Troubador The Tin Heart Gold Mine

Released: 28/01/2017

ISBN: 9781785898761

eISBN: 9781785898143

Format: Paperback/eBook

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The Tin Heart Gold Mine


Heart of Darkness and Lust for Life collide as the Cold War in Africa gets hot. Lara, the artist, loves both Oscar, a suave, older entrepreneur, and owner of the Tin Heart Gold Mine and Tim, a journalist seeking truth. This is a dramatic story, about vibrant, intriguing characters passionate about art, love, the making of money and the African bush, whose lives become entangled in war and politics. How well do we ever know the people we love? The Tin Heart Gold Mine opens in 1985 with Lara and Oscar, lovers in the wilderness of Chambeshi, surrounded by beauty and hidden danger. It immediately switches to London in 1988, where Lara’s past love for Oscar is threatening her marriage to Tim. He leaves for Africa on a journalistic assignment, furious because Oscar has left Lara valuable paintings. It is possible that Oscar, not Tim, may be the father of Lara’s son – but Tim wants to be his sole provider. A traumatized Lara starts therapy. How has her passionate commitment to art trapped her in this situation? Lara began her career as a wildlife artist in Chambeshi where she met Tim and Oscar at her art exhibition. Tim and Lara become friends, whilst Oscar commissions art from her and promises employment at the Tin Heart Gold Mine. Lara is fascinated and curious about Oscar. They become lovers. Lara finds first-hand how colonialism and the Cold War are causing civil war in Chambeshi. Tim’s investigations into Oscar’s work make him distrust the man and his political ambitions, and he tries to warn Lara. Neither knows how dark and deep Oscar’s plan for his survival is, where it will lead or the violence that Lara will have to physically endure at Oscar’s hands... The Tin Heart Gold Mine is a fast-moving novel, providing an intense portrayal of an artist’s life in London and painting the landscape and politics of an African country in colourful and truthful detail. It will appeal to fans of contemporary fiction, as well as those who enjoyed Ruth’s first novel, The Shaping of Water.

The Tin Heart Gold Mine is the story of Lara, a young and gifted wildlife artist. She lives and works in Chambeshi, a fictional African country whose increasing destabilisation by the Cold War results in riots and a coup attempt. Success has come early for Lara but she is not satisfied. She wants to understand the true measure of artistic worth.
At an exhibition of her work she meets two very different men who have an enormous influence on her. Tim, an investigative journalist, becomes her friend. Oscar offers to make her rich by promoting her art. Lara likes Tim but is attracted to Oscar, who owns the small and unproductive Tin Heart gold mine yet is surprisingly wealthy and powerful. She wants love but how easy is it to tell the difference between love and sex in a new relationship? Does her thirst for success make her susceptible to Oscar even if his past and the source of his money are shrouded in mystery?

The story begins in London several years after Lara has left Chambeshi. Tim is leaving Lara and her son Adam to return to Africa. He is furious because Lara has received a legacy from Oscar, now apparently dead. As the past unburies itself Lara collapses into depression. Will she be able to survive all the betrayals of her past?

My life in Zambia gave me great respect for its people and a love for its wilderness, its wild animals and its natural beauty. I feel however that there is a real lack of stories set in the period that I lived there. It was a time full of confusion and conflict and as the colonial era came to an end it struggled with the fallout from the Cold War and problems of lack of development. That provided me with the political and historical background. I had also met many interesting and varied people who were passionate about Africa. Some of them may not have been good or altruistic but they were always surprising and often courageous. All these things inspired me to write The Tin Heart Gold Mine.
The “Tin Heart Gold Mine” had almost as long a gestation period as my first published book “The Shaping of Water”.
The idea for it came to me while visiting a safari camp near a defunct copper mine some 26 years ago. It was an extraordinary site – an ugly gash in the bush hundreds of kilometres from anywhere. It recalled all those tales of old explorers and gold-hunters who made punishing and dangerous journeys into the wilderness in the forlorn hope of becoming wealthy and ended up trapped by their dreams. My own father and his younger brother had searched for gold on the rough hillside above their farm when they were only teenagers. They got their African farm labourers to dig pits in the rocky ground of the kopje. Each pit was as long and deep as a grave and, as they were never filled in, they became deadly traps for unwary animals and walkers in the bush. As a child I understood the fascination and the unfulfilled promises of gold. I remember the bellows of cattle dying from accidental cyanide poisoning from the mine dump at a tiny mine close to our farmstead. My father had worked on the isolated Phoenix goldmine during the 1930s depression; moreover I had an alcoholic aunt with a blasting licence for a gold mine. I understood the greed that grows out of desperation and deprivation.
I wanted to write a new version of Kurtz, the exploitative colonial villain in Joseph Conrad's “Heart of Darkness” but I also wanted a female protagonist who was driven into danger by her passion for art and sex. Moreover I wanted to write of the beauty, the fragility and the strength of the African wilderness. I had grown tired of the racist scenario which white Europeans used to attribute the failures and political instability in developing countries to Africa and Africans alone. European wars and imperial ambitions had impacted on the continent for 100s of years, as Joseph Conrad's book shows. Readers too often imagine that the dark heart is African while in fact it is the heart of Mr. Kurtz that is black. Independence did not put an end to neo-colonial interference in Africa. That was one input into this story. Colonialism leads to wars but the people displaced after European wars first became economic migrants and then neo-colonialists. Neither always from choice.

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Ruth Hartley

Artist, Activist, Author: Storyteller

I write and paint because I am a storyteller. I have always made stories, though at times I’ve been lost for direction, identity and method. I paint to explore and share ideas and feelings.

I spent my childhood and school-days in Zimbabwe.

In South Africa, I studied at Cape Town’s Michaelis School of Art and learnt politics in Natal.

In the sixties I escaped South Africa with my first child to seek asylum in liberating London.

In the seventies, I became a mother, wife and feminist in England.

From the mid-seventies to the early nineties, I was an expatriate economic migrant, working in Zambia as a teacher and art gallery director. It was a challenging time of political upheaval and change.

Later in the nineties after a difficult marriage and painful divorce, I returned to work and study in East Anglia.

In 2002 I met my new partner John and we have travelled widely together, eventually spending a year exploring 27 European countries in a motorhome.

In 2009 John and I settled in a rural village in South-West France and we began the process of turning a small cottage and its paddock into a home with a fruitful garden.

In my art and my writing, I can draw on my own stories and those of the fascinating and extraordinary people I’ve met. My stories explore connections, conflict, creativity and communication.

Ruth Hartley in her home

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