Olive Killer Elite Feathermen on a Mission

Christmas and the New Year ended up, totally unexpectedly, being a chance to read two great books (Olives and the Feathermen) and watch two fun films (Killer Elite and Mission Impossible) that featured Dubai and parts of the Middle East.

The whole experience made me realise how little this region features in film and literature (unless I am missing something). The last novel I read that featured the Middle East was the Little Drummer Girl (if anyone has some good recommendations, please let me know).

Let’s discuss things in order of importance, the first of which I will review in this post.


Olives, by Alexander McNabb, has the best description for a novel I have come across: ‘Olives – a violent romance’. It tells the story of a British journalist going to work in Jordan and getting involved in various goings on. The politics of people, water are all woven together to create a very good read.

In the interests of full disclosure, I know Alexander -altough we have actually met once in the flesh, albeit briefly at a party, he is, as Mrs Saul describes them, ‘one of my internet friends’. I know him through blogging and Twitter.

I thoroughly enjoyed Olives for three reasons. In reverse order of importance, this time –

1. I know the author. His blog postings on the writing and publishing process, along with the way he’s used Twitter to publicise the book have been very interesting and fun to follow.

2. The book features ‘the region’. I have travelled to Jordan and elsewhere and I enjoyed reading a novel which, for the first time in my experience, took place in a Middle East that I am familiar with. I didn’t empathise hugely with the main character, who I thought was a wimp, but I empathised with his being a Brit abroad.

3. It’s a good book.

If anything, reading Olives has inspired me to write something. After nearly ten years of travelling to, for Brits, unusual places, I think that the proverbial novel in everyone is bubbling to be written by this nobody. The key is combining personal experience and anecdote into a compelling fictional narrative. In translation that means, writing a great story that rings true. Olives achieves this admirably.

I enjoyed reading the other side of the Story. Israeli stories often get heard. I don’t hear the Palestinian stories so often. It was entertaining and interesting to read one here. I feel guilty describing part of the process of reading about what is essentially a harrowing topic as ‘entertaining’, but getting deeper into this topic would necessitate the kind of long essay that my university tutor would have described as ‘ clear in topic, but ultimately disappointing in execution’. I hope you get my point.

The Kindle edition has a few typos, but nothing serious. McNabb’s blog entries on the whole topic of self publishing are interesting and well written, providing quite an insight on what it takes to get something good to market. If you want to get published, you could do worse than read what McNabb has written. I am sure that, if you contacted him directly, he’d offer you some direct assistance as well.

Even if you’ve never set foot in the Middle East, Olives is a great read. A violent romance indeed, highly recommended.


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