This weekly magazine introduces you to the art and writing of Ian Duncan MacDonald. Each week one image, from his portfolio of over 2,300 images, is showcased. His art can be Giclee printed on canvas, custom framed and shipped within a few days at a very reasonable price.
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NOVEMBER 1, 2018
IMAGE SHOWCASED : A CRUMBLING WORLD
I chose this digital image for this week's "DUEL" magazine because an attack upon America's naval dominance is an important element in my novel.
This image started as a digital photograph that I took in Istanbul, Turkey in 2013. An American missile cruiser docked within fifty feet of where I was having lunch at the Istanbul Museum of Modern Art. The ship was an impressive site.
I manipulated the image to create what you now see. Most of the work I now do is digital. The possibilities of what I can create by manipulating pixels in a computer, I find exciting. I hope you do too.
You can obtain a Giclee print of this image. Click on the following link and see the variety of beautiful formats that are available. It can be delivered within a few days on canvases as large as 36 by 48 inches. Satisfaction guaranteed.
Ian Duncan MacDonald
NOVEL SHOWCASED : DUEL
SEGMENT : 1 of 3 SEGMENTS
first novel in the Rob Lyons series. It explores a confrontation
between the Peoples Republic of China and the United States when China
dares to establish a naval base on a Caribbean island and refuses to
back down. Why can China no longer be intimidated? Dr. Rob Lyons is sent by the State Department to asses the situarion. Assassination,
political intrigue, romance and the threat of a nuclear war make it a
CHAPTER 1 of XX CHAPTERS
THE STATE DEPARTMENT
Floating, he was lost in the rhythm, breathing easily, oblivious to the smooth movement of his body. Suddenly, his five-mile treadmill run was rudely interrupted. One of Russel Horsemont’s officious assistants, looking totally out of place in his dark blue suit and tie, had invaded the Foreign Affairs Recreation Association Gym.
The officious assistant was shouting at him over the noise of the music and the machines. All Rob Lyons caught was, “Hurry…. an emergency meeting upstairs at 8:15 … you have to be …” Rob looked at the clock on the gym wall. It said 7:40 A.M. He slowed the machine down to a slow walk, to lower his pounding heart. The assistant impatiently paced and fidgeted, waiting for Rob to get off the treadmill. Everyone in the gym was staring at them. Drenched in good honest sweat, Rob headed for the showers. The assistant marched along behind him
As he was drying himself off after a quick shower, Rob glanced at the television suspended from the ceiling of the dressing room. It was perpetually set on CNN. They were interviewing Senator Rick Wilcox. A Google picture of the island of Saint Matt’s flashed on the screen. That got Rob’s immediate attention. He moved closer to the television so he could read the close caption. Now, he understood why he was being summoned to an unscheduled meeting.
Horsemont’s assistant escorted him to a couch outside the closed door of a meeting room on the top floor. Rob had never been there before. He was told to sit and wait on a couch until summoned.
Inside that meeting room, the Secretary of State, Coleen MacSween, slowly sipped her black coffee and scrutinized her top advisors. The big guns had finally arrived: the Deputy Secretary of State, the Chief of Staff, the Director of the Office of Global Intergovernmental Affairs and the Assistant Secretary in charge of the Bureau of Western Hemisphere Affairs. For an 8:15 Monday morning crisis meeting, it was a good turnout.
She twirled and whirled her white bead necklace, oblivious to all the eyes that were riveted on her nervous habit. On her command, these aging civil servants had quickly assembled around the elaborately carved antique table of her meeting room on the top floor of the Harry S. Truman Building. They were a dignified, up tight bunch.
President Willie Brown, during breakfast, had been watching Senator Wilcox's press conference on CNN. He had almost choked on his cereal when Senator Wilcox dramatically said the Chinese were developing a naval base on an Eastern Caribbean island.
An agitated President had immediately phoned the Secretary of State to find out what she was doing about this intrusion into America’s sphere of influence. Fortunately, Coleen had also been watching CNN. She, at least, knew what the president was excited about.
When the director of the Central Intelligence Agency, who watched FOX in the morning, was contacted by the president, he had a hard time explaining why he had never heard of an island called Saint Matts. He also had a difficult time explaining why he had not been informed of the Senator’s press conference on CNN. His protests, that it was only minutes after Senator Wilcox’s appearance on CNN, were ignored.
Those sitting around the table were trying to judge what kind of mood MacSween was in and whether she would buy their rapidly drafted action plan. Her reputation for sarcasm and ability to pick holes in their elaborate, clever plans was legendary.
A large monitor filled almost the entire south wall of the meeting room. It displayed a satellite image of an island. The island was almost round. It had a narrow channel at the south end leading into a large circular harbor. The shadows in the photograph showed that the ring of mountains around the harbor were high and would provide protection from whatever the Atlantic Ocean could hurl at that island.
The dark mahogany table was polished to a rich sheen. It reflected the early morning’s winter sun, annoyingly, right into Coleen’s steely blue eyes. She put her coffee gently down on a deep blue embossed leather coaster and motioned to the hovering white jacketed waiter to close the blinds. As soon as the blinds closed, the murmuring undertones and the tapping on communication devices ceased. All eyes focused on her.
“Is that the island that Senator Wilcox says we should nuke into oblivion?” she sarcastically murmured. There were a few quiet chuckles from the more insecure brownnosers at the table.
The very dignified, tall, thin, white haired, Russell Horsemont, Assistant Secretary of Western Hemisphere Affairs, (under whose mandate Saint Matts fell) slowly stood and in quiet modulated tones responded, “Madam Secretary that is Saint Matt’s”. He took himself and his responsibilities very seriously. He had failed to hear any humor in the Secretary of State’s sarcastic comment. If any of his subordinates had been in the meeting and had chuckled, they would have received a severe frown for their lack of dignity. He was fond of saying, “There is nothing funny at State”.
Not intimidated by Horsemont’s professorial air, Coleen MacSween fixed her gaze on him and tossed out another seemingly off hand question, just to establish who was boss,” What’s its claim to fame - beside the rumors of it being the People’s Republic of China’s favorite Caribbean island?”
Given his chance to shine, Horsemont was quick to responded, “Discovered on September 21st in 1494 by Christopher Columbus, on his second voyage. The patron saint for that day is the apostle, Saint Mathew. Over the years Saint Mathew has been corrupted down to Saint Matts.”
Russel coughed, looked around the room to see if anyone was impressed with that obscure gem of knowledge. He continued, “It is an island nation of about sixty-five square miles. The most easterly of the Caribbean islands, about 80 miles east of the better-known island of Antigua.”
“Originally a French colony, it was awarded to the British in the 1713 Treaty of Utrecht. It remained a British Colony until it became independent in 1981. Its democratically elected parliamentary form of government is modeled on the British system. The British monarch is the nominal head of government. A governor general is the king’s official representative on the island although the role is largely ceremonial.
He paused, and took a staged, slow, sip of his coffee and scanned the room to see if there were any of his peers who dared to interrupt and make some brownie points with the boss lady. There were none this morning. He continued, “For centuries great wealth was realized on the island from the growing of sugar cane. Until the late 19th century it was the richest colony, per capita, in the British Empire. Riches deserted Saint Matts when Britain outlawed slavery in1834. This made sugar cane cultivation unprofitable. Slavery continued in Cuba and Brazil for several more decades and these countries became rich from sugar. When Europeans started to grow sugar beets to meet their sugar needs, sugar cane cultivation in the Caribbean became unprofitable. The descendants of those African slaves that were brought in to work the cane fields are still there. Saint Matts has a population that is about ninety-five percent black.”
He paused again to see if there were any challenges to his historical interpretation. Seeing no challengers, he took another sip of his coffee and continued.
“These days they have a tourist-based economy. It brings in money for only a few months in the winter and they struggle for the rest of the year. About half the tourists come from the US. There are also two American medical schools there. They cater to a few thousand foreign students, mostly Americans. These are students whose marks weren’t good enough to get into U.S. medical schools. Housing and feeding these students are important in an economy where $10,000 a year is an average salary.
The locals, by our standards, are poor. The life span, for men is about 72 years and about 79 years for women. The population of about 40,000 has been shrinking steadily for the last forty years. Their biggest export is their citizens who leave for better opportunities in the United States, Canada and Britain. I should also not fail to mention that it also has an estimated population of 80,000 vervet African monkeys. It is believed this population grew from a few pets that the French settlers set free when they abandoned the island two centuries ago.”
With this kernel of critical intelligence, Coleen Macsween stopped twirling her beads and looked up. She wondered what the hell monkeys had to do with this morning’s meeting. Perhaps Russel Horsemont was getting a bit senile. She looked at her watch and wondered where he was going with his monologue.
Russel Horsemont did not seem to notice her impatience. He droned on, “Their education system is based on the British system and is quite good with a level of literacy, according to international testing, better than the U.S. There is one giant seven hundred room hotel casino on the island. With 1,200 employees it is the island’s largest employer. The hotel’s hidden ownership is believed to be the New York mob. They appear to be using the operation to launder money from various illegal foreign operations. There is a high murder rate on the island which arises out of turf wars to control the transportation of drugs, up the Caribbean island chain from South America, to the United States.” The Assistant Secretary paused, took another sip of his coffee, and checked the room to make sure no one had nodded off. The Secretary of State started to impatiently tap her beads on the table. Russel took the hint and got to the point.
“What is unique about Saint Matts is its excellent harbor, probably one of the best in the world” the Assistant Secretary used a laser pointer to project a small, bright red arrow on the monitor. He pointed to the slit in the donut shaped island. “It has a narrow entrance, about eight hundred feet wide, which opens up into a basin about six miles in diameter. Both the channel and the harbor are deep. The harbor is the flooded cone of an extinct volcano and is protected on all sides by a ring of mountains. That basin could easily protect a whole fleet from any hurricane. Until independence, it was the British Navy’s South Atlantic headquarters. Although abandoned for decades, the fortifications on both sides of the channel entrance and naval infrastructure were built to last and could be easily activated.”
For dramatic effect, he took another long, sip of coffee before getting to the essence of why they were all gathered around this table, “The signing of a secret agreement between the government of Saint Matts and the People’s Republic of China would benefit both parties. It would bring jobs and much needed capital to the island while giving the Chinese an opportunity to counter America’s military bases in Korea, Japan and the Philippines. We, of course, see their proposed interjection, into what has been our private lake, as a direct strategic threat against the national security of the United States. Our objective should be to remove this direct threat by whatever means it takes”. Russel Horsemont shot a quick glance over at the Secretary of State to see if he had overstepped his authority in concluding what their policy should be. She nodded her agreement. Horsemont sat, feeling pleased that the information his assistants had quickly cobbled together had made him appear to be the truly professional, wise, elder statesman that, in his mind, he knew he was.
Ralph Pasha, the Assistant Secretary of Military Affairs, a large round man, fattened by many fine meals hosted by military hardware lobbyists, earnestly interjected, “Does this include dropping a nuclear bomb on the island as Senator Wilcox has proposed?”
..... to be continued
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