|Summer Readers Circle|
Why I wrote Shades of Persephone.
While traveling around the Mediterranean, I fell in love with the old Venetian harbor of Chania, a city on the north coast of Crete, reputed to be the oldest site of western civilization in Europe. What a setting for fiction! What plots might have unfolded here given the fascinating history of the island! Why not a contemporary one?
Inspired by ubiquitous mythical signage, but especially by Lawrence Durrell’s The Alexandria Quartet and John Fowles’ The Magus, novels I was reading at the time, I began sketching out plausible characters of varying backgrounds, foremost among whom, Steven Spire, a young ex-pat as narrator and central character of artistic temperament in need of purpose. Bar and café conversations led to hints of foreign intrigue. Ancient ruins gave way to Nazi runes. Crooked laneways led to mountain retreats and buried secrets. Hydra-headed truth demanded a place on the table along with the ouzo and artichoke hearts. And love, naturally, raised all expectations with the birth, mirroring Aphrodite’s rise from the sea, of Magalee De Bellefeuille.
A short excerpt from Shades of Persephone that introduces the reader to the Pan Pub & Bacchus Bar, where oblivion is an item on the drinks list.
New Year’s Eve. All dark and quiet at Circe’s, and given my predilection for reading Greek signs, I should have read the dark and quiet as portentous. Calypso’s Cave, dark and quiet as well. Housed in edifices centuries old, the discos were populated by ghosts that night.
As I trudged along the deserted quays, I heard few familiar sounds. The waters were silent and ill-defined by either moonlight or streetlamp. Faros seemed far away. Except for an occasional figure darting over the sheen on the flagstones from rain recently fallen, I walked alone.
The door to the back entrance of The Paphos Hotel had been left ajar. Why I associated The Paphos with opulence and the realm beyond my reach I could not say. I had been in only once previously. Catching sight of Magalee from the other side of Halidon, I mistakenly thought she had entered the old hotel. Intimating to the desk clerk a need for accommodation, I was invited to inspect the premises freely. I did, but I did not find Magalee.
Subdued lighting, dark veneer furniture, decadent decor, a subtle redolence that seemed to stimulate more than a single sense: there was a touch of the bordello about The Paphos as well. Here officers of the Third Reich had been entertained by whores. The floors leaned at discernible angles as though designed to usher a visitor into the first available room with a bed. Located on the second floor, the bar was small and intimate, with a partial view of the Old Port. A pendant sanctuary lamp gave just the simplest of signals, that along with the Metaxa and Johnnie Walker spirits, and the sprites that lingered there with them.
Another incongruity. A straight Bob Service stood behind the bar. I ordered a double scotch. He pointed his chin at Emma Leigh Trüger sitting with a man and a woman, looking as though she were conducting a séance. Perspectives narrowed. She looked to me out of the feint light and allowed her eyes to scan the space behind me as if she half expected because I had appeared, David Montgomery to appear. Another presumption, of course, on my part.
I asked about Heinrich.
“My friends don't matter to him too much. He’s probably at the Pan Pub & Bacchus Bar acting out his fantasies.”
The Pan Pub & Bacchus Bar. Some said the Greek Mafia owned it. Kurt Krantz always maintained that Trüger was a silent partner. One habitué, a poet from The Hague, who frequently held forth in the fashion of the Beats, said he had proof an immortal owned the pub, but the proof had gone missing the night of a particularly memorable bacchanal when his creative powers had reached a height never before attained. Patrons debated the issue with waiters, but no one knew for certain the identity of the proprietor. Waiters got paid cash every night by big Kostas, known also as Corunetes, Cudgel Man, because of his extraordinarily large fists, at the end of long muscular arms made even more imposing in rolled-up shirt sleeves. He was butcher, cook, bouncer, and personified kamaki, male macho Greek style.
A grape vine growing by the entrance, old enough to provide extensive shade in other seasons, had been hacked back at this time of the year, though it still blew about giving the place a kind of wild, natural look set against the rock of Kastelli. The doorway, balanced on either side with arched windows, resembled those of many old Venetian structures housing the bars and cafés along the quays. Four large speakers, two in the rear, and two up front and hung outside for convenience in warmer weather, pumped out Punk and heavy Rock. Inside on the right, a large Pan figure greeted entrants with a lascivious look, while on the left, a bronze satyr cavorted, very much amused at his very large erection. The Bacchus Bar, also cavernous, was a louder and more riotous extension of the Pan Pub. Both provided for the visitor in ways that the discos and chic tavernas did not. Once in, you got the impression that people wore masks and that costumes were de rigeur. Here the eccentric behavior of Krikri passed as normal.
“Within,” Montgomery observed one night as we made our way past, Jim Morrison and The Doors wailing after us about liars and fires, “one is tempted by life’s variety in its seriocomic mode. Underworld, under the table, under the influence of.”
“Sometimes I feel out of place,” I said, “and sometimes I feel right at home.”
Though not a regular, I was known here and would enter of my own accord, when not induced to do so by Damen Van Raamsdonk, especially when in a less Socratic mood, or less given to rational and Apollonian influences, or when I felt like getting down and dirty, more interested in life’s underbelly than its spirit. Here I could be entertained by Trüger when he talked suggestively about Magalee. These were nights of denial, spiritual betrayal, and pornographic wish fulfillment for which I would later make amends at the altar of her praise. Something like that. Perhaps it was the graffiti in the men’s room. Magalee sucks goats!
Pulling on a beer, I meandered through the crowd. Krikri appeared for a while, hopping around as though on a bed of coals, opening and closing his long coat in feigned attempts to take flight. Whenever firecrackers exploded outside, he would retreat into that coat and then be reborn as Elvis. His impersonations exhausted, he would grab sleeves and get his hair ruffled.
“Hey, Spire,” New York Nick called out to me. “You lost?”
Nick sat with Heinrich Trüger in the company of two big redheads, Amazons in tights, tattooed and silver ringed. And friendly. As for his part, Trüger had suited himself in large tweed, with a light brown shirt and black tie. He introduced the women as associates from Berlin, ordered me a drink, and insisted I sit down. Their table was near the entrance. How could I have missed them?
“Tell me, Steven Spire, which face Herr Montgomery wears tonight? I think this one.” And here Trüger reached over touched the bronze satyr, at which point everyone at the table erupted into laughter.
As midnight approached, and as the noise level reached hellish intensity, Damen Van Raamsdonk in the get-up he wore Christmas Eve pulled me up by the arm and ushered me towards the back of the place. We passed the large open fire pit where Kostas held sway, and where (you were told) goats had been sacrificed. Damen stopped and pointed to posters advertising dramatic productions, tragedies, and comedies both, that decorated much of the space on the rounded black walls, many pasted over others, giving the impression of seasons having come and gone. He made to say something but then indicated by a twist of the hand that the noise was still too intense. He led me down narrow, winding stairs to where the washrooms were located. The entrance to the women’s room was identified by a kind of montage, three bloodied maenad faces looking on the hysterical side of ecstatic.
Here Damen put his arm on my shoulder and declared with friendly insistence: “Just once to see her, my friend, clad only in her cloak of darkness!”
“Sounds good, Damen. But what does it mean?” I turned towards the men’s room. Phallic horns on the head of a satyr marked the entrance. I began counting Magic Bus decals on the wall.
Damen grabbed my wrist. He looked at me, his eyes now full of wild surmise. “We have to get Magalee to come here. It would make a good start. Maybe at midnight, my friend”—and here Damen’s clamp on my wrist tightened—“she comes to this sacred place.”
Oddly, I thought of Montgomery’s coming to “this sacred place.” Would one as straight as he have in fact crossed the threshold? Could he really have sought information here? Asked questions?
“Hey, my friend—”
“I figure Magalee’s at Manolis’ tonight.”
And when Damen released my arm, I headed into the john. He followed. After finishing at the urinal, I read some graffiti, much of it anti-NATO. I shrugged my shoulders, not really knowing what else I could tell him.
“Don’t have much time,” I said finally and left him there staring at the wall. I headed over to Manolis’ with just a couple of minutes to spare before midnight.
BWL Publishing Author Page Reed Stirling
Click here to download Shades of Persephone from your favorite online bookseller
Reed Stirling, my alter ego, lives in Cowichan Bay, BC, and writes when not painting landscapes, or traveling, or taking coffee at The Drumroaster,Before retiring and taking up writing novels as a past time, I taught English Literature. (Joyce Carol Oates oversaw my M.A. thesis. Several talented students of mine have gone on to become successful writers.)
My wife and I built a log home in the hills of southern Vancouver Island, and survived totally off the grid for twenty-five years during which time the rooms in that house filled up with books, thousands of student essays were graded, and innumerable cords of firewood were split.
Output — Shades Of Persephone, published in 2019, is a literary mystery set in Greece. Lighting The Lamp, a fictional memoir was published in March 2020. A third novel is presently undergoing revision. Shorter work has appeared over the years in a variety of publications including Hackwriters Magazine, Dis(s)ent, The Danforth Review, Fickle Muses, The Fieldstone Review, Humanist Perspectives, and StepAway Magazine.
Intrigue is my primary interest, with romantic entanglement an integral part of the action. Greek mythology plays a significant role in underpinning plots. Allusions to art, literature, philosophy, and religion serve a similar function. Irony is pervasive. Having coffee out or nursing a beer in a pub can lead to observations that connect to themes I’m developing. It could be snippets of dialogue, a bearded face, the shape of a table leg, or a tune playing in the background.
I sit down to write every day and try to leave the desk having achieved at least a workable page. Frequently what comes of my effort amounts to no more than a serviceable paragraph, a single sentence, or a metaphor that might work in a context yet to be imagined.
Connect online with Reed:
Let's welcome Connie Vines who is one of the great authors contributing to the boxed set, Last Chance Beach, Summer’s End box-set.
Why I wrote Paradise Perfume.
Perfume and the art of perfuming as always fascinated me. The ancient Egyptian, Persian, and Arabian Tales. The notes which make up a fragrance, like wine, and music to create a symphony. I wished to share my love of perfuming and the healing properties of fragrances. Perfume is much more than a fashion accessory.
While I am a writer, novelist, and retired educator, I also have a background in perfuming. While I am not a master-perfumer (a ‘nose’) like Tempest in my short-short story, Paradise Perfume, or Persia Richmond in my upcoming release by BWL, Gumbo Ya Ya, I was employed by a perfumery as a fragrance consultant. I tested the PH levels of each client, selected fragrances, and discussed the notes and the impression of each fragrance (signature). The proper way to ‘wear’ and store perfumes etc.
Connie says, "I hope you enjoy Tempest and Sam’s story. It is a heart-warming and sweet romance."
Tempest Javid, master-perfumer, returns to the family cottage to begin a new life. Sam Bennett, single-dad, is on vacation with his pre-teen daughter. While his daughter strikes up a friendship with Tempest. Sam is worried his daughter will become too attached and be hurt. But after spending time with the beautiful perfumer, Sam realizes he may be the one headed for heart-break.
Title: Last Chance Beach: Summer’s End
Last Chance Beach is the island paradise where dreams go to live again and wishes may come true. It’s Summer’s End on the island, and the cottages, condos, hotels, and bungalows are filled to capacity.
This is a special collection of 14 short stories from bestselling authors—all-new, never published before—that will thrill the hopeful romantic in you. Some stories are sweet, some are sizzling hot. All will touch your heart and make you want to book a vacation to LAST CHANCE BEACH!
Click here to pre-order your copy from Amazon now for 99 cents.