I am delighted to welcome Clár Ní Chonghaile here today talking about her latest (and fourth) novel, No Good Deed. Published September 1st 2023, No Good Deed is described as ‘a thriller and love story set in the Central African Republic’ , which Clár herself visited in 2016 on a reporting trip for the Guardian newspaper.
Clár has written a short personal piece for us here today, as well as sharing an extract and further details about the book, with that all important purchase link below. I do hope you enjoy and thank you for visiting!
“I started writing this book, my fourth novel, just before lockdown began here in the UK in 2020. It was a terrifying time. Suddenly, all the things that used to feed our souls and enrich our lives were dangerous — the very air we breathed was potentially toxic. So I buried myself in my writing but, as any author will tell you, writing a novel is in no way a soothing pastime. And I was more nervous than usual. I had published three novels previously but my publisher seemed underwhelmed by my ideas for a fourth. I made a few false starts — an idea would surface, I’d be fired with enthusiasm and I’d bang out 10,000 words. But then I would be overcome by doubts and I would grind to a soul-crushing halt.
Until I began to hear Aristide talking in my head and then the story — this story — came alive. I had travelled to Central African Republic in 2016 to write articles for The Guardian and I was deeply moved by the children and teenagers I met. What I learned during that trip informed the story I tell in No Good Deed.
I had published my three previous novels with a small, independent publisher but I wanted to try to get an agent with my fourth. And I did. I was elated and off we went on submission. But sadly, my agent was unable to find a home for my book. Several publishers were very complimentary about the story and so I decided to dip my toe into the wild waters of self-publishing. This was a story I really wanted to tell, and so here it is.“
[ About No Good Deed ]
Elodie Harptree comes to war-torn Central African Republic on a mission: she will do good, help former child soldiers and prove that she is not afraid to live and love. Irish doctor PJ Wilcox dismisses her as a naïve tourist but he can’t help feeling protective towards the new arrival.
One day, Elodie meets 14-year-old Aristide Yambissi, who was forced to fight with a militia after his village was attacked, and she resolves to save him from the streets and from his demons.
But her blind inexperience and her relationship with a French mercenary with dubious connections will endanger them all, raising the question of whether anyone can ever save anyone else.
[ Extract ]
Elodie presses her nose to the window, taking in every detail as the plane comes in to land: squat buildings pasted like postage stamps on the red earth; a few tarmacked roads, heading straight as arrows into the bush; a long brick building with a wooden cross on top; people crowding a market of rickety stalls with torn canvas covers flapping in the wind; a stretch of scrubby wasteland; and a barbed wire fence. Soon, she feels the reassuring judder of the wheels touching down. A few people clap and there’s a single cheer, high and reedy. Elodie wants to cheer too — she’s done it, she’s made it to Africa — but she makes do with straightening up and rolling her shoulders, her eyes fixed firmly on the window. She doesn’t want Thierry with his French nonchalance to see how excited she is. She tries not to wonder why this is. After all, she’ll probably never see him again. Bangui can’t be that small, surely?
She’s just beginning to wonder why they aren’t slowing down when Thierry reaches across the seat, shoves her head towards her knees and yells, “Brace! Brace now! We’re going to crash”.
As Elodie’s head slams into her legs, the plane swerves violently. Some of the overhead baggage compartments snap open, spewing bags into the aisle and onto the passengers. The cabin fills with noise: the crack of broken glass, the thunk of suitcases hitting heads, gasps and screams, a persistent beeping. Elodie doesn’t make a sound because her eyes are squeezed shut and she’s too terrified to breathe. Her heart is racing, just as it did when her red-eyed, ripped-to-shreds mother finally managed to squeeze out the words: “He’s dead. Daddy’s dead.” This cannot be happening, she thinks. Of course, it can, replies the dour voice that has squatted in her soul since that day.
The plane jerks, spasms and tilts to the right. Elodie fears they will never stop, they will keep going until they smash through time into a parallel universe where nothing will be the same. The plane tilts again and the terrifying sound of metal scraping the runway fills the cabin, along with a sharp, chemical smell.
“Merde,” Thierry says from somewhere close by. “The wing’s on fire. We’re going to have to get out. Fast. Be ready. Do not fall behind.”
Thierry’s knowing tone is gone. And that, perhaps, is the scariest thing of all.
And then the plane stops. It’s tilted on its right side, shaking like a child brought up short at a busy road, legs trembling, body arched forward. For a second, there is total silence. Elodie opens her eyes and sits up. Oxygen masks dangle from the ceiling. She hears a far-off wailing; she smells smoke. Then, as if on cue, everyone starts to shout and scream.
Thierry is already unbuckling his seat belt.
“Let’s go! Now! Allez!”
Elodie fumbles with her own belt but by the time her shaking fingers have freed the lock, the tilted aisle is full of frantic people, trying to haul their way to the front. She stands up too fast, smashing her head on the overhead bin. Where is Thierry? The aisle is blocked and she can’t tell if the door at the front is open. She bends to the window and peers out.
The plane seems to have come to a halt in the middle of a refugee camp. It’s surrounded by makeshift tents cobbled together out of cardboard and tarps, blankets and bricks and sheets of corrugated iron. She can see lines of washing and piles of yellow jerry cans. Just metres away, in a small, litter-strewn clearing, a heavy-bottomed pot steams over a low fire. A man sits at a Singer sewing machine outside a tent. He seems to be staring right at her.
Purchase Link – No Good Deed
[ Bio ]
Irish author Clár Ní Chonghaile grew up in An Spidéal, County Galway before leaving after college to join Reuters in London as a trainee journalist. Clár has been a reporter and editor for over 30 years, living and working in Spain, France, Ivory Coast, Senegal and Kenya.
She now lives in St Albans with her husband David, daughters Lucy and Rachel, and golden retriever Simba. Her previous works include Fractured (2016), Rain Falls on Everyone (2017) and The Reckoning (2018).
X (Twitter) ~ @clarnic
Website ~ https://clarnichonghaile.wordpress.com/