Behind the Book – Man on Ice by Humphrey Hawksley

9780727887733_FCMAN ON ICE: Russia vs the USA – in Alaska

As a foreign correspondent for the BBC, Humphrey Hawksley has reported on key trends, events and conflicts from all over the world. He is the author of seven previous fast-paced political thrillers.

A new president. An old enemy. A deadly threat.     

As a remote Alaskan island community is caught in the crosshairs of sabre-rattling big powers, only one man can prevent a new world war from breaking out.  A tense and twisting thriller that’ll have you on the edge of your seat.

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I am fascinated by borders between hostile powers and as soon as Sarah Palin was ridiculed for saying that Alaskans could see Russia from their backyards, I knew I had to check it out. Palin was right. Russia is barely two miles away and on a clear day from the island of Little Diomede, it’s as if you can reach out and touch it. I was struck by the emptiness. There are no flags, no border marking, nothing to say that here is the frontier between the two most powerful enemies of Earth. Then came the questions moving towards the narrative arc of a thriller that would do justice to this remote and dramatic setting.

Who are the Eskimos and what are their traditions? The border has cut through Eskimo families and communities that crossed back and forth between the two for centuries. Now, they are separated by what is known as the Ice Curtain. With ramped up tension between Moscow and Washington, what would the US do if Russia just took the island of Little Diomede? Why is it so unprotected, no police, no Alaskan National Guard, no fence? Nothing but ice and sea. Is there an unwritten agreement between Moscow and Washington to keep this border quiet?

This is the backdrop to Man on Ice and I set the scene in these reports for the BBC and other publications.

The ice curtain that divides US families from Russian cousins

The ice curtain that divides Russia and the US

A beckoning Asia could help to reduce Arctic tensions

The US and Russia Face to Face as Ice Curtain Melts

Visit our website for more information on this title.

 

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Behind the Book: THE LONG SILENCE by Gerard O’Donovan

donovanFebruary, 1922. Hollywood is young but already mired in scandal. When a leading movie director is murdered, Irish-American investigator Tom Collins is called in by studio boss Mack Sennett, whose troubled and now missing star, Mabel Normand, is rumoured to be involved.

Collins’ quest leads him through Prohibition-era Los Angeles, from speakeasies and dope dens to the studios and salons of Hollywood’s movie elite, and to a secret so explosive it must be kept silent at any cost . . .

Inspired by the unsolved real-life murder of movie director William Desmond Taylor, The Long Silence is the first in a richly evocative, instantly compelling series of new noir mysteries set in Hollywood’s early days. Gerard O’Donovan explains the inspiration behind the book.

The Long Silence is a story of paradise lost. A work of fiction, yes, but its glittering setting and most of its major characters are real and deserve to be rescued from the realms of the forgotten. 1922 was a pivotal year for the movies. In less than a decade this dazzling new art form had taken the world by storm, creating the first global entertainment industry, the world’s first superstars and dizzying fame and fortune for many. For most in Hollywood’s silent-era ‘movie colony’ life was a heady mix of hard work, fun and undreamed of creative innovation and freedom. But the tales of immorality, drug abuse and exploitation that constantly swirled round them, whipped up by a sensation-hungry press, were a provocation to conservative America. After success in getting Prohibition passed in 1920, reformers were increasingly targeting the corrupting influence of movies. The clamour for censorship and even an outright ban gathered force. An opportunity for action arose with the arrest in September 1921 of comedy star Roscoe ‘Fatty’ Arbuckle for the rape and murder of Virginia Rappe. The furore that attended Arbuckle’s three trials rocked the movie colony to its foundations amid widespread, genuinely held fears that one more major scandal could force the industry to shut down. In this febrile atmosphere, in February 1922, leading movie director William Desmond Taylor was murdered in mysterious and very shocking circumstances. A ruthless behind-the-scenes fight for survival began . . .

Visit our website for more information on this title.

Things We’ve Learned About . . . Bonnie Hearn Hill and THE RIVER BELOW

riverWhen a mangled car is pulled from the river, containing bloodstains and a gun, Tessa thinks she saw a girl out on the riverbank. But her memory is failing; could this be the start of something more serious? Tessa’s friend Claire Barrett vows to work out what’s going on in this tale of suppressed secrets, fractured families . . . and murder.

“A haunting psychological thriller” Booklist

 

 

A love of the San Joaquin River, writing and vegan hot fudge sundae cake . . . find out more about our wonderful author, Bonnie Hearn Hill, and her most recent thriller, THE RIVER BELOW.  Oh, and we wish we were in her writing critique group!

Inspiration behind the book:

This book is especially important to me because it is set on California’s San
Joaquin River, a stretch of water I visit almost daily because it is two blocks
from my front door. I love the river, and my best friend and I walk along its
banks in the early mornings after leaving our gym. One day, when I looked out
on the water, I asked myself, ‘What if?’ What if a car floated up to the surface?
What if a woman began imagining the image of someone on that water? What
if her best friend, an environmental scientist, struggled to find the truth? Other
questions followed, and that’s how I wrote THE RIVER BELOW. It’s a book
about people trying to save themselves, others, and the river below.

Proudest achievement:

This is my nineteenth novel, and I’ve been with my wonderful agent through almost all of them. I love writing even when I hate it. I set my books in the Central San Joaquin Valley, a place I think of as the Forgotten California. Most people think California is made up of San Francisco and Los Angeles. I like to write about the rest. In this novel, I delve into family secrets and into the lives of those who are changed when, one day, a car floats to the surface of the San Joaquin River – and inside that car, is a gun.

Culinary Skills:

I tend to favour curries and Asian food, but my friends say my hummus is the best, and I make a mean vegan hot fudge sundae cake. Cooking is similar to writing for me. I like to get an idea and see where it takes me. You can see some of the creations I feed my writing critique group on my Facebook page.

A Place to Work:

I have a home office – my first that isn’t a back bedroom – with a real door, a view of the patio and one of my husband’s paintings on the wall. However, I can write anywhere, and at many times in my life, I had to.

Click here for more information on THE RIVER BELOW.

 

January Editor’s Pick: SIGN OF THE CROSS by Glenn Cooper

sign of the cross

This month’s Editor’s Pick is from Holly Domney, Editorial Assistant.

SIGN OF THE CROSS is the first in an absorbing religious conspiracy thriller series, featuring part-time boxer and Harvard professor, Cal Donovan. Glenn Cooper’s suave hero responds to an urgent summons from the Vatican, who are dealing with Giovanni; a young priest who has apparently developed the stigmata of Christ.

Cal’s scepticism is dissolved after interviewing Giovanni and Cal determines to uncover the cause of his mysterious wounds. But Cal is not the only one intrigued by Giovanni’s condition. The action kicks off when Giovanni is kidnapped and Cal realizes that the priest holds the key to an earth-shattering secret: a secret which a shadowy nationalist organization is desperate to control.

Teaming up with Giovanni’s headstrong, beautiful sister Irene, Cal must unravel the mystery and track down Giovanni in a perilous race against the clock . . . before an apocalyptic catastrophe is unleashed. The story is further enlivened by the novel’s villain, Lambret, the head of the extremist Nazi cult, and the brutish Gerhardt, the muscular, bottle-blonde haired henchman and adoptive son of Lambret.

SIGN OF THE CROSS is perfect for history lovers, puzzle enthusiasts, conspiracy fans or anyone who appreciates a riveting mystery with a killer climax. It is replete with oodles of interesting little details about Nazi iconography and its central neo-Cathar pagan secret society. Glenn Cooper’s fast-paced, clever thriller keeps you guessing until the very end, when all is brought to an unexpected conclusion.

Visit our website for more information on this title.

January US titles, out now!

9781780291017_FCThe Liar in the Library by Simon Brett

When an author event at the local library ends in murder, Jude finds herself a suspect in this waspishly witty new Fethering mystery. Can she not only solve the murder, but prevent herself from being arrested for committing it?

“A top-notch whodunit plot with loads of red herrings and eccentric suspects” Publishers Weekly

US: buy here     UK: buy here

 

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The Case of the Unsuitable Suitor by Cathy Ace

When the village’s prodigal son, Huw Hughes, returns and sets his cap at Annie Parker, village publican Tudor begs Annie’s colleagues at the WISE Enquiries Agency to unearth the truth behind Huw having been widowed three times.

 

“This gripping cozy mystery will keep the reader on the edge of their seat” Amazon reviewer

US: buy here     UK: buy here

 

9780727887481_FCThe Rose in Winter by Sarah Harrison

What if the one that got away came back? Barbara Delahay’s past returns to haunt her in this compelling novel of romantic suspense, set in 1929.

”This mix of historical fiction and romantic suspense will have readers of both genres eager to see what becomes of a surprisingly complex heroine” Booklist

US: buy here     UK: buy here

 

river

The River Below by Bonnie Hearn Hill

When a car is pulled from the river, containing bloodstains and a gun, Tessa thinks she saw a girl out on the riverbank. But her memory is failing; could this be the start of something more serious? Tessa’s friend Claire Barrett vows to work out what’s going on in this tale of suppressed secrets, fractured families . . . and murder.

“A haunting psychological thriller” Booklist

US: buy here     UK: buy here

 

9780727887467_FCWorst Fear by Matt Hilton

The discovery of the body of a young woman on a rocky Maine beach, having fallen from the cliffs above, leads private investigator Tess Grey to discover that someone from her past is pursuing a deadly vendetta, and she could be the next to die . . .

“This is a beautifully constructed and written suspenser” Booklist

US: buy here     UK: buy here

9780727887474_FCSeason of Blood by Jeri Westerson

1390. Hailes Abbey, Gloucestershire, England. A missing Holy Relic. A mysterious and beautiful woman. Two murdered monks: Crispin Guest tackles his most challenging investigation to date in this intriguing medieval noir mystery.

“Excellent . . . very well written and plotted” Amazon reviewer

US: buy here     UK: buy here

 

9781780291024_FCThe Island by M J Trow

March, 1873. The wedding of private investigator Matthew Grand’s sister is marred by cold-blooded murder in the gripping new Grand & Batchelor Victorian mystery. Can they uncover the shocking truth?

“A witty and clever tale” Kirkus Reviews

US: buy here    UK: buy here

Thrillers and Mysteries: 2017 Highlights

 

Feast your eyes on our selection of highlights from 2017! It’s been an extremely difficult task getting this list down to just eight, but if you love good thrillers and mysteries, the titles below come highly recommended – and not just by us!

thrill killTHRILL KILL by Don Bruns

Three murders, no apparent motive, but a can of spray gas known as Chill has been left at the scene of each crime . . . Beneath the carefree atmosphere of Mardi Gras, something very sinister is going on in this gripping Quentin Archer mystery.

“Even better than the excellent first book in the series, CASTING BONES!” Amazon reviewer

“Spell-binding” Cindy Fairweather, NetGalley

UK: buy here.    US: buy here.

 

deadly danceDEADLY DANCE by Hilary Bonner

A compelling psychological thriller and the first in a new series featuring Bristol detective, DI David Vogel. The discovery of the partially-clothed fourteen-year-old Melanie Cooke marks the start of a baffling murder investigation, where the revelation of a darkly complex secret shocks Vogel and his team to the core.

“Fully fleshed characters, a masterfully constructed plot, and a shock ending make for a gripping read” Booklist

“A very captivating read” Amazon reviewer

UK: buy here.    US: buy here.

mansionsTHE MANSIONS OF MURDER by Paul Doherty

October, 1381. A murdered priest, a missing body, stolen treasure: Brother Athelstan tackles his most difficult investigation to date when a series of disturbing discoveries lead him into the dark and dangerous world of the gangmaster known as The Flesher . . .

“Doherty keeps readers guessing and the pages turning with yet another intricately plotted whodunit steeped in history” Booklist

“Another great book, keep them coming!” Amazon reviewer

UK: buy here.    US: buy here.

copperON COPPER STREET by Chris Nickson

Leeds, England. March, 1895. The day after his release from prison, petty criminal Henry White is found stabbed to death at his terraced home on Copper Street, but Detective Inspector Tom Harper finds answers hard to come by in his latest challenging investigation.

“An outstanding entry in an excellent historical mystery series” Booklist Starred Review

“A huge 5* from me!” NetGalley reviewer

UK: buy here.    US: buy here.

 

spring breakSPRING BREAK by Gerald Elias

Reclusive, blind violin pedagogue Daniel Jacobus is invited to speak at a seemingly innocuous symposium on Baroque music at a prestigious music conservatory, but has no idea he is about to become enmeshed in an entrenched culture of sexual harassment and its cover-up at the highest levels. A timely and engrossing read which deals sensitively with one of society’s big issues.

“A very good entry in a reliable series” Booklist

“Terrific!” Amazon reviewer

UK: buy here.    US: buy here.

 

riverTHE RIVER BELOW by Bonnie Hearn Hill

When a mangled car is pulled from the river, containing bloodstains and a gun, Tessa thinks she saw a girl out on the riverbank. But her memory is failing; could this be the start of something more serious? Tessa’s friend Claire Barrett vows to work out what’s going on in this tale of suppressed secrets, fractured families . . . and murder.

“A haunting psychological thriller” Booklist

“Gripped me from beginning to end” Amazon reviewer

UK: buy here.    US: buy here.

 

9780727887559_FCVANISHED by Karen E. Olson

With a price on her head, computer hacker Tina Adler is determined to stay offline. But a chance discovery leads Tina to abandon her South Carolina hideaway and head to Paris in search of her old flame, FBI Agent Zeke Chapman. But someone is close on her trail in this tense and twisting thriller.

“This timely thriller is Alias meets Hackers – and you can’t get cooler than that” Hank Phillippi Ryan

“Exciting” Kirkus Reviews

UK: buy here.    US: pre-order here.

9780727887221LONE WOLF by Michael Gregorio

The discovery of a badly burned and mutilated body near Stansted airport leads the British police to Perugia, Italy, where park ranger Sebastiano Cangio is assigned to assist British detective Desmond Harris. Meanwhile, something monstrous is on the loose in the forests of Umbria. Could there be any truth to the rumours of werewolves?

“Gregorio offers up a nightmarish plot, white-knuckle suspense, and believable characters in this gripping thriller” Booklist

“A cracking thriller” Mike Ripley

UK: buy here.    US: buy here.

 

 

 

December Titles Out Now . . .

December pub

If too much turkey, wine and braving the Boxing Day sales has left you in recovery mode on the sofa, we might just have the perfect remedy for the post-Xmas slump: our December titles! Engross yourself in our new mysteries and thrillers, out today in the UK (1 April 2018 in the US), and available to purchase on Amazon using the links below.

MIND OF A KILLER by Simon Beaufort

1882. Following up a story about a fatal house fire, newspaper reporter Alec Londale discovers that the victim’s death was no accident. But why would someone murder a humble shop assistant and steal part of his brain? Alec is about to uncover evidence of a shocking conspiracy that reaches the highest echelons of Victorian society in this absorbing historical mystery.

More details and purchase on Amazon here.

BAD COPS by Nick Oldham

Two murders, apparently unconnected . . . neither case solved. Six months later, following a desperate plea from a chief constable, Detective Superintendent Henry Christie finds himself travelling across the country to carry out an urgent review of the two killings. His investigations will plunge him into a terrifying world of murder and corruption. How bad can it be when backs are against the wall? Henry Christie is about to find out . . .

More details and purchase on Amazon here.

WHISPER THE DEAD by Stella Cameron

Will appeal to fans of M.C. Beaton and Midsomer Murders.

Construction of a new housing development is already causing the residents of Folly-on-Weir concern when pub owner Alex Duggins is confronted by the terrifying scene of a construction trailer on fire and a man desperately trying to break the door down. Alex and her friend Tony Harrison are soon drawn into a major murder investigation whose tentacles will reach right to the heart of the tight-knit Folly community – and into Alex’s own past . . .

More details and purchase on Amazon here.

FALSE PRIDE by Veronica Heley

Bea Abbot’s plans for a peaceful weekend are disrupted by the unexpected arrival of one of her clients bearing a brown leather briefcase full of expensive jewellery. Magda Summerleys has been working as a housekeeper for wealthy art expert Lucas Rycroft who, she says, entrusted her with the briefcase for safekeeping – and who seems to have disappeared without trace. Bea is soon drawn into the tangled affairs of the dysfunctional Rycrofts . . . and events quickly begin to spiral out of control.

More details and purchase on Amazon here.

MILE HIGH MURDER by Marcia Talley

Maryland State Senator Claire Thompson has co-sponsored a Cannabis Legalization Bill and wants Hannah to be part of a fact-finding task force that testifies before the Maryland State Senate. Before long, Hannah is in Denver, Colorado – the Mile High City – staying at a B&B with a group of pot pilgrims and medical refugees, some of whom, like her, are on a mission for information. But when one of the group is found dead, is Hannah about to get ‘high’ on murder?

More details and purchase on Amazon here.

LOCK 13 by Peter Helton

Henry Blinkhorn drowned when his boat capsized in the Severn estuary. So how come his photograph appears on the front cover of The Angler six years later? The insurers who paid out a small fortune on his death have asked private investigator Chris Honeysett to track down the elusive Mr Blinkhorn and prove he’s still alive. But Honeysett is sidetracked from the investigation by the sudden disappearance of his life drawing model, Verity Lake, and it soon becomes clear that someone else is on Honeysett’s trail. Who are they . . . and what are they really after?

More details and purchase on Amazon here.

#BookExtract2: LOST VOYAGE by Pauline Rowson

Lost Voyage by Pauline Rowson book jacket

Art Marvik, former Royal Marine Commando, is surprised to receive an unexpected summons to meet Helen Shannon, a woman he helped on his first mission, in the middle of the night. When a body is discovered in her flat, Marvik is convinced that Helen is being framed for murder, but why and by whom? 

Shortly afterwards, the head of the National Marine Intelligence Squad, Detective Chief Superintendent Crowder, asks him to investigate the disappearance of a salvage vessel, the Mary Jo, which went missing in 2003.  As he delves into the past, it becomes clear that Marvik faces a desperate battle to keep Helen and others safe from a ruthless assassin – one who will stop at nothing in order to protect the secret of the Mary Jo’s last voyage from ever being exposed.

Read the second extract from LOST VOYAGE, the compelling third entry in the Art Marvik series . . .

Marvik once again went over his boat. All was secure. No one had entered it. He swallowed a couple of strong painkillers, then froze as he felt a movement on the pontoon. He steeled himself in readiness. His cabin lights were on. He couldn’t see who it was, only an outline of a dark-clothed figure. There was nowhere to hide. Besides, he wouldn’t hide anyway. This was what he had anticipated. He knew who his visitor was. Had he come alone, though? Had he come with the intention of killing him?

Marvik’s senses were on full alert for the smell of petrol, the placing of an explosive or the thud of an incendiary device which could be lobbed on to his boat, resulting in a massive fire. He might just have time to leap off the side into the sea.

His heart was beating fast, the adrenaline pumping. He’d left the cabin door open but he didn’t go outside. Instead he climbed silently and swiftly on to the fly bridge, keeping low. Here he had a good view of the pontoon. There were two of them. The bulkier one wore a peaked sailing cap rammed low down over his forehead, dark trousers and a sailing jacket. He nodded to the leaner, bare-headed man beside him, also dressed in dark clothes. The lean man climbed carefully on to the rear of Marvik’s boat and stealthily made his way around to the cabin door while the other man stayed on the pontoon. Marvik saw him glance rather nervously in both directions and back at the pontoon from where he’d come, towards the car park.

The boat rocked gently as the man entered the helm. Marvik could hear him breathing and sensed him searching it. Was he armed? Then he heard the soft footfall on the steps that led to the upper helm where Marvik crouched. As the head appeared, then the upper torso, Marvik launched himself on it and within a second had the man’s neck in a tight armlock before the bastard could blink or cry out. The heavy-duty torch in the man’s right hand – not brought for illumination, Marvik thought, but for striking – clattered to the deck.

‘You really should get some practice in,’ Marvik growled in the man’s ear as he gripped his arm and wrenched it up his back. ‘Now, do you want me to break your neck or your arm, or shall we go down and invite your mate to come on board?’

Marvik’s grip tightened. The man’s eyes bulged in a face which was rapidly turning blue as the oxygen was being severed. He managed to blink acceptance of the offer and Marvik picked up the heavy torch then thrust the man down the stairs ahead of him on to the deck, still holding him by the neck and in an armlock. Marvik called out to the bulkier man on the pontoon who had already seen them and had started nervously. ‘You’d better come on board, Royden, or would you rather I break your mate’s neck?’

‘No. I’m coming,’ Royden hastily replied and scrambled on board.

Miss the first extract? Read it here.

LOST VOYAGE by Pauline Rowson is out now in the UK and USA, and published in eBook. For further information on the Art Marvik marine thrillers, Pauline Rowson and her work, please visit our website here.

 

 

The Inspiration Behind LOST VOYAGE by Pauline Rowson

 

“A nice balance between thriller and puzzler” Kirkus Reviews 

Lost Voyage is the third instalment in the Art Marvik marine thriller series by Pauline Rowson. Here she talks about the story behind the book and the lost ships that inspired her.

How do you find a ghost ship once the trail has gone cold? And how do you locate it if it has been lost in the frozen seas of the Arctic? These were two questions that sparked the idea for the third in the Art Marvik mystery series, Lost Voyage. It also fitted neatly with the fact that Marvik’s late father, Dan Coulter, had been a renowned oceanographer with a special interest in the Arctic and it had been at the Arctic where he had met Marvik’s mother, Eerika, a marine archaeologist while working on a joint expedition with Norway in 1989.

I decided to conduct further research – desk-bound, I hasten to add, rather than physically embarking on an expedition to the Arctic. I’ll leave the tough stuff to my fictional characters.

I discovered that historically difficult to access, the Arctic Ocean once viewed as a remote and barren landscape has now become the fastest warming region of the globe because of climate change. On current predictions the entire Arctic Ocean will become ice-free in the summer sometime in the coming decades. This will bring with it a huge impact for marine life far beyond the Arctic region and will therefore affect our environmental, economic and political landscapes. It’s a scary scenario. But rather than choosing to focus on global warming and climate change for the story behind Lost Voyage, I thought of the ships lost in the ice over the centuries, and that if (or rather I should say when) the Arctic becomes ice-free, how many lost ships would it reveal?

So my search for ships lost in the Arctic Circle began, metaphorically speaking that is. There was the fascinating story of the SS Baychimo, which, after disappearing off the north coast of Alaska on 24 November 1931, was found, ice-packed, a few days later forty-five miles south of where she had been lost. After several months, she was again spotted, this time three hundred miles to the east. There followed numerous sightings over the next few years and she was boarded by various people in different locations – a group of Eskimos, explorers and in 1939 by Captain Hugh Polson, wishing to salvage her. But the creeping ice floes intervened and the captain had to abandon her. She was again spotted in 1962 and 1969 frozen in an ice pack. In 2006, the Alaskan government began work on a project to solve the mystery of ‘the Ghost Ship of the Arctic’ and locate her, whether still afloat or on the ocean floor. She has not been found yet.

Then another lost ship caught my eye and my imagination, the MV Lyubov Orlova, a Russian cruise ship, which went missing in the Atlantic. The luxury liner was being towed to the Dominican Republic from Newfoundland, Canada, to be scrapped when the towing ship battling against howling winds and ten-feet waves tried in vain to hold on to her. They failed and the cruise ship was left to drift. It was feared sunk and leaking toxins into the ocean. Several attempts have been made to locate her – all have failed. It’s just one of many ships that have gone ‘astray’. In fact, no one really knows how many ships are floating on the high seas or how many are lying beneath it.

From further research into ghost ships and the marine salvage industry the idea of a plot line for Lost Voyage started to crystallize. A salvage tug, the Mary Jo, is detailed to tow a Russian cruise ship out of Newfoundland to Britain for recycling in 2003, the time when a trans-Atlantic row was raging over the disposal of thirteen American toxic warships destined for Hartlepool in the UK for recycling. The warships, which had lain in the James River in Virginia for decades, contained hundreds of tonnes of hazardous substances, including asbestos, heavy diesel, mercury, lead-based paints and polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs). Four were eventually dismantled at Hartlepool.

In Lost Voyage, the salvage tug the Mary Jo never reaches her Newfoundland destination. She is lost until someone claims to have found her over a decade later, in the present day. It is a claim that leads to a trail of deaths because the secret of the Mary Jo must never be revealed. Marvik, working undercover for the UK’s National Intelligence Marine Squad (NIMS), is tasked to discover what that deadly secret is, and in so doing track down and stop a ruthless assassin.

LOST VOYAGE is available to purchase here.

Find out more about the previous two titles in the Art Marvik series,  SILENT RUNNING and  DANGEROUS CARGO.

 

 

 

Gerald Elias on SPRING BREAK

 

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My primary goals in the Daniel Jacobus series have been to write entertaining stories, provide a glimpse into the multi-faceted world of classical music, and give lay readers a good beginners’ listening list of some of the world’s greatest music. I’ve generally shied away from wading into political or broad social issues. When I started writing Spring Break I knew it was going to take place in a music conservatory and that a murder would be committed over some bone of contention, of which there are enough to make complete skeletons. I hadn’t determined who the victim or murderer would be, or the motive.

But as I worked through my rough draft, those question marks became exclamation points as, one after another, institutions of higher education became the subject of front-page headlines in highly publicized cases of sexual violence on their campuses. It didn’t matter whether it was a major Ivy League university or a church-administered one. Sexual harassment remains a doggedly tenacious epidemic in our general culture, and no less so on college campuses where, literally, one is presumed to know better. With the setting of Spring Break already established, I felt compelled to address this issue head on.

When drunken frat boys and campus sports heroes rape female students, we wring our hands but chalk it up to bad upbringing or aberrant behavior or extra testosterone or the reason-numbing effects of binge drinking. We decry it but can, to some degree, understand it. But when such crimes are committed by revered university profes­sors, how do we explain that away? Misunderstandings? If a professor can’t discern the difference between right and wrong, who can? Is it that difficult?

We are now engaged in a raging national debate regarding sexual misconduct that goes far beyond the college campus. High-profile men in the entertainment industry, in the media, in government, have been outed for sexual misconduct ranging from an unwanted kiss to pathological pedophilia. Even this is but the tip of the iceberg. Below the surface, sexual misconduct in the workplace – in offices, in hotels, in factories, in athletics, in the armed forces – has yet to be fully exposed. And it goes even beyond the workplace. Women do not feel safe from harassment or being groped simply walking down the street, sitting in a bus, or going to a park.

When students and former students have come to me with stories of being victimized by members of my profession, the most important thing I can do is help them regain their ability –which has been so violently compromised – to trust someone, anyone. I try to provide that trust and support. In a society that has no difficulty talking about violence but is unable to openly discuss sex, especially sexual predation, it is no wonder that women are only now coming forward and with such difficulty and with such courage.

We cringe in disgust when Catholic priests are exposed for abusing children. We are outraged when male-dominated cultures of so-called Third World countries relegate women to second-class status. We recoil in horror when marauding mercenaries in Africa rape women as their reward and as a tool to terrorize the populace into submission. Why is it, then, in our supposedly advanced democracy, we’ve continued to tolerate sexual violence throughout our society, and more specifically in Spring Break, on college campuses? To claim we haven’t tolerated it is simply denying reality. The abuse persists, adminis­trations continue to place the prestige of their universities ahead of the well-being of their own students, and the justice system continues to bend over backwards to protect the rights of the accused to the point of victimizing the victims. Why is it we do not demand change? Is it because we’re in a state of denial that ‘the greatest country in the world’ may be no better than the lowest of the low? I don’t really have answers to those questions. I wish I did, but what I at least can do in Spring Break is provide food for thought, and hope that sharing the message will help advance a constructive dialogue for change.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              Gerald Elias

 

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Click here for more information on SPRING BREAK and PLAYING WITH FIRE, both in the Daniel Jacobus mystery series.

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