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Stephansdom_wien_1912For fans of my Viennese Mystery books, I want to let you know that book six, The Third Place, is the final volume in the series. It feels a bit odd saying goodbye to that world and to those characters who have become so real for me, and I hope, for you, as well. ‘Odd’ may not be the best word, but let’s not get maudlin.

At least the series goes out with a critical bang. Booklist noted of The Third Place: “In addition to an engaging mystery, this masterfully plotted tale offers an intimate and revealing portrait of turn-of-the-century Vienna, with fine characterizations, gentle humor, clever dialogue, and vivid portrayals of Viennese culture.” Likewise, a reviewer for Historical Novel Society commented, “The Third Place is full of incendiary politics, assassination plots, and a race against time to protect Vienna from a catastrophe, and I enjoyed every bit of it.”

Rave reviews, however, do not always equate with high sales, and the publisher is not going forward with the series. Getting another house to pick it up mid-series is a nonstarter, especially as the earlier volumes are still in print. So… as poet Robert Graves once wrote, Good-Bye to All That.

But I am still publishing other stand alone titles. Over the past two years, in addition to the Viennese novels, I have also published three thriller/mysteries: Ruin Value: A Mystery of the Third Reich, Basic Law: A Mystery of the Cold War, and The German Agent, a World War I thriller. Also, keep an eye out for publication later this year with Mysterious Press of my suspense novel, The Edit. I am also branching out into children’s literature with the middle grade novel, Bach Is Back, and the YA novel, Anne Frank Is Alive Somewhere.

I will also keep this blog going with more new interviews in 2016. And for fans of the Viennese Mystery series I want to express my thanks and gratitude for your support and wonderful comments over the years. Danke vielmals! It’s been a pleasure entertaining you.

Third Place The Third Place has just been published in England. To mark its publication, here’s a bit on the inspiration for this novel:

The Third Place is the sixth installment in my Viennese Mystery series, set at the turn of the twentieth century and featuring private inquiries agent Advokat Karl Werthen and his partner in crime detection, the real-life father of criminology, the Austrian Hanns Gross. In this series addition, Werthen and Gross investigate the murder of Herr Karl, a renowned headwaiter at one of Vienna’s premier cafés. As the investigation turns up new clues, Werthen and Gross are suddenly interrupted in their work by a person they cannot refuse. They are commissioned to locate a missing letter from the emperor to his mistress, the famous actress Katharina Schratt. Franz Josef is desperate for the letter not to fall into the wrong hands, for it contains a damning secret. As the intrepid investigators press on with this new investigation, they soon discover that there has also been an attempt to assassinate the emperor. Eventually, Werthen and Gross realize that the case of the murdered headwaiter and the continuing plot to kill the emperor are connected, and they now face their most challenging and dangerous investigation yet.

This novel takes its title from the Viennese saying, First is cafehome, next comes work, and then the third place is the coffeehouse. In fact, much of the inspiration for the writing of this book comes from the Viennese coffeehouse and its history and legends.

At one point early in the novel, Werthen and his wife, Berthe, meet with Karl Kraus, cultural critic, grammar policeman, and word maven of Vienna 1900. Kraus has served as a source of information for Werthen several times in the series, and in the following scene, he provides a possible theory re the murder of Herr Karl:

“Do you know Herr Karl’s last name?” Kraus asked.

Werthen had to shake his head at this.

“I thought not. Though supreme in their leadership at the café, the Herr Ober has no surname. He is simply Herr Karl or Herr Viktor.” Kraus made a dramatic pause, then, “Andric. His name was Karl Jakov Andric.”

“Sounds Serbian,” Berthe said.

“And it is, dear lady. Actually, Bosnian Serb. Herr Karl’s family arrived in Vienna not long after Franz Josef became emperor, escaping Ottoman rule. They were Christians, and only too happy to finally make it to a Christian land. Ironic, however, Herr Karl’s choice of trade, don’t you think?”

cafe2“You mean the Turkish connection?” Werthen said.

“Exactly,” Kraus said, looking at Werthen as a pleased headmaster might gaze at a bright pupil. “The family flees Turkish Ottoman rule only to have the son take up a trade created by the Turks. It is a pleasing story for schoolchildren. The loyal Polish trader Kolschitzky rewarded for his spying services during the Turkish siege of Vienna by making off with bags of coffee beans found in the camp of the vanquished Turks. Beans which only he knew what to do with. And like most children’s tales, it is mostly myth. The Armenians preceded Kolschitzky, but then who cares for the truth when fable is so much more alluring?”

“But what could Her Karl’s ancestry have to do with his death?” Berthe said, growing exasperated at Kraus’s asides.

“This is hearsay, Advokat,” Kraus said, directing the conversation at Werthen in silent rebuke to Berthe–a woman daring to continually badger the greatest intellect of Vienna. “So do not quote me, but from my unofficial café historians I have heard that Herr Karl’s father was something of a revolutionary while in Bosnia, eager, though a Serb, to keep that region independent of greater Serbia. It is said that perhaps his emigration was not stirred so much by dislike for the Ottomans, but for fear of retribution from Serbian nationalists. Perhaps they took out revenge on his son at long last. There are rumors, after all, of a secret organization formed by the Serbian military last year. The Black Hand. Quite dramatic, don’t you think. The purpose of said secret society is assassination.”

Werthen did not bother to write down anything more than Herr Karl’s full name. This avenue of investigation seemed too incredible to warrant exploration.

Kraus touches on many of the themes later developed in The 220px-Jerzy_Franciszek_Kulczycki_11Third Place. But of importance here is his historical aside to the founding of the Viennese coffeehouse. I have long been fond of the Kolschitzky tale, no matter, as Kraus says, its apocryphal nature. He is one of those fascinating footnotes to history who become symbolic for an entire epoch and is also an inspiration for The Third Place.

Kolschitzky was simply one of many messengers who, for a high price, braved the Turkish lines during the 1683 siege of Vienna to tell the relieving army to advance, that the situation inside the walls of the town had greatly deteriorated. Kolschitzky and his servant made a treacherous round trip though enemy lines wearing Turkish garb.

A Pole, Kolschitzky had worked for a time as an interpreter in Constantinople and could thus blend in linguistically with the Turks. Both he and his servant were paid 200 ducats for delivering this life-saving message.

Kolschitzky must have been a master of public relations, for it is his exploits that chroniclers of the siege chose to report, even though there were numerous other such messengers making the perilous journey through enemy lines. Indeed, in the chronicles of the siege, Kolschitzky’s deeds take on a magnitude of importance in league with the commander of the Viennese fortifications, Stahremberg, or the burgomaster, Liebenberg, who died defending the city.

kol1After the Turks were routed on September 12, 1683, by a relieving force of 120,000 Germans and Poles, the spoils were handed out all around. The Turks had taken most of their treasury with them, but among other things left behind were sacks and sacks full of coffee beans. The Viennese had yet to discover the joys of coffee; however, Kolschitzky knew of the wonderful beverage from his time in Constantinople, and he agreed to take these “useless beans” as a further reward for his service to Vienna.

He proceeded to open Vienna’s first coffeehouse, “At the Sign of the Blue Bottle,” and started what has become a Viennese institution, the café, so vital to Viennese life that it is called “the third place.”

Just wanted to share the cover art for book book 6 in the Viennese Mystery series, The Third Place:

Third Place

The Third Place is the sixth installment in my Viennese Mystery series, set at the turn of the twentieth century and featuring private inquiries agent Advokat Karl Werthen and his partner in crime detection, the real-life father of criminology, the Austrian, Hanns Gross. In this series addition, Werthen and Gross investigate the murder of Herr Karl, a renowned headwaiter at one of Vienna’s premier cafés. As the investigation turns up new clues, Werthen and Gross are suddenly interrupted in their work by a person they cannot refuse. They are commissioned to locate a missing letter from the emperor to his mistress, the famous actress Katharina Schratt. Franz Josef is desperate for the letter not to fall into the wrong hands, for it contains a damning secret. As the intrepid investigators press on with this new investigation, they soon discover that there has also been an attempt to assassinate the emperor. Eventually, Werthen and Gross realize that the case of the murdered headwaiter and the continuing plot to kill the emperor are connected, and they now face their most challenging and dangerous investigation yet.

This novel takes its title from the Viennese saying, First is home, next comes work, and then the third place is the coffeehouse. In fact, much of the inspiration for the writing of this book comes from the Viennese coffeehouse and its history and legends.

The book is out at the end of June in England and at the beginning of October in the U.S.

Kudos to anyone who can guess what the location is in this illustration.

w552873Basic Law is available now, and getting some good play in the press.

The Richmond Times-Dispatch had high praise, noting:

“A perfect blend of thriller and whodunit, “Basic Law” provides an absorbing look at a perilous time. A yarn spun with skill and chills, moral absolutes and moral ambiguities, it challenges the reader from first to last page.”

Read the full review here.

Also, the International Thriller Writers Big Thrill magazine just published an interview with me on the writing of Basic Law. Check it out here.

And my publishers also posted an article by me re the backstory to this novel. Find it here.

w552873My new thriller, Basic Law, the first in a trilogy, is available this week. Set in the post-Cold War Europe of the 1990s, it features foreign correspondent Sam Kramer.

Here’s a quick synopsis:

“Expat American journalist Sam Kramer is burned out: too many dead bodies, too many wars covered, too little meaning in it all. He’s got a dead-end job at the Daily European as the correspondent for Vienna, where nothing happens now that the Cold War is over. And that is exactly how Kramer likes it.

But his private neutral zone is shattered with news of the suicide of Reni Müller, a German left-wing firebrand and Kramer’s long-estranged ex-girlfriend. To his surprise, Kramer suddenly finds himself the executor of Reni’s literary estate—but the damning memoir named in her will is nowhere to be found. Tracking down the manuscript will lead Kramer to the unsettling truth of Reni’s death, drawing him back into the days of the Cold War and showing him the dark side of the woman he loved.”

Reviewers at Amazon have been very enthusiastic about this book: “Tough as nails and tautly written,” noted one reviewer; “Wow, this was one heck of a ride!” noted another; a third called it an “action-packed mystery and thriller,” while yet another reviewer commented that “If you like noir and a ‘Third Man’ style of story (even though this is mid 90s)… you will like this book.” I agree with still a further reviewer in her assessment: “This is more than just a mystery or crime novel. There is an element of suspense and thriller mixed in that can really get your blood moving.” A Vine Voice critic also noted: “The book is a page turner, and I greatly enjoyed it. The plot is complex, and the historical details about middle-aged men and women trying to leave their radical youth behind them ring true.”

Sam Kramer first appeared in a couple of my early (unpublished) novels. In celebration of the publication of Basic Law, I post here a much more recent short story iteration of him .

Enjoy!

Continue Reading »

w552873Hey folks–if you missed out on the last Goodreads giveaway for my new thriller, Basic Law, out next month, have heart. My publishers have just begun another one with 11 copies available. Sign up between March 10 and March 23 to be included in the drawing.

w552873My new thriller, Basic Law, is out in mid-April, but my publishers are conducting a giveway now for interested readers over at Goodreads. The book has already attracted very positive buzz with Amazon Vine Voice reviewers. So hurry on over and put your name in–the drawing ends March 2, 2015!

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