Our Man in Havana By Graham Greene

Our man in Havana follows the story of Wormold, a vacuum salesman who is asked by a secret service agent to become a Cuban agent. Wormold agrees as the extra money would help pay for his daughter’s expensive habits. However not knowing any actual information Wormold makes it all up and is eventually given a receptionist, Beatrice from England. He has made up fake agents and real ones who he had never met, however when one of his fake ones is supposedly killed, he and the ignorant Beatrice have to warn the other ‘agents’ of being attacked. What I like most about Our man in Havana is how normal and down to earth Wormold is. He a VACUUM SALESMAN, not some James Bond spy. He has no clue what he’s doing and needs everything explained to him, which means the reader is less confused as well, (or at least I was less confused which is an achievement to obtain). The book is jam packed with likeable characters with very real goal and motive leading to a very relatable storyline. Once again Graham Greene’s ability to write gripping books about very insignificant things, (again vacuum salesman there is so much about vacuum cleaners in this), has created a spell binding book and a must read.

Smiley’s People by John Le Carre

John le Carre’s Smiley’s people follows George Smiley as he tries to piece together the murder of his friend and British spy, Vladimir. As he does so he uncovers a sinister plot about his old nemesis Karla the Russian Director of the secret service and a Russian immigrant named Maria Andreyevna Ostrakova. That about all I say about the plot about if I say anything more, it will only lead to more question than it will answer. Despite the slightly overcomplicated plot I liked this book, due to the fact the characters are very likeable, meaning that despite the fact I didn’t understand what anyone was talking about I did care about their endeavours. It was dramatic, mysterious and the ending discovery does pay off.

The Heart of the Matter by Graham Greene

Hark, is this finally a plot I can understand? Graham Greene’s The heart of the matter is the tale of a police officer named Scoobie who is stuck with a wife he no longer loves though stays with her because of a sense of duty. However, when she convinces him to except money from a known criminal Ysuef to allow her to move away, he starts an affair with a girl called Helen, while being spied on by a man named Wilson who is in love with his wife and wants to get him discredited. I like this book. Boy that line is blunt; it makes me once like a decisive child. Probably should change it in the edit…

I found it to be an easy read and found it rather hard to put down as I found it incredibly gripping. There were few characters so were easy to remember them all and their motivations, also the main character is incredibly likeable, even when he cheats on his wife you can understand why and without spoiling the ending, it is very sad when it doesn’t work out, but not in a forced way of making sure the story doesn’t applaud adultery but more with a realistic and very dark turn in the third act. So I would definitely recommend The Heart of the Matter as a must read.

The Spy that came in from the Cold by John le Carre

Well isn’t this professional: two weeks after saying I only review fantasy I have suddenly decided to a spy thriller. Well ‘I decided to’ is a misnomer, I more underestimated the length of a Feast of Crows which have led me once again I have found myself having to write about something slightly off topic and clearly spy thrillers are only slightly different to fantasy. So, The Spy Who Came In From The Cold by John Le Carre in British author from the 1960s. Alec Leamas, a British field agent, working in West Berlin loses his last double agent in East Berlin when he’s shot crossing the border on the order of Mundt, a East German agent. To bring Mundt down Leamas decides to frame himself as a double agent working for the Soviet Union. He plans to get himself arrested to get the attention of Fielder, an East German spy, who already thinks Mundt is a spy for the British. Before Leamas does so, he tells his lover, Liz not to follow him no matter what. When he’s released from jail he’s first taken to Holland to discuss what he knows with a man called Peters then to East Germany to meet Feidler and put Mundt on trial. When they do, Mundt uses Liz, Leamas’ communist lover, as a surprise witness who was in Germany for a Communist Party information exchange meeting. After this Leamas admits it was all a set up and he and Fielder are sentenced to be executed. However Mundt lets him and Liz go, Leamas realising that Mundt was an actual double agent and his mission had been to discredit Fiedler. They reach the Berlin Wall and try to climb over but are shot. Perhaps one of the most dense and confusing books I’ve ever read, and I’ve been reading a Feast of Crows, no Kathy, have it for the next review! Actually a pattern maybe occurring in these reviews, with my constant confusion. I hope this will not become a running theme more than it has become already. But as I was saying the plot is incredibly dense. This is because of the writing style used that was popular in the 1960s and 1970s and more specifically John Le Carre. This style uses a lack of exposition and detailing a lot of information in one go with a lot of names and details, kind of like so other authors I know, no bad Kathy! So yes I found the book confusing and yet decided to try and emulate the style, in my own writing. A disastrous decision I assure you, if I found it impossible to read imagine writing it, its hard a this modern age of delivering chapters before the actual plot starts and cut up dialogue to throw that all away. Because of this confusion meant I had no connection to the main characters, and when a character died I couldn’t be upset. Also there were several storylines that kind of went nowhere, like Leamas seeing a car crash with children in the back, its mentions this all throughout the book, even ends with it but goes no where and isn’t needed. However who am I to denounce a classical and beloved book, it clearly just wasn’t for me and yet despite this it effected me so much I decided to use the same writing style as it so clearly it was doing something right.

How to write a character drowing?

The facts and science behind fictional drowning.

Let me just say this first. I am not a murderer nor a person with any intention to murderer. With that said, let’s talk about the fun of drowning! (Definitely not mad). Drowning is defined as respiratory impairment from being in or under a liquid, or at least that is what the first line of Wikipedia would like you to believe (can you see how in depth this research is?!). But drowning is more complicated than that, it is a minefield of complex and raw emotions, along with the pure pain of the victim.

I love emotions, especially the terrible, cruel ones; the feelings of betrayal, of terror, of a never ending guilt…so awesome! And creating scenarios, where these emotions cannot be evaded, are my favourite things to write about. This week, as you may be able to tell was drowning week (what a bleak and boring event that would be.) I shall be researching and writing about the feeling of drowning both internally and externally.  So naturally I took to the internet to see what it could inform me on drowning!

First thing I will need to know if I’m going to write a piece on drowning is how long I can make the piece. Oxygen deprivation will be the first thing to renter a person drowning unconscious. Now this may surprise you, but we need to breathe oxygen to live. This is to complete respiration which is the act of converting glucose into ATP which produce energy for our cells, more importantly our brain and muscle cells. Most organs of the body can last 6-9 minutes without oxygen but the brain can only last three minutes without oxygen before rendering the person unconscious and any more than five minutes will leave the person with permanent brain damage. However, this is only once the body has run out of oxygen, so how much oxygen can the body store? The average male lungs can hypothetically hold six litres of oxygen. However, this usually isn’t reached and the maximum average that can be breathed in is 3.5 litres of oxygen and at rest 3.1 litres of oxygen. So that is an average of 3.3 litres being able to be use to supply oxygen to the muscles and brain. The brain uses 20% of the inhaled oxygen, so 0.7 litres of one breathe. The human body inhaled 550 litres in a day which means 110 litres is used by the brain in twenty-four hours, 4.58 litres are used each hour and 0.07 is used each minute, so a person can last 13 minutes underwater. This usually would be shorter given that in my example it is without any limits or restrictions, but this gives us the window of drowning.

The normal idea of drowning as a violent struggling and crying for help in the brief snatches above water is not drowning. True, these actions can lead to drowning especially if the victim cannot swim but drowning itself happens afterwards. Common symptoms of drowning are underwater such as trying to swim away but being unable to and flaying of limbs all completely submerged. The face is also a giveaway, eyes being glassy and unfocused or a look of panic.

However, while this helps describe drowning from someone else point of view who is watching, I want wish to look at drowning from the drownees point of view. So we have to look at what is happening internally. So what does it feel like? Underwater a conscious person will hold their breath until at the edge of unconscious. They are voluntarily not breathing, this is called apnea and causes an increase to start the breathing reflex as the amount of carbon dioxide in the blood increases. This feeling is close to agony, a burning in the head and throat. This pain would often lead to feelings of anger and desperation against the oncoming drowning. Because of the lack of oxygen, the person also experience sudden dizziness and darkness closing in which can feel incredibly claustrophobia, leading to a dullness in emotion yet still feeling or wishing to be anger to plough up to the surface. As well as this the victim will feel else as the onset panic of the realization of drowning, the realization of oncoming death. This, with the dizziness lead to disorientation in the water. Then they breathe in. This still happens while are semi-conscious, so the finality of water breathing the lungs, the person knowing it IS going to end. So we know how a drowning person feels internally.

In my example the character shall be in fresh water near the North Sea, which will have an effect on the temperature. Rivers in cold conditions around the North Sea have can be at a maximum 17 degrees and at its lowest 6 degrees. The effect of this cold water emersion happens in four stages; Cold Shock Response, Cold Incapacitation, Hypothermia and Circum-rescue Collapse, however only the first two of these actually occur during our time window. Cold Shock is the breathing reflex automatically react when the body hits cold water, meaning our character may have less time to live if this happens will their head is below water. Cold Incapacitation is when vasoconstriction of the blood vessels near the skin surface close of to stop heat escape, this leads to loss of movement in the limbs making it harder to swim to the surface. So we have now covered everything from the time limit to the basic effect coldness has on the body. With this all into consideration we can finally write our piece on drowning. Yay! (Seriously, not mad).

Anyone who has read my little about section maybe confused by this sudden detour on the second blog entry, but that’s because I’m reading Game of thrones for my next entry and that book was longer than I expected so I’ll get back on schedule next week…off to a great stay.