Thursday, October 31, 2013

The Themes of the Manhattan Puzzle

The Themes of The Manhattan Puzzle
by Laurence O’Bryan

What has been hidden in Manhattan by the most powerful people on earth?

What would you do to a Manhattan banker who treated ordinary people like slaves?

What magic is buried under Manhattan that allows it to rise again from anything the world throws at it?

BXH Bank building, Manhattan, vehicle entrance visible under the arch.
Image © LP O’Bryan

These are the themes of The Manhattan Puzzle. The story sees Sean and Isabel (my characters from The Istanbul Puzzle and The Jerusalem Puzzle) reunited in Manhattan at the headquarters of one of the world’s largest banks, BXH. There’s been some grisly murders, and now the plot takes a new twist. The contents of the book they found in Istanbul are revealed.

My personal journey with this story grew out of my disgust at the financial crisis that has brought many so low. I am interested in the myths and the beliefs of those who value money above everything.
But The Manhattan Puzzle is about other things too. For instance, what would you do if your partner didn’t come home one night? And what would you think if the police turned up at your door the next day looking for him?

Relationships are under stress everywhere, because of the demands placed on us by our jobs, but few of us will face what Isabel has to face when Sean goes missing.

There is violence from the start in The Manhattan Puzzle too, but the opening has a woman inflicting it on a man. I am tired of reading about men inflicting sexual violence on women. I think it’s time for the handcuffs to swop wrists. And they certainly do in The Manhattan Puzzle. You can download the first chapter here as a pdf. 

But don’t get me wrong. I love Manhattan. It’s a city in a snow globe of dollar bills. So look in your bookstore and on your E-readers and order it too, if you want.

To order The Manhattan Puzzle click here.
Or to visit my website click here.

And thanks for reading this and for buying The Manhattan Puzzle, if you do. I hope you find it entertaining and the themes interesting.

Saturday, October 26, 2013


Last night I finally watched Baz Luhrman's The Great Gatsby. I say finally, because I tend to resist much hyped films, and also because in this case I had to overcome anti Baz Luhrmansim. While Australia was okay, Moulin Rouge and Romeo and Juliet are two of the worst films I have ever had to endure. In the case of Romeo and Juliet, I elected not to endure. However I digress. I liked The Great Gatsby even though I felt it was marred by excessive theatricality. The film is a tragic tale of obsession, and it got me thinking about how a person's thoughts can be dominated by a persistent idea, image or desire. And I wondered whether obsession could be a good thing, when typically it is perceived as a negative characteristic.

J. Gatsby was obsessed with a woman. Nothing new there. Men have been losing their heads over women, and vice-verca, since the Fall of Man. He built an empire via nefarious means all for the benefit of crowning the incarnation of his vision with the woman of his dreams. This one compulsion drove him through five years of struggle and intense loneliness. His ambition made him wealthy and famous, but did it deliver him the object of his obsession?

Is obsession the only way to success? In order to achieve your dreams, do you have to forego attention to everything else in order to completely focus on doing whatever it takes to get whatever it is that you want. Persistence, dedication and commitment are good qualities which the obsessed may have, but there is a tipping point. When ambition or even just excessive interest in a particular thing runs off the rails of rationality."Clinical psychologists think of obsessions as unhealthy fixations with objects, people, or activities. They are abnormal because they impair our capacity to love and work." Obsessions throw our lives out of whack. Obsession causes us to lose perspective, and to make decisions which provide instant gratification but may not be in the long term best interests of others or ourselves.

The word obsession is inextricably burdened by negative connotations, yet who could argue that the achievement of success, the realization of one's dreams, requires at least some degree of those qualities which are embodied by that very word.

What do you think? Is obsession a good or bad thing? When have you been obsessed? Personally, I am moderately obsessed with the acquisition of a vast number of devotees of my work. Thanks for reading and please leave a comment.

Further reading:
Photo source.

Saturday, October 19, 2013

The Night I Crossed Over

Paradoxically, the distance between belief and unbelief is a vast chasm which can be traversed by a single step. One solitary step. One moment in time. One night nearly 30 years ago, I took that step, and my life was changed forever.

Early in 1986, the year I would have graduated from High School had I not dropped out the previous year, I was at a party. It was my younger sister's fifteenth birthday party. My parents had gone out and left me in charge. At 17, I was already a seasoned binge drinker, and a convicted car thief. I had no aspirations, no ambition, no direction in life, and very little respect for myself or anyone else. I also had very little time or patience for Christians, many of whom were friends of mine: recent converts exuding zeal, nagging me about my eternal future, and refusing to drink with me. I didn't know God, nor was I interested in getting to know him, despite the fervent encouragement of some of my friends. I didn't believe there was a God, but if he did exist, then I was angry at him for stealing my mates and transforming them into wowsers. I usually told these overenthusiastic proselytizers where they could put their offer of new life. I ignored them. I closed my heart and shut my mind tight to even the possibility of the existence of an infinite and all powerful God who cared about me, who loved me.

On that night, the love I was most interested in was the love of my ex girlfriend. I allowed her to talk to me about Jesus because I liked being with her. I liked the sound of her voice, and was enchanted by the sparkle in her eyes. As much as a 17 year old can love someone, I loved her. So I drank, and she talked, and the party swelled around me without my knowledge or involvement.

It began with some gatecrashers who thought it would be amusing to go into our aviary and scare our birds. It ended with the police arriving too late to catch the offenders who had started a brawl which resulted in a broken window, and a bad gash to the head of a friend of mine. I abused the police not because they were at fault but because I felt responsible. I felt gutted by the ruination of my sister's birthday celebrations.

I remember sitting on the front steps of our house, still drinking but brutally sobered by the shocking events of the night, wondering what I would say to my parents when they arrived home. I recall questioning the value of life, the value of my life. I recollect searching for meaning, trying to find some purpose. What the hell was I doing with my life? It was my lowest point.

My ex girlfriend returned to my house while I was sitting there on the steps feeling miserable. Thankfully, she had left the party long before the proverbial kaka hit the fan. When I saw her across the street walking towards me, I couldn't believe she was there. She had come, like an angel, to comfort me. When I needed her, she was there. That was the moment I crossed over. I took that first tiny step. The largest stride I had ever taken. I finally accepted her invitation to attend a youth meeting, "fellowship" they called it, and at that meeting I became a Christian.

When have you had such a watershed moment? What happened? I'd love to hear your stories.

Saturday, October 12, 2013

What do you say when your son turns 18?

Here is the speech I delivered at my son's 18th birthday party. I only nearly cried once.

"Eighteen. One Eight. One plus eight. Numbers. Just numbers. But in the context of a birthday, they hold special significance. They mark a change in status. Aged eighteen, a young person is eligible to vote, they can legally purchase and consume alcohol, they are, in the eyes of the law and in the opinion of themselves and their peers, adults.

What do you say when your son turns eighteen? When the baby you cradled, carried, fed and clothed, no longer needs you to supply those physical needs? When he prefers the company of his friends, especially his girlfriend, to our company? What do you say when he’s already been moving away from you, becoming more independent, and now the numbers one eight make the separation seem official? What do you say when your son turns eighteen?

You say Happy Birthday son, and you reminisce  a little before giving him some well chosen words of wisdom.

I recall the time I dropped James when he was a baby and he hit his head on the coffee table. I remember the extreme stress I suffered every time he went out to bat, or ran on to the footy field. I recollect the highs and lows, uncontrollable laughter on the way home from Runaway Vacation. Rocking out together at the POD/Disturbed concert. His first metal gig. (Sadly, he’s moved away a bit from metal into lullaby music.) The pain and fear of a major back injury and the surgery to correct it.

Through it all, we have loved James with a love so deep and strong that it is beyond his comprehension. We have nurtured the precious gift that God gave us. A son for whom we have prayed every day, even while he was in the womb.

My parting sage words are about success. The true measure of success in my eyes, is that a man knows himself: where he stands and what he stands for, and who he is, in God’s eyes. Our love for James is unquestionably strong and resolute, but it  pales in the light of God’s perfect love which is unconditional, unshakable and unrelenting.

Follow God all the days of your life, James. Remember that you stand, not in judgement or under condemnation, neither mired in guilt or shame, but you stand in grace. Like all of us, not perfect just forgiven.

What do you say when your son turns eighteen?

Here’s to you James, my beloved son. A work in progress upon whom we gaze and exclaim, “so far, so good.” Happy Birthday!"

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Too Much Trouble

I have nearly 400 Facebook friends. I spent an hour individually messaging them - well almost individually- before Facebook messaged me to suggest that I may be doing something inappropriate, to let them know that my third novel Ashmore Grief had been released. I didn't ask anyone to buy it, but I did include a link to the website wherein one can find the blurb, a preview of chapter one, and the purchase links. At last count, after 7 days, around 6 people have replied to my message.

I have been asking people to Like the Ashmore Grief Facebook page for roughly a month, and have managed to get 77. My goal is 100, and everyday I am sorely tempted to "buy" Likes. Sorry, I mean "promote" my page. The last status update was apparently viewed by 55 people. Have a guess how many comments the status received. If you said, "less than one" you are correct.

I have been blogging weekly for 4 years, and despite various attempts to increase traffic to my site, including numerous direct requests for friends to join the site, I am stuck on 20 something followers. Most of my posts receive no comments except for spammers who can get through only because I have made it easier for real people to comment if they want to. It seems that they don't want to.The most comments I have received was 6, which occurred during the 2013 A-Z Blogging Challenge.

Over the past week, I have contacted nearly twenty media organisations, newspapers, television and radio shows. One reply. I contacted nearly a dozen organizations who work with refugees and asylum seekers, seeking a partnership based on the fact that Ashmore Grief deals with that very topical issue. Four replies: two said no, one said maybe.

I must be insane to worry about all this, but if I am, then I welcome the madness. I embrace it because every now and then someone tells much how much they love my writing, and they get very animated when talking about how they feel about one or more of the characters I created. Once in a while, I get a quantum of encouragement and I press on, I write on.

Oh, and as for Twitter? I get one reply, or retweet for every twenty tweets, and I have over a thousand followers. Clearly, either I am boring, or people can't be bothered. I'll go with the latter.