a passionate traveller and an expedition in Belizean jungles provided the setting for Butterfly Ranch, his first novel.

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