– The Title –
The manuscript lay beside his laptop on the table below the big, ceiling-high window of the sitting room. The window gave him an unobstructed view of the narrow patio at the back of the house, the raised garden overlooking the patio and the expanse of sky above the garden. There had been talk of an Indian summer, but the sky was leaden again this morning. He would sit here and type and edit over the coming days and weeks – and months, if necessary. He began with the title page.
His novel was called ‘The Olive Branch’. The title was derived from the headline of an article that appeared in a well-known daily newspaper back in 1975. The headline read: ‘Olive Branch from Peking to Kremlin’. The article spoke of an apparent amelioration in relations between the Republic of China and the USSR, and of a metaphorical olive branch being exchanged between the two powers. It went on to warn of the threat that such a development could pose to the West.
He supposed now that the story was just some idle scaremongering to feed to the newspaper’s right-wing readers, like him. And he was young enough and politically immature enough to be impressed by the story, to believe in the so-called threat and to be concerned by it. He had wanted his novel to shatter the apathy to the threat that he seemed to see all around him, to act as a warning to the West – a red flag, if you like. It would be set a few years in the future, and it would relate what could happen if the two Communist giants did combine and did collude to dominate the world.
But first he had needed somehow to work the title that he had chosen, and the story of the threat behind it, into the novel. His original intention had been to reproduce the newspaper article, including its headline, at the very beginning, in front of a planned prologue. He wrote to the newspaper concerned, but the Managing Editor wrote back, politely refusing permission for the reproduction of the story on the ground that in some eyes permission would constitute endorsement of the novel. However, the man couldn’t have been more helpful otherwise. He suggested a way round the problem for him, he said that the storyline was a very interesting one, and he wished him every success with his book; he even offered to get the book reviewed by the newspaper when it was published. So he had decided to take up the man’s suggestion by incorporating ‘the sense of the news story’, together with the novel’s title, into the prologue.
– o –