The Stories

 

My first published book is “An Afghan Affair,” a story  written for my wife.  It was intended as a romance and finished up with a bit more drama than the average romance.  My daughter tells me you can tell it’s written by a man because of the detail. I’ve no idea if that’s good or bad.

The next three books I wrote would be more in line with a modern Asimov. (No, I do not in any way claim to be that good, but they are certainly inspired by his detective stories.) Right from the start I intended that it would be a trilogy, a series of stories around the law, or lack of it once off of terra firma.  Just like “There and Back” was started by a line from an Eagles song (Hotel California as it happens) so “An Unusual Profession” was started by an unusual property in Los Gatos. Both evolved into something different, but you have to start somewhere.

I once thought that the first space travel agency would be in a shopping mall or smart city street, but in retrospect realized that the queues to get in would be huge even if the prices were astronomical (deliberate pun) People would want to see the set-up for them selves.

 

To be honest, there were a number of threads I wanted to include, one of which was NASAs’ decline. The premise that they (NASA) can piggyback on private venture or as it is now, another nations’ program is an ill conceived notion that is already losing the high ground. ‘An unusual profession’ confronts just such a scenario. I also became intensely interested in the minutiae of space travel, having to come up with all sorts of data from a new concept on working space suits, breathing systems and not least a flight schedule. (NASA came up with a good start on suits in the 60’s hard shell but they seem obsessed with the one-piece answer. The trouble with that is every suit is unique to the person - I know the guys that make them, and they take pride in this- and once a one piece wears the whole suit has to be scrapped. It won’t take long; just take a look at the suits that came back from the moon. I don’t actually know the longest time anyone has been in a space suit, but suspect the Apollo moon missions duration of around ten days is close.  My people would have to use a suit to work in for years.)

Even with a fictitious means of propulsion that shortens a journey to Mars from six months and more to a matter of weeks, (I did the calculations on how long it would take to accelerate to half a million miles an hour without turning to jelly on the rear bulkhead -amazingly at one gravity, only twelve and a half hours- and how long at that speed it would take to cross the void) the relative orbits of Mars and Earth are hugely important. Without understanding that interaction, that Mars takes just over twice as long to go round the sun as does Earth and that the two planets approach each other on an average seven hundred and eighty day cycle. Because both orbits are elliptical and in different planes both the duration and distance between conjunctions is variable, the closest being around 34 million miles and the furthest 64 million. (That’s the close point.  When the two planets are the other side of the sun from each other it can be as much as 250 million miles.) Logically then if it takes 12½ hours to get to half a million miles an hour (and at one ‘g’ that’s all it takes)and you’ve got 34 million to go-less of course the distance covered to get to that speed- then the journey would take 68 hours plus 24 to speed up and slow down- and 92 hours is only four days.

 

The first story is really a means to an end, the placement of Tanya Jones on Mars and the establishment of Law in the cosmos, because there isn’t any unified law now and with national interests at the fore, is unlikely to be in the future.  Of note is the thinking that maritime law can be transferred to the cosmos. It’s interesting that as of 2017 the United States has not agreed to or ratified its acceptance of the law of the sea. What hope is there then for space?

On the way there is a glimpse of what the future may look like if such a technology as flux generation came by privately and soon.  There is of course a further twist in the plot in the form of espionage and a tantalizing murder investigation. So the question arises that leads to the real story. If there was a crime committed on the moon, Mars or in space, who would prosecute and under what law?

 

In the second book of the trilogy, ‘A law unto herself’ there are further ‘accidents’ that arouse Tanya Jones’ suspicions. To make the timings hang together I had to research a calendar for Mars, this has been done before but not to my satisfaction. The Darien calendar is the best worked out but makes no sense in the naming of months. (Well, it sort of does, my apologies to its author Thomas Gangale, but using Indian star signs is not a practical way. Unless I suppose you are Indian or a scholar of Sanskrit.) So I took the liberty of renaming them in a manner that real people would use.

To quote Harry Broadbent: “The system is called the Modified Darien Calendar and basically it follows the rhythm of the Darien and Unified Martian calendric system but does away with the confusing nomenclature. It may not sound as fancy as the months of Capricornus or Mina, but at least with A to Z you know where each month is in the sequence.”

And as to the months: “And that’s another thing,” Tanya returned, “I still I get confused if it’s 27 or 28 days in these stupid alphabet months.”

“You’ll get used to it.” He told her. “Every five out of sixth months it’s twenty eight and the sixth is just one day shorter at only twenty seven. Just remember Fix My Time Zone.”  Tanya looked at him like he was out for breakfast. “The four months that only have twenty seven days are F,M,T and Z. Some bright spark came up with Formulated Martian Temporal Zenith, but I prefer Fix My Time Zone. If you come up with a better mnemonic be my guest.”

 

So what’s the story?  In essence it’s a murder mystery set on Mars. There is illicit trafficking in guns, diamonds and drugs with espionage at its core.  I’d like to think it’s a little more than that, a story to get you thinking, for in assuming the mantle of policeman, Tanya has changed. I’d also like to think that the conclusion is a bit on the abnormal side.

Hey? Two murder stories in a row? Guess what the third book is! So onto ‘The Pittsburgh Pirate’ and yet another murder, or to be precise, murders. For this is a serial killing story. Tanya uses her influence to get her father, a senior detective with the Pittsburgh Police up to help her solve what she believes is a recent murder and a series of linked cold cases with the same MO.

Want to know where the inspiration for these comes from?  Look no further than the aforementioned Isaac Asimov mixed with a little Steven Saylor.  So my writing style and underlying messages are nothing like theirs, but not invalid I think.

 

What’s next?  I wanted a British slant on the murder of the Romanov family:-

It is the First World War. The 9th Service Battalion Warwickshire Infantry mobilized for war and embarked from Avonmouth in June 1915 for Gallipoli.

July 1915 Landed at V Beach Gallipoli, serving in the Helles trenches then re-embarked for Anzac cove and the engaged in the Battle of Sari Bair, and the final evacuation of the Gallipoli peninsula. In January 1916 Due to severe losses from combat, disease and harsh weather the entire Division is withdrawn from the line and evacuated to Mudros on the island of Lemnos. So far that’s documented fact.

The more severely wounded are shipped back to England and on release from convalescence, instead of being returned to the battalion in far off Mesopotamia are amalgamated into the 7th Battalion.

A training company is formed from wounded veterans and when Lord Kitchener goes to Russia on a diplomatic mission, this company is selected to guard him. Unfortunately they miss the boat, which is fortunate as Kitchener’s ship is sunk. Arriving in Murmansk they no longer have a mission and are sent to St. Petersburg to provide security for the ambassador there. With the 1917 revolution the Ambassador departs, expecting to return soon so leaves the company to guard the embassy from looting. The Bolshevik takeover conditions an exit from Russia but this cannot be achieved via Murmansk over the winter. Hearing of the Czech Legion’s plan to travel via the Pan Siberian Railway to Vladivostok, the Company make plans to join them, arriving via a circuitous route at Yekaterinburg on July 16th 1918. ……

 

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© Alexander Travell