Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Dying Phoenix by Loretta Proctor Epic Historical Romantic Novel Set Against Turmoil in Greece

Grigoris Lambrakis (Greek: Γρηγόρης Λαμπράκης) (April 3, 1912 – May 27, 1963) was a Greek politician, physician, track and field athlete, and member of the faculty of the School of Medicine at the University of Athens...On May 22, 1963, shortly after he had delivered the keynote speech at an anti-war meeting in Thessaloniki, two far-right extremists, Emannouel Emannouilides and Spyro Gotzamanis, driving a three-wheeled vehicle, struck Lambrakis with a club over the head in plain view of a large number of people and (allegedly) some police officers. He suffered brain injuries and died in the hospital five days later, on May 27. The two men were arrested because of the reaction of a passenger who jumped on their vehicle and fought with them (Manolis Hatziapostolou, nicknamed Tiger).

Maria Nafpliotou
Nina subsided a little and gave
a shrug. It's hard, Niko, I hate
to see how Greece escaped the
wretched Turks only to become
a pawn for Britain and America.
Nothing is sacred, democracy is
lost. Plato would love it. He always
liked an oligarchy. Nevertheless,
his vision was one of reason and
order. We have little left of that."
"Which is worse? The
Americans, the British? They
made a pawn of Greece. If
Frederica hadn't come to
England, Lambrakis might
still be alive." ...He always
wanted to fight for justice
and peace...
Nikos looked around and
lowered his voice, "Shh...
not so loud, Nina...
Nikos Galanis watched her covertly as she sat opposite him in the fashionable London bar. Her long slender fingers moved up and down the stem of the wine glass as if caressing it, but her thoughts were elsewhere. Nina Hammett was a beautiful woman, there was no denying it. Her dark hair was sleeked back into a loose bun at the nape of her neck On anyone else it would look unfashionable and severe; on her it looked elegant and poised. It was something to do with her eyes as well, he thought, looking into them now; unfathomable, enigmatic pools of brown, depending almost to black When she spoke, her voice was low but clear. Her Greek was impeccable, without a regional accent. An educated woman and an intelligent one.
"I have always admired Lambrakis," she said, "and I always will. I met him just before he was murdered. He was a friend of my great aunt, Christoula. Auntie lived in Kavalla but she had a flat in Thessaloniki as well, where she used to hold little soirees....
It was three years now since that left-wing politician, Dr. Grigoris Lambrakis, was mown down by a vehicle and clubbed to death during broad daylighy in the streets of Thessaloniki. For Heaven's sake, the man was dead and gone and still she thought of him! Nikos wished a woman would speak of him with such admiration. How little he had accomplished compared to the brave and splendid things which that martyr Lanbrakis had done in his short life...

Dying Phoenix
By Loretta Proctor

This novel, above all, is a love story. Like many, however, it was filled with conflict, anger, and two individuals with completely different lives...who discovered their love was deeper than they ever thought... But Nina had another love--a love for her country--that seemed to be more important than anything else... would that ultimately affect their lives? 

Of course, it didn't help with Max had an affair with an office girl...

They were now separated. Nina was working as a reporter at a relative's newspaper, while Max continued his work selling tractors.... His background is quite different, being of humble beginnings. But he had begun early to pick up knowledge of tractors and other machinery and, in fact, he was soon off to Greece to attend a major sales event...

And that is where he made a personal enemy through no fault of his own! He had seen a man physically abusing a woman and stopped to help... She was the wife of the man and later escaped and came to find Max. He quickly worked with friends to help her escape to another location, but her husband found Max and beat him so badly, including a broken jaw, that he went into the hospital. Fortunately his friend and fellow worker, Dimitri, had a bad feeling and had got to find him, and fortunately did, because he would have died otherwise...

Everybody was trying to find Nina to get her there, but she had not left any information on her location. When she finally heard, she quickly got there and then went home to help him recuperate. But nobody had ever explained to Nina the exact circumstances behind his assault...

For a while, that was ok and they both returned to Greece when he was better, only to have the woman come to find Max, and ask for money... Nina saw the exchange! Nina was a passionate woman but had learned to control it, except she seemed not to be able to with her jealousy and lack of trust of Max.... They again separated... At a very dangerous time that was just beginning in Greece...

The author takes the time to bring readers fully into the lives of her main characters, allowing us to form our opinions of what might happen in this volatile relationship. It was quite a shock, therefore, when in the midst of this personal drama, we move into a period of time when, in many ways, seemed worse than entering into a war... Because most people didn't know what was happening!

"I'm not sure what you mean...a sympathizer," she
murmured at least.
"You were concerned about the Lambrakis business and
wrote a letter about it at the time; it was printed in the
Guardian. It's common knowledge and many admired you
for saying what you did. I admire you, Mrs. Hammett. It
inspired me to join the Lambrakis Youth when I finished
by National Service. I think it's a marvelous cause though,
as you know, it's dangerous these days to belong to such
causes. But we need to fight for justice in Greece. You
heard about Petroulas?"
Sotiris Petroulas was a young economic student, a member
of the Lambrakides. He had carried Mikis Theodorakis
through the crows in order for the heroic musician to make
a rousing speech against the tyranny of the government.
Later Petroulas was killed by a tear gas grenade that
exploded above his head and his body was whisked away
by the police...
It was while Nina was still in London, and working on an assignment, when she stopped in at the Troubadour. It was the type of place where the young and liberal congregated... many writers, journalists and other creative people. It was there that a young man came to talk to her. He introduced himself as George Praxiteles and explained he was attending school there... He knew who she was and quite a bit about her and her family, which, at first, made her feel concerned...

Their discussion aroused Nina's passion and she knew she must go back to Greece. She believed, like George, that something was going to happen...

There had already been many restrictions placed on the young--the music of Mikis Theodorakis had been banned, but was still played wherever they could. The group George had joined, the Lambrakides, were following the actions of
Grigoris Lambrakis who had been murdered...

"My friends caught some agents trying to bury Sotiris secretly but Theodorakis roused the local people and made them hand over the body. Then, do you know this, Mrs. Hammett?... Hundreds of people accompanied the body from Athens Cathedral to the cemetery...hundreds! Theodorakis wrote a song in his memory and it was sung by the cortege. If was so moving. I wept and so did everyone else. My God, it was so moving.
Nine leant back in her chair and stared at the floor for a long moment. "I heard of it but didn't know the details." Where had she been when this happened? Little escaped her attention when it came to Greek politics. Ah, of course, it was last summer. The time when she and Max had been in the process of reconsidering their marriage. She had shouted at him like a fishwife, like a possessed creature. Was that dreadful harpy really her? Nina tore her mind away from the memories and the uncomfortable and guilty emotions they produced in her.
"I would have wept too," her voice low with feeling. "But sadly incidents like that are no longer uncommon are they? The government which the King has set in place is utterly corrupt; the plaything of the King and his generals..."

When Nina returned, she stayed with George's family and started out to learn more about what was happening. But then one night she awoke at 3AM... It had begun...

Something was very wrong. She woke up and listened intently. There is was again, the sound of heavy solid wheels rumbing in the distance, but what wheel made a noise like that? Nina looked at the clock and stared into the darkness, broken only by the faint light that crept through the slats of the shutters. Her heart was beating with a mixture of alarm and excitement.
She rose, her throat parched and dry. Swallowing some water from the glass by her bed, she made her way over to the window. Pulling back the thickly pleated net curtains, Nina threw open the shutters and leant out into the coolness of an April night. Just a few hours earlier she had been chatting in a cafe with some friends; a normal and peaceful Athenian night. Now a strange atmosphere gripped the city, a sense of panic, anger and dismay. Shouts, strident voices and shrieks floated on the night air. She needed to find out what was happening. The commotion was round Fassileis Sofias,  a main road some way beyond where the Praxiteies family owned a small block of apartments in a quiet back street in Zografou...
Hurriedly Nina dressed, flung on a jacket and seized her Leika camera. She had no idea what was going on but her instinct told her that the unusual hubbub was due to some major crisis. A fire? No, not that--there were no fire alarms or church bells ringing the tocsin. It sounded for all the world as if huge vehicles such as tanks were rumbling along.
It had long been rumored in political circles that the King intended to enforce some kind of military law and disband his Parliament. Greece had been filled with unrest for so long...
What was this deep fear in everyone's hearts? Yes, there were communists in Greece and many others who veered to the left like herself, but they were small in numbers; nothing like the threat imagined. But fear is like a virus, spreading to everyone. Stories of communist terrorism, half-imagined, became reality in the minds of the comfortable middle classes, fueled by the propaganda of the extreme right who spread tales of paidomazoma--the supposed kidnapping of children for brainwashing into communism--tortures, massacres to strike fear and loathing in people's hearts...
At the corner of one of the streets, she stopped in sheer amazement. Hugh armoured tanks were rolling past. So she was right, that was the noise she had heard. There seemed to be armed soldiers everywhere, shouting commands in deep, harsh tones, stopping cars, pointing guns at ordinary unarmed people as if they were involved in a film, in a mock battle. It was pretense, surely? It couldn't be real. Not Athens on a quiet night before Easter? There had been no warning at all, nothing of late to indicate that simmering beneath the surface were  plots and counter-plots and discontented, power-hungry individuals ready to enforce their own version of the law. She snapped away with her camera, taking care not to be seen. Those soldiers looked unpleasant and she didn't want to get mixed up with them...
A soldier with a gun in his arms turned and stared in her direction...

Tanks were in the streets, communication lines had been cut...then the Prime Minister was taken...

And Nina was right in the middle, sending out the first exclusive article to England! But a later one was taken... All of her friends were in trouble and she went to the only man who had claimed he had connections... To get her friends' freedom, she must spend one night with him...

Wow! This story is full of thrilling human drama--the fear of the unknown, the loss, as people are taken without a cause, or family members must run to prevent being jailed... And the amazing thing was that the coup left the King helpless, since he had been bested by his opposition... Who was behind this quiet, silent invasion?

Like Nina, I was involved with my own life, working at a new interesting job in the 60s...What were you doing then? Did we even know that something like described in this novel was happening? No, I am sure many did not... And, yet, the most amazing thing for all of us should be that it was here, in Greek, that the world had its first democracy! This is a historical treasure that is well worth reading! Check it out!

Democracy can be traced back from the present day to classical Athens in the 6th century B.C.E. According to one definition, democracy is a political system in which all the members of the society have an equal share of formal political power. In modern representative democracy, this formal equality is embodied primarily in the right to vote...
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Born in Cairo, Egypt, to an English father and Greek mother, Loretta Proctor won prizes in the 1970's for essays and plays, then wrote specialized articles. She studied Jungian, psychology and worked as a counsellor. Now retired, she delights in story telling, writes poetry and is pleased to be a distant relation of Elizabeth Barrett-Browning. Dying Phoenix is Loretta's fourth novel.

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