I was seven years old and living in British East Africa – just old enough to realise the significance of Jamhuri (Independence) Day, when Jomo Kenyatta drove in proud procession through the streets of Nairobi. It was the birth of the new Kenya and I clearly remember the excitement and celebrations. The Kenyan flag was flying everywhere you looked and there was a real sense of history in the making.
We also felt the heightened sense of danger for a young British family in the middle of it all. There was an ‘Askari’ on guard duty outside our front door at nights and my parents had to defend the house against intruders. My memory of those times is a happy one but the risks were always present. We travelled in convoy for safety and on a family holiday to Mombasa my mother warned me to watch out for the men who sailed the dhows.
I always knew I would return to Kenya but it wasn’t until over forty years later my wife and I went on a holiday there. It was a surprise to be told it was far too dangerous for us to even visit Nairobi, although we did drive through the city and I was impressed at the progress that had been made. Mombasa had also changed. The staff at the hotel advised that, for our own safety, we should never go outside the hotel grounds without one of their men to escort us.
One afternoon we forgot the advice and walked further than intended along the beach. Realising the danger we were in, we nervously made our way back. That was when the idea for The Shell first came to me. What would we do if we were attacked, far from the safety of our hotel? I was several chapters into writing the first draft when I heard the news that a British couple had been attacked at the Kiwayu Safari Lodge, a coastal resort north of Mombasa.
Sadly the attack resulted in the death of David Tebbutt and the kidnap of his wife. Judith Tebbutt was freed six months later when her family paid a ransom to the kidnappers. David was a director of one of the last independent British publishers in London. I set the draft to one side for nearly a year but returned to it after reading about the continued violence in northern Kenya. Although The Shell is a work of fiction with no connection to his tragic death, I decided to dedicate it to the memory of David Tebbutt.
Mombasa beach: The dream holiday of a lifetime turns into a nightmare for a young couple. Brutally attacked and kidnapped, she has to battle for survival in one of the remotest and most dangerous areas of north east Kenya. He has to find and rescue her – before it is too late.
Palm trees line an idyllic beach of white coral sand. An Arabian dhow sails on the clear blue waters of the Indian Ocean. Two lovers are ruthlessly torn apart, perhaps forever. Lucy is bound and helpless, taken far from the safety of the world she knows. Unconscious and bleeding, nothing has prepared Steve for what he needs to do.
The inability of the authorities to help means Steve has to find the strength and courage to risk his own life in the desperate search for Lucy and fight back against the kidnappers. His journey takes him deep into the African wilderness, where death and danger wait for the unwary.
Lucy’s journey is mental as well as physical as she discovers how easily the protective shell of her old world has been stripped away. Everything she took for granted is gone and she has to fight to survive, one day at a time. Whatever happens, she knows her life will never be the same again.
Based on actual events and current news reports, this fast-paced action and adventure novel explores the reality of the tensions between the old tribal ways and life in the new, rapidly developing country of Kenya.
Tony Riches lives in Pembrokeshire, in the far west of Wales, UK. Best known for his popular non-fiction ‘for Busy Managers’ series, The Shell is his second novel. The first, Queen Sacrifice, is set during the civil wars of 10th century Wales – and the narrative faithfully follows EVERY move in the queen sacrifice game, known as ‘The Game of the Century’ between Donald Byrne and 13-year-old Bobby Fischer in New York City on October 17th, 1956.