Please tell us a bit about yourself…
Hi. My name is Paul Alkazraji. I worked as a freelance journalist in the UK from the mid-nineties after training with the LSJ. My articles were published in Christianity magazine, The Christian Herald, The Church Times, The Baptist Times and quite a few other publications. I often wrote features on arts and entertainments, interviewing people like Nick Park (who needs no introduction), Hans Segers the Wolves goalie, and musicians like Sixpence None The Richer and Bruce Cockburn. I also wrote travel articles for The Independent.
My first book, Love Changes Everything, was a collection of seven testimonies published by Scripture Union in 2001. My second book, Heart of a Hooligan, a biography of ex-football hooligan Dave Jeal, was published by Highland Books in 2000. My third book Christ and the Kalashnikov, a biography of missionary Ian Loring, was published by Harper Collins/Zondervan in 2001. From 2004 to 2010 I was the editor and publisher of a magazine for Albanian Christians, Ujëvarë, in Albania, where I live and serve with the local church.
Paul’s previous books: Love Changes Everything, Heart of a Hooligan & Christ and the Kalashnikov
What inspired you to write your latest book?
I’d had the idea of writing a thriller with a ‘slowly approaching danger’ for some years, but when I read into recent incidents of the persecution of the church in Turkey, it anchored the story in that context more. Whilst living and working in Albania, I began to feel in a new way that there were people not dissimilar to myself, nearby, facing grave dangers. The book gives some account of true events in Turkey, but it is a story that could I think have come similarly from numerous other countries. Then I set about looking at how the main character and others around him might deal emotionally and spiritually with facing such frightening realities.
What is the book about?
The Silencer: Publishing in the Balkans can be deadly
The book, titled The Silencer, is about the main character Jude Kilburn’s attempt to publish a book, a Christian testimony of an Albanian man once set on revenge, and whether Jude will make it against setbacks and, as I mentioned above, a danger that is approaching him with deadly intentions. It is a story too of spiritual battle, of how seeds of an evil act grow in a wounded man who gives the devil leverage to be used by him. More importantly, though, it shows how a single act done in the service of the Gospel can, if seen through to the end despite all opposition, impact lives with ripples of goodness.
Can we guess the ending?
I hope that as the plot unfolds there is a sense of events not being pre-determined, and of how in the midst of them outcomes can turn on prayer.
Who is your target readership?
The characters in the story, two missionaries, are very clearly committed believers, and there is I think an assumption of sympathy with all that they are about. They are, nevertheless, put under stress so their flaws come out to mix in with their eccentricities (eccentricity making for good characterisation). Their faith is very much in their hearts and minds as they face severe trials during foreign mission field service. Many Christian readers will, I think, feel that they are among friends with Jude and Alex Kilburn. That said, if others do not feel antipathy towards their objectives, they will find themselves too drawn into a real thriller that takes them through a very vivid experience as the tension mounts into the story.
What are your hopes for the book?
I do hope that it will be enjoyed and appreciated as a good work of Christian fiction. I hope that readers may find in it the moments of fun I intended it to have, and find the insights into the lives of others who live in the Balkans intriguing. I hope ultimately readers might be inspired to take the risks of His service themselves — and that they might lose a little precious sleep because they can’t put it down.
Do you have any plans for a sequel? If so, please tell us a bit about it.
I have been looking over the border to recent events in Greece and finding a rich source of human drama… So, yes, I do. And I am just a few months away from starting it.