The story behind the story (7) Valley of the Serpent
This book did not end as I had envisaged. When I had the original idea, I wanted to write a ‘disaster/adventure’ book and had this thought of three geology students trapped in an underground cave system; the outline story was, they would meet up again years later to explore the caves of the Philippines, which I had researched, and the situation would happen again but with different results; think giant bats!
Once I had written the first two chapters however, the story drew me in a different direction and I used the male student, Harry Bentham, as the central character. He gets head-hunted by a secretive and unscrupulous mining organisation and we follow him through his selection process and, later, his induction period, at the company's fabulous chateau headquarters in Switzerland. There he meets the charismatic owner of the business, but we soon learn that all is not what it seems. Matters become even more complicated when he is seduced by the owner's wife, the beautiful Monique.
I researched cave formations and geology in the UK and later Uranium mining as the story moves to the Northern Territories of Australia. I must give a mention to ‘Google Earth’ which was invaluable in understanding the area; it even had ‘street-view’ which saved me the cost of a trip to Darwin!
The story also includes a visit to Paris, to an area I know reasonably well, and I was able to use my own knowledge of this location for the book.
I learned a great deal about the political difficulties of Uranium mining in Australia and the power of the mining companies, as well as the issues involving the indigenous people who are caught in the middle; I have shared this knowledge with the reader in this book.
It's not really a disaster/adventure novel, but it's a love story with plenty of tension and suspense as we follow Harry on his journey.
The book has been short-listed for a Wishing Shelf Award
Readers’ Reviews: ‘I've followed Alan's writing since his first book Flying with Kites was published and have read all his books. This one is, without doubt, the best one so far. It gripped me from the first chapter and I couldn't wait to read it every day. Alan's knowledge of so many different scenarios is amazingly detailed. His characters grow on the page. His plot lines are intriguing.’