In the aftermath of the Haitian earthquake a boy is trapped beneath the rubble of a ruined hospital: thirsty, terrified and alone. 'Shorty' is a child of the slums, a teenage boy who has seen enough violence to last a lifetime, and who has been inexorably drawn into the world of the gangsters who rule Site Soleil: men who dole out money with one hand and death with the other. But Shorty has a secret: a flame of revenge that blazes inside him and a burning wish to find the twin sister he lost five years ago. And he is marked. Marked in a way that links him with Toussaint L'Ouverture, the Haitian rebel who two-hundred years ago led the slave revolt and faced down Napoleon to force the French out of Haiti. As he grows weaker, Shorty relives the journey that took him to the hospital, a bullet wound in his arm. In his visions and memories he hopes to find the strength to survive, and perhaps then Toussaint can find a way to be free ...
I've talked in other places about the inspiration for the overall storyline of In Darkness, and this blog post has links that will take you to some of those places. But Amy asked me to write something bespoke here, and I am so incredibly grateful to Amy for coming to my second ever bookstore signing and being so lovely and encouraging, that I wanted to help out. She was also the only person there, which only increases my gratitude.
I don't think I've spoken anywhere about Shorty's relationship with his sister Marguerite, which is a key sub-plot in the book - maybe the key sub-plot. Without giving too much away for those who haven't read In Darkness, Marguerite is younger than Shorty and he worships her, and when he's still a boy, she is stolen from him by gangsters who also kill his father.
This is a pivotal plot thing: it's losing Marguerite that is the catalyst for every major decision, and every terrible action, that Shorty takes from that point in. It's the drive to save her, to rescue her from the rival gang he believes kidnapped her, that sets him on a road of bloody vengeance. So she is in a sense the motivating factor for almost all of the action and violence.
But I also wanted, with their relationship, to write a kind of unconventional love story. (This would seem to be something of a preoccupation, since my upcoming book Hostage Three is at least in part about a girl who may or may not be in love with one of the Somali pirates who has kidnapped her.) We only see Marguerite through Shorty's eyes, but to him, she was a person who glowed from the inside, who was surrounded by an aura. He associates her with the mural advertising the funeral home at the end of his alley in the slums: a child being embraced and carried up to heaven by an angel. In a sense, for him, she is an angel, or at least a sort of celestial presence in his life - not just a lost sister, but an idea, of purity and goodness existing in hard conditions. And now, crucially, taken away from him.
She's many things, then: she's the thing he wants to find again, she's the possibility of redemption, but she's also something greater than a person: she's a symbol - not that he's consciously aware of this - of some innocence that he has lost. She isn't just a love story: in a certain sense, she is love.
I won't say whether Shorty does find Marguerite, because that would be somewhat of a spoiler. But to some extent I'm not sure that it matters. There's an old fairy tale concept where a witch hides their heart in some object, like a piece of jewelry so that she can't be killed. You could say that Marguerite is Shorty's heart; that she had to go missing, for him to do the bad things he's done; that he put his soul into an idea of her to keep it safe and far away from him. Which is to say that it makes no difference whether he actually recovers her or not: the only thing that can save him is if he decides to take back that loving part into himself, and be weak again.
I don't know if any of that made any sense - it might make more if you read the book first and go back to it. But I do know that, in a book that is very, very close to my heart, the relationship between Shorty and Marguerite is the closest thing to my heart of all. I have a younger sister, but I don't think it's particularly because of that: it's more because I felt like there was something real about Shorty's love for Marguerite. It made it seem even more like he was speaking to me - which is something I felt throughout writing the book, something I have never experienced before or since, when writing anything else. It didn't feel like my story; it felt like his. I think that's why it meant so much to me: it wasn't like making something up. It was like I was a reader too, discovering this messed up, incredible person, and through him, this beautiful girl.
-From the Authors Note:
"Route 9 and Boston and the war between them - are real, as is nearly every detail of life in Site Soleil. It is one of the poorest, most violent slums in existence, even more so now in the wake of the 2010 earthquake. It has frequently been named as the most dangerous place on earth. People really did, and do, eat pies made of mud, such as their desperation. Babies really were, and are, left to die on piles of trash. For years, the slum was virtually cut off by roadblocks and especially during the bloody period in the first decade of the new century, police and attaches were accused many times of shooting unarmed civilians during demonstrations and home invasions. Many residents simply disappeared, never to be seen again."
My name's Nick and I write books for younger readers. My latest, BLOOD NINJA, is about ninjas who are also vampires - because the only thing more awesome than a ninja is a vampire ninja.
I like all the things you like, and I hate all the things you hate. I swear.
I live in a picture-postcard village in Oxfordshire, protected by trip-wires, boobytraps and a fat, lazy tomcat. Life in a picture-postcard village is very nice, but it's a bit two-dimensional.
Nick lives with his wife and daughter in England.
Find Author Nick Lake on the following social media sites:
From the author of the Michael L. Printz award–winning novel In Darkness comes a critically-acclaimed, fast-paced thriller that’s as dangerous as the seas on which it’s set.
The last thing Amy planned to do this summer was sail around the world trapped on a yacht with her father and her stepmother. Really, all she wanted was to fast-forward to October when she’ll turn eighteen and take control of her own life.
Aboard the Daisy May, Amy spends time sunbathing, dolphin watching and forgetting the past as everything floats by . . . until one day in the Gulf of Aden another boat appears. A boat with guns and pirates – the kind that kill.
Immediately, the pirates seize the boat and its human cargo. Hostage One is Amy’s father – the most valuable. Hostage Two: her stepmother. And Hostage Three is Amy, who can’t believe what’s happening. As the ransom brokering plays out, Amy finds herself becoming less afraid, and even stranger still, drawn to one of her captors, a teenage boy who wants desperately to be more than who he has become.Suddenly it becomes brutally clear that the price of life and its value are two very different things . . .
In Hostage Three, Amy is taken captive by Somali pirates on a luxury yacht, along with her father and stepmother. Gradually, she grows close to Farouz, an attractive young pirate who speaks good English, and who begins to reveal the complex reality behind the situation both find themselves in.One element of their interaction is that Farouz tells Amy several folk stories from Puntland, the part of Somalia where he lives. (Actually an autonomous region, technically. But: detail.) Standing on the deck of the yacht, under the stars, he shares these stories, and Amy opens up to him about her past.In the first draft of the novel, Farouz actually told Amy one more folk story from Somalia, towards the end of the book. But I ended up cutting it before my publisher or agent even saw the story, because it was slowing down the main plot too much, and I couldn’t figure out a way to fold it in with the dramatic events of the last third of the book without affecting the suspense or the pace.I always liked it, though, because it tied in with the theme of the stars, and with Farouz telling Amy earlier in tbe book that all Somalia’s stories are about hunger. I also find it fascinating that this old story from Puntland seems to incorporate, and to be aware of, the phenomenon of red shift and the expansion of the universe – since the Midgo’s arrow causes the stars to fly ever further away from the world.But anyway, I kept it in a folder on my laptop, so if you’re a glutton for punishment when it comes to folk tales, here it is!The Man who Shot at the Stars:As well as the camel’s tail, there is the man who shot at the stars.This was near Galkayo, a long time ago. Like all the stories, it is a story of hunger. Or rather, it is a story of how hunger began.Back then, the heavens and the earth were close together, and men’s prayers were answered swiftly, because they did not have far to travel. The glow of the stars was like a blanket, like a roof, just above the heads of the people. Rain came often, thanks to the prayers of men, and thanks to the stars, which were pieces of ice melting, bringing water to the land.In the grassland between the coast and Galkayo, there lived the Midgo tribe. Unlike the more numerous Aji, the Midgo were not Muslims, and they did not cultivate cattle. Instead, they laid snares for wild animals, and foraged for nuts and berries – for it is said that after Adam’s descendants spread around the world, it was given to the different peoples to choose how they would eat. The Aji chose to rear sheep, and cows. The Midgo chose to remain as hunters, and survive from what the land offered them.As well as this, they were legendary for two things: their skill with the bow, and their short tempers. It was not unknown for a Midgan to shoot a man with an arrow, just for looking at him askance.Once, then, there was a Midgan man, who was sitting on the dusty ground outside his hut of sticks and mud. He was sick to death of eating berries, and was thinking how wonderful it would be to roast a full-grown ram, such as those grown by the Aji, and devour its succulent flesh. He called to his wife.Wife, he said. How would you like to feast on a ram?But, my love, she said. How would you find such a thing?Well, said the Midgan, who had thought his idea through, and was patient enough to wait for his prize. I will set fire to a patch of grazing land, so that the grass burns. After rains soak the ashes, and sweeten the ground, tender shoots of new grass will start to grow. Among those shoots I will set my snares, and deer will get caught in them. After we eat their meat, I will tan their hides, and make with them water-skins, and fish-hooks from their bones, and I will trade these things with the Aji for a ram.That sounds like a lot of work, for one ram, said the wife.Yes. But from what I hear, the meat is worth it, when it is roasted.The Midgan’s wife pursed her lips. It is not for us to eat the flesh of rams, she said. We are Midgo. We should feed on what is provided by the earth.A ram is of the earth, said the man.Yes. But it is for the Aji to eat. Let them raise their beasts, and slay them according to Islamic custom. We will stick to gazelle, and roots, and nuts.No, said the Midgan man. I wish to eat a ram.You are a fool! said the wife.But the Midgo are famous for their temper, as we have seen, and so the man nocked an arrow to his bow, whirled to face her, and let it fly. With a hissing zip it crossed the space between them, and buried itself in her chest. Wheezing, staring in horror at the shaft of the arrow protruding from her breast, she toppled, and fell.She was dead.The Midgan man held his bow, listening to the dying tremor of its bowstring, as it quivered to a stop, humming a plaintive note. He stared at his wife’s body, sickened – at himself, and also at her – why could she not have agreed, instead of arguing with him? The Midgo could not control their tempers, and they were legendary for their skill with the bow: this was known. She had known.Wailing with grief, the man turned madly on his feet, like a wind in the desert, like a rabid dog, chasing its own tail.Bring her back to life, he said, to the stars, because in the old days, the stars were close, and prayers were answered quickly.The stars glowed at him, silently.Bring her back to life, now! he screamed.The stars glimmered. They said nothing.Bring her back to life or you will be sorry!Anger boiling inside him, the Midgan again nocked an arrow to his bow, and took aim at the nearest star, which seemed to be winking at him, mockingly. With a cry, he loosed the arrow, letting it fly up towards the heavens.But the arrow never struck the star.The sky began to retreat, flying away at speed from the earth, drawing the stars far from the reach of man.It is believed that the stars have been moving away ever since, further and further from man, further and further from the arrow, which is still flying towards them, so it is said. Ever since then, the rains have come less and less often, and the land has been dry, and famine has been always on the people of Somalia, Midgo and Aji alike.
And since then, few prayers have been answered.
Find HOSTAGE THREE on the following sites:
THERE WILL BE LIES by Nick Lake:
Synopsis (January 2015)
In four hours, Shelby Jane Cooper will be struck by a car.
Shortly after, her mother will steal her from an Arizona hospital without explanation, and take her on a winding road trip toward the Grand Canyon.
All Shelby knows is that they’re running from dangers only her mother understands.And the further they travel, the more Shelby questions everything about her past—and her current reality. Forced to take advantage of the kindness of unsuspecting travelers, Shelby grapples with what’s real, what isn’t, and who she can trust . . . if anybody.
Award-winning author Nick Lake proves his skills as a master storyteller in this heart-pounding new novel—his most commercial offering yet. This emotionally charged thrill ride leads to a shocking ending that will have readers flipping back to the beginning.
*Open to US & International Residents 14+
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