Frank Gardner (Bantam Press, £12.99) Frank Gardner also knows what he’s talking about, as the BBC’S Security Correspondent, who was seriously wounded by terrorists in Saudi Arabia. This novel, however, is set among the drug lords of Colombia, a country as violent and unpredictable as anywhere in the world. A major player wants revenge on Britain for hurting his trade. A tense thriller, only spoiled (for me) by an ending similar to an earlier book
between the Ottoman and Austrian empires. It was a turbulent countryside and every church had its own protective tower and defensive walls.
It wasn’t until the 1990s, after the fall of Ceausescu and the Communist regime, that these Saxon families finally relocated to Germany and substantial parts of Transylvania became largely populated by semi-nomadic gypsies—or ‘Roma people’ as they are more popularly known.
Gypsies had always been a feature of Transylvania, but, during the Nazi period, they had been rounded up and consigned to concentration camps, along with the Jewish population. Now, they are occupying formerly deserted houses as well as caravans and tented camps. Their convoys of covered wagons are one of the distinctive and appealing features of the current landscape, although not always wholly innocent (my wife had her handbag snatched at by one passing wagoner).
Between them, the Saxon settlers and the Roma people contributed considerably to the culture of Central Europe: their folk tunes were the inspiration for some of Franz Liszt’s music and their creatively designed, naturaldyed wool-pile rugs were widely sought after by sophisticated carpet merchants.
However, the region remained fundamentally poor: the villages were becoming emptier and the houses were falling down. It was against this background that conservation trusts have been set up in recent years and people —notably The Prince of Wales— who set store by preserving traditional beauty in remote areas have invested in this part of Transylvania. This book should encourage both adventurous visitors and generous patrons. John Ure The Transylvanian Book Festivalñfeaturing authors, poets and musicñis held in Richis, Romania from September 8 to 11 (01285 750358; www.transyl vanianbookfestival.co.uk)