The Philippines, unfortunately, have been portrayed in most media as corrupt, poor, filthy – almost primitively backward. The moviedom’s phase of craving for ‘slum porn’, popularised by gems like Slumdog Millionaire, has propelled places like Manila as interesting places to weave stories through. As proof, Manila’s overcrowded slums were the focus of climactic scenes in The Bourne Legacy.
It was with a deeper gusto then that I read through N.K. Richard’s wonderful book, “Black Hearts, Gold Warriors”. “Black Hearts, Gold Warriors” was a delight to read through – able to hold you in its exciting tentacles with enough action, plot progression and moral core. The story centers around Jim George, an Australian and the anti-hero with a taste for adventure and gold – the kind that one finds in buried war treasures. Jim is a professional archaeologist, but his taste for treasures spiraled out of control and plunged his life into ruin.
Jim becomes a treasure hunter, and ironically, becomes the hunted as more powerful adversaries with insatiable greed complicate his sorry existence. But this is not another run-of-the-mill Indiana Jones yarn, though it would be natural to compare it with such genre. We would meet Jim at his lowest, a wretched pimp in Manila’s red light district. His life would take a turn though, as he would be given another chance at life. Here, at his life’s crossroads, he would meet his apsara, the beautiful Jorani, a Cambodian survivor and French-speaking archaeologist.
They’re thrown together by different circumstances into another treasure hunt cum archaeological find in the jungles of Mindanao. Their ultimate decisions on life and love would either mean their destruction or salvation; or for Jim, a chance at redemption. Only the strength of his resolve, his wit and his remaining strength will see him (literally) dig his way out of his grave and finally rid him of his arch-enemy.
“Black Hearts’ twists and turns would take you to other Asian locations, and meet a host of colourful yet believable characters: a murderous Vietnamese mob boss, a gay Russian paedophile thug, and a Japanese sensei, among others. It’s also fun to read through a mob of Pinoy personalities – Richards has seemingly characterised them with a certain degree of accuracy. You can almost hear the unique inflections in their tones, the Tag-lish conversations and the peppering of humour. Richards has captured the admirable (or terrible) minutiae of the Pinoy culture: the food, the funny dialogues, the clothes and yes, the corrupt political environment. There were parts here that were hard to dismiss as just fiction, ergo the hideous massacre event in the late chapters, as those events are in fact happening in real-life in Mindanao.
Richards has provided a thrilling ride through the chapters, and has managed to bring its plot to a satisfying conclusion (there’s a “Breaking Bad”-like moment in there, which I enjoyed). Altogether, “Black Hearts, Gold Warriors” was an easy, enjoyable read. It is the second in the series, and I would be looking forward to the third and final part of this trilogy
' Black Hearts Gold Warriors,' is a nail biting action thriller that breaks new ground within a timeless genre. Guaranteed to keep reader hooked from the explosive opening pages to its exciting conclusion. His writing is vivid and distinctive.’
In ‘Black Hearts, Gold Warriors’ by N. K. Richards we are presented with a story that is a classic adventure story with high moral purpose as evidenced by the ways in which the characters adhere to and assert their code throughout. We are treated to an array of locations and settings which gives the book a flair that helps the reader to engage with the situations presented throughout. The title seems to this reader to be an evocative way of setting the reader up for the ideas and themes to come. The overall design of the book is professionally executed. The cover image for the book is striking and conveys the real gravity of the situation while giving the reader a clear and specific goal or icon to focus on. Like so much about this book, it is handled gracefully and keeps the reader embroiled in the world being created page after page. I like the wry narrative voice here. Not first person but clearly centered on Jim, the reader is given a particular insight into his thought processes but also in terms of how he handles and thinks of given situations and scenarios.
GOLD OF THE GENERALS is a surprisingly good adventure novel in the unusual setting of Rabaul, New Guinea -- one of the world’s most beautiful but little-known places. As Volume One of Nic Richards’ series GOLD OF THE GENERALS, it gets off to a good start by taking us from the familiar surroundings of Manila to the volcanic cone of Rabaul, where the Japanese Imperial Army hid weapons and war looted gold in a swiss-cheese of caves.
Richards builds an entertaining and suspenseful plot around a group of odd-ball characters involved in the hunt for “black gold”, in the literary tradition of Alistair McLean’s GUNS OF NAVARONE and WHERE EAGLES DARE.
Happily, this is not just another secret agent rip-off. The characters are highly original loose cannons, their dialogue rich with regional accents that Richards captures nicely. And the climax is suitably suspenseful and explosive.
author of GOLD WARRIORS and THE YAMATO DYNASTY