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Hallowed Ground by Paul Twivy - Book Tour

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Hallowed Ground: The Mystery of the African Fairy Circles

This magical story is inspired by the most haunting and least explored country in the world - Namibia - with its foggy Skeleton Coast, buried goldmines, shocking secrets and awe-inspiring sand dunes.
Spread across the face of its deserts are hundreds of miles of ‘fairy circles’ : vast enough to be seen from space.  They grow and die with the same lifespan as humans, yet no-one has been able to explain why or how they appear.
Then one day, three teenagers and their families arrive from different parts of the globe. Helped by bushmen, the buried possessions of a Victorian explorer, and a golden leopard, they solve the mystery of the African Circles. What will be discovered beneath the hallowed ground? And how will it change the future of the planet above it?

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This extract is just over half way through the book. Li is a Chinese engineer mining uranium in Namibia and father to Hannah, one of the teenage heroines of the book. Sarah is his wife. He is working late. In the course of mining, victims of the German genocide have been found en masse: ancestors of the Herero tribe. His colleague Shen Chi has foolishly brought the bodies up to the surface without consulting anyone.

It was 9.30 in the evening before Li finished answering all his emails. Sarah had called
‘I didn’t want to add to your worries. We were all caught in a sandstorm on the dunes. Ilana, Ralph and Ben had to come and rescue us. It was terrifying.’
‘Oh my God, you should have phoned me. How is Hannah?’
‘She slept for an hour when we got home. The others have set off back to Windhoek. They’re taking Hannah back to the school with Joe and Freddie.’
‘The skies went dark here as well.’
‘Are you feeling under siege?’
‘Yes. But Shen Chi has publicly apologised and resigned.’
‘I heard that on the news. Was that the right thing? I worry for him.’
‘He acted alone. He must take the responsibility.’
Sarah rarely heard Li be so definite, so cold towards a colleague. He was normally very protective of his team.
‘Be careful driving home.’
‘I will.’
Li switched his desktop off. He felt a sense of relief as the screen died to black. All he wanted to do now was sleep. Thank God, Sarah and Hannah were safe. He would call Hannah tomorrow. Too late now.
He shut and padlocked the door to his Portakabin.
The moon was low in the sky and blood-red. It looked more like Mars.
As he approached the perimeter fence, he saw to his relief that the crowd had thinned to a few stragglers. The journalists had all fled to Swakop to email their stories. He wound down his window to thank the security guards for keeping him safe.
A mile or so down the gravel track that led to the main road, he saw a group of about thirty people a short distance off the road.  They were gathered round a pyramid of fire made from a wigwam of thick, round logs. He switched off his engine and the car lights and watched. They seemed too engrossed to notice him.
The women were dressed in full-length, flowing dresses with puff sleeves and skirts billowed by layers of petticoats. Their rich colours were lit to a brilliance by the fire. They wore hats with ‘cow horns’ made from bright fabric, which splayed and pointed, as if to the furthest horizons.
Some of the men were dressed like ‘Sapeurs’ in suits of yellow and peacock blue. A few wore military uniform with three distinct bands of red: a red, flat-topped, military cap; a red waist-band that erupted into the shape of flames and finally red spats covering the ankles.
The whole scene was bizarre. It was as if a fully-fledged Victorian ball had been transported from a European salon into the heart of the Namib desert. In the process it had shed its formal manners but gained in intensity.
They danced slowly, arms interlinked, and sang in harmonies that rose high into the desert air, like the flames that lit them. The dignity of their singing, and the swelling of its passion, carried its magic far into the night.
Li knew enough about the Herero to know that this was a sacred fire and that they were praying to the Supreme Being for their ancestors, who had been so cruelly killed, and whose bones had now been disturbed.          Somehow, he found himself standing outside his car, by the roadside, sobbing uncontrollably.  All the tension of the day ran out of his eyes and his shoulders slumped forward. His eye was caught by a strange movement.
From amongst the dancers a priest rose up, dressed in skins and pelts, his head-dress made of feathers, his wild hair streaming over his shoulders. In one hand he held a staff and in the other a carved, wooden doll. He danced ever more trance-like around the fire, picking up speed until he was whirling like a dervish.  Then he stopped and pointed his face upwards to the heavens. The eldest woman present approached him and solemnly placed a wooden bowl in his upturned hands. He continued to face upwards to the heavens, holding, but not looking at, the bowl, muttering a mantra.
The singing intensified. He turned his face to the crowd and then he poured the contents of the bowl on to the Earth. Li could see that it was viscous. Then he realised it was blood. It seeped slowly into the Earth. The priest swayed and lowered his huge frame to the ground. He kissed the blooded ground with his lips, as if the ground itself could be healed.

Author Bio –
Paul Twivy studied English at Oxford University and became one of the most famous British admen. He has written comedy and drama for the stage and radio.  He edited the bestseller Change the World for a Fiver. He is married with five children. He was inspired to write Hallowed Ground by his first-hand experiences of the extraordinary landscapes and culture of Namibia.

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