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Tag: Hollywood

1

Upcoming Projects for 2013

I’ve been posting on my Facebook page about upcoming projects for the first half of 2013, without sharing too much detail. I’d like to include a quick overview of things to come:

Newsweek

I’ll have an article coming out in Newsweek (now online only), in the next couple of months. I’ll post on Facebook as soon as it’s online.

Backlist ebooks

I’ll be releasing ebooks from my backlist starting very soon. We’re still working on the cover art, but they’ll be coming out one by one in the next couple of months.

Lithuania

I’ll be speaking at the literary festival there, so if you’re based in or near Lithuania, I’d love to see you.

Scorpion Soup limited edition hardcover

This is now available for pre-order over at the Scorpion Soup website, and books will be shipping out in late March. There are purchase options for both the US and the UK, which is where the books will be warehoused. If you’re in another country and would like a copy, please contact me and I’ll let you know what the extra shipping fees are. I’m trying to keep the cost down on this book by offering it only on my website.

You can also enter one of two contests on Goodreads for a chance to win a copy of the limited edition hardcover. There is a contest for US readers and one for UK readers.

Scorpion Soup en español

We’re also working on a Spanish translation of my recent release, Scorpion Soup. It’s over half-way finished, and then will go into editing before its release. It should be out fairly soon, and I’ll be sure to post on my Facebook page when it’s available.

Casablanca Blues

This is one of my upcoming releases for 2013. I’ve completed the first draft, and it’s being edited now.

Blaine Williams is a thirty-something New Yorker with an mid-life crisis and an obsession of the movie Casablanca. His world collapsing around him, he flees to the one place he thinks he knows and understands. A fragment of security in his troubled imagination, Casablanca the genuine article reveals itself as a roller coaster ride of danger, intrigue, and true love — a realm where nothing is what it seems.

Eye Spy

This is another of my upcoming releases for 2013. I’m half-way through the first draft on this.

While in Central Asia saving the sight of a debauched dictator, Dr. Robert Kaine, the greatest eye surgeon of his generation, unwittingly tastes a pie filled with cooked human eyes. Rather than being revolted by the dish, he adores it, and finds that it has an astonishing and ameliorating effect on the psyche. As the craving sets in, he will stop at nothing to get more of the illicit food.

Against a backdrop of an epidemic eye disorder called Occulosis, that threatens making everyone alive blind, Kaine is the one man who can save human sight… while robbing anyone he can of their eyes.

18
June 9, 2012 Posted by tahir in Travel

Kabul airport, Afghanistan

Daydreams and nightmares are the currency of Kabul airport, a realm awash with raw adrenaline, lost hope and off-the-scale corruption. For those flying out, the Afghan capital’s airport has a warm hazy aura. Get to the ramshackle departure lounge and you’ve run a terrifying gauntlet. By the time you reach the broken plastic chairs on the upper level, and the stall selling Marlboros, flat Perrier and stale Pringles, you’ve most likely been threatened and patted down hard. A stream of crooked officials are on standby, eager to coax stray weaponry from your underwear. And they’ll gladly extract a few last dollars too (no worn bills, please) for the privilege of a boarding card.

For those landing at Kabul airport, entering the squalid belly of the terminal building is like stepping into a Jean-Claude Van Damme movie: guns, guns, and more guns – most of them strapped to towering mercenary types with blonde ponytails and cast-iron jaws. The last time I flew out of Kabul, my film crew and I were relieved of all our Super 16 exposed film – a month’s work. The reason? We didn’t have $20,000 in cash for a last-minute bribe.

From The Guardian article ‘Travel writers’ favourite tiny and unusual airports

What’s your favourite tiny and unusual airport? Have you been to any of the airports on this list?

4

Art Deco Casablanca

 Stroll down the long palm-lined Boulevard Mohammed V, the heart of old Casablanca, and you have to squint to appreciate the glory of it all. On the surface it may appear more than a little tatty at the edges but, look beyond the obvious, and you slip into a Twilight Zone of utter enchantment.
            Laid out by the French a century ago, the old crumbling downtown was once a showcase of imperial might, one of the first cities planned by aeroplane. A gleaming jewel of Art Deco style, pre-War Casablanca was synonymous with all that was dazzling, exciting, and new. Back then, the chic restaurants and cafés were packed with men in trilbies, their women in long silk gloves and heels. These days, a façade of grime may cover every surface, but the magic’s still there, waiting to be revealed. And, more to the point, change is afoot. The phoenix is about to rise from the flames once again.
            A stone’s throw from the Central Market, a farrago of fresh fish and hopeful cats, a pair of wizened old pied noir take coffee on the pavement outside Le Petit Poucet. The syrupy morning North African light bathing them in shadows, they reminisce of how things used to be.
            ‘They all came here to dine,’ growls François, his voice roughened from a lifelong love affair with Gauloises. ‘Among them, Albert Camus, Saint-Exupéry and Edith Piaf.’
            ‘In the ’twenties and ’thirties, the greatest architects flooded to Casablanca,’ adds Laurent. ‘They worked with a blank canvas, creating a cultural masterpiece!’
            Across from him, François sips his coffee and scowls.
            ‘The city was in full bloom back then. It was a fragment of paradise.
            ‘So what happened?’
            The Frenchman frowns at the question, as the ancient waiter shuffles forwards with fresh glasses of ubiquitous café noir.
            ‘Independence! That’s what happened. And, all of a sudden, this precious bijou was thrown into the trash!’
            In the seven years I have lived in Casablanca, I’ve discovered the secret Art Deco splendour, an understated opulence shunned by almost everyone. The grandeur is everywhere… in the detail. Amble through the backstreets off the main boulevard, and you can’t help but notice it. The marble foyers are adorned with the finest quality brass-work, parquet, and wrought-iron, the curved lettering outside each building hinting at a time when Casablanca was wealthy in the extreme.
            There’s a sense that this wasn’t just another city, but a statement. The French constructed every inch with abounding national pride. In their legacy there’s a smugness, as if the streets of sleeping buildings know full well how extraordinary they are. But, despite the grand pedigree, modern Casablanca has lost its identity, and the glorious downtown has paid a heavy price.

Fifty-five years since the colonials packed their sea trunks and left, the ‘Moroccan’ Casablanca continues to percolate forth. In some ways it’s the perfect balance, a realm with plenty of slack in the system, where nothing’s taken very seriously at all. The Art Deco Stade Velodrome is a case in point. With no need for a cycling track any longer, the 1930s stadium is used for nocturnal greyhound racing of an uproariously sleazy variety. The preserve of Moroccan Del Boy Trotters, cloaked in thick woolen jelaba robes, they turn up nightly to swap tall tales and to blow the family’s savings on the dogs.

            Not far off, with their sleek curved lines, cupolas, and floral motifs, the majestic old apartment blocks of Mers Sultan are as impressive as anything you might find at Miami Beach. Once a posh residential quarter, Mers Sultan is avoided by the nouveau riche and by the few tourists who brave Casablanca. It’s a treasure trove of buildings that are themselves the epitome of faded grandeur. My favourite is the Café Champs Elyssée. A great rollicking rollercoaster of a building, fashioned in the shape of a luxury cruise liner, it’s filled morning till night with regulars, most of them tired old men hiding from their wives.
            Nearby, across from the Art Deco Cinema Lynx, is the iconic Bar Atomic. Dating from the ’thirties, when anything with the word ‘atomic’ in the title was regarded as racy and cutting edge, it’s one of a kind. Behind the bar, the bottles of cheap Flag Special beer are kept cool in the original wooden fridges, the speckled granite floor hidden beneath a layer of sawdust. Every few minutes a flurry of hawkers bluster in, touting everything from peanuts to underpants, to back-scratchers, toothpaste and shoes.
            Most days of the week Salah couches outside, selling cigarettes one by one. His face buried by scraggly white beard, his teeth mostly missing, he flutters a hand towards the street.
            ‘The money’s all gone,’ he says, choking back down a lungful of phlegm. ‘And there’s shame in it all. The rich moved away, or died out. Or both. You don’t smell their perfume here any more.’ Salah pauses, lights a cigarette and sucks the end hard. ‘As I child I used to go just there to the Lynx, and watch the latest flicks, he says, ‘I liked Charles Bronson. He was the King of the             Stars. I always dreamed he’d come here to Casa. But there’s no hope of that any more.’
            In the distance, there’s a thunderous smashing sound which makes Salah cringe.
            ‘What is it?’
            ‘Go have a look for yourself.’
            Following the sound, I turn the corner to find an old Art Deco villa being reduced to rubble, by a team of men with sledge hammers, their bare backs gleaming with sweat. The fixtures and fittings are loaded onto a truck, which speds away to the junkyard up the road in Hay Hasseni. I recognise the driver, after all I spend half my life there, trawling through the wreckage hunting for gems. Go often enough and you can find roll-top baths with claw feet, wooden roller blinds, and fabulous washbasins the size of cattle troughs. But each cluster of baths discovered means another magnificent Art Deco villa has been ripped down.
            Live here long enough and it’s easy to be jaded and just a little bitter that no one seems to care. But the green shoots of recovery are all around. With the backing of the king, there’s a grand plan to revitalize the old heart of Casablanca, just before it ceases to beat. A tramway is being constructed, expected to be launched next year. It will link the main thoroughfare Mohammed V to other areas of the city. After all, one of the great problems has been that the post-Colonial centre moved away to the chic new district of Marif.
            The master plan is to get investment downtown again, a long process that’s begun with cleaning up the streets and giving the grand old buildings a badly-needed lick of paint. The most important change is that of the mindset, enthusing both locals and visitors about real Casablanca again. And, it’s happening. Precious Art Deco treasures are being restored on a micro scale – the engine of true inertia.

            One of the most impressive renovations is the boutique Hotel de la Doge. Tucked away in a narrow cul-de-sc opposite the imposing Sacré Coeur Cathedral, the hotel is a hymn to Art Deco style. The doors are festooned with curled wrought-iron, the furniture and fittings sculpted from sweeping lines. Named after famous celebrities of the time, the sixteen rooms and suites have been painstakingly adorned with period objets – all of them sourced in the city’s antique shops and flea markets. The result is a dream-like moment from Titanic, stepping into a pristine 1930s Casablanca.
            Back at Le Petit Poucet, Laurent and François have moved on to the house wine, and have knocked down a bottle each. Both at once they shake their heads in despair, take a sip and grimace.
            ‘The future,’ says François, his eyes widening, ‘how can it be any good?’
            I nudge a thumb towards the newly laid tram tracks and the fresh whitewash. Laurent shrugs.
            ‘Who knows?’ he says, his hands thrust into the air. ‘Maybe new life will be breathed into the old place again.’
            François suddenly taps his watch.
            ‘We have to go,’ he says. ‘Are you coming?’
            ‘Where?’
            Round the corner, to Cinema Rialto.
            ‘What’s showing?’
            Laurent downs his wine in one.
            ‘Casablanca,’ he says, with a smile.

(Written for The Times)