ISSN: 1391 - 0531
Sunday, March 11 , 2007
Vol. 41 - No 41

Thriller that leaves you hungry for more

A Cause Untrue by David Blacker. Perera Hussein, Rs. 890 in all bookshops. Reviewed by Joseph Appuhamy

The shortlist for the International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award will be announced on April 4, 2007. Sri Lanka’s contender and sole hope this year, for this prestigious high-value prize is David Blacker, who made the long-list with his exciting thriller A Cause Untrue. Listed alongside J.M. Coetzee, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Zadie Smith, Amy Tan and Salman Rushdie, David has many Goliaths to contend with and we can’t help thinking that his is indeed a cause untrue.

But what a remarkable thriller this is! Blacker burst onto Sri Lanka’s literary scene with this rapidly paced action novel in manuscript form, targeting and easily hitting the short list for the Gratiaen Prize in 2005. Soon after being published, the novel went on to gather critical acclaim and won Sri Lanka’s highest form of book recognition, the State Literary Award, 2006 for Best Novel. With such an impressive track record in such a small space of time, Blacker is poised to make his mark not only in Sri Lanka, but on the world’s writing stage.Not only is he the new face of Sri Lankan literature, with this novel, David Blacker has established himself as the definitive Sri Lankan thriller writer. His action sequences and plot don’t confine themselves to Sri Lanka’s boundaries but chase each other helter-skelter through continental Europe and North America, blurring boundaries and dissolving frontiers. Fast paced and furious, heroes and villains race through twisted plots and sub plots to reach a surprising climax which leaves us hungry for more.

In the tradition of Ernest Hemingway, Alistair Maclean and John le Carré who lived the experiences they wrote about, David Blacker saw action as an enlisted soldier with the Sri Lankan army, having a true baptism by fire as a nineteen-year-old rifleman facing LTTE troops at Elephant Pass. Much later, wounded in action, he re-joined civilian life and now spins a credible yarn of highly trained, ruthless fighting machines on both sides of Sri Lanka’s bloody conflict.

Surprisingly mature for a first book, Blacker has no clearly defined hero or villain. Nor does he have just one story line. Similar to real life scenarios, the characters in his novel are moved by forces and situations they cannot see or control. The action takes place on several stages, in parallel, with interlinked plots, sub-plots, obscure destinies, twists and turns – often within sight but rarely coinciding with each other. Peripheral characters are developed to the point we have a clear picture of them and their role, but don’t always follow the path we expect them to; loose ends are tied up neatly with military precision, and although the backdrop is the civil war, value judgments are not made.

What comes across most strongly, is the ruthlessly fast pace of this book which is as thick as a brick. You may pick it up thinking you’ll read it over the holidays or the Poya weekend but be prepared to spend a sleepless night turning the pages desperately fast to keep up with the action within. In the morning, stop yourself from repeating insanely “All teams, Sita! Sita! Sita! Go, go, go…” but join us in saying to Blacker: more, more, more…

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Copyright 2007 Wijeya Newspapers Ltd.Colombo. Sri Lanka.