Saturday, June 21, 2014

Jonathan Holt

Jonathan Holt read English literature at Oxford and is now the creative director of an advertising company. He lives in London.

Holt's new novel is The Abduction, the second book in the Carnivia Trilogy.

Recently I asked the author about what he was reading. Holt's reply:
I find I can’t read fiction when I’m writing it – mainly because I get ‘talent envy’ and immediately try to turn my book in to the book I’ve just read. Instead, I read around the subject I’m writing on. So right now, as I’m in the middle of writing the third in my trilogy of conspiracy thrillers set in Italy, I’m reading non-fiction about real-life conspiracies in Italy.

A Kidnapping in Milan: The CIA on Trial by Steve Hendricks is a brilliantly-written account of an ‘extraordinary rendition’. In 2003 the CIA bundled a radical Muslim cleric called Abu Omar off the streets of Milan into the back of van, then flew him to Egypt, where he was tortured on their behalf by the Egyptian intelligence agency. Unusually, a dogged Italian magistrate decided to track down the CIA agents responsible and charge them with conspiracy to kidnap. In doing so, he laid bare the details of how the CIA worked, and their attitude to the law enforcement agencies of other countries. Hendricks writes with a wry, dispassionate, waspish cynicism, with a biting undercurrent of anger at what’s being done in the name of America’s citizens, and the effects that has had on how the US is perceived. It’s a reminder that the War on Terror has also brought forth some of the best US journalism since Vietnam.

NATO’s Secret Armies: Operation Gladio and Terrorism in Western Europe by Daniele Ganser takes us back to an earlier War on Terror. Back then, the enemy was not Islamic fundamentalism but communism. But many of the tools used to combat it were the same, as were the justifications when the truth slipped out. Operation Gladio was an attempt by NATO to train several thousand right-wing extremists – mostly in Italy, but eventually in other countries as well – so that, in the event of a communist invasion or victory at the ballot box, and a NATO retreat, there would be a ready-made army of resistance able to rise up and harry the invader. Unfortunately, when the invasion never materialized, the ‘gladiators’ got bored and started using their NATO-supplied explosives and ammunitions to carry out atrocities that were then ‘claimed’ by radical left-wing organizations such as the Red Brigades. It seems astonishing that it really happened, yet the evidence was so overwhelming that, slowly, cases were brought to court and convictions achieved.

God’s Banker: The Life and Death of Roberto Calvi by Rupert Cornwell tells the story of a very different conspiracy. In the early 1980’s a ‘secret’ Masonic lodge was uncovered in Italy, which listed amongst its members hundreds of establishment figures, from government ministers to intelligence chiefs and even a budding media mogul called Silvio Berlusconi. One of them was a banker, Roberto Calvi, whose Banco Ambrosiano had links to the Vatican bank. He ended up hanging by his neck under Blackfriar’s Bridge in London, in what was either a very elaborate suicide or a ritualistic killing. Cornwell, a former Financial Times journalist, makes a very good case for the latter. Although this was written long before the banking crisis, the fraud and corruption it describes are eerily prescient.
Learn more about the book and Jonathan Holt at the Carniva website.

The Page 69 Test: The Abduction.

--Marshal Zeringue