Author: Boston Teran

ISBN:  9781567030563

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The mystery author has struck again! Whether man, woman, writers’ group, or ET, Boston Teran can spin a good yarn. This little novel is gripping from the first page. I would have read it one sitting, but Thanksgiving and seeing a new grandson took priority.

I struggled for a genre classification because I know booksellers, be they owners of brick-and-mortar coffee houses or on-line merchandisers, like to pigeon-hole what they sale. Here it is: a suspense-thriller-adventure-historical fiction epic. In 245 pages, the author of Gardens of Grief does what it took Leon Uris 600 plus pages to do in Exodus. The latter dealt only peripherally with the Jewish holocaust. Boston Teran deals more directly with the Armenian one.

Turkish readers and the Turkish government can tune out now if they like, but butchers of the Ottoman Empire not only killed millions of Armenians, they probably encouraged Hitler and his Nazi murderers to do the same to the Jews. The Turks dodged the bullet of public opinion, a fact not overlooked by the Nazi establishment. It certainly prompted them to believe that the rest of the world wouldn’t care what they did to the Jews. They were right—much of the official Western World didn’t care until U.S. troops and others started reporting what they found in the Nazi concentration camps.

The Turks have an open wound of guilt with respect to their “Armenian solution.” They have even leveraged their position in NATO to keep the U.S. government from using the words genocide, holocaust, and ethnic cleansing when describing their “Armenian solution.” Use whatever words you want, but no amount of ostrich behavior or positive spin can change what really happened. It was obscene, organized murder, a mob lynching on the scale of millions.

World history was full of genocide, holocausts, and ethnic cleansings long before these words were even invented. The last potato famine in Ireland is perhaps an example closer to many of us in Canada and the U.S. The tools of genocide are not necessarily guns and mortars. Yugoslavia and Rwanda are more recent examples. Both present day Turks and the Sunnis and Shi’ites in Iraq would like to rid themselves of those bothersome Kurds. Sri Lanka pussy-footed around with ethnic cleansing in their civil war. Historically what the Spanish and Portuguese did in South America and what we did in the U.S. to Native Americans was genocide.

I have a personal interest in the Armenian genocide. My hometown, Visalia, the capital of Tulare County in California, is about forty miles south of Fresno, one of the main centers of the Armenian population in the U.S. The whole San Joaquin Valley reminded the first immigrants in the 1880s of their Armenian homeland. They wrote back to relatives in the old country describing the potential for carrying on their peaceful love of the land. When the Ottomans began their ethnic cleansing, many Armenians fled to the New World. The Armenian diaspora carried with it the story of how more than 1.5 million of their countrymen—men, women, and children—perished under the Turks’ brutal hands.

I grew up hearing these tales, albeit second hand—my father and mother’s best friends were an Armenian couple. The time I spent playing in the vineyards with Jimmy and Johnny Iskenderian had the more serious complement of hearing grown-up conversations about the Armenian holocaust. I thought even then that it was obscene and unforgiveable what the Turks had done. At the same time, I admired the Armenian culture, especially the food. (Stuffed grape leaves is still one of my favorite entrees to this day and the Armenian pastry is to die for.) How could these good and happy people have suffered so much?

This is the background for Boston Teran’s book. Like Exodus and other thrillers (Forsyth’s work comes to mind), the historical facts seem to meld seamlessly into the story. You don’t know where the history ends and the fiction begins. This book is easier to read and it is more profound. We see the holocaust up close and personal through the eyes of the main characters. It is not a pretty sight.

The hero is John Lourdes, the same one from the author’s Creed of Violence. That makes this book a sequel. (The blurb on the back cover says it’s less of a sequel than an organic evolvement—whatever that means. To me “sequel” has a more expansive definition, but words are like symbols in an equation—they can mean anything, especially in today’s literature.) John is Mexican-American. Much is made in the book that he is swarthy so he can pass himself off as Armenian. I don’t remember my Armenian friends as swarthy, but maybe I was just colorblind when I grew up. Also, as a Spanish speaker, I don’t particularly think of John Lourdes as being a Mexican-American name (this might be explained in Creed, which I have not read), but maybe they’ll change that in the movie (Universal has purchased film rights to both Creed and Gardens).

Lourdes is a spy. I don’t believe that word was once used to describe him, but there is no doubt that he would be at home in the CIA. Moreover, this spy story, like Creed, is about oil. Where Creed was about America’s intervention into the Mexican Revolution in 1910 for the sake of oil, Gardens is about the control of the Baku oil fields. My conclusion at the end is that the U.S. ignored the holocaust that was going on and left Lourdes and company to die due to the U.S. interest in that oil. Black gold has more of a Midas attraction than yellow, especially in the political world. (My own novel, Soldiers of God, has the future world oil crisis as a backdrop.)

The Great War, that war to end all wars, has just begun. Lourdes’ assignment is to help free an Armenian priest from an Ottoman prison and get him safely across Turkey. The priest is a hero to his people, an avenging angel, and a political threat to the Axis powers. Their journey, in many ways the traditional buddy quest of many bad westerns, is fraught with enough skirmishes and galloping horses to keep the most ardent adventure reader sitting on the edge of his easy chair. Moreover, through the eyes of Lourdes, the priest, and their other amigos, we experience the butchery perpetrated by the Ottoman Empire. Boston Teran doesn’t soften the words here—his descriptions of the violence are definitely not for the squeamish.

One scene will always live with me. At the prison, the priest is tied to a pole in the courtyard. The Turks have nailed heavy metal plates to his feet, I suppose to keep him there even if he managed to free himself from the ropes. After he is rescued, Lourdes and company remove the metal plates. Phew! I don’t know how the scene will be portrayed in the movie, but my imagination is good enough for me. I don’t need the visuals.

Lourdes is not your typical spy. He’s a loose cannon, in fact, and full of moral outrage. He’s quite a character. I would have liked to see him developed a little more fully. In this, Boston Teran is a man after my own heart—he leaves much of the character description for the reader to fill out, using his own imagination to make a coherent picture from the glimpses given by the author. In general, this is good technique—it allows every reader to make the book a creation of his own imagination. Boston Teran carries this to an extreme. At the end, I had done as much as I could with the hints, but Lourdes was still very much a man of mystery.

As required by Hollywood, Lourdes does have a love interest, but Hollywood will have to add the passionate sex scenes. Alev, a relief worker in today’s parlance, finds in Lourdes the yin to her yang. She says to Lourdes on one occasion that he carries the history of the world in his soul. In that, the priest, Alev, and Lourdes are well matched, for the history of the world you carry defines your moral outrage. At another point she remarks about an annotation in Lourdes’ notebook, “What is. . . resource control?” Lourdes’ answer is “The future.” As we all know, the fight for oil continues to this day.

Click Here To Purchase Gardens of Grief