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Author: Prashneel R Goundar 

Rarely have I come across a local book where the plot or climax is ineffable to predict. Stalker on the Beach (2001) by Daryl Tarte is a work of fiction which is a thought-out piece of literature that only leads the reader into thrilling suspense where it becomes rather impracticable to foresee how the narrative will unfold.

The writer has clearly demonstrated exceptional research skills and studied the characters closely prior to working on the novel. More importantly, the writer has ensured there is not a repetitious moment for the reader, everything has been put with clarity and a vivid image of every movement appears in the mind of the reader. This can only come about if the author is well acquainted with the subject being related and readers can expect that Tarte values tradition.

The story demonstrates how arrogance is at a loss when in a battle with traditional values and will leave you in tears when it concludes.

Concept of Stalker on the Beach

The story opens with the chapter "The Concept" and to execute the concept, antagonist John Caine does everything in his power to obtain the island of Topak.

Caine, being one of the wealthiest men in Australia, owns pretty much everything a person can dream of from a private plane to a business in London and contacts extending to exclusive personell all over the world.

He wishes to buy Topak by giving every man $50,000 and each sapa (chief) $1million. As easy as it may seem to him and his board members, it is a journey that leads the man to use every trick in the book but will he succeed in convincing pricipal sapa Ruan and his niece, Marie, is what the book puts forward.

The narrative depicts small community of Topak, able to keep its tradition alive with no democratically elected government and the kuraka (council) running matters by themselves which has been going on for generations.

The people of Topak are close to nature which Caine is not familiar with as money, wealth, and a noisy lifestyle is all that he is accustomed to.

Marie, being the niece of the chief and of mixerd race, is proud of being an islander. She does not give in to the demands and persuasions of Caine; she takes the help of the radio station as well as ABC's reporter McWirter in the fight to convince the people of Topak to not agree to Caine's deal. The conflict that builds up between the people, whether to accept Caine's offer or not, becomes overwhelmingly fierce in which Marie is not only attacked but subjected to a horrific, bloody gang rape.

People are torn between Caine's side and keeping Topak the way it has been since the time of their ancestors.

Characterisation and setting

Every character Tarte puts in the story seems familiar to him, he has meticulously described each individual who play significant roles, and above all his patriotism is echoed in the protagonists, Marie and sapa Ruan.

The pre-coup of 1987 as well as post-coup are discussed as a matter of concern and are a buildup to what the climax brings about.

Marie's husband, Alan, takes her for a holiday to Mexico after she was gang raped as she was protective of Topak but it is not just a vacation.

Marie realises quite a number of things that is taking place in Topak when she listens to Dr Martinez explain about Lemuria. His words inspired Marie evidently as "this belief that Topak people may have been one of the last vestiges of a lost civilisation inspired her to do anything within her power to save them" (p126).

The writer has done justice by providing the history of Topak through the words of the old man, Manko. Topak's rich background is delivered by the old man sitting crosslegged under the tree envisaged the kind of simple life the people are exposed to.

In the initial conversation with sapa Ruan, Caine realises ".... he was no primitive fool as he had thought. He was clearly a thinker of considerable intellectual ability". (p154)

Emotional attachment

Irrational writers often use lovemaking as a device to attract readers and keep them engaged in reading. However, in this novel, lovemaking has not been used vaguely; there is logic in relating the emotions of characters.

After the gang rape of Marie, on their trip to Mexico when her husband Alan tries to revive physical relations on the first night, she completely denies him any affection but on the second night she does give in to him.

In another incident, when Caine goes to attend the festival of Huaka, he has a conversation with sapa Pelisi, the village poet who was old and frail as the author puts it. He lucidly lets Caine know of why he is categorically against the idea of him buying Topak. "You must understand that there are only about 300,000 Topak people in this vast world of so many people. We would very quickly disappear as a race of people." (p160)

Final verdict

How the story ends will surely leave the avid reader in tears as the step taken by Sapa Ruan is something that only a man like Tarte who puts his country first could deliver.

Stalker on the Beach certainly leaves the audience mystyfied as to the fate of Marie, Caine, Sapa Ruan or the people of Topak until the very end. This is a novel which is undoubtedly fit for a full feature film; depicting the paramountcy of traditional ethos and culture amid the world of technological advancement and Western ideologies to be inferior in a society that puts the lessons of its ancestors to be supreme. Stalker on the Beach awakens a fresh breath of pride for one's country which is recommended for each individual of this island nation and readers will find themselves mesmerised by the work of Tarte.

About the author

As a fourth generation copra planter, sugar industry executive, civil society activist and now a writer, Tarte had the foresight to record many of these events and have blended the many incidents and characters into this collection giving glimpses of Fijian life, culture and history.

He has so far published Fiji Coffee table book; Fiji, a historical novel; Island of the Frigate Birds; Turaga, a biography of Ratu Penaia Ganilau and co-authored 20th Century Fiji, Fiji: A place called home and Once Upon a Time In Fiji with USP Press and Fiji: Fiji's history from Abel Tasman to the Coup.

This book was published in 2001 by the University of the South Pacific (IPS) and his association with USP continues through other publications.

In 2015, the vice-chancellor and president of USP, Professor Rajesh Chandra, launched his book, Fiji: A place called home.

This year, Once Upon a Time in Fiji, published by USP Press, was launched by the then minister for education, Dr Mahendra Reddy at the World Book Day Celebration on April 29.

Stalker on the Beach is available at USP Book Centre: email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.">

Source: The Fiji Times Online

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