January 26th, Toronto.
Historical fiction, as a literary genre, provides great opportunity for the author to set the plot in times that give it the most effect. I am convinced that I found the right settings with The Traveler - the story starts in Geneva with the first snowfall of 1992, and ends with the last snow before the spring of 1993 in Ottawa, when it covers all the dirt and the sins, and makes the world white and innocent again.
Even more importantly, the book is set in a moment in history that is still not studied enough and not understood very well, perhaps because it is so recent.
To have a picture of what happened in Europe at that time, one needs to go back to the Yalta Conference that took place in February of 1945 and defined the shape of post-Nazi Europe. The reality of the world was clear to the participants signing the documents – Churchill, Roosevelt and Stalin, and they made mostly good decisions.
As far as peace treaties go, this one was actually not a bad one – the order it established held until late 1980s.
By that time the countries of Eastern Europe were becoming more and more unstable politically, and the Russians decided that instead of fighting it, it’s better to control the transformation of the Eastern bloc into democracies.
As it turned out, it was a great move.
They approached the Americans with this idea, and, after a series of meetings of the heads of both states in Geneva, then in Reykjavik, Washington, Moscow, and finally the American president George Bush met with Mikhail Gorbatchev on the aircraft carrier off the cost of Malta - the new European geopolitical order was hammered out and finalized.
Welcome to the 1990’s!
What happened next is without precedence in the history of the human race – the Russian armed forces withdrew from Eastern Europe in a move that was the biggest retreat ever of an army not defeated in war.
The Traveler starts soon thereafter, in a Europe that was changing rapidly, and hardly any country was unaffected by the flow of events. Certainly not Switzerland, where we see the protagonist, Thomas Miller for the first time.
So now for the obvious question – why does it all end in Ottawa?
That is for you to find out, and I hope that you are going to like the journey the book will take you on.
Tom Kubiak is the author of The Traveler