An Interview with Author Eldred Buck:
Eldred, here are the questions for the interview. You can answer a few of them or you can answer all of them, whatever you are comfortable doing. Ready then, here goes:
Q. What inspired you to write the novel ‘All the Sons of Abraham’?
A. I was very fortunate to have lived in the Middle East during some fascinating times, particularly when seen from the context of the world we live in today. It seems to me there are many misconceptions about this part of the world and I drew upon many of my experiences to write about these.
Q. How much research did you put into the writing of this book?
A. In short, a great deal. I spent a lot of time making sure that the background to both the story lines and the characters was credible. Some of the issues I have written about can evoke strong reactions, so I was always mindful of separating facts from opinions. I should also stress that it is nonetheless, fiction.
Q. Have you written any other books?
A. No, only articles for trade publications, very dry and rather technical I’m afraid to say.
Q. Do you have a commerce background?
A. Yes, I’m sad but I have to admit that I’ve been in investment banking and commodity finance and brokerage since graduation.
Q. Your protagonist is a banker from London. What is your opinion about the financial system of England?
A. Surely this interview is too short for a full answer! The shortest answer I can suggest is that the financial system is like a very forgetful and slothful pupil. This term’s report reads, ‘must do better!’
Q. Your protagonist leaves his lucrative job in Paris to work in the IAB (bank) in Jeddah to get away from a mistress who would ruin his family life. Do you feel what he did was right?
A. No, running away from problems rarely fixes them. Alex is a selfish character, who has only put off his day of reckoning. He is jumping out the frying pan and into a completely new and uncontrollable fire. As far as the story goes, I wanted a flawed protagonist, because the reader becomes more critical and objective when seeing events through such a character.
Q. What would you prefer──to work in a bank in England or Jeddah?
A. Neither, I’m not sure working in any bank is much fun.
Q. What is your opinion about the rise of terrorism in the past few years?
A. If you are referring to Islamic Fundamentalism described in the book, it’s a case of being both sad and sadly inevitable. Terrorism itself, has been with us since the beginning of time, so that is nothing new, however in our more ordered and interlinked global village, acts of violence strike us all much more acutely and personally.
Q. What is your opinion about the justice system of Jeddah which has been described in your book?
A. I’m not qualified to talk about the judicial process of any country, however I think the principal of fair trails and the application of international law should always be upheld. I should perhaps also add that personally, I don’t agree with the death penalty.
Q. If you were in Claire’s place, what would you have done with a husband like Alex Bell?
A. Claire is the personification of patience, particularly with the responsibility of a young family and she clearly enjoys the lifestyle she has become accustomed to, but personally I think I would have given Alex his marching orders much sooner than she eventually did!
Q. What according to you is the real cause behind the popularity of the idea of ‘jihad’ among the fundamentalists of the Middle East?
A. A potent and deadly mix of lack of education, lack of opportunity and utter desperation.
Q. Alex Bell your protagonist trusts Chris Barma without question. Are you a person who readily trusts people?
A. Obviously it depends, personally, I think because I am an optimist, I always start with the expectation that people are trustworthy. However experience has occasionally shown me that this approach to life is naïve and can be costly, so I work on the basis of trying not to make the same mistakes twice.
Q. How did you come upon the gay culture in Jeddah?
A. It was related to me in confidence by a friend, who shall remain nameless.
Q. With which character in your book do you identify?
A. None really. I’d like to say Lorenzo or Omar, the first for his clean cut, heroic qualities; the second for his kindly humanity, but really I’m not like any of them.
Q. Describe Osama bin Laden in one sentence.
A. Misguided Middle-Eastern Robin Hood.
Q. Do you think that many clerics are the real cause of the terrorism that we are witnessing today?
A. Some so-called clerics, who are ignorant of the Koran and who preach intolerance and hatred, are clearly stoking the fires of sectarian unrest. However they are not the cause, just one of the symptoms of the economic and social breakdown occurring in these societies.
Q. What made you write about Omar’s family who are the main characters in the latter part of your novel?
A. Omar’s family is a microcosm of many of the dilemmas that face a family and a father, particularly those with aspirations and hopes for a better world for their children. They happen to be in Saudi Arabia, but the problems could be anywhere, from Oslo to Columbine. There is the conflict between generations and between customs and cultures. Omar is struggling to hold it all together, in the face of some insurmountable obstacles. He is my favourite character in the book.
Q. Mohammed a character in your book became an Islamic fundamentalist while Alex Bell your protagonist did not practice his religion. Which of the two characters is more humane according to you & why?
A. This is a very interesting question. In the book, both characters demonstrate both humane and religious behaviour, Alex helped save the life of Mohammed, and Mohammed did the same for Alex mid way through the story: both men showing themselves, through these acts of kindness, as humane. Its hard to split them at this point. As for religions, Mohammed is unambiguously a devout Muslim, yet Alex also has his ‘religion’, as his belief system is rooted around the secular, the rational and the objective. At one stage in the story, the notion of ‘Pascal’s Wager’ is mentioned and Alex’ secular belief system seemed somewhat wrecked upon this particular conceptual rock; nonetheless he seems to continue to sail on with his slightly shaky belief in his scientific rationalism. So regarding both characters’ humane qualities, in the end it is up to the reader to make up their own minds on this, but for me, neither should be denied their humanity. The real question is whether the characters themselves have denied their own.
Q. How did you go about the process of writing your book?
A. Through very early morning starts, I find that my writing is best done at dawn. Not good for those around me I’m sorry to say, as I’m up with the lark!
Q. What kind of response did you get after your book was published?
A. Mixed, some liked it, others didn’t. As I was told, you can’t write a controversial book and expect universal praise.
Q. Omar the character in your book does not wish his younger son to become an Islamic fundamentalist but was not forceful enough to stop him. What would you have done if you were in Omar’s place?
A. Difficult. I’m really not sure that any father could have done much better than poor Omar. He tried everything to reconnect with Mohammed. His son retreated into himself and became withdrawn and hostile. He became mixed up with some very manipulative people. It’s something that many parents have to deal with and without support it is very difficult to fight against.
Q. What is more important for you (a) Family or (b) Religion?
A. Easy choice for me, family. In my view no religion is worth killing for, family on the other hand, I can understand.
Q. How long did it take you to write your novel?
A. Too long.
Q. Describe the character of Ed Moore who is another important yet a shady character in your book.
A. Ed Moore is one of the most complex characters in the book. Outwardly he portrays a deliberately straight forward persona, even as you quite rightly say, a somewhat shady character, but his life’s journey shows that he started out as trying to do the right thing. When you scrape beneath the guarded veneer of him, he emerges as an altruist of sorts, a polyglot and something of a liberal, despite the circumstances that he finds himself in. He is one of those persons that, to use the current vernacular coined by policy makers of today, thinks in terms of, ‘unknown unknowns.’ He is perhaps the shrewdest character in the book.
Q. Are you planning on writing a sequel to this book?
A. I am indeed.
Q. Why did you choose the title ‘All the Sons of Abraham’ for your book when actually there is not much mention of the Jewish clan in your book?
A. Abraham is a key individual in the Old Testament, the Bible and the Koran, so all three monotheistic religions, Judaism, Christianity and Islam share him as a key protagonist and are therefore related. The title is intended to bring attention to the fratricidal behaviour of these three religions that have exactly the same God.
Q. What is your favourite holiday destination?
A. Not sure, either France or Italy.
Q. If given a choice who would you consider the lesser evil, USA or The Middle East?
A. I’m not sure how to answer this, I don’t consider either as evil, or as good.
Q. Do you think that many Englishmen have a stereotype image where the U.S Americans are concerned?
A. Of course. Stereotypes are what make the world go round, we all love them and loathe them, they’re just like pantomime characters and as individuals, we all love to break them and show how ridiculous they are.
Q. What is your opinion about racism practised in England?
A. It exists of course as it does everywhere in the world, but I think, honestly, to a much lesser degree than many other places and these days, inordinately better than before. The England that my children live in today is unrecognizable with the one that I grew up with as a child.
Q. What is your opinion about racism practised in the Middle East?
A. Sadly no different than any other part of the world.
Q. Do you travel a lot?
A. Yes, I have been very fortunate to have lived in five different countries and also to have travelled very extensively around the world, both for business and pleasure. There are still may places that I want to go to, I have a long bucket list.
Q. What was your main aim in writing your novel?
A. To give readers a good story.
Q. Who preferably should read your novel?
A. I’d recommend it to anyone interested in looking at today’s world as influenced by events from the Middle-East and or global Finance.
Q. In which genre would you place your book ‘All the Sons of Abraham’?
A. To be honest I’m not entirely sure. Fiction, Finance, Middle East, Thriller….
Q. Do you have any weakness/vices which you would like to share with your readers?
A. Laziness, I love to cut corners.
Q. Are you an introvert or an extrovert?
A. Can you be both? Maybe a bit more of the former to be honest.
Q. Are you a teetotaller, regular or a social drinker?
A. Committedly social.
Q. In your book you have mentioned one character saying ‘Never trust a man who does not drink’ . . . do you believe in that saying?
A. No, it’s a ludicrous statement.
Q. Have you ever been to the Middle East?
A. Yes, studied, lived and worked there and visited it many, many times. It’s a part of the world that fascinates me.
Q. Describe yourself in five sentences.
A. I can do it in five words. Father, son, lover, writer, jester.
Q. Describe what you will be doing as a writer in the next five years.
A. Finishing another book.
Thank you Eldred for answering all my questions so candidly. I invite readers to interact with Eldred on Goodreads,
https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/7973725.Eldred_Buck, on Twitter https://twitter.com/EldredBuck
and on Facebook https://www.facebook.com/AllTheSonsOfAbraham?fref=ts
The links to Eldred’s books on Amazon and my review of his book are given below:
Copyright 2014 Fiza Pathan