Imagine a person who learned English by listening to The Beatles and to TV football commentaries. What might he or she sound like?
What motivates suicide bombers?
Are strong feelings for children always wrong? In the West, you might be beaten up or locked up for expressing such feelings. Are these reactions typical throughout the world?
How would it feel to be holed up in a small room for weeks on end?
What would you write in a last letter home before execution?
"Whispers in the Hearts of Men" is, essentially, a retelling of Shaw's play dealing with the theme of gratitude, "Androcles and the Lion." I have also used my own experiences as a volunteer teacher in Jordan between 1973 and 1974. I say "used" my experiences because this is not a novel about the writer. Some of the characters in the novel are based on real people. One of these can be named. Father Andy Andaweg was a Dutch priest who set up a language and communication school for the deaf in Lebanon in 1957. I visited Father Andy in December 1973 and I have used my memory of this inspirational but flawed man in my book.
In the novel, the protagonist, historian Richard Chambers, is kidnapped while on a business trip to a country in the Middle-East he had visited 30 years previously. One of the main themes in the book concerns the motivations of his Palestinian kidnappers. In particular the novel tries to unravel the motivation of suicide bombers.
I spent a lot of time researching suicide bombers and their motivation and it soon became apparent that the picture of some madman waving a rucksack and shouting verses from the Koran before pressing a button and blowing him/herself to bits was false. My own (limited) research suggests that suicide bombers are not crazy. Suicide bombers are motivated by politics and not religion. Suicide bombing is often the tactic of last resort. Suicide bombing is often an act of revenge.
It seems to me that in order to deal with such people, and to stop them, we have to understand them. We might even end up sympathising with them - perhaps just a little bit! But the reverse is unacceptable. If we dismiss them as a bunch of nutters who believe in an afterlife of milk, honey and sex, we will never solve the problems that produce them.
"Whispers in the Hearts of Men" was first published on Kindle and as a paperback in 2011. It has received good and bad reviews. My favourites come from two readers in the US. The first writes:
This is one book where I felt as though "the whispering" never stopped. There were several times I almost quit reading as I really thought that this experience was never going to end. I assume the author wanted us to go through the main character's experience, and, I admit I think he succeeded in that effort. Yet, as much as I wanted to quit reading, I also had to read to the end. I wanted to know how this experience ended.
The second reviewer writes:
At first I felt I would not like this book. The story does grow on you and encapsulates one thoughts to the point of being able to put yourself in the characters place. It is a gripping story of endurance under truly unimaginable personal circumstances with the will to want to survive and mentally win over his predicament...
Try it yourself and make up your own mind.