FOOTBALL IS THE BEAUTIFUL GAME:
WORLDWIDE IT IS FOLLOWED BY WOMEN
AS MUCH AS MEN - BEWARE THE DAY IT
GETS MIXED UP IN POLITICS
It is about uneven playing fields - that represented by women's soccer, and the dodgy ground of human rights.
In 2000 the decapitated body of Internet journalist Guya Gongadze was found in woodland on the outskirts of Tarascha, some 80 miles south of Kyiv, the capital of Ukraine. That, and other cases, prompted the organisation Reporters Without Borders to rank Ukraine as the second most dangerous country in the world for journalists; and proved a motivator for me to write this novel.
THE EISENSTEIN CONNECTION
In FAIR GAME Natasha is a talented footballer, ambitious to play for her country. Her ambitions are put at risk by revelations of government corruption made by her father, campaigning journalist Victor Kaltsov. Neither Natasha nor her brother Lonya can escape the danger her father's discoveries put them in.
The story begins with a kidnap in snow-bound Kyiv and reaches a dramatic climax on the Steps of Odessa, scene of the 'most famous five minutes in the history of the cinema' - the slaughter of protesters in Eisenstein's Battleship Potemkin.
A key subplot sees Monika, a tour guide with a mysterious past, enter Natasha's life, at first it would seem, a rescuing angel, but who is she really, and what connection has she with Victor's enemies - the SBU, Ukraine's secret police, and the oligarchs whose manipulation of power and business corruption threaten to cripple the country?
A LITTLE BIT ABOUT UKRAINE...
It's long been a preference of mine to take readers beyond our shores, and to places 'of which we know little'. TALKING IN WHISPERS is set in Chile, NO SURRENDER in Angola, JUSTICE OF THE DAGGER in East Timor. The 2nd biggest country in Europe, Ukraine remains, I think, something of a mystery. Its very name seems to suggest something of an identity crisis: it means 'land without borders'. Over the centuries it has been the victim of innumerable invasions and occupations. It was devastated by the Nazis, pulverised by Stalin's purges; and it has still not entirely emerged from the shadow of the Russian Bear.
Like her country, Natasha struggles to assert her identity. As Jock, her football trainer says, she will only succeed at the game if she focuses; and she realises she will only survive at the 'game of life' if she keeps her eye on the ball, fights every tackle. There will be those to help her, those who would threaten and obstruct - even destroy - her, and there will be those, like Monika, who will love her.
For more information about FAIR GAME and other publications, please visit my website, designed by my daughter Francesca: www.Watsonworks.co.uk