Poisoned Trees and Yellow Grass, a dystopian, futuristic novel, centres around the lives of four characters— an ovarian cancer sufferer, a victim of gang rape, a man who has been serving a life sentence for murder, and a traumatized adolescent who has been domestically abused— all of whose lives have been changed by the outbreak of nuclear war. Two are now free from their plights, one successfully plots revenge, and one is now no more in danger of dying than anyone else.
Looting from the local provisions warehouse is a serious offense punishable by being forced to take part in the Eliminations at the East London Arena, where each offender is electrocuted after losing nine lives in the contest— an event in which survival is rare.
But food and electricity are fast running out, and if mankind is to survive in the generations to come, post-war society has to change.
An ovarian cancer scare, followed by a major operation, inspired me to write “Poisoned Trees and Yellow Grass” – a dystopian novel with a plot of containing an element of twisted fate.
We all dread the possibility of nuclear war; but in the novel, those whose lives were once a nightmare on a microcosmic scale during so-called times of peace, discover that the onset of World War III has rid them of their plights. Garnet, who had been serving a live sentence for murder, is now free as a result of the onset of war.
Sapphire, who was diagnosed with terminal ovarian cancer before the chance of war was even likely, now finds herself even with other post-war survivors, who are now just as likely as herself to die from radiation poisoning at any moment, like her sister, Topaz, who had been cancer-free.
Ruby and Emerald would have been serving a sentence of several years for having instigated Sardonyx’s gang rape had the war not occurred. Onyx’s mother and sister, who had abused her during peacetime years whilst away in Sheffield, have apparently been killed in a nuclear blast as war breaks out; and had it not, she would have remained a target of domestic abuse. Indeed, the happiest days of Onyx’s life were those just after the war, when Sapphire encounters her, frightened and alone, and takes her into the basement hideout under her care. A close bond then develops between them, and Sapphire becomes Onyx’s substitute mother as a result of the war.
Sardonyx benefits from the onset of war, managing to use the dire penalty for looting to reap her revenge on Ruby and Emerald for having instigated her rape, which occurred as the Wartime Broadcasting Service was being put into effect. Sapphire, too, experiences an upturn of fate, as we discover at the end of the plot, where we encounter a shock twist of fate, highlighting the point that there are still those who feel that their world has come to an end without nuclear war.
The plot also covers the subject of nutrition, radiation having rendered all animals
(including livestock) extinct. The question here is: could mankind survive on plants and crops alone after the bomb? Anyone who has gone without the intake of meat without the aid of multivitamin supplements would discount that possibility, including myself, who became seriously anaemic and a patient under medical care as a result. Not eating meat as well as having gone without multivitamin supplements for several years saw my haemoglobin count plummet to half of what it should have been, and I narrowly missed undergoing a blood transfusion to pump the nutrition I had gone without back into my body.
The plot also looks at the subject of convenience cans and dried foods, the only diet left available to post-war survivors. As Equal points out to Giant, tinned foods lose their nutritional value within six to twelve months of being manufactured, so can only quell the appetite without nourishing after that time. Moreover, the depleting supply of multivitamin supplements in the book suggest that survivors are soon to go without being properly nourished— so would mankind be able to survive for generations to come— with or without Equal’s farm of vegetation and crops?
I based the Eliminations tournaments on the British game show called “The Cube”, and most of the characters’ names (which are in those of precious gems and radioactive metals) were inspired by the programme “Gems TV”.
I would also like to mention that, as a child, during the days of analogue television,
used to listen to the test card and music preceding the children’s programmes, which was, and still is, connected to the War Broadcasting Service in some way, and I’m sure this also contributed towards my ideas for the book.