“The Hurricane was the best and fastest airplane we had. But there were too few and they came too late…” said the old Indonesian, who had served as a mechanic in the Royal Dutch Indies Air Arm during those fateful early months of 1942.
I sat upright in surprise. Even though I was still in high school, I already knew something about the Pacific War and military aviation in the Dutch East Indies. And I had never heard about Hurricanes in Java.
“Hurricanes; British Hawker Hurricanes?” I asked incredulously.
“Sure, the Brits delivered a bunch of them and we cobbled them together in an old warehouse, safe from Japanese attacks.”
I tried to press him for more information, but he was reluctant. The war in Java was over forty years ago and his memories of that time were obviously painful, but he finally told me his tale.
It is now many years since I listened to that old man, but I still clearly remember what impact the gruesome story of his life had on me. He didn’t speak much about aircraft. Instead, he told me how he and several others, had survived the Japanese onslaught on Java and had tried to make for Australia in a small fishing vessel. Their fuel ran out and most of them perished of hunger and thirst before the few survivors were rescued by the Australian navy. He told me of his years in the war; how he had fought his way back home, only to find his wife and kids murdered. They had been killed during the infamous “Bersiap” period of anarchy when rabid, blood-thirsty mobs that called themselves Islamists killed whoever was accused of being a ‘collaborator’ with the Dutch.
I am sure that his tale planted the seed for what has become the “Java Gold” series of novels. It has lain dormant for many years while I left my childhood hobby behind and concentrated on my career in ICT. But not so long ago several things happened that brought it all back to me.
It started with this convention in a museum. I found myself standing with a drink in a place packed with airplanes from my youth. Sipping my drink, I reflected on what a wonderful time it had been hanging around airfields after school with a group of likeminded boys. And then there was this large box I came across while clearing out the attic in preparation for a move to another house. It was brim-full with mementoes of my old hobby; photographs, negatives, books, sheets and bunched sheets of information. I could not bring myself to chuck it away – I saw it as a time capsule and stored it again. It also was a time when security classifications on archives were expiring. One publication after another drew me slowly but inexorably back to what had once been a keen interest and I started collecting information again.
One day, having a steak and beer lunch in a Microbrewery in San Jose, California, I said, “You know, I have found so many crazy facts about what happened in Java in 1942 that I could write an adventure novel!”
“I dare you!” said my good friend and colleague Brian.
And so it all started. The dare was on and the prize was a bottle of good Scotch malt whiskey. I started writing and after a few months, I had finished a short novel that I called “Goldwing”, But though I collected my bottle, I was not happy with the story I had written. It was a short and snappy, slam-bang action story. But it lacked depth, human interest, tragedy, and love.
I decided to start all over again, keeping the base storyline intact but starting the tale with a load of nearly a metric ton of bullion going astray during the Japanese conquest of Java in early 1942. I did my research while I was writing, and the story gradually grew. It has expanded into a multivolume novel of four books in which I incorporated all the action and adventure but also all the missing things, like grief, human tenderness, and love.
The tale spans nearly half a century of recent history and is woven into a framework of solid facts. I find it hard to decide on a single genre classification; it sure has action and adventure, but it is also historical fiction and to a certain degree military fiction. But I let the readers decide that for themselves.
Two books of the series have been published so far. Book One, “The Odyssey”, and Book Two, “Winds of Fortune”. The books have collected 5-star review ratings both on Amazon and on Goodreads.
Looking back at what I have written so far and the reactions I have received, the ultimate question for every author is of course, “Is it worth it?”
The answer is yes!
It has been proven by the many encouraging reactions I have had from readers, some of them asking rather impatiently for the next book.
And this keeps me going!
For those of you who want to browse the background to my novels: just visit The Java Gold’s blog. (https://thejavagoldblog.wordpress.com/)
On this blog you'll find all kind of information that was too detailed or to unrelated to fit into his stories but too interesting to discard
Robert A. Kingsley is a Dutch Canadian author who specializes in writing novels that blend historical facts with action and human drama. His meticulously researched stories take the reader all over South-East Asia, Australia, Africa, and Europe. He works out of the magical city of Amsterdam as an independent ICT consultant. Robert has a son and a daughter and is a grandfather to a wonderful grandson and granddaughter. After several years of intensive research, Robert has published "The Odyssey" and “Winds of Fortune. He also contributed to the anthology “Pearl Harbor and more”, published in cooperation with 7 other authors. He posts his literary thoughts on https://robertkingsleysblog.com and his books are available to buy in his bookstore on https://kingsleyr.literaryglobe.com