I am pleased to announce that my debut novel Fragments of War is now available direct from the publisher CreateSpace (discount code FKMD96HA), and also from the following retailers: Amazon France, Amazon UK, and Amazon USA.
It is an auspicious day to be launching my book, as September 7 is the feast day of Blessed Cardinal Aloysius Stepinac. Cardinal Stepinac is often vilified as a Nazi collaborator, despite incontrovertible evidence to the contrary. Many of us have unwittingly swallowed the Communist-era propaganda, when in fact (to the use of the words of Winston Churchill) Stepinac “was one of the very rare men in Europe who raised his voice against the Nazis’ tyranny at a time when it was very difficult and dangerous for him to do so”. Indeed, a contemporary article in the New York Times stated: “When the Nazis occupied Croatia, Archbishop Stepinac risked his life to aid the Jews. With his aid, hundreds of Jews were smuggled out of the country and obtained the repeal of an order that all Jews must wear a yellow tag. He denounced the ‘Nazi Racial Laws’. He worked with the International Red Cross to rescue Jews in other countries, concealed these victims of racism under his own roof, and many of his priests did likewise.”
Similarly, the Croatian General Ante Gotovina has been defamed by the international community and convicted of war crimes when in fact he prevented the ‘butcher of Bosnia’, Ratko Mladić, from slaughtering the 150,000+ Bosnian Muslims of Bihać as he had the men and boys of Srebrenica only weeks before. It seems that, when it comes to Croatian history, the truth is often elusive. Both men are rightly regarded as heroes in Croatia, but often maligned by those who haven’t bothered to investigate the facts.
But what does this have to do with my book?
For me, writing Fragments of War was an act of truth telling, dictated by my conscience and motivated by an almost desperate need to ensure my children do not grow up surrounded by lies. My articles about the Gotovina et al. case at the ICTY have been my humble effort to expose the deplorable injustice being carried out against Croatia and its generals, but it became clear to me that there were pieces missing, that this wasn’t something to be comprehended in isolation.
As a historian, I recognised that there were fundamental misunderstandings about the 1990s war in Croatia and Bosnia (and the history of the entire region). I also realised that, as an independent eyewitness with no connections to the former Yugoslavia, I was in a unique position to share my firsthand experiences and put them in a historical context.
The characters in Fragments of War may be fictitious, but there is nothing fictitious about the world in which they live, and I hope that the story of Trysta Montgomery, who (I must confess) bears a rather strong resemblance to me, enables my readers to make sense of the conflict in the former Yugoslavia not in only in terms of what really happened but also with regard to the human experience of war. I have not shied away from telling the story ‘warts and all’, so this is not a hagiographic fairy tale of heroes and villains, but nor is it so subtle as to prevent the drawing of conclusions. It is, all things being equal, as faithful to my personal experiences as possible in a work of fiction, and if I have managed to communicate the truth of those experiences then I will count it a great success.
Trysta Montgomery is a twenty-three year old Australian university graduate who plunges into the world of humanitarian work at the height of the war in the former Yugoslavia in 1993. Initially secluded from the enemy in the relative safety of the beautiful Dalmatian coast and its overflowing refugee camps, Trysta eventually finds herself behind the front lines in Serb-occupied Croatia.
Based on the author’s actual experiences as a humanitarian aid worker, this fictional account of a young woman’s foray into ‘someone else’s war’ is an intelligent and powerful observation of the 1990s conflict and its aftermath, a poignant journey into a European paradise devastated by war.