Monday, January 22, 2018

NBTM + #Giveaway: Deep Sahara by Leslie Croxford @GoddessFish

Deep Sahara
by Leslie Croxford
GENRE:  Thriller


Klaus Werner travels to the Algerian Sahara to research a book on desert insects. He is billeted in a local monastery, but upon arrival he finds it empty of its inhabitants.He soon discovers that it is a recent crime scene.


I left Rome in the summer of 1980. The day before that, I went to see Father Carlo. He had asked me back for a final visit, although he’d already given me the travel information.

Late for my appointment, I hastened toward the German Catholic Church of Santa Maria dell’Anima, on Vicolo della Pace, not far from Piazza Navona. My mother used to take me there every Sunday during my boyhood. The rector had been German; now, its priests were not necessarily so. Yet even the Italian ones spoke the language, knew the country and were likely to have carried on their ministry in Germany at some point.

That was the case with Father Carlo. He was sitting in his office in the adjoining building. It gave onto the courtyard at the back of the church. The blinds were drawn against the summer afternoon glare when I finally entered.

Recalling the priest now, it’s hard to bring him into focus with all that’s happened since. Even then, I was still feeling the effect of the sedatives I’d been taking.

My wife Anja had died. But what I suffered was not only her loss, but the loss of myself, in a total breakdown.

 I’d been in our apartment the week after she died. Staring vacantly at some mirror in the empty bedroom, I winced. Something had just moved in the glass. It was a stranger: me.

Father Carlo was waiting for me at his desk. He sat beneath a framed photograph of what I’d later come to know was the young Pius XII as Apostolic Nuncio to Germany in the 1920s. It was at one of the parties Pacelli – as he then was – threw for the political and diplomatic elite in the Tiergarten quarter of Berlin where he’d lived.

Father Carlo adjusted his monk’s habit over an ample midriff as he shifted in his chair to look up from the desk. But he continued 10 straightening its contents, then the rimless spectacles he was taking me in through.

I was sweating and out of breath. I apologised for being late, but explained that, having sold my car, I had walked all the way there from my apartment.

Mentioning it made me recall its shadowy silence, shuttered, too, against the city’s brilliance and traffic. My possessions were half-packed there – the few I would be taking with me tomorrow. Standing there alone, I had simply looked at the rest and left them to move only later if the owner absolutely demanded it. Anja and I had accumulated so much together.

“You’re not very late,” my spiritual advisor said. (For this was what the monk, now indicating the chair at the other side of the desk, had more or less become for me over the last few weeks, regardless of my lack of religious belief. With Anja’s death I had soon found myself using Carlo as a secular Father Confessor, judging it better to rely on him than on the doctor, who’d been of little help.)

“Anyway, you’re here now,” Father Carlo said, “ready to move on. That’s all that matters.”

The priest told me how pleased he was that I had finally decided to undertake the publishing project I’d been offered; how personally helpful I was sure to find it; how conducive to work the monastery would prove. These were all things Father Carlo had said several times before, but which he nevertheless chose to repeat now, with this show of paternal concern.

“Look, I’ve written a letter of introduction to the Abbot for you.” Father Carlo passed me one of two envelopes lying on the desk. They were sealed and made of fine paper.

“He’ll make sure you’re well looked after. And then it occurred to me that while you’re here for me to wish you Godspeed, I might as well also send a note with you for another monk, Father Erich. He’s one of the Order’s hermits, in permanent retreat even further south. I hope you’ll meet him too. There’s every reason why you should.”

“How can I, if he’s a hermit?”

“They come in when the monastery holds a chapter. And the Abbot will take care of giving him the letter. Or any of the monks should know how to get it to him.”

“I’ll do what I can,” I said. “It’s most important that he should receive it,” Father Carlo said, glasses glinting as he handed over the letter.

Taking it, I could not see beyond the opaque lenses.

Interview with Leslie Croxford

Can you tell us a little bit about the characters in DEEP SAHARA?

In DEEP SAHARA a man, recovering from a nervous breakdown provoked by the death of his wife, takes advice from a family friend and retreats to a monastery in the deep Sahara to sketch desert insects for a book. 

Upon arrival, however, he comes upon an appalling crime: the murder of all the monks. Numb and exhausted, he declines a police chief’s urgent suggestion that he leave. Despite his shock, the desert seems to promise solace, a vast nullity against which he can take stock of himself and do his work.

Yet, over the following weeks and months, his solitude is broken by a succession of encounters, all strange but somehow connected to him. Each appears to conceal some kind of secret. Even the insects he has come to study are mysteriously deformed, embodying an awful, hidden reality…

The man is forced to confront the echoes of one of the darkest moments in modern history, and to come to terms with the deepest mysteries of his own past.

Deep Sahara is a suspenseful exploration of one man’s emotional resurgence, rendered sparingly with great physical and psychological precision.

Can you tell us a little bit about your next books or what you have planned for the future?

I have almost finished another novel about an English historian revisiting a Spanish pueblo where Albert Speer’s driver had convalesced after decades in Russia as a prisoner of war. He has an affair with the driver’s ex-lover, drawing him into an unexpected review of Speer, himself and the nature of history.

Beyond that I have drafts of two novels, one comic and the other not. I am revising them significantly. In addition to fiction, I have written a play, CONFESSION, which received stage readings in Atlanta and Chicago.

How long would you say it takes you to write a book?

This varies greatly. But I would say initially two years. Yet with every novel I have written no sooner than I think I have finished it, I begin rewriting either in a wholly different version or in significant part. And then it can take years for the book to be published.

The reason for the rewriting results either from my own dissatisfaction or from the reactions of agents and publishers as well, of course, of friends.

What is your favorite childhood book?


If you could spend the day with one of the characters from DEEP SAHARA who would it be? Please tell us why you chose this particular character, where you would go and what you would do.

I am not sure that I would want to spend time with the main character of DEEP SAHARA since he undergoes a great personal ordeal, fine as he may view the outcome. But since he dominates the book it would have to be with him, obviously in the deep Sahara.  

What was the hardest scene from DEEP SAHARA to write?

The beginning was the hardest part to write. For it implied the point of view from which the plot would be seen and thus the very purpose of the novel itself. 

What made you want to become a writer?

When I saw the film of TREASURE ISLAND at the age of 5 I wondered how movies were made. I was told they were based on books. As a result I thought of myself in terms of film, as an actor but also as a writer of stories.

Just for fun

(a Favorite song: OLD MAN RIVER

(b Favorite book: THE LAST TYCOON

(c Favorite movie: SOME LIKE IT HOT

(d Favorite tv show: HOMELAND

(e Favorite Food: Roast beef and Yorkshire pudding

(f Favorite drink: Stella beer (which is Egyptian)

(g Favorite website: The Avid Reader – naturally!

Thanks so much for visiting with us today!

AUTHOR Bio and Links:

Leslie Croxford is a British author and Senior Vice-President of the British University in Egypt. Born in Alexandria, he obtained a doctorate in History from Cambridge University. He has written one novel, Soloman's Folly (Chatto & Windus), and is completing his third. He and his wife live in Cairo.

Buy Links:


$10 Amazon or B/N GC

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Goddess Fish Promotions said...

Thanks for hosting!

Unknown said...

I enjoyed reading about your book; congrats on the tour and thanks for the chance to win :)

Mary Preston said...

This sounds thrilling.

Rita Wray said...

I liked the excerpt, thank you

Jodi Hunter said...

Sounds Awesome.