66 U.S. Dollars is based on the true story of an ambitious project started in 1978 to build a new ocean going tug in Famagusta, the main sea port of Northern Cyprus. Following the island’s invasion by the Turkish army in the summer of 1974, the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC) was ostracised by most of the world’s governments, with the exception of mainland Turkey. The resultant trade and diplomatic embargoes made life a struggle for this tiny new nation, and it is against this background that the book’s main protagonist, Jack Durham, arrives from England with his young family to start a new life in the sun.
The story follows not only the progress of the tug building project, but also the varied experiences of Jack, his partner Mary, and her two young daughters as they all adjust to living in surroundings so different from their home back in Hampshire. Another important aspect of the book is Jack’s relationship with his employer, Frank Palmer, whose business methods were unconventional to say the least, and added considerably to the challenges faced by the incipient venture. Most of the events described did actually take place during the family’s twelve month sojourn on the island, but names have been changed (to protect the guilty), and a little fictional zest has been added out of pure literary whimsy.
Shipbuilding is taken more or less for granted in a wealthy, industrialised country like Great Britain, but the project described in 66 U.S. Dollars was almost unthinkable in Northern Cyprus during those troubled times in the early years of Turkish occupation. Armed troop movements were a common occurrence on the roads between Famagusta, Nicosia and Kyrenia in the late seventies, and the long, narrow Karpaz panhandle was in fact still a no-go area for civilians. In all respects, Northern Cyprus was a most improbable environment for a middle-class English family to choose.
Several books have already been written about ‘The Cyprus Problem’, and even to this day the island remains politically divided. 66 U.S. Dollars does not seek to elaborate any further on such weighty matters; the authors’ intention is simply to relate a year in the life of an English ex-patriot family hoping to make a difference in a small nation’s recovery from the ravages of war. It is poignant to reflect that two generations of young Cypriots have grown up both sides of the dividing line since the events described in 66 U.S. Dollars. The infant son of Hasan the welder (page 163) would now be forty-two years of age.