The Evolution of Fear – Guest Post by Paul Hardisty

Paul Hardisty, the author of The Evolution of Fear, has stopped by the blog today to share a guest post telling us a little about his book as well as talking about fear and how it influences us. His book was published on 31st March by Orenda Books and you can order a copy here: The Evolution of Fear.

Killing Off Our Fears

The Evolution of Fear is the sequel to the CWA Creasy New Dagger award short-listed The Abrupt Physics of Dying.  At the start of the book, Claymore Straker is a fugitive, hiding out on the north Cornwall coast in a safe house once used by South Africa’s DCC (Department of Covert Collection).  During the Apartheid years, the DCC gathered intelligence overseas, and aided in the procurement of weapons and equipment vital to the war effort against the communist insurgency and the black population.  Straker, wanted for killing a man in London, has been holed up for over two months.   Alone, fear comes, dark and wild as the storms coming in off the Irish Sea.  

There is a price on his head, and assassins are closing in. The woman he loves is out there somewhere, and those who want Clay dead are after her, too. Every day that goes by tightens down another bolt of doubt in his mind. He needs to find her. Together they can disappear, leave the world behind. That was their plan before they were driven apart. Finally, he cracks.  He breaks cover and goes into a nearby village and makes a call. Just one.

That call is the trigger that sends Clay hurtling through storm-swept seas, across Europe and finally to Cyprus, where his worst fears are eclipsed. 

Shakespeare’s instruments of darkness do indeed tell us truths. Faced with our worst nightmares made real, how do we cope? Do we betray ourselves, abandon our principles and goals, as Hamlet suggests?  Does our instinct for self-preservation, driven by the imperative of evolution, prevent us from confronting our fears?  Or can evolution itself compel us to risk self-sacrifice for the outcome we desire? The effect of fear on our individual capacity to act is a central theme of the book. So too, is the obverse: the use of fear as an instrument of control and manipulation.  

The widespread institutionalised use of fear by governments and organisations of all kinds – through the explicit threat of violence and economic hardship, or by the more subtle use of peer pressure and propaganda – is a defining feature of our time.  Stephen Biko, the South African activist, once said: “the most potent weapon of the oppressor is the mind of the oppressed.”  As a young soldier in the Border War in Southwest Africa in the early 1980’s, Claymore Straker was an unwitting victim of exactly this kind of mass manipulation. And now, a decade later, still scarred by those experiences, he must overcome his fears to do what is right, not only for himself and the woman he loves, but for an entire species being pushed to the brink of extinction.

John Stuart Mill, the 19th Century English Philosopher, said:  “A person may cause evil to others not only by his actions but by his inaction, and in either case he is justly accountable to them for the injury.” The Evolution of Fear is a thriller. I have tried to write it first and foremost as entertainment, with plenty or twists and switchbacks to keep the reader guessing right until the end.  But within, I also wanted to invite the reader to think about how fear governs our choices – that essential question we have all asked ourselves at some point: what are you afraid of? Are those fears which prevent us from taking the action we know is right born of our own imaginations and weaknesses, or are they imposed upon us by others, to make us do their bidding, make us compliant? Or, more likely, is it a combination of both – others cleverly manipulating our own intrinsic fears to produce in us the inaction they desire.  Clay Straker is not a superhero.  He is not a master spy for MI6 or the CIA.  He is not an SAS or Navy Seal operative. He is an average guy trying to make his way through life, doing his best to kill off his fears and the scars of his past to do the right thing. Sound familiar?

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