Monday, May 30, 2016

DIPLOMACY GONE ROGUE


by Chris Goff

Why I was destined to write DARK WATERS.

Like many of us, I am a child of the Cold War. My grade school had a bomb shelter and conducted regular "nuclear fallout drills," where we filed into the halls, crouched down on our knees, and covered our heads. Not that it would have done much good. And, in the event of a real emergency, who was the bomb shelter for? The teachers?

It was a conspiracy.

During my grade school years, notable things happened in the world: the Bay of Pigs; space flight; the Vietnam War; President Kennedy, Robert Kennedy and MLK, Jr. were assassinated; man walked on the moon; and the Beatles came to America.

It was a definitely a conspiracy. Just ask my grandma.

Junior high and high school saw their share of notables, too: Charles Manson, Kent State, the Pentagon Papers, Love Canal, Watergate, and Hank Aaron of the Atlanta Braves broke Babe Ruth's home run record.

Conspiracy!

Concurrently, I was reading. I devoured novels by Helen MacInnes, Ian Fleming, John Le Carré, Graham Greene, Jack Higgins, Donald Hamilton. Need I go on? But it was a trip abroad at fifteen studying French in Bordeaux and a later trip at nineteen backpacking Europe for six months that really opened my eyes.

Over the years I've traveled, a lot. I've written columns and articles, done graphic production work, and written six mystery novels. Then something happened that took me to Israel.

New Directions.

In 1999, one of my young daughters got sick and needed medical treatment only available in Tel Aviv. We lived there for two months, and in our free time explored. The suicide bombings were gearing up again, and everywhere we went there was the sense of a country at war. The mixture of religions and the interactions of the people both fascinated and perplexed me. Then, on a weekend trip to Tiberias, a small city on the shores of the Lake Kinneret, I discovered my thriller. 

As fate would have it, I was under contract and had to tuck my idea away to write five more books in my mystery series. Then finally, ten years later and no longer under contract, I knew the time was right to work on the thriller.

DARK WATERS is set in Tel Aviv and features Diplomatic Security Service agent Raisa Jordan. Sent out to investigate the assassination of her predecessor in Dizengoff Square, Jordan ends up protecting a U.S. federal judge and his daughter. It doesn't take her long to uncover a sinister plot that could leave millions of lives hanging in the balance.

The sequel, RED SKY (which I'm just finishing up) opens with Jordan in Ukraine. A year ago, I needed to do some research for the novel, so my youngest daughter and I hopped a plane to Kiev. One of the first things we discovered was—for a very modest sum—we could take a guided tour of the front lines: flak jacket, helmet, Humvee and armed guard included. Wiser heads prevailed (my daughter's)!

All things conspired to make me a writer, but Israel will always hold a special place in my heart. It's where I discovered the idea that refused to be sidelined. It a place that burrowed it's way into my soul and changed me!

I'm curious, in 50 words or less, where is your place and why?

10 comments:

  1. Chris, what a fascinating journey! I hope your daughter is well. I remember under-the-desk drills in elementary school on Guam.

    The place that inspired the setting of DESERT DARK, my young adult novel about a CIA training facility for high school students, is the Sonoran Desert (where I currently live). Though my international travels certainly influence my view of the world, the extreme conditions of the desert really bring out my inner survivalist. I've taken a handful of survival courses from Boulder Outdoor Survival School (BOSS) to learn primitive living skills. I subscribe to their motto of Know More, Carry Less. (Except when traveling. I always overpack.)

    Great post!

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  2. Israel sounds fascinating! I hope your daughter recovered well. I've never been there but would love to go one day. My place isn't a "place" at all, it's a book. Growing up I had a copy of a book called "Come Over To My House, Come Over And Play" and it was about a young child who gets invited to various other children's houses the world over to play. I devoured that book, read it over and over, and it sparked a desire to travel the world. I've been to a lot of places, but right now my favorite place to relax is Anguilla. Been going there for sixteen years. No shopping, no T shirt shops and soft white sand. Heaven!

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  3. Great story, Chris! I am always fascinated with the whole question of "where do you get your ideas" - and to see how you gathered yours first-hand means your story is exciting and the settings are "real" and well-researched, that's for sure! It's so great when a reader "learns" something special about a place and its people in addition to enjoying a good thriller.

    You asked about "places" -- I had some great travel opportunities when working at The White House -- they sent me to the Far East (setting of my second thriller, "Gambit") and to South America (which inspired my third, "Final Finesse.") But now I can't wait to read YOUR novel!

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  4. What a wonderful story, Chris. You're reminding me of my childhood, too. "Duck and cover!" I love DARK WATERS! It's bold and exciting and full of the sort of insider detail that makes one's heart beat faster and the pages turn even faster! Thank you, Tel Aviv!

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  5. For those who asked, my daughter is great. She was eleven then. She's twenty-eight now and getting married in February. She lives in paradise. The wedding will be in Kauai.

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  6. Sonja, I love that you've taken outdoor survival-type classes. It's great to see what inspires each of us, and to see how our travel and past experience inspires themes in our work. I appreciate the comments.

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  7. I loved Dark Waters. I loved that you could present both sides of the problems in Israel in a sympathetic manner. I've never been there yet - I'm a bad Jew - but how wonderful that you got to spend so much time there - and that your daughter is doing well.

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  8. Thank you, S. Lee. I'm glad you love the book. I worked very hard to find that right balance. It makes me feel great to have a fellow writer say I succeeded.

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  9. Israeli is a stunning place to visit, and it's where my heart lies in the most exotic place I've ever spent time. I've been to France, Germany, England, Scotland, Canada, the Caribbean Hawaii, Ireland, and most of the United States, but Israel is so completely of another planet that I will always hold it in highest affection. Even being caught in a PLO mail bombing during the Second Infada--which I was, and fortunately uninjured--is a grand memory, though not for the civilian killed and other injured by the blast. As soon as it exploded, the Israeli Army took over, with a "rabbi" wandering the outdoor dining mall ripping off his gown to reveal his Uzi and IDF uniform. Thanks, Chris, for jogging those exotic memories for me. I will be back someday, if I can survive the &^%%$ 13-hour plane ride from Chicago!

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  10. My place is the South of France in a town called Vence, not far from the more famous St. Paul de Vence and just a bus ride northwest of Nice. I lived there for two years in the mid-80s.

    I had to do that duck and cover (under our desks) exercise in grade school as well. I sure would like to know what super-brain came up with that idea.

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