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Jonathan, a confused mathematical genius and skilled computer hacker with a potentially bright future, wakes up to realise his life has fast spun out of control. He finds himself in the brutally real world of Rooksdown Lodge, a secure psychiatric unit. He instantly bonds with fellow patient, the charismatic and vulnerable Hal. As retribution for Hal’s suffering, Jonathan hacks into the computer system of MI6, where Hal’s uncaring father works. In the chaos that ensues, Jonathan discovers more about human nature than he bargains for and finds himself on a rollercoaster ride of self-discovery.
Told through the eyes of an older and wiser Jonathan, who returns to the hospital by chance twenty years later, We Don’t Grow on Trees is a story narrated with honesty, humour and pathos. You will be taken on a journey from stark hospital wards, to the upmarket streets of London, to high drama in Middle East and back again. This unique and exciting thriller-with-a-message from Henry Neild, written in the author’s inimitable documentary style, is not only a survivor’s tale but it also speaks to us clearly about the frailty of the human condition.
About the Author
Born in Jerusalem in 1965, author Henry Neild was brought up in several war-torn famine-struck countries. As an adult, he has lived and worked in countries as diverse as America, Malawi, Switzerland and Lebanon, and currently lives in Lisbon, Portugal. He travels with his Patterdale terrier, Mister Bonaparte, and has two children, Shea, aged 24, and Isabella, aged 11.
Having turned his back on formal education at 16, Henry completed two courses in France and entered the film business aged 17, working night shifts in Soho for Rank Video Services. Within two years, he was working as a freelance Film Location Manager (credits include a Working Title film ‘Paperhouse’), aged only 20. In 1988, he joined forces with Fierce Vision in Wapping, innovating the commercial uses for video within the fashion industry. Finding himself caught up in the Bosnian war while filming a pilot that retraces the steps of the first Crusaders, he was soon back in recession-hit England. He was next researching further documentaries, travelling the south and south-west counties with a horse and cart.
In the early Nineties, after a year on the road, Henry worked on dozens of music videos for bands such as Oasis, Pulp, Moby, Phil Collins and Boyzone and then took himself back to college, where he studied Agricultural Business and Finance. This led to working in Africa, where, amongst other things, he grew tobacco for Malawi’s then dictator, Kamuzu Banda. Henry went on to become a rural property developer and wine exporter in South Africa and then spent four years setting up an innovative web-based conduit for commercial property owners and filmmakers in the UK.
Henry has written a huge number of scripts for Fierce Vision and Sky Travel, as well as articles for magazines including Hampshire Life, Flybe and Society. He has also produced a series of concept poetry albums with Hugh Vickers of The Orb.
Henry’s interests include walking the droves of England, gardening, cooking and horseracing. He is a keen tennis player and ocean swimmer.
We Don’t Grow on Trees is Henry’s third novel.
Fifteen minutes later David Manningham, ‘C’ Director of SIS, MI6, was staring out through the helicopter window as it whipped him over the Thames, gunning towards London. He could see pleasure boats on the water below, ferrying passengers through locks, and motor cruisers passing under traffic-laden bridges. He could see sweeping lawns leading down to the river’s bank, fringed in vast billowy willow trees. Millionaires’ manicured riverside gardens, one after the other, were laid out below. Quintessential, genteel images of the English Home Counties displayed in perfect order. You could only appreciate this scene from above. On ground level all was fenced, hedged and out of sight. As the craft entered urbanisation proper David Manningham’s attention averted from towerblocks to his mobile phone screen. He scrolled and began to read his PA’s perplexing report on the first new drama of the week and shook his head with incredulity.
Thirty-five minutes later he entered the hi-tech boardroom to be greeted by his senior management team.
‘Morning, everyone,’ he said, sitting down. He ignored all pleasantries. ‘First things first. From what I understand we’ve received a very bizarre video clip through CIA’s most secret communication channel showing three characters, with British accents – now don’t laugh – wearing monkey masks and acting out some sort of play. Look, stop sniggering everyone, this is serious. Is this correct, Q?’
‘Yes, sir. It is, I’ve seen it. It’s a fifteen-second insert that must have been transmitted at precisely midnight in Virginia. All CIA information comes directly to us here at Vauxhall from a NASA-controlled satellite, Challenger. There is no possible interference our end. The compromise…’
‘You mean hack?’ Manningham interrupted.
‘That sounds the most credible explanation, yes, sir.’
‘The clip of video footage has come to us directly from the NASA satellite, no question about that. There is no relay whatsoever in between our dishes and Challenger. Just thousands of miles of air. Our dishes on this roof receive the information directly from that satellite. The CIA transmit information up to the satellite from their servers in Canaveral, Florida. I assume that whoever has sent this transcribe, which we presume are British nationals, interjected this footage at that point. That is the only accessible point. I can’t believe there to be any possible breach-points between Florida and here. These are my primary assumptions.’
‘How sure can we be that it wasn’t our systems that were at fault?’
‘That is one hundred percent, sir.’
‘Double-check that for me, and then put it in writing, will you? I want you to categorically assure me that what we are about to see was received directly from the satellite, with no possible interferences from our end. Is that correct?’
‘Okay, good. Let’s view this nonsense. Lynne, roll it.’
With that they all turned to a large plasma screen behind their director. After half a minute of darkness the light reverted to full brightness.
‘Jeepers creepers, where is Richard?’
‘He’s in the field, sir, in Beirut, running the Syrian operation.’
After a moment of silence Manningham said, ‘Okay, everyone, give me ten minutes and then we’l get on with the other business of the day.’ Before David left the room he turned to everyone present in turn. ‘When I come back, Q, I want you to have found out whether there is any way we can trace who did this. Brian? You look into it too. What we can see is that there are three males and one female, white Brits, in their twenties, wouldn’t you say? They’re in some sort of British-style school room. Get onto it, all of you, and find out where it was recorded and who the hell these individuals are. Lynne – get Burt Schneider on the phone for me, and recall Richard; he’s been compromised whatever happens. Has anyone got any immediate opinions on this before I go?’
‘Well, my opinion, for what it’s worth, sir,’ said Rufus, one of the team, ‘is that it sounds like British Muslim extremists, sent through Fatah, sending us a coded warning about Richard Reed in Syria.’
‘Don’t, for Christ sake, get caught up in conspiracy theories at this stage. Keep an open mind. Thank you, ladies and gentlemen.’
A few minutes later, David was on the phone. ‘Burt, it’s David in London. So sorry to have to call you at this time of the night. Are you aware about the compromise that’s occurred this morning with Challenger’s satellite transmission?’
‘Yeah, I got a call an hour ago,’ Burt Schneider said blearily. ‘There was interference with data transfer and you guys received some unsolicited information, but we don’t know what. We are just checking it wasn’t a technical fault, that’s all. Whadda’you know?’
‘It’s serious, Burt, your satellite and computing systems have been hacked into. We received a cryptic fifteen-second video clip of some kids in monkey masks, naming our main operative in the Middle East on it! I am going to send it through to you now via email. You must shut the satellite down, though, immediately. Your system is flawed at the very least.’