Edward Hackford – Feature

Edward Hackford (BGS 1949-57) was born in Boston and studied Science and Theology at Cambridge. He has worked extensively as an election observer in emerging democracies such as Moldova and Kosovo, and has witnessed, first-hand, the effects of economic and political change on every day people, and particularly the aspirational youth. It is this insight he shares with the reader in his first novel, Deadly Consignment.

Formerly Chief Executive of St Albans District Council, now retired, Edward has been Chair of the Trestle Theatre Company, Secretary-General of the European Consortium of Local Government Chief Executives’ Associations, a non-exec Director of an Enterprise Agency, and a Trustee of St Albans Cathedral, alongside his international election monitoring work. His hobbies are chess, bridge and squash. Edward was guest speaker at the OBA 2012 Annual Dinner.

Deadly Consignment is available in paperback and, from Amazon as a Kindle eBook.

Deadly Consignment

Desperate to escape grinding poverty and ethnic cleansing, Nina and Habib risk everything in a deadly race to reach the West.
Nina, a bright young Moldovan girl, leaves her remote village determined to make her mark on the world. At the same time, Habib, an intelligent young Kosovan, leaves the ethnic hatred that has destroyed his family in search of life in a free land. Their lives collide dramatically as they embark on illegal journeys to the UK over many borders, land and sea.
But being human cargo is a risky, sometimes lethal, business. They are perfect prey for the gangsters that run the trafficking routes. Parcelled from one safe-house to another under cover of darkness, witnessing prostitution and executions, can they really trust the men who say they’ll make their dreams come true? Especially those working for Al Qaeda?

From the author

What inspired you to write this book?
Good question! I suppose the immediate stimulus was when lying awake one night in an hotel room in Tbilisi, Georgia. I’d been reading a novel and thought to myself that I could write something as interesting and as readable as that. So in the next wakeful hour I amused myself by composing a random first chapter in my head. On return to the UK, I wrote it down. I had no idea where the plot might go, nor the characters that would emerge. But it seemed logical to write a second chapter, and then a third, and so the novel developed, but not in the chapter sequence in the finished volume. The advantage of writing like that is the author is not sure where the story will go, and that transmits itself to the reader who is also in suspense as to what might happen next.
Edward Hackford speaking at
the OBA 2012 Annual Dinner
Was it something you’ve always wanted to do?
Not at all! At school and University I was always keen on science and maths, and still am, but literature was low on my agenda. And during my subsequent career I always preferred to do things, rather than teach or write about them. But gradually I developed a huge appreciation of English as a language for expressing oneself, particularly when learning other languages while working overseas. My wife, Jill, is a classicist so that no doubt influenced me and encouraged me to take an increasing interest in reading books. The ones I enjoy most are those that are believable and realistic with characters with whom I can empathise. For me a good book must have a good beginning, a convincing middle and a rounded ending. I like to think “Deadly Consignment” meets those criteria.
How did you find the process?
Time consuming, absorbing, interesting, exhausting, challenging – and much more!
How long did it take?
It took about 4 years to write, though of course the writing had to be interwoven with loads of other things I was involved with. And then getting it published took another 2 to 3 years which is a story in itself!
Where did you draw the characters from?
Essentially the characters emerge from people I’ve met and worked with both in the UK and in the course of my Election Observation work in emerging democracies around the world. But they are of course fictitious, as is the plot. I’ve tried to explain the motivation that lead people to do bad things as well as good things – to leave family and friends and trek to the unknown, to participate in terrorist plots, to help illegal immigrants. There are five main characters. I hope I’ve made them real and believable so the reader can identify with them and sympathise with their dilemmas and choices.
What are your views on illegal immigration?
It is not a new phenomenon, but in these days of greater geographic mobility, the huge increase in communication technology, and the disintegration of traditional cultural values it is dramatically more challenging. In short, people in deprived areas can now understand how disadvantaged they are, and can identify ways to escape. But in doing so, they become prey to ruthless people wherever they turn. And the promised land they so enviously seek is often tarnished, ephemeral and false. Building walls to keep people in or keep people out has never worked – look at Berlin, China, the Iron Curtain, Israel. Equally, unfettered access to more stable and prosperous countries is likely to swamp and destroy the very elements of the lifestyle to which an immigrant aspires.
Much of the book is set in Moldova, Kosovo and Albania – what experience do have of these place?
Perhaps more than most people.  For 10 years I’ve worked as an International Election Observer around the world as part of the Foreign Office contingent from the UK, particularly in these countries. The work takes us to the remotest villages and towns. There we meet the ordinary people in their polling stations, family homes and town halls; places and people that the tourist routes never reach. Their experiences and stories form the background to the novel. Although the plot and characters are essentially fictitious, their circumstances are real, the geography is accurate, the historical events are true, and the political context is authentic.
Do we take things for granted in the West?
Short answer – yes! Once, many years ago, on an overland trek through Afghanistan we became lost in the desert in Helmand province. Drinkable water was like gold dust. Yet how casually do we take for granted the pure water that gushes from our taps. The deprivations, lack of freedom, and despair felt by many people in impoverished countries is something that most children of the West never really appreciate. That is understandable, but these inequalities are like an undiagnosed malignancy, which in due course will threaten the stability of all our lives.

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