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Riols Quarter

Riols Quarter

Riols Quarter is the publishing company which owns and publishes this website. The name Riols originates from a village in the south of France. It seems surprising a publishing company based in London should choose this French name. Why is this village of Riols, its history and environment, significant ?

On the surface it seems rather puzzling that a publishing company registered in London should be called Riols Quarter?  Until you consider who set it up and what Riols as a place represents to the founder, Brandon Broll. To this maverick writer, anti-apartheid activist, electrician, scientist, historian, poet, nature lover…

The ancient village of Riols, or more correctly ‘commune of Riols’ for that is the French term used, is situated in the Haut Languedoc, haut meaning high in the altitudinal sense, for this village is situated in a high valley of the Languedoc surrounded by majestic forested mountains. If Riols sounds remote, it is, yet for centuries the French people in this area have fought invaders from far and wide who have come to threaten their independence.  

Stretching back at least to the medieval Cathars, the people of these mountains have cherished something specific and powerful. Freedom. Self-esteem. Independence. Respect. That has been their message. And for this powerful message, for their maverick voices and actions towards this end, they have been persecuted. Memorials pepper these mountains attesting to their bravery and to their persecution.

Tourists visit this region for the romance and tragedy that surrounds the Cathar massacres of the 13th century. The Cathars were a Christian dualist movement whose beliefs rejected the church as part of the material world whereas they considered religion spiritual. Pope Innocent III called for the Albigensian Crusade which massacred 20,000 Cathars in the nearby city of Beziers. In the mountains near Riols, the maverick Cathars held out to the bitter end in four defensive castles clustered on rocky ridges at Lastours.

While Catharism exists in some quarters to the present day,  a courageous stand we can perhaps more easily relate to today is the bravery of people in these mountains who resisted Nazi invasion during the Second World War. Memorials to resistance fighters are commonplace in this area, including in Riols, and Riols features on ‘La Route de la Resistance Dans les Haut Cantons’, a route linking important sites of Nazi resistance.  

Day to day the villagers of Riols are quiet but friendly, living behind the sun-drenched shutters of their stone homes, enjoying regular social events in the square. The population which exceeds 700 is slowly growing, there are more than a few independent-minded mavericks here, yet few people other than the French visit Riols or know of it. Trout fishermen quietly arrive to cast their fly hooks onto the clean, slow flowing water of the Jaur river, and groups of hikers tread through passing from one mountain to another.

When Brandon Broll was looking for a bolt-hole to escape to away from the bustle of London, he chose Riols because “it reminded me of the Cape.” The Mediterranean climate, towering mountains, vineyards, and wild open spaces must have reminded him of what he had left behind in South Africa. Even though London had been his adult home for thirty years, “the subtleties of home as a child often remains the dream of home as an adult”.  Especially, if as an exile, you were forced to leave it.

Apart from its rich political history, Riols is set in the Parc Naturel Regional du Haut Languedoc. This regional nature park which includes inhabited rural villages and towns, is designated an area of outstanding beauty so as to protect the scenery and heritage. Its importance in nature conservation is recognised by the French government and protected by sustainable economic development. It is here that Brandon Broll, whose childhood embraced nature, who qualified as a botanist and zoologist at the highest level but whose career as a biologist was destroyed by politics, later chose this bolt-hole as a writer.

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Published by Riols Quarter Ltd, 85 Great Portland Street,
London W1W 7LT. Company: 12673832.
Copyright © 2020

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About

brandon broll

Brandon Broll

Author of the International Bestselling
Science Book Microcosmos.

“Astonishing. Amazing. Impressive”. Alexander Theroux, The Wall Street Journal.
“This book will amaze and fascinate you”. Louisa Harper, Waterstone’s.
 “Microcosmos explores the beauty of our world”. Chicago Sun-Times.
“Readers can marvel at this striking collection”. Nature.

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Published by Riols Quarter Ltd, 85 Great Portland Street,
London W1W 7LT. Company: 12673832.
Copyright © 2020

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About

doctor electric

Who is Doctor Electric ?

Everything you see is true...

According to the dictionary a maverick is a free spirit, an independent-minded person, a non-conformist. Brandon Broll is a maverick. The picture you see above of Doctor Electric is absolutely true. Incongruous as it sounds, Brandon Broll is a sparky with a PhD ! And that’s not all…

Brandon Broll admits that being a maverick in our world can be hard, but “why ever not ?” he challenges. “Imagine you can do anything. Try not to get boxed into one dimension. People aspire to living their life in one dimension. Isn’t life bigger than that ?”

It may be an incredible aspiration, or just the non-plussed, penetrating and passionate way he views the world, that Brandon Broll mentions Leonardo da Vinci as an example of who to aspire to be. The great Renaissance scientist, medical mind and anatomist, engineer, inventor, poet, musician, writer, artist and sculptor extraordinaire.

The extraordinary thing is that like Leonardo, Brandon has become an expert in almost everything he has put his mind to. The picture you see above of Doctor Electric (a nickname) is true. As incongruous as that sounds, you see a sparky with a PhD !  And not just one PhD… And he wasn’t a fully qualified electrician before he earned his doctorate… he became an electrician afterwards !

That doctoral gown you see is a Birkbeck College, University of London, doctorate in history. When he entered the examination room to take his viva in this doctoral degree, two full professors of history stood, shook his hand, and announced he’d passed. Without corrections needed. Both of them knew that his background was actually in science.

Yet they did not know that as a poet his biography appeared regularly in the International Who’s Who in Poetry and Poets Encyclopaedia. And if they heard he was the author of the international bestselling science book Microcosmos, he kept very quiet about giving up a successful career in medical journalism to earn his money as an electrical engineer. “People don’t like you revealing too much. So I keep quiet and get on with it.”

Brandon Broll always imagined himself as a wildlife biologist in South Africa, the place of his birth, and it wasn’t a dream, he made it a reality from a young age. Chameleons were his favourite pets. Graduating with distinction in zoology and botany from the University of Cape Town, he was fast tracked into postgraduate studies, researching the eusocial naked mole-rat.

But just as he was about to complete his doctorate in science, a disagreement between him and his supervisor got him expelled. It was at the height of apartheid and by then he was chairman of the Civil Rights League of South Africa, publishing political poetry and journalism against racism and injustice. When the apartheid army demanded he join them, he fled to London as a political refugee with a novel in hand titled The Unseen Genius. The title originates from a poem by Milton.

“I understand how Leonardo da Vinci was misunderstood,” he says. “Some of his works appeared in his own time, but much, like his scientific and philosophical notebooks and sketches, were kept private, hidden from others doubly through his mirror writing.” 

So how much do we know about the works of Brandon Broll ?  “Hah,” he laughs. “Most of it, you don’t !”  It seems as if, every time a work of his becomes public, there is an impact. Without ever publishing a book of poetry he was recognised in the international biographical encyclopaedia for world poets, but as a poet he remains unknown. Likewise, his science book Microcosmos received rave reviews in America, UK  and Europe, with the German edition published by National Geographic. Yet he got no royalties for it.

“It’s better that the true maverick goes by unseen,” he says. “Or else it can get you into trouble”.  For Brandon, his life remains largely anonymous in London. “That’s good. It helps me in my work”. He is married with two sons. He is a working electrician, among other things. Cannily, he owns a number of properties rented out. All of his direct family live in South Africa and his mother lives in a property in Cape Town he bought for her.

On the horizon, there are books he is writing, others he is planning to write, and much he has written which should be published. During the 2020 Covid-19 pandemic, Brandon released a long poem titled Still-life of a Pandemic, published through Amazon Kindle and in audiobook through Audible and iTunes. Unsurprisingly, it has garnered praise. It appears that we may be seeing many more books by Brandon Broll as he has founded the publishing company Riols Quarter Ltd.

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Published by Riols Quarter Ltd, 85 Great Portland Street,
London W1W 7LT. Company: 12673832.
Copyright © 2020