Saturday, April 11, 2015

Review: White Plume by Niki Gamm

White Plume is a little different than the normal books I read. It’s a young adult historical thriller set in the Ottoman Empire during the 1716.

Twelve year old Charles Henby and his father are sent on an errand by the “real” king of England to take a letter to the sultan enlisting his help in regaining the throne.
His father is killed and Charles is caught up in the battle between the Ottomans and the Austrians for control of the Balkans. He is taken to the sultan’s court where he becomes a favorite. However, he is still determined that the sultan receive the letter that he and his father were commissioned to deliver. Can he survive this strange culture with it’s strict and deadly rules long enough to fulfill his commission?

Reading White Plume gave me insight into a part of history that I was not familiar with. I think it has merit, not only as a story but as an enjoyable history lesson. The Author, Niki Gamm, has obviously done a great deal of research into the Ottoman cultures of the time. The only complaint might be that it is a little too heavy on the history, but that is more a personal opinion.

The writing is easy to read, though it seems a little stilted at times. It could be that, as it was actually written in Turkey, the differences in language have influenced the meter. It was annoying at first but as it went on it rather added to the feel of the story. The boy had to learn to speak the language at court. Intentional or not, the formal, chopped, sentences worked okay. There were however some awkward sentences that didn’t work and a few things that the editors missed. These however did not distract all that much from the story.

White Plume is newly released in the United States and I’m pleased to be a part in it’s unveiling.

A little bit about the author:

1. Tell me a little about yourself; anything fun or goofy that we should know? 

What a challenge! Tell me a little about yourself. How do I shorten 72 years in a paragraph? I’m a rebel, but of the old school. My first act of rebellion was apparently staged at age 2.5 or 3 when I slipped out the front gate of our home in Seattle and was found half a block away watching a mother bird feeding her young in a tree. The family I was adopted into thought men went to college and women became were store clerks or stayed at home so I got a Ph.D. Tourist traveling was for retirement years in the family so as soon as I got a driver’s license and my own car at age 18 I took off to see friends in L.A. and four years later went on the “Grand Tour” of Europe by myself.  Somewhere along the line I fell in love with Turkey and in particular, Istanbul. Now I’ve spent more than half my life there, nearly 35 years as a journalist, although I’ve maintained contact with friends in Seattle. As you can probably discern, I love challenges (time limits, new and different subjects for example) and change for better or worse.

2. Where do you live and what is it like to live there?

As for where I live, I have an apartment in the center of Istanbul in an area called Cihangir, not on the historic peninsula with its “Old City” Byzantine and Ottoman buildings. Cihangir was full of gardens and orchards and wooden mansions in the 19th century but now is covered with apartment buildings along a hill from which you can see the Bosphorus Straits, Sea of Marmara and the Old City.  Although Istanbul has shopping malls and large supermarkets, my area has lots of small mom-and-pop stores, fast food outlets, butcher shops, pharmacies, repair shops and the like with all of them willing to do home deliveries without an extra charge. Even the veterinarians will send someone to pick up one of my cats if necessary. If a delivery isn’t too heavy, you just lower a basket from your window.  We even have garbage pickup five or six times a day.

3. Tell me bit about your family/home life (if you don’t mind).

These days I write a column once a week for the daily newspaper where I’ve worked for more than 30 years and that’s quite different from the 24/7 life as a news reporter for a daily paper.  I’m single and I share my third floor apartment with nine cats – there used to be more. It’s quite large so I’m rarely bothered by them unless they need cuddling or are hungry and what’s available doesn’t suit them.  There’s a green area in back without cars or dogs so they’re free to roam there. Two or three of them have figured out how to get down to the street in front of our building and will sit there crying very loudly until someone lets them in and I find them pawing at my door. When they let me, I monitor news reports, keep up on my e-mail correspondence, translate from Turkish to English for friends, write articles for the paper in addition to my column and work on / think about the several writing projects I have in mind, including a second and third follow-up to White Plume, which will shortly be up on Amazon. I also, with a Turkish friend, write a website ( click here for link which is a blend of information and a blog.

4. Why do you write? What do you write? Do you have any weird writing habits? (I know that's three questions; just tell me about your writing.)

When I was young, I used to write little scenarios or mostly dream them up without committing them to paper.  Since those were the days before television, I used comic books to stimulate my imagination or novels. Then my rebellion took me into academia with its quite different style of writing and eventually journalism. I kept my imagination to myself for the most part until a serious health scare made me aware of the passing time.  So I felt I should commit some of the more recent scenarios to paper and see about sharing them with others. I first wrote a trilogy, set in southwestern Wyoming about half way between Cody and Rock Springs which is still hibernating on my computer and then White Plume.  If there’s anything peculiar about my writing, it’s that I do my first draft by hand in spite of my arthritis – blank, unlined white paper and a fine-point pen, one page a day regardless of other commitments.  I don’t prepare an outline for my story but they’re fiction set in historical periods so the frame is already there.

(A note of interest to me here was that Niki has written a trilogy set between Cody and Rock Springs WY as I live in Cody and my newly released book is set in the badlands of WY. What a small world we live in to have such a connection to someone half way across the globe.) I've enjoyed meeting Niki online. What an interesting person, a true free spirit.

Look for White Plume at:
The White Plume on Amazon

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