Road to research
I'm thrilled to announce that my new thriller, "Sirocco" (Blackstone Publishing, $16.99), hit the stands Tuesday, Jan. 19. It's my ninth published novel, and the second starring Michael Finnigan and Katalin Fiero Dahar, following their 2019 debut in "St. Nicholas Salvage & Wrecking."
The editor of the Metro Life section has graciously offered me this space to tout my book.
Before I do, just a quick aside. When I was 20, I wanted to be either a newspaper journalist or a novelist. Today, I'm both, making me, by far, the luckiest guy I've ever met. My work at the Portland Tribune and the Pamplin Media Group has been doubly rewarding this past year, as everyone from the publishers to the ad reps, from circulation to the production crew, came together to provide excellent journalism in the face of a pandemic, a recession, weeks and months of emotional protests about systemic racism (which often were marred by violent attacks on the city), devastating wildfires and the most emotionally fraught national election of our lifetime. I'm so proud to be here.
The other reason I'm insanely lucky is: I had the opportunity to travel extensively to do the research for the Finnigan & Fiero novels. That's a luxury few novelists get. Whether traveling with my wife, Katy King, or with my friend, Tim, the research for these two novels took me to France and Spain, to the island of Cyprus and to the former Yugoslavia — Serbia, Croatia, Slovenia, and Bosnia and Herzegovina.
Much of the action in the new book takes place in Spain and Cyprus. The title, "Sirocco," comes from the hot, dusty winds that originate in North Africa, stream across the Mediterranean, and bedevil southern Europe each summer. It's not too much of a spoiler to say that the wind is a metaphor for the primary threat in the story.
You likely can't imagine what a benefit it is to set a scene in, say, Barcelona, and to travel there for research. Katy and I were able to walk along the same paths, to sit in the same parks, to eat the same food that my protagonists do. There's a chase scene along Barcelona's La Rambla that Katy and I essentially choreographed after walking it ourselves. I was able to hear how the Catalan accent differs from the Spanish I'd heard my whole life. What a boon!
Cyprus is fascinating: It's a split country, with Turkish Cypriot forces controlling the northern third of the island, and Greek Cypriots the lower two-thirds. Nicosia is a split capital, as Berlin used to be, meaning you have to show your passport to a Greek soldier, who stamps it, then you walk 20 paces to the next kiosk and a Turkish soldier stamps it. There's a U.N. monitored green zone between them.
(Not for nothing, but an island dominated by Greek and Turkish forces? You can't get a bad cup of coffee or a bad meal. It can't be done.)
I'm from Idaho, where the history of European-based settlers dates back only a few decades. But here I was on Cyprus. The Latin word for "bronze" comes from Cyprus. This is the island where Aphrodite rose from the waves, and this was the last posting for Othello before he was reassigned to Venice (spoiler alert: that posting went poorly). King Richard I of England went to war there in 1191. The island was sold to the Knights Templar. It fell into Frankish control in 1192 and was run by the Lusignan Empire.
For a guy like me, from small-town Idaho, the depth of the island's history was intoxicating.
You can see why I wanted to put my protagonists there and in Spain!
About them: Both this novel and the 2019 novel focus on Michael Finnigan and Katalin Fiero Dahar. He's a former New York City cop; she's a former spy and assassin for Spain.
I had never before read a thriller about a woman and a man who were absolutely co-equals, and who were not love interests. They're best friends, business partners and they bind each other's wounds. But primarily, they share "top billing" as "the star" of the stories. I'd never seen this in any other thriller series.
As for the primary plot element: It came to my attention, through journalism, that the International Criminal Court has judges and lawyers and clerks and researchers, etc., but it does not have cops. There is no law enforcement arm to the ICC. So wouldn't it be interesting to have someone whose job it is to gather the worst of the world's worst, and deliver them — illegally, often by way of kidnapping — to the court?
Thus were born the pillars of Finnigan and Fiero: A male/female partnership of true co-equals, in an international setting, involving a job that is fundamentally messed up, but somebody's got to do it.
It's been a fun dynamic to play with.
"Fun" being the operative word.
Because between the novels and the Tribune, man, I am having a blast.
Book launch: 7 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 28
Where: Virtually, via video conference call
Sponsor: Annie Bloom's Books in Multnomah Village
How to take part: Details at Annie Bloom's website or at www.danahaynesmystery.com
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