Feedback From My Readers!
Sales of NO HARM DONE are going really well so thanks to everyone who has bought a copy, especially if you also left reviews on Amazon or my social media. I was surprised at how many people chose to buy the book in print format as I had imagined, with no real evidence to support my view, that digital was dominant now.
Reviews and feedback have been incredibly positive to date including a write-up in my local newspaper, the excellent Stirling Observer. All that has provided me with additional motivation to progress the second book in the Ramaz Donadze series, which I hope to publish around July next year.
Article in Stirling Observer
A recurring theme from readers’ feedback is that their interest in Georgia’s geography, history, traditions and culture has been piqued and they would like to know more. Some have done their own research but I thought it would be useful for me to offer a bit more information than I could have provided in the novel without it becoming encyclopaedic. Rather than just present facts which could be Googled or found easily enough on Wikipedia, I thought it would be more interesting for me to provide my personal perspective on the aspects of Georgian life as touched on in my book. That’s quite a lot to deal with in a single blog so I will probably continue the theme in subsequent posts. I hope you find this interesting and that it may even encourage you to check out the country first-hand when we are able to travel freely again.
Map of Georgia and Neighbouring Countries
Georgia is a small country by area with a population of only about four million. It sits south of the Greater Caucasus Mountains with a western border on the Black Sea and much of it is spectacularly beautiful. Georgia’s capital city is the ancient and culturally diverse city of Tbilisi. My protagonist, Lieutenant Ramaz Donadze is from the break-away region of Abkhazia. His nemesis, Dato Kaldani is from Georgia’s other break-away region, Shida Kartli, known internationally as South Ossetia. Other locations featured in the book include the village of Shindisi to the south-west of Tbilisi and the post-industrial city of Rustavi.
Beautiful River Scene - Lots of water in Georgia!
Georgia’s history goes back to at least the 12th Century BC and is much too diverse to try to cover in this post. Georgians have strong political views, understandably so, given the country’s history, but as I was there as a guest, I always tried not to offer my own political opinions, unless asked. But this is the way I saw things then and now.
In my view, Georgia’s recent trouble history makes its relative recovery and transformation even more remarkable. In 1989, Georgia declared independence from the USSR, a year or so before the USSR itself was dissolved. This led to a period of great instability as separatists in Abkhazia and South Ossetia demanded greater recognition in the newly independent country. War in Abkhazia between 1992 and 1993 saw, by some estimates, 30,000 dead and more than 250,000 displaced, with terrible atrocities being committed against, mainly, ethnic Georgians. Civil War erupted in 2003 and lasted three years, leaving a legacy of political and social instability and economic drift.
I first started working in Georgia in 2003 where I managed a crude oil export terminal on the Black Sea coast. The country had not recovered from its recent past and had been left impoverished and barely functioning. Examples of this included prolonged periods when there were no electricity or water services. Corruption was also endemic, the most visible example of this was, for me, the hated Traffic Police. They would position themselves along the roads and stop vehicles every few kilometres to extort small amounts of money—money which the impoverished drivers could little afford to part with. Crime was also rampant. In 2003, my company suffered twelve car jackings in Tbilisi and on the road which ran close to South Ossetia. That same year, the vessel we operated at my terminal was robbed and the house I lived in was robbed. Firearms were used in all these incidents, and although no one was shot, physical violence was sometimes used.
The bloodless Rose Revolution in November 2003 ousted the ineffectual Eduard Shevardnadze, to be replaced as president by Mikheil Saakashvili. This young president was initially immensely popular and he initiated reforms and improvements at a pace I wouldn’t have thought possible. He took the country in a western-leaning direction with stated ambitions of joining the EU and NATO, a move which, arguably, led to war with Russia in 2008 and the consequential hardening of borders with the separatist regions. Under Saakashvili’s leadership, the country became notably more affluent with great improvements being made to infrastructure, refurbishment of towns and the construction of attractive features such as the Peace Bridge in Tbilisi.
Futuristic but Beautiful Peace Bridge, Tbilisi
Crime and corruption were tackled. Widespread reform of the Police resulted in 30,000 officers from the Traffic Police being sacked with a new force created through recruitment. New stations were created with glass walls and partitions to represent transparency in policing.
Glass Police Station
Visitors to Georgia today would not recognise it from the Georgia I knew in 2003: power and water stay on, infrastructure is greatly improved, towns and cities have been refurbished, international restaurants and hotels have been opened, visible corruption has been stamped on and the streets feel safe to walk. The country still has some challenges: its political systems can, at times, appear dysfunctional and unemployment remains high. What has not changed is the friendliness of its people. Many countries claim to have great traditions of hospitality. In Georgia’s case, the claim is real and that is one of the many reasons you should visit.
Please let me know if you found this post interesting and if there is any other topic you would like me to cover. Next time - food and wine!