A Red Sun Also Rises - By Mark Hodder


Those of you familiar with my “Burton & Swinburne” tales might also be aware that I live in Valencia on the east coast of Spain. Among my friends, I count a few members of the yachting community, an international crowd that comes and goes on a seasonal basis. In July 2011, one of them—Raymond Villeneuve—gave me the journal that became the basis for A RED SUN ALSO RISES.

Villeneuve had just returned from a diving expedition to the west of the Azores, where he’d been part of a team exploring the wreck of The Hermes, a small steamer that sank in 1947. We met for a beer in one of Valencia’s seafront bars, and after we’d exchanged the usual pleasantries, he said, “In one of your novels, you make a passing reference to the island of Koluwai in the South Pacific. Why that particular place?”

“In remembrance of my Great Uncle James Leigh,” I replied. “He was a missionary back in the 1920s. He’s thought to have died there.”

“Of what?”

I shrugged. “The records don’t say. I suppose that’s why he fascinates me. There’s a mystery surrounding him.”

My friend nodded thoughtfully, then abruptly changed the subject. “This ship I’ve been exploring—not much is known about it. The Hermes was privately owned by a Captain Franklin Powell and seems to have made regular runs between Gibraltar and the Caribbean. It went down a couple of years after the end of the Second World War. There were no traces of cargo aboard the vessel, but we found a watertight safe, which had kept its contents well preserved, though they didn’t amount to much.”

He placed a small package in front of me—something wrapped in waxed paper with an elastic band around it.

“There were documents, a small bag of coins, and this. Take a look.”

My curiosity piqued, I pulled off the band, opened the paper, and found a leather-bound notebook inside. Its delicate, browned, and slightly crumbling pages were filled with almost illegible handwriting.

“As you can see, it’s written in English,” Villeneuve said. “I’ve read a little of it, and it seems to be your sort of thing. I thought you might like to have it. It also mentions Koluwai, and a missionary who went there.”

He had little else to say regarding the book—the handwriting was so bad he’d given up reading it—so I thanked him, took it home, and over the next few days struggled to decipher it.

What you hold is adapted from that journal. Adapted, because the man who wrote it, Aiden Fleischer, possessed an exceedingly archaic and long-winded style, entirely unsuitable for a modern audience. My revisions involved editing and untangling the grammar, updating and standardising the spelling, and excising a lot of fairly dull material—extensive notes on flora and fauna, and so forth. I did, however, remain faithful to the author’s rather eccentric capitalisation of certain nouns.

I undertook a small amount of research with regard to the names and places mentioned in the account and can confirm that the parish records in the little town of Theaston Vale, in Hampshire, England, show that a man named Gregory James Mortimer Fleischer was the Anglican priest there from June 1868 to September 1883. He had a son, Aiden Mortimer Fleischer, born 22nd November 1863, who took his vows in 1882 and replaced his father as parish priest the following year, resigning the post in 1887.

Aiden Fleischer next shows up in the archives of the London Missionary Society, where he trained during 1888—the year of the infamous Ripper killings—before being posted to Papua New Guinea. He was twenty-five years old when he left Britain. I’ve discovered no further traces of him.

The once-famous Hufferton Hall, mentioned early on in the journal, is now gone and all but forgotten. The last of the Huffertons, Sir Rupert, was murdered there in 1923, after which a succession of occupants came and went before the manor fell into disuse. It stood empty throughout the 1950s, was inhabited by squatters in the 1960s, and fell victim to an arsonist in 1972. I’ve not been able to find any evidence of the Stark family who, according to Fleischer, once worked there.

Mark Hodder

Valencia, Spain

August 2012


I didn’t intend to drop the crystal there. Even in my own time, it was a busy shipping lane. Now aeroplanes cross the area as well. Two days ago, a United States Navy training flight, comprised of five TBM Avenger torpedo bombers and fourteen men, entered the region and has been neither seen nor