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Der Südgipfel

“Der Südgipfel” (South Summit) tells the story of Jonathan Harringdon, a man around 40, and his parents. When his beloved mother Krystyna dies in a road accident, her solicitor hands Jon a pack of papers concerning his father Richard, who has abruptly left the family when Jon was only three years old. Jon knows almost nothing about his father, but now he learns, among other things, that Richard Harringdon, as a fiery twenty-something, had taken part in the joint Scottish-Welsh Mount Everest expedition of 1955, that Richard and another man had tried to climb the mountain, and that there had been an accident during that unsuccessful attempt. Jon's father barely survived the fall, but escaped with a broken leg, while his climbing partner, a certain Charles McDermott, died on the spot.

Der Südgipfel (cover)So Jon sets out to find Richard, and, with the help of his mother's papers and some good luck, indeed locates him in Kathmandu, in Nepal. Richard, however, is not willing to talk with his son or anyone else about what had happened in 1955, on the mountain and afterwards. In fact, his reaction — as Jon buttonholes him about the events of 1955 — is so emotional and at the same time so weak that Jon is left deeply confused. He can feel that something very upsetting, something that can destroy a man's life, must have happened back then — but what? And why can Richard, a grown man of nearly 70, not talk about these long past experiences, now, today, almost forty years on? Well, whatever his reasons, Richard steadfastly refuses to provide any answers; at least he finally promises to talk about what had happened in 1955… but only in the fullness of time.

Three years later. Jon receives a phone call from Richard in which his father asks him to come to Nepal. He is finally ready and willing to talk about this expedition of 1955, the accident and all that came afterwards. And so Jon, despite recovering from a recent injury, flies to Kathmandu. He meets his father in the Himalayan mountains and while they slowly trek through one of the most amazing landscapes on Earth, Jon hears one of the most amazing stories he will ever listen to. A story that will answer all his questions about what happened all these forty years ago, on the South Summit of Mount Everest, a story that will not only shatter Jon's ideas about his father… but also about himself, about his own identity…

Well, to tell you any more would be unfair:-) and would, of course, destroy the tale. Read it and tell me what you think!

Some technical remarks: writing the first draft (about 350 pages) took me between three to four months which means I wrote around 1500 words a day (German words are slightly longer than English words, so this would be equivalent to almost 2000 words in English). In my view this is the main secret of writing: you simply have to do it, day in, day out, whatever the weather, whatever the mood. One can always go over the rubbish one has written the day before — but for that one has to write something in the first place! Sure, there are other things an author needs — a gift of observation, the ability to hold a complete story in one's head, to name a few —, but all these will come to nothing without simple doggedness. Bob Dylan once wrote that “creativity has much to do with experience, observation and imagination and if any one of those key elements is missing, it doesn't work.” He's right, but he should have included perseverance. Artists are, have to be, dogged people.

Anyway, after the first draft the manuscript went through successive iterations of being read by “beta testers”, altogether around ten people, and being tweaked by me, according to their criticism and comments. This phase required an amazing amount of time: though the substance of the story didn't change a lot, going through a second and then a third draft took me more than six months, longer than the actual writing (so perhaps another virtue an author needs is patience). The novel also grew, as many bells and whistles were added, so that the final draft reached almost 400 pages. But the fruit of all that labour was that the text was more or less published as written: one steamy sex scene was deemed just too steamy by a perhaps over-prudish editor and had to be cut short. But the rest went through almost unchanged.

More about the second volume of the Harringdon saga: Die Glocken von Lhasa.

$updated from: Der Südgipfel.htxt Sat 18 Jan 2014 13:14:23 thomasl (By Thomas Lauer)$