Exiles Guest Blog: A simpler Evil: how I came to write ‘The Solomon Sea’ by Gareth Spark

Exiles cover preview (1)The initial inspiration for ‘The Solomon Sea’ came after reading an article on the Bre-X mining fraud of the late 90’s, one of the greatest mining scandals of all time. Bre-X, a Canadian company, bought a site in Indonesia, in 1993 and in October 1995 announced significant amounts of gold had been discovered, sending its stock price soaring. Originally, a penny stock, its stock price reached a peak of $200+ on the Exchange with a total capitalization of over $6 billion. The company collapsed and its shares became worthless after the discovery that most of the gold samples were fraudulent; indeed, it was further discovered that some of the gold samples, in fact, derived from shaved pieces of old jewellery.

The fraud began to unravel rapidly when Bre-X geologist Michael de Guzman died by falling from a helicopter in Indonesia. Police discovered his corpse days later in the jungle, mostly eaten by animals, and ascertained his identity via dental records, though there has been some speculation as to whether he faked his own death or no. It was a terrible scandal, the fallout from which reverberated for decades. The details are still somewhat shadowy, but it struck me as a great background to a tale of corruption and greed played out against ruined environments and sour lagoons; the kind of places where Conrad brought his characters to their doom. I am interested, as a writer, in what I call the final lapse; that vertiginous point of spiralling responsibility and destruction after which nothing can ever survive the same. In my stories I always, (and sometimes, I hope, successfully) attempt to describe that dagger point moment; Othello with his hands around Desdemona’s throat, Lord Jim before he leaps from the sinking Patna, Dr. Jekyll, the test tube bubbling before him just before he drinks.

Which brings me to my own fictional island of Matong, and the characters Dr. Ross and Edward Teach, an Englishman with a murky past (named for the pirate, naturally). Inspired by revenge perhaps, but certainly by greed, they perpetrate a similar vast fraud and conspire to disappear after faking their own deaths. Ross, an essentially good man, conscience heavy with the memory of communities he has helped destroy, alienated from his family by the nature of the work, finds Teach’s all-devouring Will seductive. It allows him to orchestrate a kind of revenge at a remove, shoving the responsibility onto Teach and his simpler breed of evil. He follows into an exile from his world, from his goodness. Indeed, one could say, from his own soul.

The theme is an old one, perhaps the oldest; how easily a man can lose himself.

 Bio: Gareth Spark is a writer from the Northeast of England. He is author of Rain in a dry land (Mudfog Press) and you can read his work online at Shotgun Honey, The Big Adios, Near to the Knuckle and Out of the Gutter, among others.

Exiles: An Outsider Anthology  is OUT NOW from Blackwitch Press.

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