We’re pleased to offer a sample chapter from J.E. Doman’s new erotic novella The Minder, set in the North Korean capital Pyongyang. And don’t worry: we’ve cut out anything too steamy from this sample.
“Question 14b,” says the consular official, clicking his pen as he reads from the printed form. He pauses for a moment, staring at the piece of paper. “I’m sorry, it’s question 14b part one, not question 14b. What is your primary purpose in seeking to visit North Korea?”
I don’t answer immediately. As I stare out the window of the drab, grey London office block, I’m more interested in the way the city has become so dull. When you’ve lived and worked in as many cities around the world as I have, they start to blend into one. London, Paris, Berlin, New York, Beijing, Baghdad, Panama, Moscow. Sure, they each have tourist attractions and landmarks, but when you look at the tower blocks and the everyday buildings, they all look exactly. The. Same.
“Mr. Bond,” the official says, a hint of concern in his voice. “Did you hear my question?”
I turn to look at him. “Er…” I pause, not sure what to say. I heard the question just fine, but it seems only polite to let him repeat it. “I’m sorry,” I say, non-committally.
“Question 14b part one,” he says, clearly a little put out. “What is your primary purpose in seeking to visit North Korea?”
“I’m a photojournalist,” I say.
“I take photos”.
“So I can look at them”.
He stares at me.
“And… so that other people can look at them as well”.
“To document things. To show the reality of a place”.
“You photograph places?” he says. “Not people?”
“Places, not people,” I agree. Damn it, I should have that phrase on my business card and website. Thomas Bond, Photojournalist – Places, Not People. “Places say so much more than people,” I say. “They’re so much more expressive. Places define people. People are a product of places”.
“Not the other way around?”
“Uh-huh,” says the official, staring at me for a moment before writing something on the form. Probably ‘lunatic’ or ‘heretic’ or ‘socialist’ or ‘capitalist’ or some other stupid label. Truth is: I’m all of those things, depending on what side of the bed I get out of in the morning.
“Who is your employer?” the official asks.
“No-one,” I say.
“But who is sponsoring your journey?”
“No-one,” I say. “I’m paying or it. I plan to take a lot of photos and then sell them to whoever needs them when I get home. I’m also planning -”
“No-one,” the official says, interrupting me, writing on the form. “You do realise, Mr. Bond, that you will not be able to move entirely freely around the country while you are staying in Pyongyang”.
“I do realise that, yes,” I say.
“But you will still be able to see a lot of the country,” he continues, the intonation of his voice rising slightly. “You will be chaperoned at all times by a minder. The minder will look after your every need. This has many advantages and only a few disadvantages”.
“Like life,” I say.
The official snorts. I’m not sure if it’s a sarcastic snort or a snort of agreement.
“That sounds fine,” I say. “As long as I get some nice shots that I can sell, I’ll be happy. I’m not chasing a Pulitzer or anything like that”.
For the first time in our meeting, the official smiles. “You are a mercenary, Mr. Bond”.
I wasn’t expecting him to say that. “A mercenary?” I ask.
“Yes. You want to go to North Korea because you think you can make money from your trip”. He nods in approval. “So much more honest than the usual crappy reasons that people give me”. He writes something on my form. “I cannot guarantee anything, Mr. Bond. But I will be recommending that you receive your visa to enter North Korea”.
“Thank you,” I say.
“That’s quite alright,” he says. “And I hope you enjoy your visit. It’s a quite wonderful country. A lot better than the western media would have you believe, but perhaps not as good as some of the North Korean media would like to suggest”.
We sit in silence for a moment. To describe it as awkward would be the understatement of the century.
“Is that everything?” I ask.
“Yes,” says the official, getting to his feet and rushing to take me to the door. “It has been a pleasure,” he says, all smiles suddenly. “I hope you will enjoy your trip to North Korea. When did you say you’re heading out there again?”
“I have a flight booked for a week on Wednesday,” I say. “Do you think I’ll have an answer about the visa by then?”
“Sure,” says the official. “Sure, I’ll make sure of it. Don’t you worry about a thing”. He escorts me to the door. “North Korea is a beautiful country, Mr. Bond. Beautiful sights, beautiful people, beautiful nature. The air is crisp, it makes you feel stronger than you’ve ever felt. The sunset is like nothing you’ve seen anywhere else in the world”.
“Oh,” I say. “You’ve been to North Korea?”
“No,” he says, and he shuts the door on me, leaving me standing alone in the corridor.
J.E. Doman’s The Minder is available from Amazon.