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A Cineaste Remembers…

[Cineaste: noun. Cinema enthusiast or devotee.]


 

The cinema played an important part in my youth, for so many reasons.

For someone growing up in the Fifties in Georgetown, in what was then British Guiana, it was the main form, perhaps the only form  of entertainment. It’s importance and impact on our culture and development cannot be overstated.

Here are some recollections of what it was like.

[Comments and similar recollections invited from readers for moderation].

My memory goes back far enough that I recall the price of a ticket back in the Fifties. We were still on the Sterling currency in those days and a ticket to see a movie cost Half-a-bit, which would be four cents. A Bit was eight cents. A Bit-and-a-half was twelve cents. A shilling was the next denomination. These were all silver coins, minted obviously in the mother country—England. -Ken Puddicombe

Junta Review -Guyana Times

‘Junta: The Coup is On’ – A novel by Ken Puddicombe

‘Junta…’ is more than a novel merely about a bloodless coup, executed by the military in a seemingly flawless plan headed by General Septimus Ignatius Marks, wrenching power from the legitimately elected government, as it goes beyond the coup into the machinations of the junta to hold onto to power, at whatever cost, pitting its machinery of manufactured fear and military decisiveness backed by a gang of mercenaries/thugs, headed by The Reverend – a merciless criminal, carrying out the dictates – doing the dirty work – of the army acting under direct instruction of Captain Stevenson, against tiny groups of people seeking the return to civilian rule and the restoration of democracy, a group consisting of students of a university led by Melanie Sanderson, the pugnacious editor of a newspaper, Clarence Baptiste, and a reformist priest, Father Bert, as it goes beyond the junta birthed in the wake of the coup as General Marks is supplanted by his protégé, now General Glen Stevenson. All of the above is set against the backdrop of Hurricane David which adds little to the suspense of the plot, but was a major player in further pauperising the less fortunate while sparing the rich and fortunate few.

This political/romance thriller is set in Saint Anglia, an imaginary island in the Caribbean bearing many similarities to Guyana as people, places and events are invoked in the forms of Ricky Singh, Jim Jones, Rabbi Washington, Father Darke etc, even CARD (Crucial Action for the Restoration of Democracy) is not dissimilar to GUARD. Saint Anglia was a ‘peaceful place’ – sugar plantation economy thriving first on enslaved labour and then indentured labour – until after independence when the ugly head of racism, class and social injustice brought divisions to the surface in a way forcing everyone to take a side – a side for or against injustice.
The novel is divided into fourteen chapters with the first and second chapters introducing all the major characters while the next two chapters focused on the coup, accounting for one third of the book, and remaining pages deal with the junta’s struggle to hold on to power and subsequent supplanting of the leader from within.
The novel opens with the beginning of a coup as Marcus Jacobson, descendant of the planter class, returns to his place of birth to take up tenure of professor of history at the local university where the impetuous protagonist, Melanie Sanderson, former lover of Captain Stevenson and daughter of an ex-Premier who was kicked out of office because he was white, is a student.
As the junta headed by General Marks attempts to consolidate it stranglehold on power, it is met with opposition from various individuals and groups even as Professor Jacobson turns his back several times on invitations and promptings mainly by Melanie to support the fight for the restoration of democracy. The resistance to the junta is answered with brute force damaging limbs and property, leading to bloodshed when a protest march exposes the junta for what it really is – an evil to society.

That evil is finally defeated but that is not the end of the story. The end of the novel is sort of tame (as is the beginning) with Professor Jacobson finally leaving the island and with Melanie Sanderson declaring that she may eventually recommence the relationship with Stevenson who is now General and new leader of the junta. All of this is sort of summed up in what Reverend Bert said, “No one is ever totally bad as no one is ever totally good.”
This seemingly intriguing story is diluted by the interjection of more twenty back stories of major and minor characters, created by the author who, it seems, is obliged to make them all rounded characters.
Quite interesting is the author’s use of smoking as a motif – almost every character is a smoker, lending to the adages ‘where there’s smoke, there’s fire’ and ‘if you play with fire, you get burned’ as the reader finds out that many persons get burnt.
Interestingly too, the author accomplishes his own coup (de grace) by treating the reader to beautiful descriptive prose, impressive characterisations, the overt and covert activities of a newspaper and the interesting history of coups and the politics of the Caribbean.
“Junta: the Coup is On” is a welcomed addition to a short list of Guyanese and Caribbean political thrillers.
Responses to this author please telephone 226-0065 of

email: oraltradition2002@yahoo.com

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Racing With The Rain

CAN AN INDIVIDUAL MAKE A DIFFERENCE WHEN POWERFUL FORCES ARE ALIGNED AGAINST DEMOCRACY? CAN SOMEONE AVOID THE STIGMA OF HIS HERITAGE?

These questions are essential to the theme of Ken Puddicombe’s new novel JUNTA.

Expatriate Marcus Jacobson wants to make a difference on newly independent Saint Anglia where he is taking up a professorship but there are forces that will test his expectation. The military, under General Marks stages a coup, and Hurricane David is heading for the island.

Marcus also has skeletons in his closet. He’s descended from the Planter Class that once owned slaves on the island. He’s torn—does he have the right to get involved in the politics of the island or should he be a bystander?

The people Marcus encounters will determine his attitude to the Junta. These people include: Melanie, a student who thinks force should be used to restore democracy; Father Bert, a priest who believes in Liberation Theology; Clarence Baptiste, editor of the local newspaper who will use the media to oppose; The Reverend who runs a dirty tricks campaign for the Junta; Kentish, an islander who is a pacifist by nature and believes that events should run their course. Marcus finds himself being inexorably drawn towards Melanie and when she takes matters into her own hands, the decision is made. But, the Junta is determined to hold on to power at all cost.

Down Independence Boulevard and Other Stories

A taxi driver notices the changes in Independence Boulevard since freedom was gained from Britain. A free-wheeling spirit spends his time gambling and engaging in riots. A man is sentenced to death for the murder of his lover. Two women escape racial conflict and seek a better life at home and abroad. A housewife has faced the last straw with her husband. A mailman is caught in the middle of the World Trade Centre terrorist attack. These are some of the characters encountered in this engaging collection of short stories from the pen of Ken Puddicombe.


 

 

Racing Review by Frank Birbalsingh

REVIEW OF RACING WITH THE RAIN by Frank Birbalsingh

Professor Emeritus, English Literature, York University, Toronto, Ontario, Canada

Racing With The Rain is the first novel of Guyanese born Ken Puddicombe who, since 1971, has lived in Canada where he works as an accountant. Racing offers a fictional version of political events during a turbulent period, from the 1960s to the 1980s, in the history of Guyana, formerly British Guiana. The novel is a roman a clef, one in which people and events may be identified through fictional names assigned to particular organizations, individuals or places, for example, “Liberty House” for actual Freedom House, “Arawak Hotel” for Carib Hotel, “Kingsley” for Sydney King, and “Jack Hill” for Kelshall.

The narrator Carl Dias is a Guyanese who lived through events in the novel before coming to Canada, and settling in Toronto where we first see him, in 1980, sixteen years after he left Guyana. He is Senior Economist at the Canadian Business Bank, and is separated from his Russian/Cuban partner Natasha and their two children -Alexei and Irina who play no active part in the novel. Carl receives news of the death of his father Augusto in Guyana, and his narrative consists of an account of is visit to Guyana to attend the funeral, except that chapters describing his visit are interspersed between reflections on his family or friends, and documentation of Guyana’s political history between the 1960s and the 1980s.

The narrator’s surname betrays his origin in a Portuguese community, a Guyanese minority group who were brought to Guyana as indentured workers, from Madeira, during the mid-nineteenth century. The group have evidently one well since Carl’s father enjoys the status of a successful Georgetown business man, influential among the Conservatives [an actual political party – United Force – who members are chiefly Portuguese and rich Indian-Guyanese] all vigorous supporters of free enterprise and sworn enemies of the Reform Party [actual People’s Progressive Party which is supported mainly by Indian-Guyanese] and regarded as Marxist/Leninist or Communist. A third party, the Republican Party [actual People’s National Congress who membership is largely African-Guyanese and ostensibly Marxist], forms a strategic coalition with the Conservatives despite deep ideological differences, mainly because coalition brings blessing of the Kennedy administration in the US, and practical help from the C.I.A. and American Labour Unions who share a common anti-communist aim of depriving the Reform Part of power gained [by democratic means] from an electorate that is largely Indian-Guyanese.

The two strands of the novel’s plot consisting of action from the period of Carl’s visit in 1980 and from the tumultuous period of the 1960s with strikes, riots and other ructions allow the reader to see both the collusion necessary to replace the Reform Party regime with one that is Republican, and the consequences of Republican rule, by 1980, when it had produced widespread food shortages, disorder, increased crime, corruption, repression and dictatorship that left Georgetown, once known as “the Garden City of the Caribbean” in mere shambles. “Signs of decay everywhere. Trenches were filled with stagnant water and garbage and tall reeds lined the banks. Buildings were weather beaten. Streets were perforated with potholes and sidewalks rutted and cracked.”

Puddicombe is both diligent and skilful in documenting the beauty of Guyana’s tropical vegetation, and the flavour and idiom of local speech and public banter that are part and parcel of everyday life, social habits and customs observed, for example, in a typical scene outside a cinema in Georgetown: “The aroma of black pudding, boiled corn and channa, ripe tamarind, freshly baked cassava pone drifted across to Carl as an old woman dispensed her snacks from a tray perched on top of a wooden soft drink crate.” The sentence captures both the simple, improvised quality of the old woman’s business, and the mouth-watering appeal and natural warmth of her service. As for tropical rain, it gives the novel its title when, as boys, the narrator and his friends hear the roll of thunder, precursor to rain, and in the middle of their game, grab their marbles trying “to outrun the rain before the eruption.”

But the politics of the novel and its characters are central. In such a maelstrom of political opinions and loyalties, objectivity is impossible, and Carl’s entire narrative including his acceptance of a Reform Party scholarship to study in communist Cuba declare his moderate, left-of-centre political sympathies, quite unlike the fanaticism of his father who believed that: “They [caterpillars] were like Communists, preying on people and taking everything away until the cupboard was bare.” Augusto Dias also boasted: “I’m not abandoning it [Guyana] to a Communist take over. They’re going to have to take me out of here in a pine box.” Augusto reflects the real fanaticism that caused destruction, looting and mayhem in the 1960s. It turns out he may even have supported a terrorist group -the X13. More than that, Carl discovers his half-brother Earl Singh and realises Augusto was not as upright as he claimed. Yet Augusto’s portrait is a minor masterpiece.

In the end, Carl is suspected of membership in a Toronto based organization -Restoration of Democracy in Guyana- which is believed to plan the overthrow of the Republican Party regime in Guyana. Carl did attend one meeting of the group in Toronto, and although he did not join, the friend who invited him entered his name as a member, and this is now used by Guyanese security forces to capture him and accuse of him of being a spy. Carl is trapped and helpless, in grave danger of never seeing his family again. Suspense builds as he is interrogated and tempted by intrigue and desperation. One of his interrogators, however, is a neighbour who, as a delinquent boy was helped by Augusto, and now comes to Carl’s rescue. Carl is then able to make amends for his half-brother Earl before he leaves. Whatever else it may be, Racing is an act of filial piety -one man’s loving homage to his father, warts and all.

What Readers Say About Racing With The Rain

“Characters caught between deeply conflicting loyalties are driven by the politics of the dank, tropical atmosphere of a British Caribbean colony, half a century ago, only to find themselves trapped in a drama whose tragic effects still haunt them and their fellow Guyanese.” –Frank Birbalsingh author of Novels and The Nation: Essays in Canadian Literature.


“Kenneth Puddicombe’s RACING WITH THE RAIN is a gritty look at the politics of a nation and within a family that drive a young man from his home and from his country. Gripping and hard-hitting, this is a novel you won’t want to miss.”  —Karen Fenech author of Gone


“From the first page…the characters come alive in…creating enough tension to want the reader to thirst for more. As a fellow author, I am impressed with this author’s writing style which left me chomping at the bit to read beyond the first chapter.” –ENRICO DOWNER, author of There Once Was a Little England, a story about man’s obsession with colour and class in colonial Barbados.


By Kat Lager

Amazon Verified Purchase

This review is from: Racing With The Rain (Kindle Edition)

I love the author’s use of descriptive language. The setting and characters jump off the pages of the book.

Racing With the Rain has many layers to it. It examines family conflict, political upheaval and personal turmoil. The reader follows the main character, Carl Dias, through a journey where he discovers what really matters in life.


By bazp

Format:Paperback from Amazon

I completed this novel in 3 days for the turning of every page drove me deeper into the story, politics and human side of the characters. The author’s vision and story were well told and a remarkable representation of colonialism. Highly recommended.


FROM JOSIE ANGOD

This book was quite a journey for me!  Being married to a Guyanese for almost 40 years now, I could relate to many of Carl’s childhood adventures. They rang really true to Guyanese life from my husband’s experiences, and especially from stories my mother-in-law related to me over the years. Your book helped to connect the dots. In particular, I learned much about Guyanese history after Independence that I was not aware of.

This is a very informative book that all children of Guyanese heritage should read. It would help them better understand why their parents think the way they do; the challenges they faced in their childhood and the hardships in finding their way out of Guyana.

I enjoyed your book. You are a descriptive writer who paints well with pen in hand. Your story had a bit of everything….suspense, humor, history, and romance. Most of your main characters have some redeeming qualities about them. I like that.

Josie Angod


FROM ELEANOR GILLON

I finished Racing with the Rain this morning and WOW, what a great book. It kept me wondering what was going to happen next, full of suspense, reality of life and I got a bit of a history lesson. Thanks Ken and I hope you are working on another one!


A masterpiece!! Mar 9 2013

By Ryguy

Format:Paperback|Amazon Verified Purchase

Racing with the Rain immerses the reader in a captivating plot, that leaves them scrambling to finish the current page and eagerly turn towards the next one. A must read for everyone!


Memorable April 25 2013

By Shopaholic – Published on Amazon.com

Format:Kindle Edition|Amazon Verified Purchase

Racing With the Rain in a memorable novel about family, human relations and life in Guyana pre and post independence. Well written, the author draws you to the relatable character of Carl Dias, a man who has to come to grips with his past, present and future while visiting a country he once fleed. Fast moving, poignant, touching, this story is well told and many generations of Guyanese immigrants now living abroad will come to appreaciate the insight this fiction provides into the realities of what their parents and grandparents endured during the struggle for independence in Guyana.

Racing With The Rain: A fast moving rain cloud in an otherwise clear sky triggers a sudden downpour and people run for cover. Is it possible to outrun the rain? Can one ever really escape the past?


Book Review – Down Independence Boulevard and other stories

NO better reward for a writer than to see his work acknowledged!

90rollsroyces

I found out about this book by Ken Puddicombe on Rosaliene Bacchus’ blog – Three Worlds One Vision. Read her fantastic review of this book – Down Independence Boulevard and Other Stories by Ken Puddicombe. 

I wanted to read this book since its based in Guyana and the steady diet of American/British based novels was getting too boring. I am glad I read the book because it has given me an idea for a book of my own. I don’t like short stories – so I never buy a short story collection by any author, but this book is very interesting because its a series of short stories that are all interlinked. Just loved that style.

I learnt a lot of new things – the presence of Indians in Guyana for one. I knew that there were Indians in the West Indies because some of them play for the…

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