Front Cover of Junta: A Novel by Ken Puddicombe
What can we do when the armed forces seize power from our democratically elected government, however corrupt?
In Junta: A Novel, set in 1979 on the Caribbean Island of Saint Anglia, Ken Puddicombe explores this question. Taking us within the inner circle of the Junta, he introduces us to General Marks, chief of the armed forces, and his second-in-command, Colonel Stevenson. On a tranquil Sunday morning, while their Prime Minister is away in Barbados attending a conference of Caribbean leaders, the general executes his meticulously planned and bloodless coup.
Opposition to the military takeover comes from Melanie Sanderson, a university student in her twenties who calls on students, faculty members, and the people of Saint Anglia to join her and her friends on a peaceful, protest march to the legislative center.
History Professor Marcus Jacobson, whom she admires, rejects her plan of action, viewing her as naïve: “What chance do you think you really have against them? They haven’t come this far to allow anyone to stop them, much less a band of idealistic students who don’t have any idea of the concept of power and how it’s exercised.”
As Melanie and her supporters set out on their unauthorized protest march, she sets into motion events that will force Marcus to reconsider his position and bring them closer together.
Joining the ranks of the dissidents are Father Bert and Clarence Baptiste, important voices among the people of Saint Anglia. Father Bert, who runs an orphanage in the city’s poor district, is a thorn in the side of the church’s hierarchy for his socialist ideals and his struggle for the rights of the poor that he serves.
As editor and owner of a local newspaper, Clarence Baptiste is not a man easily muzzled. His failure to comply with directives to desist from criticizing the Junta—“that the media gives [them] a chance to fix the problems created by the last [corrupt] government”—results in an anonymous bomb threat.
Puddicombe weaves an action-packed plot heightened by the undercover activities of a criminal gang, led by The Reverend, recruited by Colonel Stevenson to foment unrest and silence the opposition. A self-proclaimed religious leader, The Reverend invokes God’s name while selling his soul to the Junta.
Kentish, Marcus’ driver, gives voice to the hopelessness of the working people: “Nothing ever change. At the end of the day, I still have to work for a living. Voting don’t put food on me table or put clothes on me back. It don’t send me children to school or buy schoolbooks. All them people you vote for, they all just looking out for themselves.”
Are we powerless against military might? Can we make a difference? Melanie Sanderson is hopeful: “Maybe we don’t stand much of a chance. Maybe we will make a big difference. I don’t exactly know, Professor [Jacobson]. But I do know that doing nothing is just as bad as if we were supporting them.”
Our struggle against oppression goes on.
Ken Puddicombe, a Guyanese-Canadian, was an accountant by profession before retiring to pursue his love of writing. His work has since appeared in newspapers and literary journals. His first novel, Racing With The Rain, was published in 2012.