Zara’s Witness by Shubrangshu Roy

“Brillliant and original” Dr. Subhash Kak

Shubrangshu Roy’s ground-breaking Zara’s Witness has rightly been called “brilliant and original” by Dr. Subhash Kak, researcher, scholar, author, professor and world authority on Indo-European studies and Information Science. In impact, Zara will smile in the company of Bach’s Jonathan Livingstone Seagull, St Exupéry’s The Little Prince, Gibran’s The Prophet and Coelho’s The Alchemist. After the ersatz blossoming of Maharesh Yogi and Ravi Shankar nudged by the Beatles’ self- grafting, this is a breath of fresh air blown from India’s multi-millennial civilization. It tests the reader’s focus and throws a challenge to finish it and, titillating dormant mechanisms fretting over the essentials of Being.

Reading Zara is not for the faint-hearted.

Yet, Roy is kind, and in the footsteps of Ezra Pound and Eliot he, too, explains, though not in footnotes but in his End Note, which is worth the wait.

Ancient Indic wisdom is often retrieved from an interlocking framework of overlapping stories in which birth, name changes, and mutation predate, exceed and outshine Gabriel Garcia Marques’ adored time travel and, Zara does full justice to that convention, enhanced by the author’s own talent at crafting and orchestrating twists in the meticulous plotting.

Roy has taken “… the four stages of life as per ancient Indic wisdom: the Brahmacharya Ashrama, the Grihastha Ashrama, the Vanaprastha Ashrama and finally the Sannyasa Ashrama” and reversed the order in his courageous undertaking. To fully appreciate the scope of his philosophical intrepidity requires, of course, proportionate courage and fortitude on the part of the reader!

Yet, Roy does not hesitate to take icons from popular western culture, strip them to the bone and let them loose to find their own place within the core and expression of his Indic perception.

And at the end of the day, Zara’s Witness is a father’s loving care for his daughter, miles ahead of General Ingles’ Soldier’s Prayer for his son.

My complaints?

Why did I have to be submitted to a whole series of eeks, outahs, remembahs, wannas, lotsas outas etc of the ‘hey daddy-O’ hip era? Roy’s plums of peace seek shores of peace where the tired, poor, huddled masses can land, to breathe freely and attain peace for the sum of their existence.

Zen, Daddy-O, and thanks for an enriching read!

Meet the author and his work

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Indian President Droupadi Murmu: Did India Miss its Opportunity?

By Dr. Azam Gill, published in DIFFERENT TRUTHS

On 25 July 2022, Ms. Droupadi Murmu was sworn in as India’s second female and first Tribal President. “My election is evidence that the poor in India cannot just dream but also fulfil those dreams,” said President Murmu. Prime Minister Narendra Modi proclaimed the ceremony a “watershed moment for India, especially for the poor, marginalised and downtrodden.”
Although the ground reality of these lofty semantics will now come under critical scrutiny, India must be appreciated for electing yet another president from one of its diverse minorities. After all, by accepting secularism at Independence, Hindu-majority India bound itself to manage its diversity within a democratic framework, and has, overall, done …
…. But then these aren’t the only minority groups in India…..
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Feature article by Contributing Editor Azam Gill,

The Big Thrill, International Association of Thriller Writers

The Times praises the thriller’s “… convincingly cloying atmosphere of a city subjugated to a foreign power, a plot that reaches across war-torn Europe and into the rifts in the Nazi factions, and a hero who tries to be a good man in a bad world. Powerful stuff.”

Lloyd talks of his fourth novel as “a defining moment in French and European history,” illustrating “a generation that is disappearing. Their voices won’t be heard firsthand for much longer. It’s up to subsequent generations to make sure those voices and those stories continue to be heard.”

The Unwanted Dead by Chris Lloyd

By Azam Gill

THE UNWANTED DEAD, a French-Resistance historical thriller by Chris Lloyd, is “a thoughtful, haunting thriller,” in the words of Mick Herron, Crime Writers’ Association’s 2013 Gold Dagger winner.

The Times praises the thriller’s “… convincingly cloying atmosphere of a city subjugated to a foreign power, a plot that reaches across war-torn Europe and into the rifts in the Nazi factions, and a hero who tries to be a good man in a bad world. Powerful stuff.”

Lloyd talks of his fourth novel as “a defining moment in French and European history,” illustrating “a generation that is disappearing. Their voices won’t be heard firsthand for much longer. It’s up to subsequent generations to make sure those voices and those stories continue to be heard.”

THE UNWANTED DEAD features Eddie Giral, a Paris police detective living under the shadow cast by his experiences in World War I, who is now forced to come to terms with the Nazi Occupation. On the day German troops march into Paris, four refugees are found dead in a railway truck. Watching helplessly as his world changes forever, Eddie focuses on the one thing left under his control: finding whoever is responsible for the murders of the dead no one wants to claim. To do so, he must tread the razor’s edge between the Occupation and the Resistance, truth and lies, the man he is, and the man he was—all the while becoming whoever he must be to survive in this new and terrible order descending on his home.

Lloyd says he “wanted to explore the effects on Eddie of trying to keep a balance between doing his job, negotiating a path between working with the Occupier while also resisting them, and retaining some form of what he would see as normality under such extreme circumstances.”

The conflict of interest surrounding an officer of the law makes for a powerful character study. Eddie Giral’s country, city, and profession demand his unswerving loyalty, whereas the invaders and occupiers impose their own agenda.

Lloyd says he was intrigued by “how a police detective would be able to do their job and keep their focus while there was so much destruction and hardship going on around them. That immediately gave me the character—Eddie Giral—an emotionally scarred veteran of the First World War who has made many mistakes in his life but who tries to retain some semblance of humanity under the new order. The … situation is his chance for redemption for past errors, but it’s also a potential descent into the self-destructive ways of his previous life.”

Giral emerges as neither “an all-good action hero nor an all-bad antihero, but a person with the foibles and weaknesses that we all share, and who struggles to survive intact in adverse times.”

The induced challenge of managing such intersecting conflicts within a historical framework is not for the faint-hearted, but Lloyd chose and successfully met this challenge, leading Andrew Taylor, an award-winning, bestselling crime writer, to describe THE UNWANTED DEAD as “such a powerful and morally nuanced crime novel.”

Lloyd admits that “the book’s biggest challenge also proved to be its greatest opportunity—the research…. I wanted the period and the setting to be as accurate as possible. THE UNWANTED DEAD takes place in the first 10 days of the Occupation” and draws out “all the various nuances and visions of what resistance meant to the different groups, and the rivalries and disagreements that it engendered. This, alongside the equally complex factions within the Occupier, are areas that fascinate me and that I’m particularly looking forward to exploring in subsequent books in Eddie’s story.”

Lloyd claims he was born to write: “I can’t remember a time when I wasn’t writing—I was lucky in that my mum encouraged me to read and my dad encouraged me to write, and I spent my childhood writing short stories and sketches. It was when my mum gave me a copy of Ian Serraillier’s Silver Sword that it seemed to distil in my mind that that was what I wanted to do. Later, I loved the contrast between the golden-age writers, such as Josephine Tey and Agatha Christie, and the hard-boiled noir writers of the likes of Raymond Chandler and Dashiell Hammett. I try to achieve a crossover between the two worlds. In more recent years, I love the historical works of Robert Harris, Philip Kerr, and David Downing, and the resonance their stories have on today’s world. They are all qualities to strive for.”

He writes at a “lovely old wooden desk,” surrounded by “books, paintings and objects that have meaning for me. Outside the window, I see houses, trees, and hills, but I’ve turned my desk at a right angle to the window, so the view is there for when I need it, not a distraction.

“When I write, I like working with two screens—one to write on and a second where I have the story outline in view.”

Lloyd has had a lifelong love affair with the conflict between the Resistance and Collaboration in Occupied France, which continues in France to this day.

He grew up in Cardiff, Wales. Following his graduation in Spanish and French, he spent twenty-four years in Catalonia, teaching English, working in educational publishing, translating, and travel writing. He has also lived in Grenoble, France, researching the often-underappreciated depth and complexity of the French Resistance movement.

He now lives in his native Wales where he also works as a writer-translator and is an active member of Crime Cymru, a “collective of crime writers who are from Wales, live in Wales, or set their stories in Wales. A former rugby player and committed supporter, he is also an avid traveler.

Yes, Prime Minister!

The Father-crow Kakakzai, and I are neutral to Prime Minister Imran Khan’s governance and cricket stardom. Or cricket in any other form, for that matter. His current success in igniting world headlines in the Age of Woke is, however, as admirable as his erstwhile cricketing ability. Accident or design have no relevance here. Climbing the high moral ground as part of his perception of prime ministerial duty, has exposed him to the fickleness of intemperate elements.

PM Khan’s statements on rape in Pakistan have been interpreted as insinuations of victim-blaming, even provoking his usually faithful ex-lady, Ms. Jemima Khan (née Goldsmith)’s ire.

Words to the effect he is being accused of.

1. That women’s sexually explicit choice of dress in public tempts the weak-willed.

2. “…that sexual violence was a result of ‘increasing obscenity’ and a product of India, the West and Hollywood movies”— BBC.

3. That he witnessed the sixties revolution of “sex, drugs and rock n’ roll” from his academic perch at Oxford University.

Let’s take the third point first.

He omitted publicly confessing that he did have a lot of fun, but can be forgiven for the oversight since TV time is limited. That aside, he may be reminded that the sexual revolution, by condoning sex between consenting adults, developing the pill for women followed by condom freebies actually, by making nooky more accessible, provided rape-decreasing measures!

Secondly, if rape comes from Bollywood plotting on behalf of Hollywood to undermine Pakistan’s pristine moral stature, then there must be psycho-sociological studies to support the contention. In their absence, this charge constitutes blame-shifting and stokes Pakistan’s thriving conspiracy cottage industry.

Actually, the first point was badly misstated since his gofer had lost the cheat sheet provided by the brilliant staffer who took his recent picture under the eternal banyan that whispers the timeless wisdom of India.

Here’s what the cheat sheet said.

“Governments of the past seventy years of Pakistan’s history were too busy channeling foreign aid into off-shore accounts to worry about education. With a literacy rate of only 59%, the male population is still prone to misinterpret a lady’s choice of dress. However, the intense popularity of  Ertugrul the Conqueror will be followed by a custom-designed programme ordered by President Erdogan to promote Kemalism in Pakistan. Subsequently, we’ll all go to school, and like Turkey, end up with 95.5% literacy so the choice of a lady’s dress becomes irrelevant.”

Alas, a gust of wind caused the cheat sheet to float up in the air, where Father-crow Kakakzai nipped it in its beak, and took it up to his tree to hold for ransom, but a stronger gust of wind snatched it out and dropped it right into the glass of lassi being nursed by the Brilliant Staffer, dreaming of his fellowship to an American think tank.

Secular Turkey under Threat Azam Gill

The stench of regression can be detected in present-day Turkey where Sufi Jalaludin Rumi, the14th century’s doyen of Taṣawwuf, or Sufism, composed his magnum opus, advising: “Listen with ears of tolerance! See through the eyes of compassion! Speak with the language of love.”

Turkey’s ambitious revivalists have dragged Istanbul’s 1483-year-old Hagia Sophia World Heritage Site into their own identity crisis. To their satisfaction, Turkey’s Council of State ruled that the Hagia Sophia should revert to its last status as a mosque, based on the defunct Right of Conquest, while ignoring its origin as a world-class cathedral.


By confirming the definition of aggression codified in the Nuremberg Principles, United Nations General Assembly Resolution 3314 played the funeral march over any residual Right of Conquest delusion among former empires. Yet, appallingly for this day and age, Mr. Numan Kurtulmus, deputy chairman of Turkey’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) unhesitatingly declared: “Hagia Sophia is our geographical property… conquered …by the sword …”

After winning Istanbul “by the sword” in 1453, Sultan Mehmed II appropriated the entire city as his personal possession and then carved it up between endowment property as ‘vaqf,’ public land called ‘miri,’ and eventually some private ownership as mülk. He made the 900-year old Hagia Sophia Cathedral his prized personal possession which he flaunted to the rest of the world by converting it into a mosque.

Five hundred years later, modern Turkey’s sagacious founding-father, Kemal Pasha Ataturk, instituted secularism and sought reconciliation by converting the Hagia Sophia Church-Mosque into a museum for all.

The divisive issue was laid to rest for decades, during which the world applauded Turkey’s social and political development put into motion by Ataturk.

Yet, Mr. Erdogan and his revivalists are hell-bent on upsetting the apple-cart to realize their delusions of grandeur by actually resurrecting their medieval past, which threatens Turkey’s hard-won soft power.

The judicial validation of the Right of Conquest over six thousand square meters of the Hagia Sophia will only whet their appetite to reclaim more. They are trapped in their self-cast spell of nostalgic reactionary expansionism.

Now, precedent in hand, they will keep chipping at Turkey’s secularism until it is laid bare to the bone and meekly relapses into the gloom of a self-righteous theocracy.

Turkey’s empire encompassed over twenty countries, stretching from Eastern Europe to the sands of Arabia.

Perhaps the revivalists are now going to start claiming them all, starting with Saudi Arabia, which they ignominiously lost to a Bedouin chief called Ibn Saud, assisted by one T. E. Lawrence.

Referring to the four hundred and thirty-five churches and synagogues in Turkey, which he believes exonerates the current decision, it slipped the Turkish president’s mind that the equation of Hagia Sophia does not include the Jewish faith! This Freudian slip, exposes him as one of those people who really believe in a vast Judo-Christian conspiracy to subvert the destiny of Muslims, confirmed by his forced comparisons between Hagia Sophia and the Al Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem.

Borrowing the elegance of the ‘churches and synagogues’ argument, Turkey’s 82,693 mosques should be enough for Muslims to worship in without re-appropriating a church.

Istanbul’s Camlica mosque rivals, if not surpasses, any religious edifice of Byzantine or Turkish splendor. The 150-million-Turkish Lira, women-friendly Calica Mosque in Istanbul is the brainchild of two female architects, and a synthesis of Turkey’s fine arts and technical mastery that upholds the legacy of Koca Mimar Sinan Agha, one of history’s greatest architects.

The 4.5-ton finial capping the main dome is unique. Its worshipper-capacity exceeds 60,000, complemented by a 3,500-capacity car park, a 1,000-capacity conference hall, an 11,000 square meter museum, an Islamic art gallery, a library and, a tunnel connecting it to the residential area.

And Turkey’s revivalists still obsess over Hagia Sophia for a mosque.

Mr. Erdogan’s government has apparently encouraged this divisive issue for a premium seat on the medieval revivalist bandwagon by overturning Kemal Pasha Ataturk’s secular legacy, hoping, thereby, to wrest the leadership of the Muslim world from its former Saudi Arabian subjects and checkmate Shia Iran’s ambitions.

It would be good to remember that there is no consensus in Turkey on returning Hagia Sophia to its last, though not original status. To determine that would require a referendum.

After all, Orhan Pamuk, reportedly told the BBC: “There are millions of secular Turks like me who are crying against this but their voices are not heard.”

Evoking the obsolete Right of Conquest, only draws attention to Turkey’s aggressive past for which it has never apologized or expressed a sign of regret, unlike many of its counterparts.

To free Hagia Sophia from the identity crisis it has been ensnared in, it should remain a museum except for Fridays, for a Muslim service and, Sundays for a Christian service, with joint bring and share meals once a month.

If not, then it should be granted its past status of a church, for which Turkey’s far-sighted magnanimity will receive the world’s deafening applause for true greatness.

Jalaludin Rumi’s wisdom transcends time: “yesterday I was clever, so I wanted to change the world; today I am wise, so I am changing myself.” 

Ed Ruggero’s Blame The Dead

by Azam Gill, Contributing Editor of the monthly publication of the International Association of Thriller Writers, “The Big Thrill”.

Blame the Dead by [Ruggero, Ed]

Novelist, war historian and leadership guru Ed Ruggero has launched a new historical fiction series—Victory in Europe.

BLAME THE DEAD is the first in the series, written with an insider’s feel for the US army and its history. It follows the detective work of a military policeman after the murder of a doctor at the 11th Field Hospital in the summer of 1943, in Sicily.

Two days after FDR’s “Day of Infamy” speech, Philadelphia police patrolman Eddie Harkins enlists in the US Army, which assigns him to the military police. In the bloody summer of 1943, behind allied lines in Sicily, a US Army surgeon is gunned down in the middle of a busy field hospital. Harkins is assigned the case, his first ever homicide.

Cooperation is hard to come by, in part because the universally despised victim bullied and tormented nurses. A key witness is shot to death just when Harkins is starting to retrieve some facts from the confusion. Meanwhile, the flood of broken bodies and spirits never slows in the hospital just behind the battlefront. Then an exhausted and demoralized Harkins discovers his old neighborhood friend, Nurse Kathleen Donnelly.

Though overworked, and no longer the teenaged beauty Harkins once mooned over, Kathleen’s fierceness and even humor in the face of the daily horror show are just as alluring. Finally, it’s Kathleen Donnelly who helps Harkins discover his most important clues.

Ruggero published five novels with Pocketbooks in the 1990s before turning to non-fiction with HarperCollins. Of the six non-fiction works, two have been co-authored with Dennis Haley. One of his military histories is about the Allied invasion of Sicily. So, in BLAME THE DEAD, he treads familiar ground.

Despite a lifetime of reading military history, Ed Ruggero’s research into the work of combat zone US Army nurses astounded him. He uncovered stories of service and sacrifice by silent young heroes which just had to be told.

Ed Ruggero
Photo credit: Leah Servin Photography

“In an era when women were expected to stick close to home in a safe environment, there were female rule-breakers and trend-setters,” Ruggero says. “Their expertise was sorely needed, and they delivered.”

He acknowledges the influence of stylists and storytellers who produce character and that of non-fiction masters of prose.

Concerning “the biggest influences in this genre,” he recognizes “Michael Connelly and Robert Crais, who create tight stories and interesting characters with minimalist strokes. Robert Crais is also funny, which I enjoy. Ralph Peters is a phenomenal storyteller who resurrects an entire era in prose so good it begs to be read aloud. Among nonfiction authors the greatest influences on my prose style are Rick Atkinson and Susan Orlean.”

Ruggero has revitalized an era while bringing recognition to forgotten, silent World War II heroes whose characters embody humility and humor. Ruggero likes “people with a sense of humor. I try to create characters out of a sense of humor—a little bit of the absurd, humor and humility.”

His writing upholds women’s rights and lauds their transition from stereotyped homemakers to competent professionals. Hardly surprising, considering he graduated from the first co-ed West Point class and has “been surrounded by athletic, bad-ass women my whole adult life, so it seems only natural to make some of those women main characters in this book … these nurses … under terrible conditions … did it admirably.”

Ruggero acknowledges Tom Clancy as a “huge help” for forwarding his manuscript to his own agent after they met during Clancy’s first visit to West Point at the former’s invitation. Answering a question, he was also quick to point out that despite superficial similarities, Clancy’s Jack Ryan, is fictional whereas he is not.

Although Lee Child and Ed Ruggero have both brought the US Army’s Military Police into focus, the comparison ends right there.

“Reacher is a former MP full of superpowers,” Ruggero says.

In BLAME THE DEAD, former Philadelphia beat cop Eddie Harkins, an active-service MP, is “a little unsure of himself… no investigative experience and has to struggle.. to carve a little order out of the chaos.”

There are few books inspired by the US Army’s military police and, Reacher and Harkins allow their work to be appreciated. Ruggero further explains: “There’s a contact point between friction and chaos.” The infantry in the front line “create chaos” and just behind that are people who create order. That’s where the MP and medical personnel fit in.

Once acquired, soldierly qualities such as self-discipline tend to settle down for the long haul, as with Ruggero. A “self-disciplined person,” he isolates himself in the morning to write in his house in a little town near Philadelphia, not far from the ocean. Research and voluntary work take up his afternoons.

His stories “start with … fundamental conflict, … an outline and even use graph paper at the very beginning” before the “detailed outlines … characters are critically important. You have to have a sense of who these people are … The exciting thing is getting to know a character as they develop.”

Dedicated to his craft, Ruggero wields a powerful and versatile pen.


Ed Ruggero is a West Point graduate and former Army officer who has studied, practiced, and taught leadership for more than twenty-five years. His client list includes the FBI, the New York City Police Department, CEO Conference Europe, the CIA, the Young Presidents Organization, and Forbes, among many others. He has appeared on CNNThe History Channel, the Discovery Channel, and CNBC. Ruggero’s previous work includes the nonfiction books Duty First: West Point and the Making of American Leaders and The First Men In: U.S. Paratroopers and the Fight to Save D-Day. He lives in Philadelphia.

To learn more about the author and his work, please visit his website.

Azam Gill

Azam GillAzam Gill is a novelist, analyst and retired Lecturer from Toulouse University, France. He has authored eight books, including three thrillers — Blood MoneyFlight to Pakistan and Blasphemy. He also writes for The Express Tribune, a New York Times affiliate and blogs on his website. He served in the French Foreign Legion, French Navy and the Punjab Regiment.

Scavenger Hunt by Michaelbrent Collings Feature article by AZAM GILL

MichaelBrent Collings is the internationally bestselling author of didactic horror, western romance, a Bram Stoker finalist and produced screenwriter. SCAVENGER HUNT is his latest thriller in a distinguished pedigree of books under different names.

Collings’ own life challenges fiction in binaries that defy stereotyping—a Sunday School teacher and seasoned practitioner of overlapping martial arts, open in his opinions and relationships, once recruited as a spy, a writer of Western romance as Angelica Hart, a morality guru through the horror sub-genre under his own name, and “madly” in love with

ollings’ own life challenges fiction in binaries that defy stereotyping—a Sunday School teacher and seasoned practitioner of overlapping martial arts, open in his opinions and relationships, once recruited as a spy, a writer of Western romance as Angelica Hart, a morality guru through the horror sub-genre under his own name, and “madly” in love with his wife.

The sumptuous critical response to his last novel, Terminal, in reviews ranged from “outstanding … fast-paced … hard-edged … brutal … captivating and frightening,” to “… suspense will have you on the edge of your seat … a gripping white-knuckler.”

There is every reason to believe that SCAVENGER HUNT, too, will stand as tall as its siblings, if not taller. Just take a look at the plot.

Five strangers have woken up in a white room.

A room with no doors, no windows.

A room with no hope.

Because these strangers have been kidnapped, drugged … and brought here as the newest contestants in the world’s most high-stakes scavenger hunt.

Run by a madman named Mr. Do-Good, the game offers only two options: win or die.

All they have to do to survive is…

… complete every task…

… on time…

… and not break any of Do-Good’s rules.

Playing the Game will bring the players to their breaking point and beyond. But play they will, because Do-Good has plans for these strangers, and their only chance to live through the night is to play his Scavenger Hunt.

Applied morality and its conflictual relationship with intention lie at the heart of SCAVENGER HUNT. Should compassion be exercised at the price of mediocrity? Or should heartlessness be allowed to feed the pursuit of excellence among the elite?

And, of course, the moral complexity of wielding power, as in the hands of Mr. Do-Good in SCAVENGER HUNT.

Even without an attack by another form of Dietz’s alien Hudatha, how political leaders engineer a society will actually affect their own shelf-life.

The theme of SCAVENGER HUNT hangs on the title by inverting the old folk games that evolved into treasure hunts. Although in the scavenger hunt variant nothing material is bought or acquired, the activity in itself feeds the baser human instincts of covetousness and dominance. It is the intention of achieving goodness by morally deplorable acts — the classic means and ends conflict — that SCAVENGER HUNT brings under scrutiny through a spine-chilling read.

“Hell is full of good wishes and desires” is attributed to the 12th century Benedictine abbot, Bernard of Clairvaux, who also provided the framework for the Rule of the Knights Templar in 1128 at the Council of Troyes in France.  And, of course, the well-worn “The road to hell is paved with good intentions,” referenced in Henry G. Bohn’s 1855 Hand-book of Proverbs, was obviously dismissed by SCAVENGER HUNT’s Mr. Do-Good.

This, then, is where SCAVENGER HUNT’s Mr. Do-Good and living, breathing but heartless political leadership cross paths. Seeking to strengthen their societies by natural selection within walled-in spaces will litter the wayside with rejected cyborgs.

This state of affairs is the content of headlines covering unrest from Asia, to Africa, to Latin America and the periphery of the West. Freedom of choice and of expression have been hijacked by the Mr. Do-Goods whose pretty speeches are their bus ticket to hell.

It is thrillers and horror stories that will bring the sordidness of existence to the bedside tables and quicken the disgust required to stand up and be counted to halt the Do-Goods in their tracks or escort them to the International Court of Justice.

As Michaelbrent Collings says, “SCAVENGER HUNT is much less a dystopian than a cautionary tale. The hunt is about a group of seemingly disparate people who come to understand that they are all connected via the common thread of black-market organ trafficking. Most are perpetrators, a few are victims of one stripe or another. As the tale unfolds, readers (hopefully) will realize that this problem is serious and something that has gone under the radar for most of us. And though in this instance there is an “avenging angel” of sorts, in our real world those harmed—largely the impoverished and the desperate of developing nations—are all too often simply overlooked, forgotten, or straight-up ignored. …The black market supplies a stunning percentage of organs for transplants, and those who benefit—desperate themselves—do so at the explicit expense of those who are already in circumstances that range from less-than-optimal to outright horrific. No easy answers to the problems, but problems they are.”

A seasoned craftsperson, Collings creates connectable characters among whom even the villains are unaware of their evil. He then throws them into the story which generates situational heroism. In his moral universe, right and wrong do not blur into gray. They matter. Just like people and his attitude to them, irrespective of any defining parameters. Collings’ characters emerge from and further define his societal ideas and attitudes.

At another level, his writing is also about fear but, since that fear relates to our common moral universe, it signals that something has gone wrong. And when that is the case, the light shines on what is right, and thus needs to be brought into play.

SCAVENGER HUNT and Suzanne Collins’ dystopic Hunger Games in which a lottery selection pits children in a televised death match are cousins—both uphold an allegorical tradition of social didactics started by Yevgeni Zamyatin’s 1924 We, considered to be the first dystopian novel ever written and that, too by the first Soviet dissident.

Yet, irrespective of the form chosen, writers have been warning, pleading and raging against allowing society to degenerate into cold-blooded scavenger hunts.

Collings is one of these writers and at the end of the day can also spin one hell of a spine-chilling yarn under the acknowledged influence of “Dean Koontz, Stephen King, and—most of all—my dad, who is a World Horror Grandmaster and an outstanding author and literary critic specializing in horror and speculative fiction.”


One of the most versatile writers around, Michaelbrent Collings is an internationally bestselling novelist, produced screenwriter, and multiple Bram Stoker Award finalist. While he is best known for horror (and is one of the most successful indie horror authors in the United States), he has also written bestselling thriller, fantasy, science fiction, mystery, humor, young adult, and middle grade works, and Western romance.

As a novelist, Michaelbrent has written dozens of bestsellers that have also received critical acclaim, and he and his work have been featured on everything from mom-and-pop podcasts to Publishers Weekly, The San Francisco Book Review, and NPR.

Find more about him at his website.

Azam Gill

Azam Gill

Azam Gill is a novelist, analyst and retired Lecturer from Toulouse University, France. He has authored eight books, including three thrillers — Blood MoneyFlight to Pakistan and Blasphemy. He also writes for The Express Tribune, a New York Times affiliate and blogs on his website. He served in the French Foreign Legion, French Navy and the Punjab Regiment.

The EU’s Twenty-Eight Step Tango

The results of the EU elections have started hemming in the twenty-year old flagship center-right and socialist alliance and thrown the domestic status quo of member countries into disarray. The resulting scramble for the European Commission’s presidency, resignations and, the outcome of Greece’s the municipal elections, portend fractiousness.

by Gatis Sluka Cartoon Movement,

Over fifty percent of the five hundred and twelve eligible voters of the twenty-eight European Union countries went to the four-day polls between May 23 and 26 to elect seven hundred and fifty-one Members of European Parliament to bicker in Strasbourg.

Since 1999, the socialist and democrat’s bloc under the aegis of the European People’s Party, led by Messrs. Donald Tusk and Jean-Claude Junker had been calling the shots. Now, even a default alliance with liberals and Greens will not provide sufficient clout, or not for long and at a high price.

In France, Marine Le Pen’s Rassemblement National has trimmed the sails of Mr. Macron’s La République en Marche. He is now haggling with Germany’s Angela Merkel over the continuity of Spitzenkandidat, which drops the EU Presidency in the highest scoring party’s lap. That, once again, is Germany’s EPP.

by Peter Schrank in The Economist

The extent of EU integration and the perceived high-handedness of Brussel’s bureaucrats had been stoking Euro-skepticism. Its fierce proponents have no wish to surrender their national histories and independence to a multi-national zone, the end game of which they see as a remake of the Soviet implosion.

By Gert Wastyn

They perceive Brussels’ regulators as a conspiracy of clerks determined to gradually demolish their nations. Some of these opponents would like to abrogate the EU, others to go back to the eve of the Schengen Accords which, in 1985 started abolishing borders. And there are those who don’t mind Schengen, but would like to revoke the 1992 Maastricht treaty which established the European Union and paved the way for the 2009 Lisbon Accords. They all, though, would like to see the Lisbon Accords neutralized.

No orthodoxy other than this conviction unites them.

By Paresh Nath National Herald India
Cagle Post

Until new groups emerge from the turmoil, a clash of overlapping objectives will keep alliances fluid.

So, issues of foreign and domestic policy will find themselves relegated to the back benches by filibustering, news leaks, fake news and hacking.

A pitiless war of attrition in the European Parliament will smolder across the twenty-eight EU borders.

However, the pre-election scare-narrative of a far-right win has not materialized either. But then neither has the fear-mongering maintained the status quo of the center-right alliance.

By losing their hegemony in the European Parliament, the center-right and center-left blocs have their backs to the wall. Entitlement can no longer be presumed. Taking the electorate for granted, they had been nibbling at member-states’ right to decide about eggs, barns, cheeses and subsidies. The average Joes and Janes felt that they were losing control over their day to day lives.
Once Parliament is in session, right-wing blocs will start paring down Brussels’ authority.

The Eurosceptics will fight a three-pronged war of attrition.
They will seek to install non-partisan commissioners.
They will introduce legislation popular with the EU electorate, making it difficult for the slim majority to reject it.
They will obstruct and they will filibuster.
Already, national interests are inching past the European vision.

By Joep Bertrams Cagle Post

President Macron and Chancellor Merkel will face re-elections in 2022 and 2021 respectively. Each of them is positioning a fellow-citizen for the European Commission’s Presidency. Angela Merkel is blatantly fielding Manfred Weber. President Macron, though, has hedged his bets, juggling two candidates: Danish Margrethe Vestager and Frenchman Michel Barnier. He is hoping that the choice of Michel Barnier will soothe neo-nationalists whereas Margrethe Vestager should soften the hearts of female voters and retain the goodwill of pro-Europeans.

Oliver Schopf

Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez Pérez-Castejón of Spain is cautiously backing Dutch and fellow socialist Frans Timmermans, confirming his commitment to a socialist Europe.

Andrea Nahles stepped down from the German Social Democrat Party (SDP) leadership, which is part of the coalition that sustains Angela Merkel’s Christian Democrats and her chancellorship. If the SPD itself leaves the coalition, it could trigger a snap election. There is also a suspected squabble between Angela Merkel and her successor, Annegret Kramp-Karrrenbauer.

By Marian Kamensky

France’s center-right Les Républicains’ head Laurent Wauquiez has also resigned over his party’s dismal showing, while French socialists are licking their wounds.

In Greece, the municipal elections have swept out the ruling left-wing Syriza and installed the conservative New Democracy in eleven of the thirteen regions, Athens and Thessaloniki. Mr. Tsipiras has consequently announced elections for July 7, three months earlier than scheduled.

Europe’s socialists and centrists are now at a crossroads – if they dilute their Lisbon Accords vision, they risk their ideological base. If they continue, they strengthen euro-skepticism.

At the end of the day, the EU leadership is made up of professional politicians for whom, statesmanship is a means. They are optimistically positioning themselves to eat their cake and have it without missing a tango step.

‘Terminal’ by Michaelbrent Collings feature article by Azam Gill, Contributing Editor, The Big Thrill

‘The Big Thrill’ is the publication of The International Thriller Writers Association

Internationally bestselling author, multiple Bram Stoker Award finalist, and produced screenwriter Michaelbrent Collings’ latest thriller is set to receive the critical acclaim his last novel, Predators, inspired: “Parts of this book will replay in your head over and over again. The scenes will stick in your brain, and reach out to you in the middle of the night when you least expect it…a fantastic exploration of the human condition…”

TERMINAL is structured around an employee, a cop, a prisoner, a stowaway, and a madman waiting at the Lawton bus terminal—mostly late-night travelers and employees lumping the graveyard shift.

But when a strange, otherworldly fog rolls in, the night changes to nightmare. Something hides in the fog. Something powerful. Something strange. Something…inhuman.

Soon, those in the terminal are cut off from the rest of the world. No phones, no computers. Just ten strangers in the terminal…and The Other.

The Other is the force in the mist. The Other is the thing that has captured them. And The Other wants to play a game.

The rules are simple:

1) The people in the terminal must choose a single person from among them. That person will live. The rest will die.
2) Anyone who attempts to leave the terminal before the final vote will die.
3) The final vote must be unanimous.

A living nightmare. And it’s getting worse, because the best way to make a vote unanimous…is to kill the other voters.

Welcome to the end of the line.

Welcome to the Terminal.

Author of more than 25 books under his own name, Collings’ fertile plume offers bestsellers in fantasy, sci-fi, young adult, middle grade, urban fantasy, thrillers, and more. He acknowledges the influence of “craftspeople” like Stephen King, Dean Koontz, Orson Scott Card, whose books “have shifted the genre in which they write…and my father…my first and best writing teacher…”

Collings literally started learning his craft at his father’s knee, who taught creative writing at Pepperdine University. The benefits of an early start show in his handling of narrative, structure, and character, and the ability to choose the right setting for his magic. As usual, at mid-point during the writing of TERMINAL, he looked down from the high point of a roller coaster with bated breath. Then he whooshed down the exhilarating descent to tie up the social and emotion management within the artistic framework.

“…the goal is simple: a dozen strangers in a bus terminal are cut off from the rest of the world and informed that one of them will be allowed to leave—and live—and the rest will die,” he says. “They have to vote on who that one will be, and the vote must be unanimous. Things go from bad to worse when they realize the best way to ensure a unanimous vote is to kill all the other voters.

“Given that head-butting scenario, I did my best to create characters who were instantly accessible on some level, and the heroes of their own stories. The book has some villains—and a few that (are) simply vile—but all of them …on some level, think of themselves as ‘the good guy.’ They matter to themselves and, hopefully, that makes them matter to the readers.

“Then I turn them loose and see what happens.”

And about his social management in TERMINAL, Collings says, “Again, it’s a matter of talking about people like they matter. I approach everyone—regardless of race, creed, color, or any other denominating factor—as people. The books I write—especially horror—are all couched in a moral universe, where right and wrong matter. Respect (for the characters) keeps me from … undermining someone for no good reason… but it also demands that I point out problems with the way they’re doing things. I genuinely like people … and that really informs the way I approach social constructs and interactions in my work.”

In TERMINAL, The Other is the malignant force within the mist “that is not understood until the very final pages—and even then, it’s something that (hopefully) repulses any person with a sense of that right and wrong to which I alluded earlier.

“Additionally, the ‘other’ is the archetypical enemy. We rarely war with our own tribes—we fear things we don’t understand, or understand wrongly, or understand primarily only under the rubric of ‘hostile to my way of life.’ So The Other was the easiest way to bring in that fear of others, of outsiders—which is a theme that winds itself throughout the story.”

While the choice of The Other is not a premeditated continuity of Albert Camus’ Otherness or Alterity, Michaelbrent Collings admits to his own allegorical strains.

“I can’t avoid a bit of pedagogy, and horror is particularly well-suited to talking not just about a plot, but about how that plot relates to the moral elements of our world—or, sometimes, the immorality of it. Scares rely on a sense that something has gone radically, dreadfully wrong, which in turn implies that there is a ‘rightness’ to the universe.

“But the mortar that holds it together is a theme that asks a question about our attitudes and viewpoints, and points out whether that attitude is destructive or beneficial.”

Hope running through Collings’ writing is not far off from the hope built in the writings of Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley and Edgar Allan Poe. Collings believes that horror is “the genre of hope … at its best… the most redemptive of all genres…the horror I most love is the horror that tosses its characters (and by extension its readers) into a deep, dark hole. It strips everything away from them but their core selves… then shows that those core selves are powerful enough to rise back to the light. Horror can kick you into the gutter and leave you there. But when it soars—when it’s truly magical—it leaves you in the dark only and exactly long enough for you to find and really appreciate the light.”

Collings’ wizardry flourishes “anywhere with wifi and a refillable Diet Coke policy.”

Undemanding, though original, to say the least—like the rest!

Collings has practiced several martial arts, majoring in hapkido, teaches Sunday School, is “madly” in love with his wife, was once recruited as a spy, and also writes Western Romance under the pen name Angelica Hart.


Doléance au Président de la République

situation discriminatoire à l’égard de la communauté des anciens légionnaires loi n° 72-662 du 13 juillet 1972

Monsieur le Président de la République,

Cc : Monsieur le Premier Ministre, Monsieur le Ministre de la Défense, Monsieur le Ministre de l’Education Nationale, Mesdames et Messieurs les Sénateurs, Mesdames et Messieurs les Députés à l’Assemblée Nationale, Les Médias.

En réponse à votre déclaration “Toutes les questions sont ouvertes” je souhaite attirer votre attention sur une situation discriminatoire à l’égard de la communauté des anciens légionnaires.

Les légionnaires sont “un rassemblement hétéroclite d’hommes étrangers venus chercher l’exil pour mille raisons.” Général de brigade Denis MISTRAL, commandant la Légion Etrangère.

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Soldats d’élite de l’Armée française, ils constituent une communauté minoritaire, sans être reconnu en tant que tel, avec un parcours de combattant administratif qui dégage un parfum d’exclusion préméditée de l’ascenseur social français. L’image forte de ‘légionnaire’ empêche toute jouissance “d’égalité des chances.”

Si un légionnaire termine son contrat en homme du rang ou petit gradé, il est équivalent de catégorie C dans l’échelle des employés de l’Etat.

Quand un ancien légionnaire de souche étrangère réussit un concours de fonctionnaire de la catégorie B, son ancienneté au sein du ministère de la Défense lui est attribuée dans son salaire.

En revanche, la loi n° 72-662 du 13 juillet 1972 empêche les Catégorie C militaires à récupérer leurs anciennetés s’ils passent en catégorie A.

En revanche, la loi n° 72-662 du 13 juillet 1972 empêche les Catégorie C militaires à récupérer leurs anciennetés s’ils passent en catégorie A. Cela porte des conséquences importantes sur le montant de leurs salaires et, par la suite, sur le montant de leurs retraites.

Durant toute sa carrière, ce légionnaire d’origine étrangère est rémunéré moins que les autres militaires ayant réussi leurs concours.

La cerise sur le gâteau est le calcul de la retraite qui est par pourcentage calculée sur les trois derniers mois de salaire.

Sauf au cas où, dans un délai de deux semaines après le résultat de son concours, il déclenche les démarches administratives.

Aucun légionnaire d’origine étrangère ne connait ce petit détail.

Son insertion à l’intérieur de la loi n° 72-662 du 13 juillet 1972 soulève des questions de bonne foi des législateurs.

Donc, jusqu’à la retraite, ce légionnaire est défavorisé, voir pénalisé, pour avoir osé à accéder au fonctionnariat de Catégorie A.

Pourtant, il est bien déclaré soldat français, mais en interne, traité / géré comme un mercenaire qu’il n’est pas.

Je vous prie de bien vouloir redresser cette situation d’une manière rétroactive.

Veuillez agréer, Monsieur le président de la République, l’expression de ma respectueuse considération.

Azam Gill

Docteur en Etudes Anglophones, Université Stendhal, Titulaire de CAPES, Enseignant Retraité de l’Université de Toulouse, Auteur, Écrivain et Ancien Légionnaire