Sunday, December 9, 2018

Book Review: 'A Basque Story' by M. Bryce Ternet

A Basque Story by M. Bryce Ternet

‘The plan was for all of them to be separately moved out of the country.’

Indiana-born Idaho author M. Bryce Ternet has experienced many climes, having lived in Montana, Paris, the French Basque Country, Burgundy, Chicago, Washington state, Washington DC, and on California's Monterey Peninsula: food for many stories. His degrees are in Political Science and French and a Master's degree in International Environmental Policy. Bryce’s genres reflect his global exposure – he writes historical fiction, thrillers, paranormal stories, psychological themes, and reflections on contemporary society, travelogues as well as articles on food and wine!

A BASQUE STORY is Bryce’s initial Basque tale – his first was THE BASQUE DILEMMA – and his focus is both history and fiction-as-novel. Bryce’s background serves him well for this ‘assignment’, both because of his political science training and the fact that he lived in the Basque Country. For those unfamiliar with his subject matter, the synopsis clarifies: ‘A prominent Basque-American politician is murdered in San Francisco. The politician criticized Basque separatist group Euskadi ta Askatasuna’s violent campaign for an independent Basque Country in Northwestern Spain and Southwestern France. With suspicion of ETA involvement, the first of its kind in the U.S., a seasoned FBI agent and a young CIA analyst are partnered together. The mismatched duo is led to the Basque Country, encountering the mystery and uniqueness of Basque culture, and a new generation of Basque nationalists.

With such fine credentials and sensitivity it is a pleasure to discover that Bryce couples his experiences with a keen talent for writing. He opens this compelling book in San Francisco with the following – ‘Raindrops streamed off the darkened rooftops overhead onto the people below as they stared down at the still, lifeless body. Their black ski masks were now rolled up above their eyes, resting high on their foreheads. Water dripped from their faces. It ran down their bodies onto the pavement where it diluted the puddle of blood forming in the center of the dark alley into a crimson colored mix. The blood blackened water channeled through cracks in the concrete. It formed a thin stream, gently flowing in the center of the alley between the buildings. Captured in a silent flow, the water slowly moved to an unseen end somewhere off in the distance. Waves of fog moved in, surrounding the scene. They gazed in terrible fascination upon the death they had administered. No one spoke, each feeling something different. The realization hit them that this man would never speak again. This father would never see his children again. This husband would never see his wife again. Yet, of foremost importance to those surrounding the body was the fact that this traitor would never turn his back on his people again. One shivered as a thick cloud of fog moved through the alley and appeared to swallow the five bodies. The one with longer hair than the others fiddled with the hair coming out of a ponytail that jutted from the back of a ski mask. This one interrupted the solemnity of the moment by reaching up to pull loose strands back into place. The shortest of the group kept shifting weight from leg to leg like a pendulum. Nervously, the one who shivered darted his eyes into the wall of fog engulfing them. The only thing that could be made out was a large dumpster a little ways from them that, for some unknown reason, seemed out of place. Probably because it was large and permanent, while everything else about the situation was not. The eerie, unreal atmosphere made the group feel they were almost invisible until suddenly the silence was broken as words, spoken in an ancient language, pierced through the thick damp air. A voice boomed from one who stood taller than the rest. This deep voice came from the member of the group who had a face with a strong chin, thick eyebrows, and a small wispy moustache. He told them they should feel proud of what they had done. No longer would this country ignore them. His words assured them they had done a great deed for their people and their homeland...’

In bringing the ongoing controversy into the present Bryce creates credible figures and an ‘at scene’ journalistic approach while never forgetting that this is a novel. Violent, raw and at all times riveting, it is evident we are in the presence of an important American writer who manages to lock us into his fine story and while being placed in the suspense mode, allows us to appreciate quality prose. Highly Recommended. 

Editor's note: This review has been published with the permission of Grady Harp. Like what you read? Subscribe to the SFRB's free daily email notice so you can be up-to-date on our latest articles. Scroll up this page to the sign-up field on your right.

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