I'm excited to announce the upcoming release The Fallen Angels of Karnataka by my friend Hans M. Hirschi!
The story is set during a time in history of epic confusion and heartbreak: the late 1980s AIDS outbreak. It centers round young gay man from Norway who dreams of romance and adventure and finds it - and disaster - all in the same person. Unbeknownst to him, it is the start of the HIV/AIDS epidemic and after the quick, tragic death of his very first love, Haakon learns that he, too, has been infected by the strange and mysterious virus. Presuming he will soon die, Haakon goes to a bar to drown out his sorrows. There, he meets a rich, older British aristocrat who offers to take the young man on the travel adventure of a lifetime. The dandy doesn’t want anything salacious from the young man, merely companionship, so Haakon accepts the invitation to travel the world as his assistant. What Haakon doesn’t realize are the heinous acts he will be called to assist on.
Prelude: Christmas Day, 2009
Big cities smell a lot. Yes, sometimes the smell is vile. Sometimes they smell ever so sweetly and everything in between. But cities definitely smell.
Towns don’t smell. Neither do villages. Sure, there’s the smell of manure in the countryside, but that is different. We know it’s manure, but the vile smells that hit your nostrils in a city are intertwined with the scent of Chinese or Indian restaurants, the sweet scents from nearby flower shops, and the stench from garbage containers, making for a unique combination.
It was the absence of smells that had first driven Haakon from the small town he grew up in. It had driven him to travel, to discover the world. Not that he had been aware of it. No, of course not. He had not yet caught a whiff of Cairo, nor Shanghai, nor Bangkok for that matter. Nor any of the other places around the world he would visit in the years following that very first flight to London.
But Haakon had known—instinctively known—that there was something missing from his life, and he realized that he had to find it. Had someone told him what he’d find out there, he would’ve judged that person mad. And why not? We greet every day with little or no clue of what might happen, who we might meet or how these people might change our lives. Sometimes they provide a bit of diversion, sometimes they alter the course of our lives forever.
Haakon climbed out of the water he had just been swimming in and took in the scenery. From their house on the southern tip of the island, where two beaches met, he saw the jetty of their private hideaway. The white sand, the tiny waves lapping at the beach front, and the palm trees. The weather had been stunning these past weeks—no wind, barely a cloud in the sky—only today, clouds had been drifting in from the east, signaling that a storm was approaching.
They inherited the island when Charles passed away a few months earlier. Haakon had always looked forward to visiting Mon Bijou, the small paradise in the Caribbean that Charles bought decades ago, investing a significant part of his family fortune. But as things turned out, Haakon had never been able to make this particular journey while Charles was still alive.
Mahender was nowhere to be found. He had risen before sunrise for his usual morning walk and yoga, and now Haakon couldn’t see him anywhere. No need to worry, he would be back soon. Mahender needed solitude every now and then, and he would no doubt be in his favorite spot, overlooking the ocean on the east side of the island.
As Haakon took in the view, his mind drifted to the memory of how he met Charles, and how he ended up on Mon Bijou with Mahender. They had been here for almost eight weeks now, and had finally decided what to do with the island.
With one final look out across the bay, Haakon returned to the house to start breakfast. Eventually, the smell of freshly-brewed Darjeeling or a hungry stomach would lure Mahender back.
Chapter 1: Departures, May 1983
As a child, Haakon had grown up sheltered, maybe even overprotected by his mother. His parents owned a farm in the small mountain town of Røros in Norway. They weren’t
rich, but there was always food on the table, and their cattle provided them with dairy products and meat, while the small fields produced a little wheat they were able to sell to the co-operative. Life in Røros was simple, and Haakon enjoyed the things most Scandinavian boys do: going to school, playing with friends, skiing or hiking—Norway’s number-one pastime—or fishing and hunting with his father.
Haakon’s mom had a job in the local co-op store, as a cashier. Summers in Røros were short, but comfortably warm, and the days were long. The light was stunning, allowing the kids to be out and play way past ten or even eleven at night.
On the other hand, winters were long—excruciatingly long for Haakon. He had never been a big fan of snow, nor of the cold it brought to the Norwegian mountain plateau. He preferred the summer and loved visiting the nearby city of Trondheim and the west coast. Seeing the open ocean spread out toward the west, offered the promise of adventure and freedom.
As a boy, Haakon never traveled much beyond Trondheim. He was sixteen and in high school when his class took a long train ride down to Oslo to visit the capital and see the many museums, parks and the castle. He could only imagine his namesake, the Norwegian Crown Prince, living inside the walls of the small but well-kept Oslo castle. King Haakon VII had once ruled the country—a country he had to flee during World War II for the relative safety of England—and from where he and Queen Maud led the Norwegian resistance. Haakon’s dad, Olaf, was born during the war, and like all boys and girls of Norway’s post-war generation, he had been inspired by the heroism of their king and queen, and vowed to name his children after them.
Olaf and his wife Synni had no more children after Haakon. There were too many complications during his birth, and the doctors strongly recommended Olaf to get a vasectomy to avoid any further pregnancies. Being a good and compliant husband and father, he had done as the doctor at the local hospital advised. Olaf always did what people asked or expected of him, and he raised Haakon to do the same.
Synni, on the other hand, was the more adventurous type. She would take Haakon on hikes out into the open wilderness of the bare mountains around Røros, sometimes taking the car across the nearby border into Sweden to go look for the few muskoxen still living in the wild. It was Synni who would take Haakon to Trondheim to go shopping, or out into the coastal region towns of Alesund, Molde or Kristiansund, where Haakon first encountered the power of scents and smells. Those fishing communities positively stank during the short summers, as fish were hung to dry, and washed-up bladder wrack dried on the cliff s along the shore, giving off its distinctive smell. But Haakon didn’t mind that; quite the contrary. He and Synni would sit there by the water on one of the large, rounded rocks that line much of the coast of Scandinavia, looking out over the open sea, blinded by the sun’s reflection in the deep-blue waters of the
Norwegian Sea, while eating sandwiches and drinking Solo.
It was these trips to the coast that kick-started Haakon’s longing for freedom. His desire to leave his small home town and see what lay beyond the horizon. He’d bury his head in atlases and books, learning everything he could about the many countries on the planet, their capitals, their currencies, the way they lived. He was fascinated that there were people who looked nothing like him. Some had black skin, some were brown. Some had black hair, and eye colors so different from those he would normally see in Røros. Sure, the Sami in his hometown were dark-haired and their eyes dark brown, but the prolonged exposure to the arctic climate meant most of them had skin almost as white as his—minus the freckles.
Oh yes, Haakon sported freckles. Not just on his face, but across his entire body, and his blond hair had just the faintest touch of strawberry to it—that slight, reddish-blond that is typical for so many Norwegians. Haakon matured into a handsome Norwegian stereotype, towering at six-foot-four, lean and muscled from the hard work on Olafsgaarden, the farm his father named after his greatgrandfather. All first-borns in the Olafsen family were named Olaf, all; until Haakon, which had really upset his granddad. He complained to anyone who’d listen that the boy should’ve been named Olaf, just like the present king and the rest of the first-born men in their family. But the young Olaf Olafsen wouldn’t hear it. He and Synni had made up their minds, and no one would change that.
Sadly, Grandpa Olaf passed away just a few months after Haakon was born, and for many years, Olaf would’ve gladly changed his son’s name, just to keep his dad around. Not that he’d ever tell Haakon. After all, none of this had been the boy’s fault, and Olaf knew deep down that nothing could’ve stopped his father’s cancer. Nothing—certainly not a name change.
Haakon’s life as a child and teen was nothing out of the ordinary. The Olafsens didn’t travel much because the animals always needed to be looked after. Apart from the trips to the coast, the shopping tours to Trondheim and the odd school excursion, Haakon never ventured more than two hundred miles away from Røros, the trip to Oslo being the grand exception. Yet the longing was there, and the posters of tropical places in Haakon’s boyhood room called out to him, beckoning him to leave Norway and venture out into the world.
And while his friends would spend their evenings on their mopeds outside the old church, talking, smoking, drinking beer or moonshine, Haakon preferred to sit cooped up in his room, reading the amazing stories written by Jules Verne and the tales of famous adventurers David Livingstone, Henry Morton Stanley and John Hanning Speke, or Norwegian explorers like Fritjof Nansen, Roald Amundsen or Thor Heyerdahl. Haakon loved to read about all the exotic places dreamed of someday visiting.
When finally the day had come for Haakon to graduate from high school—a russefejring—he was ready to leave Røros behind, and like most nineteen-year-olds, he had no intention of ever coming back, of ever settling down. All he wanted to do was to travel and explore the world. But even Haakon knew no one could travel without money, so he emptied his savings account and bought a ticket to Oslo. He hoped to find work in the capital, in order to save enough money to leave Norway once and for all.
As he boarded his train to Oslo the morning of the eighteenth of May, 1983, Haakon had no idea when he would see Røros again. Had you asked him then, he might just have said “never.”
|Pre-order your copy today!|
About the author:
Hans M Hirschi (b. 1967) has been writing stories ever since he was a child. Adulthood and the demands of corporate life efficiently put an end to his fictional writing for over twenty years.
A global executive in training and channel development, Hans has traveled the world and had previously published non-fictional titles.
The birth of his son and the subsequent parental leave provided him with the opportunity to unleash his creative writing once again. With little influence over his brain's creative workings, he indulges it, going with the flow.
A deeply rooted passion for, faith in a better world, in love, tolerance and diversity are a red thread throughout both his creative and non-fictional work. His novels might best be described as “literary romance, engaging characters and relevant stories that won't leave you untouched, but hopeful.”
Hans is a proud member of the Swedish Writers’ Union, the Writers’ Center in Sweden and serves as chair of the Swedish Federation of Self- & Independent Publishers.