I was contacted by Harper Collins to ask if I would take part in a Treasure Hunt linked to the latest book by Mark Edwards and Louise Voss. They first met after Louise saw Mark on a TV documentary about aspiring writers, contacted him and a writing partnership was born. Their first two thrillers, Killing Cupid and Catch Your Death, were huge hits when the pair self-published them online, becoming the first UK indie authors to reach No. 1 in both the Amazon Kindle and Amazon Fiction charts. Mark is a freelance copywriter and Louise is a concert administrator at a London university and they live in south London with their families.
Lots of publicity about Amazon recently, not all of it good and with the demise of big names in the High Street in the last few days, there have been articles questioning whether it is a force for harm or good. I can see both sides of the problem but I am a devotee of Amazon and one of the wonderful things about it is that it opens up the market and allows authors to self publish. OK there are times when some of the self published stuff is not very good, but there are always gems that turn up and are hugely successful. If you check out this duo on the site and read reviews, which seem pretty unanimous, seems to me that Voss and Edward's books fall into the good category. Their latest novel is All Fall Down and a Treasure Hunt has been lined up by Harper Collins, not only to bring their work to your attention, but also to give you the opportunity to sharpen your wits and to win a Kindle Fire.
How does it work? Check out this link for all the information you need to take part;
Here is today's post and the question at the end is' In which country did a group of scientists genetically modify the bird flu virus?'
Could a pandemic really happen? Louise Voss, co-author of All Fall Down, takes a look at the world’s deadliest viruses…
"Mark and I spooked ourselves on many occasions during the writing of both Catch Your Death and All Fall Down, and one of the most frequent bits of feedback we hear from other readers is along the lines of, ‘Thanks a lot – since I read your book I now feel totally freaked out whenever someone sneezes near me!’
The most chilling element of these books is that, in theory, It Really Could Happen. In this climate of accessible and excessive plane travel, it would seem almost impossible to stop a mutated virus from travelling around the globe within days. There are approximately 30,000 commercial flights in the USA alone – daily!
But exactly how likely is a new pandemic? I decided to do some research to try and work out if our fears are unfounded or not….
The five most likely candidates to cause a global pandemic seem to be the following: influenza (including avian); drug-resistant tuberculosis (TB); anthrax (a manmade biological agent); SARS, and Ebola. Of these, however, only the first two have killed in large numbers already. TB is, according to the World Health Organization (WHO), the second greatest killer after HIV/AIDS due to a single infectious agent and caused 1.4 million deaths last year (out of 8.7 million cases).
The most notorious pandemic to date was almost a hundred years ago. In 1918, an estimated 40 million people worldwide died from influenza. The Spanish Flu infected a quarter of the USA and a fifth of the world’s population, circling the globe and killing more people than World War One had done. Thankfully nothing since has come close, and in fact the viruses that scare people the most tend to be the ones that actually don’t kill in large numbers – it’s their potential to mutate or spread that is scariest.
Ebola, anyone? Ebola and Marburg are both filoviruses, spread mainly by exposure to infected blood and body fluids. The WHO has created an aide–memoire on standard precautions in health care, to reduce the risk of transmission of pathogens. If universally applied, the precautions would help prevent most transmission through exposure – but it’s a big ‘if’. And worldwide over the past ten years, the numbers of fatalities from Ebola have not been more than around 700. (The worst outbreak was in Uganda in 2000, when 425 people contracted it, of which 224 - 53% - died).
Avian flu caused huge global concern, if not panic, but again less than a few hundred people have died since 2003. The scary thing about Avian flu is definitely its potential to mutate from a bird pathogen that infects humans, to humans being able to infect other humans. And the scariest thing by far I’ve heard was last year’s report that scientists had developed a new strain of Avian flu with the potential to wipe out half the planet. A team of scientists in the Netherlands genetically modified the bird flu virus, showing that it would take just five steps for the virus to reach its most terrifying state: an airborne disease that could easily spread between humans like the common cold. This led to a lengthy debate between scientists and biosecurity officials, with one side arguing that the research should be published, the other seriously concerned that coverage of the new developments in the study of bird flu might fall into the hands of terrorists and be used as biological weapons – much as our cult of evil women did in All Fall Down. The results of the study were finally published last June.
I feel fairly secure in the knowledge that the WHO have set up several early-warning initiatives who meet daily to monitor and track potential outbreaks, such as GLEWS (a global early warning system for major animal diseases included zoonoses) and GOARN (Global Outbreak Alert and Response Network). But the trouble is, in reality none of the practices already in place may be actually enforceable enough to halt the spread of a virus. Evacuations are not legally compulsory, and one stubborn or frightened infected person who refuses to leave his home in an evacuation area could potentially spell death for hundreds of thousands of others. And that’s without factoring in the social unrest brought about by the terror of the situation, which was something Mark and I worked hard to convey in All Fall Down – the riots, the desperation, the bereavement and pain that no amount of contingency planning could alleviate. Hospitals with no staff left alive, bodies piling up in the streets – yikes. Now I’m really scaring myself!
But it’s extremely unlikely. If it were to break out, by the time a pathogen starts to spread like a pandemic, it will also have hit the news, so the rest of the world will have ample time to take precautions and be on guard for it.
So in conclusion, I haven’t yet stockpiled tinned food, bought facemasks or have a stash of emergency Neurofen and a bottle of vodka in case it all gets too hopeless (all I have is one of those huge 12 litre bottles of Evian that’s been in my understairs cupboard since the bird flu scare of 2006) but that’s not to say I don’t think I will have to, at some point…"
The previous link to this Treasure Hunt is http://itsacrimeuk.wordpress.com/ which, in its turn, will link back to the blog before that so you have a chance to catch up. The next one, following my post, will be A Lover of Books at http://aloverofbooks.wordpress.com
So do take part and see if you can win a Kindle Fire.
Go on, you know it makes sense...