A Cold War Hippy romance...
On a visit to Istanbul in 2016, standing in Sultanahmet Square, I reminisced on what it had been like in 1968 when I first saw it: a sleepy, untouristy historical park surrounded by hippy microbuses.
That same day the reminiscence came to life as if in a video, characters appeared and began to act, and I wrote it all down. Two weeks later, when I left Istanbul, I had 30,000 words of a novel, now entitled Istanbul Love Bus.
That novel, now 80,000 words (282 pages), takes place in Turkey—mostly Istanbul and Edirne:
Flora, a beautiful hippy artist from California (you’ve met her briefly in Paris Girls Secret Society) meets Julien, a young French sculptor in Paris.
They run away to Istanbul, meet other hippies, and set out for Kathmandu, but destiny has other plans for them.
Bruce, a graduate student waiting to be drafted for Vietnam, meets Sarah, a US Peace Corps teacher in Istanbul, and together they encounter Nur Baba, a Sufi Hurufî mystic with the ability to read people’s destiny in their faces.
Meanwhile, a Cold War drama is taking place under cover that could result in the total destruction of one of the world’s greatest works of art….
“Aman!” Ahmet Kamanbay gasped.
He pushed a button on the armrest of his car door, it swung open, and he scrambled from his limousine to stare at the cataclysm.
People close to the explosion ran from it in terror, those farther away gaped in shock.
Kamanbay’s face was stung by the heat of the inferno sweeping down from the Selimiye Mosque, the greatest masterpiece of Ottoman architecture.
Two hundred meters away, as the driver of a Mercedes sedan stared in shock at the fireball, a tall blonde woman sitting in the back lunged forward and grabbed with both hands for the pistol on the front seat. The driver whipped his head around toward her and she jerked her left elbow violently into his face. When he opened his throbbing eyes he was staring into the muzzle of the gun.
“Let me out!” she screamed.
The driver pushed a button. Click. The woman swung open the left rear door and leapt out. Pistol in both hands still pointing at his head, she shrieked “GO!”
Tires screeched. The car sped away.
She stood on the street corner and stared up the hill at the inferno, staggering backward as an even bigger explosion shot a gigantic mass of smoke and flame into the sky.
In the Soviet Russian Consulate-General in Istanbul, 240 kilometers to the east, GRU Lieutenant Colonel Boryana Zimanskieva glanced at the clock on her office wall, took a long pull on her cigarette, and smiled. November 14, 1968, she thought. A good day. A day to remember.
A day of victory!