Sunday 13 August 2023

Gus Gresham, "Kyiv Trance"


Fresh from ditching an engineering career in the early 1980s, Gus Gresham found his road guru and lifelong friend Laurie lying stoned and unconscious at the edge of a vineyard in the afternoon sun, an empty Beaujolais bottle in the grass and a Jack Kerouac novel spread-eagled on his chest …

They picked grapes in the same picturesque French villages; laboured in olive groves on Crete and pumpkin paddocks in New South Wales; sought enlightenment in India and did the Auf Weidersehen Pet bit on building sites in Germany. They followed seasonal work doing pretty much everything from thousand-acre wheat harvests to beachcombing. They slept in cornfields and woke up at dawn to wash their faces in the morning dew and start hitchhiking …

Alongside hard travelling, Gus always had a passion for writing, and somehow in between it all he has been a mechanical engineer, environmental activist, English tutor, audio-book producer, interpersonal-skills facilitator, and mature student (MA in Creative Writing; MSc in Building Surveying). Currently, he juggles a building-surveying career with being a husband, father and writer.

A trip to Russia and three trips to Ukraine formed the inspiration for his latest novel, Kyiv Trance.

About Kyiv Trance

Haunted by the mysterious, tragic death of his girlfriend five years earlier, university tutor Richard Farr escapes his spiralling life in London by travelling to Kyiv, Ukraine, to teach English.

It is the winter of 2004 / 05, the midst of the Orange Revolution. Hundreds of thousands are taking to the streets to protest election-result rigging. Richard's arrival coincides with the first of a series of murders in the capital. Then he meets Nadya, who may turn out to be the love of his life or a femme fatale, or both. As they grow closer, her own tragic history is revealed.
Ultimately, Richard will tread a dangerous, obsessive path, seeking happiness against the odds – as his life, the reign of the serial killer, and the political unrest in Kyiv all lead towards a shattering, interconnected climax.

You can find out more about the book here. Below, you can read an excerpt from the novel. 

From Kyiv Trance, by Gus Gresham

Some experiences change you utterly. It’s not possible to go back to being who you were before.

Richard was never charged.

At the nadir of the ensuing grief, his philosophy to anybody who cared to listen was, “Shakespeare had it right. ‘Life is a tale, told by a fool’ … etcetera. Most people blunder through their days in a series of hypnotic trances. Barely conscious. Never taking the blinkers off for more than a few moments at a time. Blindly following some hackneyed script laid down in childhood, no matter what torment it brings.”

There was a little bar he visited every night, called Marrakech, where they served cloudy designer lager in frost-coated glasses. It went down well with tequila chasers. They had a reasonable lunch menu, too, and the bar was only a ten-minute walk from the university.
Because he was such a good English language and literature tutor, showing up at work half drunk was overlooked for a long time.

At some point in the dark early years of the new millennium, he was invited to resign. It was a comfort that he had substantial savings — once meant as capital on a house before Trixie’s death.

Autumn, 2004. London.

Never grasping where all the time had gone, Richard lay on the sofa reading a broadsheet newspaper one evening in late November 2004 when he saw the advert.

Kyiv School of English … Come and teach at our brand new facility … Immediate vacancies … Visas and flights arranged … contact Alexei Koval …

At the same moment, the TV news cut to images live from Kyiv, where the “Orange Revolution” had been gathering pace. Furious crowds filled Independence Square amid allegations of vote rigging.

Richard looked at the impassioned protesters waving their bright orange flags and banners. They cared about something. They looked alive.

He sat up straighter and read the job advert again.

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