A Memory of Lies – Johnnie Gallop
INSPIRED BY TRUE EVENTS
“A rattling good story, gripping and vivid” – Caradoc King (Director of literary agency A P Watt, of United Agents as of 2012)
A story of family love; a dynastic epic in a Russian tradition. Across five decades, they weave a path for survival through the moral maze of war-torn Europe and emerging Africa.
A Memory Of Lies is Johnnie Gallop’s debut novel, and though primarily a work of fiction, the story is inspired by real events, drawing influence from Pasternak’s ‘Zhivago’, Archer’s ‘Kane and Abel’, Makine’s ‘A Life’s Music’, and Orwell’s ‘Down and Out in Paris and London’.
The story tracks the journey of the narrators, Pasha and Tanya Zayky, travelling westward through Europe from a war-torn Berlin, with their daughter Sophia, to arrive in 1946 post-war London, extending to being confronted by the Mau Mau emergency in Kenya, and experiencing the fall of Communism in Moscow in the 1990s through the eyes of their grandson Misha. It is a powerful saga with a softness of tone, interpreting the amalgamation of struggle and the consequences of stolen truths on subsequent generations. The Zayky’s are continuously confronted with a moral maze of the greatest magnitude and as you navigate their story with them, you will learn just how an instinct to survive blends with love, morality and family.
It is an account that weaves significant historical events where in the end, you are left considering how the presentation of history morphs over time.
How many ‘true’ memories are merely lies?
About the Author
Johnnie Gallop is married with daughters and a step son, and like many families, revel in telling stories of generations, usually over lingering and satisfying suppers all together (wine and cheese, obviously).
Born and raised in a south London suburb, Johnnie is the only child of a carpenter through his father and a school cleaner through his mother. A close family unit, one that has extended to his own.
He is a lover of history, the books most of all, and revels in the memory of trawling through the library where his mother worked to immerse himself in Britain’s past and beyond: “I imagined myself with Alfred as he fought the Vikings or alongside Scott on his ill-fated, yet heroic, final journey.”
After completing his A-Levels, Johnnie took to University to study economic history, but after his thirty-two-year professional career of banking work. Where a historian seeks coherent explanations for the past, beyond this ideology Johnnie found human experience to exist within an indecipherable amalgam of events, and so his education taught him that where contextual bias lies in the dogma of the present, or how contemporary economic theory attempted to explain the present, it wasn’t for him. After vacating his university degree course, Johnnie birthed ‘A Memory Of Lies‘.
Visit www.johnniegallop.com to learn more and to hear Johnnie interviewed by Steve Yabsley (reporter, presenter and producer) on BBC Bristol – June 2019.
Excerpt from Chapter 2 TANYA ZAYKY. January to April 1945, Salzgitter, Germany
The troop train had also, by now, been prepared. The locomotive had reappeared fully fuelled and watered and was finally backed up and coupled to the front of the passenger coaches, packed full with soldiers, police and gestapo, along with all their rifles and pistols. It set off.
And then, at about midday, the air-raid siren went off. Nothing unusual in that, but pretty soon the anti-aircraft guns fired up and the whole deafening cacophony started. At least it drowned out the cries from the cattle train – God forgive me. Despite the sirens and the anti-aircraft fire everybody carried on with their work. I could see Pasha down by the train with his book and pencil ticking off the numbers as the SS guards called them out and then pushing the final poor souls into the already crammed wagons.
But then a plane flew overhead; we all craned our necks to look upward through the windows of the signal box. An American bomber, much lower than usual, and then another. The anti-aircraft firing was blasting all round the sky. Then in the distance a third plane. It flew past us but this time the noise of the engines and the firing was joined by another sound – a whistle, which grew to a wail, and then finally to a scream.
‘Bomb! Take cover!’ We threw ourselves to the floor as a huge explosion erupted outside – all the windows of the box were covered in blast tape arranged in diamond patterns, but they shattered anyway.
‘Pasha!’ I jumped up, but the signal controller was next to me. A large man, he also jumped up but only to grab me around the shoulders and wrestle me back to the floor.
‘Get off me, you bastard!’ I yelled, but he held on to me with all his might, and I was pinned down to the floor just as the second, most almighty, blast went off. This time the entire signal box seemed to rock and part of the ceiling nearest the windows collapsed.
The second blast wasn’t a bomb. It was obvious what had happened. The first bomb had caused the ammunition, those grenades loaded on the train in the siding, to go off. Now the signal controller relaxed his grip on me and I was up and off. Running for the door and clambering down the remains of the staircase.
‘Pasha!’ I screamed, although it didn’t seem to make much of a sound. The sirens and the guns had all stopped; the bombers were gone, but my ears were ringing from the blasts; I was deaf. And then Pasha was with me, filthy and bleeding from his cheek, but hugging me, and kissing me. He was shouting words that neither of us could hear. Later I learned that as the first of the planes approached his roll call had ended, and he had run for cover to a ditch behind the signal box. He grazed his cheek against a rock as he had fallen but was otherwise unharmed.
But that was not true of most others in the railway yard. It was a scene of hell, a scene worse than anything we had seen in Berlin, far worse than we could have ever begun to imagine.
The train of ammunition vans had been in the siding next to the cattle train. The former had more or less completely disappeared, with just a few wheels and mangled metal frames remaining. The cattle vans, on the other hand, had been blown off the track and hurled, like a toy train, at least 50 metres. Some of the wagons were on their roofs, others on their sides, some had clearly somersaulted and ended upright but with their wooden bodies crumpled down onto their wheels as though a giant had sat on them. Pieces of rag and dust were raining down, all around. But it was the blood that I cannot forget. Effectively, those cattle vans had been full of blood. Now everything was dripping red and as my eyes adjusted through the smoke and the debris continuing to fall from the sky, scattered throughout the blood-soaked yard were body parts, everywhere. The SS guards who had been in the yard were gone, caught in the blast – surely everybody in the cattle train must be dead.
But then I began to see movement from the cattle trucks. The bodies had been so tightly packed inside that those close to the edges of the wagons had shielded those in the centre. And now those in the middle were breaking through the corpses, gasping for air and pulling themselves free. A superhuman effort from KZ-Leute who had been half-dead to start with. First one, then two, then ten, then fifty. More and more were escaping alive from the carnage. First, they stood and stared at the scene around them, just like us. But then they ran. Down the railway tracks heading out of Salzgitter, towards the forest. Hundreds of them.
And then I saw the troop train, slowly backing along the line. The locomotive, now at the back, gingerly pushing the coaches rather than pulling them. The troops all hanging out of the windows. It had set off only fifteen minutes before the raid, but as we later learned, another bomb had hit the track ahead of it, and so returning to the yard was the only option.