14 March 2013

Excerpt Thursday: Molot by Leo Salter

This week, we're welcoming author Leo Salter, whose latest title is Molot, Book 3 of the Pathways to Revenge series.   Join us on Sunday, when the author will offer a free copy of the book to a lucky blog visitor. Here's the blurb:                          
Molot was born in Siberia in 1922 and brought up by Sofiya and Alexei in Moscow during the Stalinist terror.  He is an honest man who sacrifices his humanity to survive.  He fought in Mongolia, lived amongst the Mongolian tribes, took part in the slaughter of the Winter War in Finland, faced the German invasion in the Ukraine and was with the Russian delegation at Nuremberg.  His first love was a shaman and his wife was a whore; when he left her he fell in love again and forever.

Molot’s story is interwoven with that of his grandson Gunther who leads Sofiya’s criminal empire into the 21st century.  As befits the young Achilles, Gunther’s story is full of lust and killing as he travels from the Crimea to Tokyo, Berlin, Paris, and Chechnya.

Molot fights in the Russo-Japanese war in 1939 and it is here that he makes his first contact with the Mongolian tribe who parallel the Myrmidons – the men who followed Aeacus's grandson Achilles in the Trojan War and who have been described as the 'Special Forces' of the Greek Army.

The Pathways series is set in the 20th and 21st centuries and although it isn't important to know anything about the Trojan War to read it, knowing about the original story adds a lot to the reading experience.  Readers unfamiliar with the Trojan War may like to check out www.leosalter.com and see how the Pathways Series uses the characters and actions in it.

**An Excerpt from Molot**

(Molot, Finland, 1939) At ten degrees below we had to keep the tank engines running so they wouldn’t seize up; it wasted fuel we didn’t have.  At fifteen below the gun oil for the Mosin-Nagant rifles froze and at any one time only a few of the infantry had rifles that were operational – not they were much use in the thick forests that surrounded us.  At minus twenty and below even the smallest wounds went gangrenous and heaps of frozen amputated limbs were stacked up outside the medical tents.  It was minus thirty-five centigrade when the Finns started mortaring our field kitchens so there was no hot food until our men lit fires and then they were shot down day and night by snipers who picked them out against the flames.  When it was dark the Finns swept in silently on skis dressed all in white and firing from small Suomi machine pistols.  Then they were gone, leaving our men to waste their ammunition firing into the woods and at each other.

Our one and only Siberian ski battalion was obliterated when the Finns caught them on a frozen river bed.

The Finns intercepted our radio messages and ambushed the roads.  Since the roads were nothing but narrow paths chewed up by our tanks and the huge petrol-eating caterpillar tractors pulling our artillery, stopping movement on them was not difficult – especially when the surfaces were frozen into iron-hard ruts and ridges.  The Finnish engineers blew up trees along the roads to dissect our convoys into what they called motti, a word used to describe piles of wood cut and prepared for burning when the time is right.  And burn us they did as machine guns laced the air around each isolated segment of the convoys together with mortars, snipers, satchel explosives and Molotov cocktails for the tanks.  The tanks seemed to burn forever.  In places the single file of backed-up nose-to-tail vehicles stretched all the way to the Russian border like an elongated scrapyard of burnt out tanks and trucks.  Our heavy equipment was turned into a long line of charred metal.

Our own troops became mutinous.  Commissars were murdered, officers couldn’t handle their men; the Ivans from the steppes were hungry, cold, tired and scared.  An officer told me that “They are frightened of the forest and cannot ski.”  Meanwhile under the system of dual command the politruki questioned all military decisions for their political correctness before they were ratified and the inertia, confusion and chaos this bred was unimaginable.  I heard later that Mannerheim said our troops milled around in front of the Finnish lines like tourists.

The use of camouflage was forbidden by some senior officers because it was thought to be a sign of cowardice.
(Gunther, Berlin, 1990s) I put the manuscript aside and tried to picture the stupidity of it all and then I must have fallen asleep because it was early evening when the bell to the suite woke me and my new clothes were delivered.  I showered and dressed for dinner and I wondered what Nicole was doing.

I recognised Siskim as soon as I entered the Lorenz Adlon restaurant.  I should have known there would be nothing like a simple R&R experience when Sofiya was involved.  She selected this city and the hotel and she knew Siskim would be here. 

He was with a young woman, a girl, his daughter.  I recognised her from some airline magazine where she’d been held up as an example of the jet-setting classes – my six most favourite cities or shopping malls or some such rich people jabber.  And then I think we may have met at a wedding or funeral when we were kids – there is always a crossover of interests and friends between the families. 

She sparkled.  She was dressed in high couture euro-muslim style with a Barjis night-black dress which fell down in light flounces to the top of her high-heeled Jimmy’s.  The dress showed little neck and no bosom but her forearms were brown and naked except for a small silver and diamond bracelet.  Her hair was up and thickly braided round her head, and the sapphire earrings sparkled too, and on the back of her chair I saw a light grey silk scarf which could have been a hijab.  It was intricately woven with small pearls which caught the light and from the corner of my eye I watched their shimmer as I walked to my table.  

I nodded to them across the restaurant as gracefully as I could and as I sat down Siskim spoke to a waiter who came across to me and said that the gentlemen knows you and your father, and would be honoured if you would join him and his daughter.  Well, yes, I would.  How could I refuse the main man of the Clans when he invites me to dinner, when he invites me to dinner with his daughter?  Therein lay the peril.  It was Iphigenia his daughter that lay astride the paths and tracks to the future.  Iphigenia.  Iffy.

“Welcome Gunther.  You remember my daughter Iphigenia?”

I walked over to her and kissed her hand, the one with the bracelet loose on the brown soft skin of her wrist.
About Leo Salter

I am a retired academic with a PhD in Physical Chemistry and an MA in English Literature, and have published papers in both disciplines.  In 2011 I gave the D H Lawrence birthday lecture in Eastwood and was invited by the British Council to speak on air pollution at the Café Scientifique in Madrid.

I spent the late seventies and eighties in Africa and now live in Cornwall where my wife is a GP and where I sail dinghies and surf and where, since my retirement, I’m busy writing “Pathways to Revenge” a contemporary version of the Homeric Cycle; “Molot is the third book of the series and more are underway.

Website:  www.leosalter.com