Many authors are practiced at speaking about their books, but it isn’t often that we are treated to the particularly dulcet tones of professional broadcasters in store. On Friday the 21st of June, though, Unity Books Wellington was packed out in anticipation of our event for Phil Kafcaloudes’ debut novel Someone Else’s War. After an effusive (and at times frank) introduction from Geoff Robinson, Phil provided some backstory to the novel. Someone Else’s War is a fictionalized account of Olga Stambolis’ experiences as a spy in the Second World War – Olga being Phil’s own grandmother.
Phil prefaced his talk by commenting that throwing out a casual mention of ‘my grandmother the spy’ on dates (in his pre-wedded days) was always a good technique to pique interest – but went on to say that it took many, many mentions of ‘you really ought to write her story’ from all sorts of people before he finally decided to make it happen. He went on to explain some of the rationalization behind writing a fictionalized version, rather than sticking with a biography – pinning down the precise ‘truth’ when dealing with various different versions of Olga’s story from various relatives proved to be a key difficulty.
Not only was the book given the Geoff Robinson seal of approval, but Phil also shared stories of the positive responses from other readers, and as any broadcaster worth his airtime would, he kept the audience engrossed right until the last questions were answered. He may be known for his radio presence, but he certainly earned himself a few new fans of his literary work while he was with us – and if his website is to be believed, a sequel is in the works, so Olga’s story will live on yet longer.
Reviewed by Briar Lawry, all photos © Matt Bialostocki.