New book imagines Eastbourne under Islamist rule following the 9/11 attacks

Eastbourne author Edward Thomas is in print with his latest novel Letter Boxes Are Red (Grosvenor House Publishing, £7.99).

Wednesday, 10th November 2021, 6:05 am
Edward Thomas
Edward Thomas

“One half of the book is devoted to alternative history – what Eastbourne would look like under Islamist rule following the 9/11 attacks in 2001. The other half paints a picture of contentment in Eastbourne as we know it. Both parts centre on three elderly people who meet every Friday afternoon in one of their flats to play Scrabble.

“There were several motives. Col Gaddafi made a speech in Rome in 2010 in which he predicted that the whole of Europe would eventually be taken over by Islamic control. The irony was that the speech was made in front of an audience of people who were each paid 70 Euros for the privilege of listening to him.

“A further inspiration was Michel Houellebecq’s novel The Submission, in which he envisaged a similar occupation in France. I determinedly did not read the novel though as I did not want to be influenced by its content.

“But the main motive was that having served two tours of work in the cradle of Islam, I could quote something about ordinary day-to-day life in its midst.

“Arising from the contract of teaching English to air force cadets in Dhahran I was ejected unceremoniously from the Kingdom for writing an article for the Eastbourne Herald. It was during the time when Saddam Hussein led his Iraqi forces into the sovereign state of Kuwait and occupied the country until the Allies liberated it during the Gulf War of January 1991.

“I had been looking for an opportunity to reproduce aspects of that personal experience in fiction and now in flashback I have done so more than 30 years later.

“In a series of alternating chapters, therefore, the lives of the threesome, one in freedom, the other in oppression, are played out in parallel through their regular Friday afternoon sessions of Scrabble in one of their homes near the sea front in Eastbourne.”

Letter Boxes Are Red can be found in bookshops, online or on Kindle.