Cynthia Hamilton


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Cynthia Hamilton

The Story Behind the Story: Paul Hollis “The Hollow Man”

Paul Hollis is another talented author I found on Twitter. I was intrigued by his posts and downloaded “The Hollow Man”, the first book in the series by the same name. The opening scene grabbed me right away; it was eerie, suspenseful and full of an uneasiness that hinted at the chain of action-filled events to follow.

Though there are lots of dicey situations and high-stakes drama, the narrator keeps a deadpan sense of humor. His life is constantly at risk, but he is fearlessly compelled to follow the trail of menace that is always just one step ahead of him. He’s cheeky and irreverent, as befits someone in his early-twenties who has no sense of his own mortality.

It wasn’t until I asked Paul if he’d like to share his story behind The Hollow Man series for my Goodreads blog that I learned the hair-raising encounters with terrorists and assassins that feature in his novels are taken from his own adventures in Europe during the early 70s. I was astonished, and it made me enjoy the escapades that much more. I’m halfway through the second book, “London Bridge is Falling Down”, and reading it with a fresh perspective.

It’s my pleasure to share with you the adventures of an accidental undercover agent, spook and fearless champion of law and order. I give you Paul Hollis:

I entered university at the end of 1967 and immediately fell down a rabbit hole into a blossoming subculture rivaling Alice in Wonderland. It was a world of color and light, alternate thinking, and rebellion. Vision quest experiences totally reshaped my reality, figuratively and perhaps a little too literally.

By the summer of 1969, the decade was building toward a historic culmination that would change the world forever in so many unpredictable ways. The Stonewall riots in New York City marked the start of the modern gay rights movement in the U.S. The first U.S. troop withdrawals from Vietnam were under way. Man walked on the moon. Charles Manson and his family came to dinner one night, and stayed. Even the New York Mets were destined to win the World Series.

But a bunch of kids set all of that aside for three days in the middle of August that year. A festival of music and peace took place in upstate New York, mostly unadvertised, and mostly happening without media notice. Woodstock. You all know the story now, but I was there and it’s still imprinted on my brain.

There’s an old saying, “if you remember the ‘60’s, you weren’t there.” But there are some things you never forget. I remember what 19 was like. I remember being hungry, buzzed, and pumped on adrenaline. I was wet and dirty at the same time. We shared what we had and only took what we needed. I remember dancing to the non-stop music permeating it all. What I don’t remember, is another time like that.

So, the stage was set for the end of the best time I ever had. University graduation was on the flats of my horizon and it was time for long delayed decisions. Even though our undeclared war seemed to be slowing its endless advance, surely nothing was set in stone during 1971.

Never thinking more than a day or two in advance, most of my decisions were eventually made for me. As I backed away from war, I inadvertently stepped into the Peace Corp. Who knew I would actually use my college major (Staying-Out-Of-Vietnam)?

They assigned me to an initial tour in Paintsville Kentucky, just off the Cumberland Plateau and a stone’s throw from the Lost World of West Virginia. When I realized they weren’t kidding, I jumped at the unexpected opportunity to visit Africa. Lions and tigers had seemed preferable to dinosaurs, but not by much as it turned out. I found myself knee deep in mud and some kind of animal crap, feeling lost and abandoned at the edge of a rain-soaked crust of ground newly named Tanzania.

Enter another government agency sporting a familiar acronym and a slick tale of do-you-want-to-live-forever? A man in an odd-colored suit offered me unrestricted travel through Europe with an occasional foray into watching, learning, and reporting on terrorist activities. In my defense, it sounded better than what I had at the time.

After three months of hand-to-hand combat and surveillance training, my dream ship ran aground near Munich where I fell overboard, and was immediately over my head. The inspiration for my storylines comes from a series of true incidents that occurred during the early-to-mid-1970’s. The Hollow Man Series traces some of my lesser known experiences traveling in Europe as a young man.

At the time, terrorism was on the rise and I was assigned to learn as much as I could about it. Most early acts of terror were specific, personal and damage was focused on a distinct, definable enemy. But terrorism was beginning to change its face to the familiar, senseless chaos we recognize today. The death of political figures no longer seemed to bother us as much as these new, random attacks against our children. Targets of innocence became preferable to these people because it was the kind of shock and hurt that hit closer to our hearts. The fear inside us grew larger with each incident.
Thus begins The Hollow Man Series…

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