The civil war in Lebanon and the invasion by Israel had a great impact on me as I had left Lebanon only a short time before. My brother and I hitchhiked from London to Beirut in the early ’70’s and fell in love with the Middle East. Lebanon is an amazing country; dramatic, beautiful, and rich in history. At that time tourism was not at a great height – at least not in the mountain areas where we lived, and the people were warm and hospitable. We stayed in an ancient house that clung to the hillside in a village called Shimlan, below us were silver/green olive groves and way beyond Beirut lay like pink coral with one arm reaching out into the Mediterranean Sea.
I left the Middle East behind reluctantly, made some money waitressing in London, and traveled back to South Africa by Land Rover as chief cook and bottle washer with a group of guys. At this stage, I was writing only poetry and a shaky travelogue dictated by the rough terrain.
My first novel, The Single Leaf, gained its title from a poem by the Lebanese writer, Khalil Gibran; it grew as I watched from a distance, a land engaged in a death struggle.
This was still the days of typewriters and my final draft, when completed, was sent without making a final copy, to a publisher in Lebanon. It was never heard of again. Earlier copies were buried in a bottom drawer and left there along with my dreams of a writing career.
No writer can be buried forever and I began work on Opus Dei a few years later. Nimrod Twice Born developed in parallel, the two books taking more than 30 years to the point of publication – seriously! By contrast, Betrayal of Fools has taken me only seven months to write. It’s a far easier read but hard-hitting.