Sunday, October 27, 2013

RASPUTIN'S SHADOW by Raymond Khoury : Author Q&A

Raymond Khoury
Dutton Books (Penguin); October 8, 2013
Hardcover, 416 pages; ISBN-978-0-525-95313-5
Genre: mystery, suspense, thriller, contemporary, historical fiction
Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

"Unrelenting action." - Publisher's Weekly 

"On a cold, bleak day in 1916, all hell breaks loose in a mining pit in the Ural Mountains. Overcome by a strange paranoia, the miners attack one another, savagely and ferociously. Minutes later, two men—a horrified scientist and Grigory Rasputin, trusted confidant of the tsar—hit a detonator, blowing up the mine to conceal all evidence of the carnage.

In the present day, FBI agent Sean Reilly’s search for Reed Corrigan, the CIA mindcontrol spook who brainwashed Reilly’s son, takes a backseat to a new, disturbing case. A Russian embassy attaché seems to have committed suicide by jumping out of a fourth-floor window in Queens. The apartment’s owners, a retired physics teacher from Russia and his wife, have gone missing, and further investigation reveals that the former may not be who the FBI believe him to be.

Joined by Russian Federal Security Service agent Larisa Tchoumitcheva, Reilly’s investigation of the old man’s identity will uncover a desperate search for a small, mysterious device, with consequences that reach back in time and which, in the wrong hands, could have a devastating impact on the modern world.

Packed with the twists, intrigue, and excitement that Khoury’s many fans have come to expect, Rasputin’s Shadow will keep readers turning pages long into the night."
(From the cover)

My thoughts  
Hooked line and sinker on this one! A break-neck pace and a clever, very well executed relay of shifting POVs - a narrating formula not that common and most of all not so easy to master. Kudos to the author for breezing his way through it without unsettling the flow of the narration. The action driven plot and the intriguing historical premises pinned me down to my seat and kept me on the edge, relentlessly. From cover to cover. No good news for my sleep deprivation problem... Be on the look out for an extended review on this blog.
***Review copy graciously offered by the publicist in return for an unbiased and honest opinion.

                                            Q&A with author Raymond Khoury

Q. The real-life Grigori Rasputin was a ladies’ man, mystic, and advisor to the Romanovs, who some say manipulated his way from a mere peasant to a trusted confidant in a place of power in the Russian imperial family. Is there anyone in real-life present day who reminds you of Rasputin?

A. Hah! Thankfully, no one that uber-powerful (or deviant). And though we really don’t know what goes on behind closed doors in the uppermost corridors of power, it wouldn’t be hard to imagine the possibility of Rasputin-like figures in places like North Korea or Russia. Closer to home, there have certainly been many vastly influential men behind the leaders of our times, people like Karl Rove for President Bush, or Alastair Campbell for Tony Blair, but they’re far from what we’re talking about. That said, history is riddled with curious quirks: Nancy Reagan placed a lot of faith in her astrologer after the Hinckley assassination attempt, and Isabel Peron held séances at the grave of Evita in an effort to absorb some of her strength. Stranger than fiction?

Q. What authors have had an impact on your writing style and your decision to become a writer?

A. I was lucky enough to take courses in high school where we studied Hemingway, F Scott Fitzgerald, even Raymond Chandler, but at that time, I never imagined I’d become a writer. I can think of several books that triggered something inside me when I first read them: William Goldman’s “Marathon Man,” John Grisham’s “The Firm,” James Ellroy’s “American Tabloid,” even James Patterson’s (yes) “Along Came a Spider” which I thought was a great book when it first came out. The decision to become a writer was actually a decision to make movies (as a director), and the route I chose to get there was by becoming a screenwriter. The books came as a happy accident along the way…

Q. If RASPUTIN’S SHADOW were to be turned into a movie, who would you cast as Sean Reilly and as Leo Sokolov?

A. Hmmm. I’m always asked that, and it’s really tough. I don’t picture anyone while writing the books; it’s weird, I know, but they’re these ‘real’ people that I have in my head, not actors playing them. My top picks, if pressed? How about Bradley Cooper as Reilly? And Alan Arkin as Leo?

Q. How did growing up in Beirut during a time of civil war impact your writing?

A. A huge impact. First of all, visceral. Being around gun battles (not actively, I must add), car bombs, aerial and canon shelling, seeing people gunned down, watching aircraft dropping massive bombs or ground-to-ground missiles streaking across the night from the surrounding mountains… these things never leave you, and it probably comes across the heightened urgency and visceral intensity on my pages. I can’t watch a well-made movie about a war situation, like anything from Oliver Stone who was probably the first to craft a very ‘real’ movie like that with “Salvador”, without it generating a deep reaction inside me. I guess watching the war firsthand, and the troubles across the region as a whole, gave me an understanding of the dynamics of politics, religion, power and greed that I’m sure permeates my stories.

Q. Amongst other careers, you worked for a time as an investment banker. Being a very creative person, how did you give yourself a creative outlet, outside of the office?

A. I only lasted 3 years there! It was so not for me. But it was a time when I remember watching tons of movies, reading a lot of books, and I guess the mindless atmosphere there, solely focused on generating fake money on screens, allowed my mind to roam and eventually led to all the ideas I’m putting down on paper now.