Mastodon The Writing Desk: The Shell - An African Adventure

13 February 2023

The Shell - An African Adventure

Available on Amazon Kindle and paperback

The holiday of a lifetime becomes a nightmare as two lovers face life changing danger. Lucy is bound and helpless, taken far from the safety of the world she knows. Nothing has prepared Steve for what he needs to do. He has to find and rescue her - and risk his life in the 
desperate search for Lucy. 

His journey takes him deep into the African wilderness, where death waits for the unwary. Lucy’s journey is mental as well as physical. The protective shell of her old world is gone - with everything she took for granted. Her life becomes a fight for survival, one day at a time. Based on actual events this fast-paced adventure explores the tensions in the developing country of Kenya.

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My father was in the Royal Air Force and stationed in British East Africa when I was seven years old. I was old enough to realise the significance of Jamhuri (Independence) Day, when Jomo Kenyatta drove in proud procession through the streets of Nairobi. It was the birth of the new Kenya and I remember the excitement and celebrations. The Kenyan flag was flying everywhere you looked and there was a real sense of history in the making.

We also felt the heightened sense of danger for a young British family living in the middle of it all. There was an ‘Askari’ on guard duty outside our front door at nights and my parents had to defend the house against intruders. My memory of those times is a happy one but the risks were always present. We travelled in convoy for safety and on a family holiday to Mombasa my mother warned me to watch out for the men who sailed the dhows.

I always knew I would return to Kenya but it wasn’t until forty-three years later that my wife and I went on a holiday there. It was a surprise to be told it was too dangerous for us to visit Nairobi, although we did drive through the city and I was impressed at the progress that had been made. Mombasa had also changed.  The staff at the hotel advised that, for our own safety, we should never go outside the hotel grounds without one of their men to escort us.

One afternoon we forgot the advice and walked further than intended along the beach. Realising the danger we were in, we nervously made our way back. That was when the idea for this book first came to me. What would we do if we were attacked, far from the safety of our hotel? 

I was several chapters into writing the first draft when I heard the news that a British couple had been attacked at the Kiwayu Safari Lodge, a coastal resort north of Mombasa. I set the draft to one side for nearly a year but returned to it after reading about the continued violence in northern Kenya.  

Sadly the attack on September 11th 2011 resulted in the death of David Tebbutt and the kidnap of his wife Judith. Judith Tebbutt was freed six months later when her family paid a ransom to the kidnappers. David was a hugely respected director of one of the last independent British publishers in London. Stephen Page, Faber’s publisher and chief executive, said ‘David always took a great interest in those coming to the industry from diverse backgrounds and was characteristically generous with his time and energy towards them.’

Tony Riches

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