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Archive for September, 2010

Another post in my ongoing series of Cold War Europe:

It’s only about 130 miles from Vienna to Budapest, but during the years I lived in the Austrian capital, during the Cold War, Budapest, part of the Soviet East Bloc, was in many ways located in another time and world. You can take a hydrofoil there now on the Danube, fly, drive, sip a glass of wine on high-speed rail–I suppose you could even navigate a hot air balloon there from Vienna if you wanted.

That is now. Time was, however, when those hundred-plus miles took days of preparation: getting the right visa with the right stamps, making train and hotel reservations, changing money, but not too much. As I recall, you could take a small amount of forints into the country, but the Hungarians wanted Western currency. Ultimately, you needed to change Austrian schillings or American dollars inside Hungary where the rate was much higher. The language is also daunting–a distant relation to Finnish or Estonian with little Latin or Greek to hold onto for the non-speaker. Igen, “yes,” is about all I can muster now. (more…)

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Paul Adam is the author of eleven can’t-put-them-down thrillers for adults (in addition to three earlier crime novels, featuring investigative journalist Mike McLean) that cover topics from people smuggling, to genetically modified crops, cigarette smuggling in the European Union, Chinese oppression in Tibet, corruption within the Vatican, and the 21st Century surveillance society in which we live. In Unholy Trinity, Adams looks at connections between the Catholic Church and Italian neo-Fascist groups in a tale that London’s Literary Review thought would have appealed to Eric Ambler. Of his Flash Point, novelist Nelson DeMille blurbed, “Wonderfully plotted, fast-paced and refreshingly original.” (more…)

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Kirkus Reviews praised her “intelligent, sensuous writing.” The Washington Post said she “adroitly tosses in period detail as well as romance, political intrigue and brutal battle scenes.” Booklist declared that “the nineteenth-century Ottoman Empire, in the throes of political upheaval, … provides the vividly realized background” of her novels. Welcome to the world of Jenny White and her Turkish protagonist, Kamil Pasha.

White, a social anthropologist at Boston University, and author of several award-winning academic titles, also moonlights as the well respected author of three books featuring Kamil, an aristocrat and modernist who is a magistrate in the new secular courts. The adventures begin with The Sultan’s Seal in 2006, which Booklist gave a starred review, noting: “Court life and customs in old Istanbul are thrillingly captured here, with readers easily transported back to those days when mystery and intrigue lurked around every corner.” Shortlisted for the 2006 Ellis Peters Historical Crime Award, this debut was also named one of the top ten first novels of 2006 and one of the top ten historical novels of 2006 by Booklist. (more…)

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Author Lisa Black makes no bones about it. On her home page she declares that she “spent the happiest five years of my life in a morgue.” Fed up with a secretarial career, she re-tooled at Cleveland State University and got a job as a forensic scientist at the Cuyahoga County Coroner’s Office, where she analyzed gunshot residue on hands and clothing, hairs, fibers, paint, glass, DNA, blood and many other forms of trace evidence, as well as crime scenes. (more…)

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Another offering of scene in my own fiction:

Vienna Court Opera

Gustav Mahler’s name has long been associated with Vienna. Most know the story of his turbulent years as director of the Court Opera from 1897 to 1907.

Indeed, the early years of his directorship are, in part, the subject of my novel, Requiem in Vienna. Court intrigues, recalcitrant singers who balked at Mahler’s perfectionism, the omnipresent anti-Semitism in Central Europe of the day, musical prejudices, and professional jealousies–all these deviled Mahler’s years in the capital of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. But there were compensations, as well: Mahler wrote some of his most significant works in the summers of these years; he married the volatile Viennese, Alma Schindler, daughter of landscape painter Emil Schindler and stepdaughter to Secessionist painter Carl Moll and began a family; he rose internationally in stature as a conductor of note.

What is less well known is that this was actually Mahler’s second sojourn in Vienna. (more…)

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Bob Morris is the author of the Caribbean-themed mysteries featuring Zack Chasteen, former Miami Dolphins linebacker and ex-con (wrongly convicted), who becomes an unwilling detective to save his own skin in the series opener, Bahamarama. An “edgy debut novel,” is how Publishers Weekly described that book. Booklist was also impressed, noting that “Morris knows how to put some bounce in his writing.” (more…)

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Mid-Ocean Madness

A confession: As a young man I was a physical coward. Well, let me rephrase that. As a young man certain situations scared me enough that I would go to elaborate lengths to avoid said situations.

Sitting in a cramped seat eight miles high, breathing stale, recycled air, with just a couple inches of steel between me and eternity–that was one of those situations.

Problem is, as a young man, I also traveled a good deal between Europe and the West Coast of the United States. (more…)

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