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SEEN UP NORTH: Novel the right mix


Tony Best

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Readers of Ronald Williams’ latest novel may find themselves wondering if A Voice From The Tomb aims to tell a story about love, the environment or anthropology.
Ask the Bajan author to explain whom he aims to reach with his third fictional work and the educator and administrator will say “all of the above”.
“The audience is a mix of those who have an interest in reading about love and devotion, science and about global warming, sea-level rise and the impact on our environment,” said Dr Williams.
“I do believe that if we don’t take care of the issues around global warming and sea-level rise we are going to have really some very serious and disastrous problems. This novel tries to sound that clarion call. It’s also about a man in love with his missing wife and how far he would go to find her.”
Anyone who has followed Williams’ life wouldn’t be caught off-guard by the 326-page tome and what motivated him to write it in the first place.
For the former student of the Coleridge & Parry School who holds a bachelor’s degree in history and English, a master’s in English and a doctorate in literature from Lehigh University spends much of his time away from his office at the College Board, where he is a vice president, writing novels that reflect his interest in literature, people, history and intellectual pursuits.
“I write all the time,” said the academic and novelist, who spent more than a quarter of a century running community colleges and guiding their academic affairs but who since 2007 has been a top executive of the College Board which is best known around the world for its Scholastic Aptitude Test, SAT, and Advanced Placement tests. “I am either writing a new book, editing an old one or otherwise putting my thoughts on paper.”
That explains why he was able to publish three novels in the past decade and has the manuscripts for seven more, five of which are ready to be published. His first published work, Four Saints And An Angel, came out when he was president of Prince George’s Community College in Largo, Maryland, a suburb of Washington D.C., while the second book, A Death In Panama, was published after he joined the College Board.
“Before the first book was published I had completed seven manuscripts and since its publication I have continued to write,” said Williams, who served as vice president for academic affairs and later acting president of the Community College of Philadelphia; vice chancellor in the Minnesota Community College system; and Vice Chancellor of the Connecticut Community College system.
“A Voice From The Tomb” is the first work which departs from a Caribbean theme and that decision can be traced to his interest in global warming and the potential negative repercussions if nations go their merry way without thinking about the environmental consequences.
Quite unlike environmentalists who speak about the impact of global warming in a benign way, Williams brings the issue to life in a dramatic way with a fracturing of the ozone layer and the nightmare that follows. Actually, the central character of the book is Andreas Prescod, a white American university professor, believes his wife may have died while on a trip to Antarctica and he sets out to her.
Using a mix of science fiction and the emotion of a husband in love, the story flows in and out of speculative science, the history of the evolution of human being from Africa and the horrors of extreme weather pattern, such as droughts. Next is the dangerous rise in sea levels and what it can do to the land and people’s ability to feed themselves. It’s a prescription for war. The upshot of all of this is the uprooting of entire communities, numbering hundreds of thousands, in search of food and acceptable living conditions.
Williams, who grew up in northern Barbados, has used his writings as an escape valve, one that relieves the pressures of the academic world.

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