What will be our legacy for the generations of humanity yet to come?
I had the privilege to visit India again recently and was excited to join the thousands of tourists queuing up to see the Taj Mahal in Agra.
As I stood before the majestic structure, listening to the tour guide explaining how and why it was built nearly 400 years ago, I couldn’t help but marvel at the sheer beauty and geometric symmetry that had been created by craftsmen almost with their bare hands.
Barring an earthquake or some other natural disaster, Shah Jahan’s monument to his favourite wife Mumtaz Mahal will still be one of the most famous buildings in the world in 400 years’ time.
The question I asked myself was: which of the structures we are building today will also be revered in 400 years’ time as iconic monuments; our gift to future generations, a statement of the cultural richness we have created for the benefit of all humanity? What is to be our legacy for those who will come after us, following our guardianship of this precious planet?
In short, what will they say about us?
My visit to Agra was part holiday and part research trip for my latest book, A Litany of Good Intentions. Today Agra is one of the most polluted cities in the world. The air quality can be so bad that the city is often bathed in smog which carries over 9 times the normal range for pollutants.
The sacred and once pristine Yamuna River now holds the dubious honour of being one of the most polluted rivers in India. Rising in the Himalayas, the crystal clear waters tumble down through mountain gorges and travel over 800 miles across Northern India. By the time the waters reach Agra, they have passed through New Delhi and been subjugated to untold human and chemical waste.
Shah Jahan would weep if he could see what we have done to the environment around his most famous creation.
A Litany of Good Intentionsis about poverty, a man-made disease that we as a species continue to tolerate. Our apathy towards the need to eradicate poverty allows the exploitation of the poorest in our society, be they in India, Africa, America, Europe, Asia or anywhere else. Human trafficking, child slavery, prostitution, these are just some of the bi-products of a society that just doesn’t care.
The gap between rich and poor grows wider every day. It is the age of the selfie: the billionaire: the haves and the have nots. How can we sit and watch chemical weapon attacks on innocent children: swathes of refugees with nowhere to sleep at night: starving people dying of disease in desert conditions with no food, water or medical supplies, when a few miles away there are hospitals and luxury hotels?
I want to start a debate about our legacy for future generations. My book could provide the catalyst for that debate.
I have two major concerns – firstly that they will look back at our generation and ask what were we playing at? With all the technological advancement at our fingertips: with all the knowledge we can access at the touch of a button: with all the education, computing power and research facilities at our command: why didn’t we eradicate poverty?
Why didn’t we build magnificent monuments that will stand the test of time? Why did we spend so much time and money thinking about ourselves and not the other people?
But my bigger concern is that, given climate change, escalating levels of pollution, plastics in the oceans, the risk of superbugs and our lack of progress preventing the spread of new diseases: my concern is that there won’t be anybody left alive in 400 years’ time to enjoy the Taj Mahal or the other wonders of a world that we have destroyed.
Andrew Harris, May 2018
The C Clef is a crime fiction novel I wrote about the secret world of cancer research. It took two years to complete partly because I was fascinated by the subject matter and wanted to do all the research myself.
Tony was a good friend of mine who died of bowel cancer. He was diagnosed, underwent intensive treatment but died 4 weeks later. I felt so helpless but there was nothing I or anyone else could do. He was a warm, caring and genuinely decent individual. Somehow I felt we all let him down. Are we seriously doing everything we can to help save the lives of people like Tony?
By publishing the book I wanted to start a debate. Cancer is now at epidemic proportions. My research identified that there would be 13 million new cases of cancer in the world in 2017. I now understand the figure was actually 14 million and rising.
In New Zealand, there were 7500 deaths from cancer related diseases in 2016. That has escalated to 9000 last year which equates to 24 people dying every day in a population of only 4.5 million. If 1 person was killed every hour on the roads every day of the year there would be a public outcry.
Yet the silence over cancer prevention is deafening.
In the UK someone dies every 4 minutes and in the USA it’s a death every 55 seconds. You can’t tell me that’s not a crisis.
In The C Clef I had the World Health Organization putting up a prize of US$7.5bn for an irrefutable scientific cure for cancer. One publisher said this idea was inconceivable and refused to publish the book.
Imagine the excitement when researching my current novel about food production, diabetes and the abuse of anti-biotics when I read the following:
“The World Health Organization and the World Bank have proposed the use of prizes for vaccines that would otherwise not be developed or distributed widely enough. A £50 million prize for anyone or any organization that can discover and develop a new class of antimicrobial drugs could shake up research and innovation in the field.”
So if they can do that for antimicrobial drugs then why not for a cure for cancer?
The author? Professor Dame Sally C. Davies, Chief Medical Officer for England, the first woman to hold the post. Her book, The Drugs Don’t Work – A Global Threat is published by Penguin Specials and should be core curriculum in every school.
Competition, prizes and accolades for personal achievement are key motivational generators in the very core of the human spirit. The world of cancer research seems to me to be a protected ecosystem in perfect equilibrium without the threat of invasion or competition from the outside world.
The world in which 14 million new cancer sufferers live, at least for the time being, if they can afford the drugs.
If you want to know why there is no cure for cancer, please read The C Clef.
Available from Amazon and all good online retailers.
From Employed to Self-Employed to Self-Fulfilled
Have you ever thought of writing a book?
I know many people who have asked themselves that question. Most seem to get half way through then run out of steam. They’re not sure how the story ends or lose interest in the rigour of writing every day.
Others went on to complete their masterpiece but did not go to the trouble or expense of having it edited. Trouble or expense? Or was it trying to avoid critical comment? As I found out, having your work edited is like being flayed with wet leather. You’ve got to take the pain.
For me, the question of editing became – will it make the book better? By the time it gets to editing, the book is completed and has taken on a life of its own. I’m just the lucky person who gets to write it down. The story, the characters, the action scenes, the implications, the stories between the lines….they’re all real. So editing is just part of the polishing process along with proof reading, copy editing, cover design, etc. It’s not personal, it’s just publishing, so no pain no gain.
Some people go on to printing a few copies which they lovingly hand out as Christmas presents from boxes in the garage. This can be very rewarding but can you make a living out of it? Is the book good enough to sell?
As I move towards my 3rd Age that is the question I am asking myself.
After graduation from Leeds University, my first age began in human resource management working for large companies in the North of England. It was great to start with but I became disillusioned in my late 30’s. Could I run my own company? Could I make a living out of recruitment? After much soul-searching I decided the only way to find out was to take the leap of faith. My second age had begun.
Thankfully it all worked out – and being the boss meant I could see more of the world. We visited many countries in Europe, USA, Middle East, South Africa, Australia and finally New Zealand. Almost as soon as I stepped off the plane I fell in love with New Zealand. My mind was made up. I wanted to become a Kiwi.
It has taken ten years to get established here. We set up another recruitment company in Auckland and fought our way through a deep recession in a country where we had few contacts and little understanding of its business culture. Again I thoroughly enjoyed my second age with the dramatic changes it brought to my life.
So I have been employed. I have been self-employed. But now it is time to begin my 3rd and final age. I will be self-fulfilled. It will be the most challenging yet rewarding part of my life.
I love crime fiction. John le Carre, Dan Brown, Jo Nesbo, the list goes on. Action packed, thought provoking, page turning thrillers that grab you by the scruff of the neck on the very first page and won’t let you go.
Yes but could I write one? A whole book? Create the storyline, the characters – my characters – and entertain the readers?
After many years of excuses and procrastinations, I finally took another leap of faith. A six month sabbatical. Full time writing, 2000 words per day, all my own research and a field trip to Europe. The challenge seemed enormous. The excitement was palpable. I’d never felt so motivated.
A book came to life. The C Clef was edited twice, proof read and professionally produced. I found an agent. It was rejected by countless publishers all over the world. I had a backer who believed in me. He gave me some advice. Success lies in persistence and determination. Never give up, just keep trying, he said.
Undaunted I set up a publishing company, Faithful Hound Media Ltd. It published The C Clef. The journey into the 3rd Age had begun.
I extended the sabbatical. A second book was born. A Litany of Good Intentions was crafted by a team of editors, proof readers and designers. Two PR companies have been engaged in the UK and USA. It is early days. The book is gaining traction.
For me the journey continues. What will the future hold? I have started my third book and feel just as excited today as when I started the first book.
Last Christmas we moved to Hawke’s Bay where some of the action in The C Clef takes place. It was another field trip that opened my eyes to the sheer beauty of this country. I live here now with the love of my life and the world’s best dog who stars as Trigger in the books.
So have you ever thought of writing a book? If you have – and you give it the attention it deserves – you could find yourself living a new and better life.
But you won’t know until you try.
People power changes the world.
I strongly believe that politicians and world leaders, rulers and despots eventually have to acquiesce to people power. Politicians erected the Berlin Wall; people pulled it down. Slavery was abolished because people thought it was morally wrong. Politicians imprisoned Nelson Mandela but people power forced his release and the end of apartheid. Politicians created segregation in America but the civil rights movement forced the change. Women were granted the vote because people argued it was the right thing to do.
In short, the world is changed Bottom-Up not Top-Down.
For proof of this, ask Al Gore. He has tried for 30 years to influence politicians like himself to bring about the changes needed to save the world. Now he has realised that it will be people power that will force the politicians to listen to the arguments about climate change.
So how to mobilise people power? There is greater opportunity today with social media and internet technology to spark the debate. But the messages have to be clear and the facts must be correct and easily digestible.
This is how crime fiction can help, in its various forms: books, films, TV serials, social media, audio, etc.
Why Crime Fiction?
Crime fiction offers mass appeal. The Da Vinci Code sold 80 million copies in 44 languages and grossed over $200m at the box office. It sparked a global debate about the Holy Grail and the Roman Catholic Church.
John le Carre’s novel and subsequent film, The Constant Gardener, about the unethical activities of a pharmaceutical company in Africa was based loosely on a true story. Again it achieved mass appeal and sparked a worldwide debate.
For a crime fiction novel to stimulate such global interest, I believe it must be well researched, written in an engaging, fast-paced style and encapsulate the three key ingredients of the crime fiction genre:
Lucy Cox meets a first-time novelist who feels he’s been chosen to write a crime fiction thriller set in the secret world of cancer research.
Andrew Harris didn’t believe in ghosts until he rented a holiday home in Scotland that was seriously haunted. His terrified partner saw an angry, dark-haired woman in a blue taffeta dress storm across the bedroom straight into the far wall. Taps came on in the middle of the night, candles lit themselves, a Christmas Tree suddenly appeared and a vase of bluebells sprouted a single narcissus.
“We were terrified” Harris recalls “and beat our retreat on the Thursday. I even spoke to the ghost on the telephone. It was very weird”
The ghostly scenes were recaptured in the first draft of The C Clef, Harris’s debut novel that weaves a refreshingly original story in and out of a spiritual world we all know exists but has never been accepted by the clinical correctness of modern-day science.
“Sigmund Freud died in his 80’s at the very start of the Second World War. His work on psychoanalysis has been grudgingly accepted by a scientific community that remains very sceptical. The interpretation of dreams, the role of the subconscious mind and the whole issue of our spirituality are subjects more comfortably classified under the same headings as ghosts and the psychic world” Harris explains.
To say The C Clef has been meticulously researched is an understatement. Harris visited Freud’s house in Vienna and read extensively through the works of that Austrian Jewon his journey of discovery. “Freud was diagnosed with oral cancer when he was 67 years old. At the time he was suffering from depression. His physician didn’t risk telling him how serious his condition was for fear that he might take his own life. I wonder now if he might have drawn an inference between the two conditions – cancer and depression - had he known.”
Harris’s research also took him into the nightmare world of Auschwitz, the huge Nazi death camp where barbaric medical experiments were conducted in the name of medical science. “I engaged an English-speaking guide to show me round. It was a numbing experience I’ll never forget. It was the sheer size and scale of the camps; the unbelievable cruelty and overwhelming sense of injustice; there was a total lack of all humanity. Block 10, where the medical experiments were carried out, has never been opened to the public”
Throughout the research and writing of The C Clef, Harris kept asking himself why he was doing this. He has no medical training. Everything he has learned about cancer has come from conversations with medical practitioners or through books and scientific journals. In addition he has no previous experience in writing any published work. The C Clefis his first book.
“Bizarrely it feels like I’ve been chosen to write this book. Thirteen million more people will develop cancer this year. That’s an epidemic. I’ve lost too many friends to this terrible disease. Everyone I know has had their lives disrupted in some way by cancer. It’s time we really pushed to find a cure”
Harris is clearly passionate about this issue and feels frustrated that we are not doing more to eradicate cancer from the face of the Earth. In the Acknowledgements he comments that the cancer research industry represents an ecosystem in perfect equilibrium. It is well-funded, populated by the sharpest minds and is undoubtedly pushing forward the frontiers of medical science. But are we looking for a cure or better forms of treatment to improve survival rates?
Harris points out that the ongoing research is largely concentrating on drug development and not on the likely causes of the disease. The pressure to find new drugs seems intense and attracts billions of investment dollars.
But the big question still remains - why does the first cell turn cancerous? And how do we stop that happening.
“One publisher identified The C Clef as really a non-fiction book dressed up as a crime fiction thriller. There could be some truth in that” Harris adds.
But the reader should be reassured that the tone of the book is uplifting and inspirational. It might deal with serious issues, but The C Clef is also a rattling good read. The action takes place in the present day, with references to other dark periods in our history. It is a real ripper of a novel that takes us on a tantalising journey with its redundant mid-life executives and career women who have everything but romance.
You need to get ready for racy office sex scenes, violent murders, twists and turns, codes and clues, and chilling psychopaths as it takes its very human characters on a tense thriller ride from London through Europe and then… but that would be giving too much away.
In his novel, the World Health Organisation puts up a US$7.5 billion prize for whoever is the first individual or organisation to find an irrefutable scientific cure. It proves to be a catalyst that stimulates questions about the cause of the disease and whether, unknowingly, we trigger cancer in ourselves.
Harris would like to widen the conversation about possible cures for cancer. He wants to ask the World Health Organisation why they haven’t tried this approach and introduced some element of competition into the cancer research community.
The idea, he says, is not so far-fetched. “It only took 66 years from the Wright brothers’ first manned flight in 1903, to landing a man on the moon in 1969. As a species we are capable of extraordinary feats. But there needs to be the pressure of competition. Two World Wars, the Cold War and The Space Race between America and Russia provided that competition to fly higher, faster, safer…..to fly to the moon.”
Although born in Liverpool, Harris migrated to New Zealand in 2008 and has since become a Kiwi. “It was a proud moment when I was granted citizenship and received my black passport.”
Harris, who now lives in Hawkes Bay, thinks we need more original thinking to deal with our global problems – cancer, poverty and over-population. He believes fiction is one way to provoke the necessary conversations around this. And his Human Spirit Series – of which The C Clef is the first book – seeks to do just that.
Why me? Whatever spiritual force has chosen him, Harris has certainly answered the call. He is so committed to writing “thought-provoking, informative and entertaining books” that he has set up his own publishing company, Faithful Hound Media, to do so.
It’s an original way to start a conversation. And, in case you need a further incentive to buy The C Clef, Harris is donating $1 per book in support of the Malaghan Institute for Cancer Research.