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Out of the West

Out of the West


A compelling work of literary fiction, a war novel that also explores the challenges of peace. A gripping historical adventure, it paints a portrait of courage and love in the fatal shadow of global conflict that has spilled tragically into the twenty-first century.

Author: Kevin Sullivan more info

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Citizens of Nazi-occupied Greece face daily decisions that affect their freedom and their survival. When music teacher Petros intervenes in a dispute between a Greek woman and a German soldier, he and jazz singer Thea are plunged into the brutal world of armed resistance. Ian Chalmers, a British SOE agent, lands in Northern Greece, where he joins Petros’ and Thea’s network. Never fully understanding his Greek collaborators, he forms a deep bond with them. In Scotland after World War 2, Ian is alienated from everyday life until he meets Clare, an up and coming SOE intelligence officer. Surrounded by opportunity and courted by influential mentors, Ian and Clare learn that integrity has to be fought for in peacetime Britain just as in wartime Europe. When Ian undertakes a final mission to Greece, now in the full throes of civil war, the weight of ideology and history descends with sudden force on the small town where former friends and enemies confront one another in a terrifying climax. Out of the West is a compelling work of literary fiction, a war novel that also explores the challenges of peace. A gripping historical adventure, it paints a portrait of courage and love in the fatal shadow of global conflict that has spilled tragically into the twenty-first century.

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What really struck me about this book is how much it reminded me of some of the best literature that has come out of Britain in the last century.

Rupert Wolfe-Murray – Huffington Post UK

The book covers a part of our history that most of us know nothing about – Britain’s role in the Greek World War 2 résistance – and for that reason alone it’s worth reading. It’s also a very satisfying read and I can’t wait for him to write some new fiction about Scotland – a task I am sure he will do brilliantly.

Rupert Wolfe-Murray –


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Historical Note

In 1919, the Government in Athens set out to fulfil a long-standing nationalist aspiration and double the size of the Kingdom of Greece. Advancing into Turkey, which had been defeated in World War One, Greek troops occupied large parts of Anatolia, proclaiming themselves protectors of the Greek communities that had lived there for three millennia. The Greek military behaved with brutality toward Turkish civilians, and when Turkish forces successfully counterattacked in 1922, Greek and Armenian civilians who had not fled were the subject of reprisals.

A population exchange, agreed under international auspices at the Lausanne peace conference, gave the force of law to a process that had already been substantially accomplished by violence. By the end of 1923, one million Orthodox Christians had been expelled from Turkey and half a million Muslims had been expelled from Greece. The members of this Diaspora were neither welcomed nor easily absorbed in their new host countries.

Turkey and Greece were traumatised by the catastrophe for generations.

The Greek Monarchy, closely associated with the Anatolian adventure, collapsed in 1924, to be replaced by the Second Republic. Chronically unstable, the republic in its turn gave way to a restored monarchy in 1935. This regime quickly subsumed itself in the dictatorship of Ioannis Metaxas.

Throughout the ‘30s and ‘40s, feuding republicans and royalists could find common cause only in their hostility toward communism.

Metaxas led the Greeks to victory over the invading Italians in the winter of 1940, but died of natural causes at the height of the campaign. Overcoming spirited resistance, Germany occupied Greece in the spring of 1941.

During the Occupation, monarchists aligned themselves with the National Republican Greek League to fight Nazi rule. The communists formed the Greek People’s Liberation Army, known by its acronym, ELAS (a near homonym with Hellas, Greece). Ioannis Rallis, the collaborationist prime minister, sought to assuage some of the horrors of Hitler’s New Order, but in the end simply presided over an era of famine, massacre, and corruption.

The non-communist and communist resistance devoted much of their energy to fighting one another and when the Germans were at last evicted from Greece in October 1944, the domestic antagonists joined in a full-scale civil war which ended only in 1949, with the victory of a fractious non-communist coalition.


Author Q&A

People can create their own history 

Interview by Emel Gušić Handžić in Novo Vrijeme 

Your first published novel, Out of the West, came out in November 2013. What is it about?

In summary, it’s two love stories set against a background of fighting in the 1940s in Europe. It is set during the World War 2 and during the Greek civil war. I have to say that I am certainly not an authority on Greek history; I haven’t even visited Greece that often and I’m beginning to think maybe that’s a positive thing because in a sense for me it’s a place that exists in the imagination. Also, since the story is set in the 1940s, most people who are alive today are in the same position I am in, i.e. they weren’t there at the time, so for all of us the past is another country.

When I was a student, I hitchhiked across Northern Greece and I remember that that journey had a really strong impression on me. I was interested in this idea, and this is probably connected to Sarajevo, of people who found themselves in a conflict in which they had to participate even though they didn’t want to. So they didn’t choose to be soldiers, they were either forced to do it or were in a position which would have been untenable; and two of the principal Greek characters in Out of the West are reluctant members of the resistance; they didn’t join it by choice, they had no option. Two of the other characters are a British officer who goes to Greece and a woman who works for the war office. The book tries to examine how the people in the U.K. and the people in Greece are both confronting moral issues. It tries to explore the fact that even if you’re not in physical danger, in everyone’s life people have to make moral decisions.

How has living in B&H “inspired” your books?

From my point of view, one of the interesting things about living in B&H has been this issue of how people come to terms with history, particularly when history is foisted upon you. To some extent, my books tend to be exactly about that issue and the thing that interests me is that if you had visited Sarajevo in 1993 or 1994, people didn’t know that the war lasted from 1992-1995. When you’re actually in it, it doesn’t look the same as when you’re looking back on it. Not only is it longer, but you don’t know if it’s ever going to end.

One of the things that I’ve enjoyed doing is trying to reimagine what people thought at the time without the benefit of hindsight and to see how in very dramatic circumstances people do very ordinary things (like getting water or coffee). A lot of my books have been historical novels, but they’re trying to see history as the present tense and it looks different than it does afterwards. A recurring theme in the books has been that the characters are to some extent on an adventure which is a little bit escapist; they’re set in countries other than mine and usually there’s a foreign character, and that character looks at those societies in a fresh way because to him/her they’re very colorful and new.

How did you get the idea for this particular book?

When I left the OHR in 2006 to write books, people said “please don’t write a book about the war in B&H” and I thought “that’s ok”, as I’ve already written a book about that, so I don’t feel the need to do it. All of the books that I’ve written since then have been about different places and they’ve all been set in different time periods, ranging from 1889 to 1960.

I’m now working on my tenth novel and this is the first one that’s been published, so there’s a whole queue of books waiting to come out.