Talking Location With – Kinley Bryan: The Great Lakes
Talking Location With author Gary Raymond – Cyprus
21st August 2018
#TalkingLocationWith… author Gary Raymond, who has set his thriller The Golden Orphans in Cyprus
My new novel, The Golden Orphans, is a Graham Greene-esque thriller set on the island of Cyprus, where I lived for a little while in the mid-00s. It took me a decade or so to get around to turning my experiences on the island into a novel, but it’s a place that lingers, and there is something somewhat inevitable about The Golden Orphans eventually being written.
The geography, in truth, is perhaps the most important ingredient of the island’s peculiar world. It is situated in a part of the Mediterranean that looks out to Europe, Africa and the Middle East, and you get cultural influences from all these sides. The tension between the Greek and Turkish halves too is everywhere. In 1974, Turkish forces took over the north of the island in what has always been known as a bloodless invasion – although I question this in my book. The shadow of that invasion hangs heavy, and it was that shadow, eventually, that brought me to write The Golden Orphans. Once the novel was a real possibility to me, once my publisher had responded enthusiastically to the idea, and once I knew what the plot would be, things fell into place remarkably quickly, and for this I owe a debt to the island. It was as if it was waiting for me to write the book.
The memory of Cyprus’ arid plains outside of Ayia Napa, the burnt grasses, the lush climb up the Troodos Mountains to the east, the eeriness of its ghost city of Famagusta. Once I had decided to write the novel, all I had to do was place my characters in these dramatic places. I have travelled all over the world, but Cyprus is one of the most novelistic places I have ever been.
So here are a few comments on the main spots that form settings for The Golden Orphans’ most important scenes, and places I would say that if you’re ever in Cyprus, make sure you visit these spots.
The Golden Orphans opens with a funeral, and the idea came from two very different places – firstly the opening of The Third Man by Graham Greene (nothing wrong with stealing a great idea for an opening); and secondly from seeing a Greek Orthodox funeral from the window of my apartment overlooking the cemetery in the small town of Paralimni. Like many places in Cyprus, in Paralimni you can throw a hat and there’s a good chance it will land on the head of someone who remembers when this bar was a dusty little chicken farm, or that hotel was a stinky little pig pen. I walked Paralimni a lot when I was there, and although it doesn’t have a lot of architectural charms, it seems to have an old soul.
I worked in a small wedding venue just a short walk from the glorious chaos of Ayia Napa. Napa, of course, had an infamous reputation that was still predominant when I was there, but the “glory days” had long passed. From a writers’ perspective, I was lucky to see a sort of seediness that only makes itself visible to normal folk when business is hard. The bars and clubs in the first half of The Golden Orphans are all real places, and were utterly exhilarating places to be frequent. Napa was never a polished corporate tourist trap; it had a real earthy grizzly decadence to it that, for a writer, was never more alluring than when it was all beginning to crumble down.
A crucial scene in The Golden Orphans takes place on the peak of Olympus in the Troodos Mountains. In the book, you can see the entire island from there, although I’m sure that’s beyond the power of the naked human eye in reality. But you can see the coast on a clear day, at least to the south. You have the dry heat up there, lush green forests, touches of snow, and the presence of armed Greek soldiers manning a communications tower.
Once I knew I was going to write a novel set in Cyprus, I knew it was going to end in Famagusta. My task was, in essence, working out a way to get my characters there for the climax. In the 1970s, before the Turkish invasion, Famagusta was the luxury Mediterranean resort. The seafront dazzled with its regiment of exclusive hotels and sparkling beaches. Now much of it is utterly abandoned, and forms the demarcation zone between the walled-off north and south of the island. It is eerie and ghostly, and the source of so many rumours and modern folk stories, which I ransacked for my own twists and turns. You can stand on the beach and look down the coast to the abandoned hotels of Famagusta, all lined there along the empty beaches in a kind of apocalyptic silence. Just watch out for the Turkish guards in the gun turrets who are there to make sure you don’t get too close.
Thank you so much to Gary for sharing his thoughts on Cyprus. Follow him on Twitter
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