Interview with Author Tony Brooks

My guest today is Tony Brooks.  Hello, Tony!  Welcome back to Writing in the Modern Age!  It’s such a pleasure to have you again.

Can you tell us a little bit about your latest book? When did it come out? Where can we get it?

The latest book is entitled Black Legions and is set in Ethiopia just as Mussolini’s fascists are beginning to invade. It is an adventure/romance piece that I believe crackles along in an intensely colourful scenario. It was brought out by Xynobooks in July and can now be purchased online from them, and on Amazon.

Is there anything that prompted your latest book?  Something that inspired you?

What prompted the writing – I had an Italian/Ethiopian friend who introduced me to the culture of that fascinating country with its immensely long history. Then I discovered there was an actual historical link between Haile Selassie’s kingdom and Australia. With a mix of real characters and those I created, I believe I enjoyed writing this piece almost more than the others. Incidentally, the novel’s precursor was a well-developed draft for a screen play.

Great!  So, when did you know you wanted to write?  Or has it always been a pastime of yours?

At college I fell almost by accident into a play-writing course and then encountered by similar chance the fabulous woman pioneer character, Catherine Helen Spence. This lady demanded to be put into an historical fiction novel.  

Do you have any favorite authors?

C.S.Forester, Wilbur Smith, Leon Uris and James Michener, with whom I once watched flying fishes from a liner’s deck. Oops, almost forget to mention my latest fave, Nicole Trope.   
Do you write in a specific place?  Time of day?   

No, when I am hot to trot I just get up and ‘go to the office’.   

Are there any words you'd like to impart to fellow writers?  Any advice?   

If you want to make money perhaps you should go into a bookshop and see what is selling; then write in that genre. But if you are following an urge to write something that appeals to you, be prepared to work as hard on the marketing as you do on the writing.   

That's great advice!  Thank you for stopping by, Tony!  :)

Readers, here is the blurb for Black Legions.

In 1934, Fascist Italy plans to conquer swaths of Africa beginning with Ethiopia. Defenseless, as the great powers of the world choose to appease aggression, Ethiopia desperately rallies a defense against the impending invasion. It’s the worst possible time for Australian Lance Worthington, but he must finalize the sale of horses to the Ethiopians or see his family’s ranch fail. The desperate situation grows worse as his shipment of horses disappear in the mysterious, foreign land poised for war.

Ulysses S. “Clay” Clayton, however, is right where he wants to be. An American reporter, he needs a big story that will ignite his career. A black man, he faces prejudice in his home land, and the impending war could be his one, last chance.

Caught in a maze of shifting tribal loyalties, Fascist machinations and the panic of a country about to be destroyed, Clay rescues Lance during a street riot, and the two men form an uneasy alliance as the search for Lance’s missing horses dovetails with Clay’s search for the desert tribesmen who will be the vanguard of Ethiopia’s defense.

Together, they fight to discover the truth about war, love and their own destinies in a world about to fall apart.

Black Legions is Tony Brooks’ fifth novel, but books are only part of the former member of Her Majesty’s Royal Navy’s repertoire. He’s an accomplished teacher and playwright with a historian’s mind and a poet’s heart.

Here is an excerpt from the book.
Ogaden Desert

The enormous full moon and a black sky ablaze with stars turned the endless flow of the desert into a bizarre, glittering snowscape. To the north, the empty wastes of Ethiopia stretched away into the distance towards the border of the tiny enclave of Italian Somaliland, crouching in the northeast quarter of that richly varied land.
Dark fingers of palms marked out the fringes of an oasis whose water reflected the moon above. In the dark shadows of the trees and low desert bushes, flickers of light and movement created a ghostly effect in the stillness of the scene.
In the distance, the same moon washed a dull pall of light over the bleached, crumbling parapets of an ancient, mud-walled fort, harshly imposing its jagged lines onto the smoothness of the desert, just as it had done for many hundreds of years.
Against the crumbling inner wall of the fort leant the dark figure of an askari, an African soldier of the occupying Italian forces. He yawned hugely, and then pressed back against the mud bricks behind him, his rifle drooping from his strong, black hands.
In his semi-conscious state, the soldier remained totally unaware of the shadowy figures that were slipping over the dunes and crouching at the base of the walls. Dark hands grasped ropes and sent them flying upwards. A tug on the ropes, and double-headed grapnel hooks bit deep into the parapet. Robed figures swarmed up like phantoms and gathered on the tops of the walls. They crouched low, their burning eyes taking in the form of a second sentry on an inner gate.
The moonbeams caught the golden binding of the turban worn by the tall, dark-featured warrior who joined them on the ramparts, authority in every line of the whipcord figure that gazed down into the central square of the fort.
The man asked, “Omar?”
One of the invaders hissed his name and pointed at the unsuspecting askari at the inner gate. The hawk-like nose lifted and his blazing eyes fixed on the leaning shape of the black soldier. With a flowing gesture, he drew a hand across his throat and flung a quivering finger toward the figure below. One of his men slipped down the rope and crawled cat-like across the sand of the enclosure.
Suddenly, the terrified sentry was clawing at the garrotting cord that was choking the life out of him. His eyes bulged huge in the moonlight, and then his body was slumping slowly onto the sand. With triumphant grins, the Arabs crept silently toward the main buildings of the fort.
They froze like a flock of ghostly, ragged statues as a uniformed soldier emerged whistling from the barracks. The tribesmen blended swiftly into the shadows of the walls. The lone figure seemed strangely elegant and out of place in the primitive surroundings. On the shoulders of the well-cut uniform glistened officer’s insignia and Italian regimental flashes.
A match flared, and he drew on a cigarette in a refined manner as he gazed up at the breathtaking light show above him. A slight movement caught his eye, and he was suddenly aware of the lines of crouching warriors. He clawed at the revolver in his holster, but not quickly enough. Omar snapped up his ancient rifle and calmly fired, opening a ghastly flower of blood between the Italian officer’s eyes.
The shot brought shouting askaris pouring from their barracks, many falling from the withering fire of the attacking tribesmen. Omar was shouting in glee, drunk with the joy of killing. But a machine gun on the fortress parapet suddenly swung into action. Now it was the attackers who were tumbling like untidy rag dolls under a hail of bullets.
The whole scene dissolved into a confused mass of dead and dying men. In the chaos, Omar was dragged away into the safety of the night, still screaming curses of frustration at his enemy.
All was silent again, but in the swirling dust and ghostly calm, an askari knelt, clutching the body of the dead Italian officer. Blood ran down the man’s finely chiselled features, and the head lolled back.
“Capitano Carolei! Capitano Carolei!”
The black soldier was weeping as he stroked the dead man’s cheek. Other askaris gathered round, some kneeling in the bloody patches of sand. Carolei was clearly a well-loved leader.
In the gloom beneath the trees of the oasis, Omar Samanthar wheeled his Arab stallion and gazed back toward the fort. The flag of the hated invader stretched out stiffly in the light of the desert moon. With a savage curse, he threw up his rifle. The copper bands that secured its stock glistened in the night as he put bullet after bullet through the centre of the symbol of oppression.

Author Bio

Tony started his career as a teacher, tutor and lecturer. He taught for some years in high school, having studied French at the Institut Britannique and the Sorbonne in Paris, and was also a primary school teacher and principal. Migrating to Australia in 1971, Tony taught for ten years at all levels of primary school and as tutor/lecturer at Murray Park CAE. His degree is in Educational Drama and he has worked as actor, director, and stage manager in both professional and community theatre productions.

Tony also confesses to writing dozens of poems that he sometimes performs in public, and which have helped unlock the flow of words over the years. A long term member of S.A. Writers’ Theatre and S.A. Writers’ Centre, Tony’s scrips have been performed and presented on stage, radio, film and T.V., both here and in the USA.

Tony has written six novels and sold some thousands of copies, mostly by his own efforts. 

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