Luck played a large part. I only had one writing class, a C + in Creative Writing my sophomore year in college. I started writing a novel in law school because I couldn’t figure out how anyone could fill up 400 pages with words. My first novel was awful but I enjoyed the writing process so writing became a hobby. In my thirties a magazine published a short story I’d written and I got the self-confidence to try a serious novel but I had no idea what to do with it when I finished it because I’d never met anyone in publishing or anyone who had published a novel. I had five chapters and an outline written when a law school friend called from New York to say that he and his wife wanted to visit on vacation. I told them they could stay at my house and I would show them the sights. When he landed I learned that he was a lawyer with the largest literary agency in the world. I told him I was writing a novel but had no training and no idea if it was any good. I asked him if he would give my chapters to someone at his agency and have them tell me if it was worth continuing with the book or really awful. He took the first five chapters back to New York and sold it without asking me.
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#1 New York Times bestselling master of suspense delivers his most shocking thriller yet, proving that a well-placed lie can help build a wonderful life- and a secret has the same explosive power to destroy it.
A Stranger appears out of nowhere, perhaps in a bar, or a parking lot, or at the grocery store. His identity is unknown. His motives are unclear. His information is undeniable. Then he whispers a few words in your ear and disappears, leaving you picking up the pieces of your shattered world.
Adam Price has a lot to lose: a comfortable marriage to a beautiful woman, two wonderful sons, and all the trappings of the American Dream: a big house, a good job, a seemingly perfect life.
Then he runs into the Stranger. When he learns a devastating secret about his wife, Corinne, he confronts her, and the mirage of perfection disappears as if it never existed at all. Soon Adam finds himself tangled in something far darker than even Corinne’s deception, and realizes that if he doesn’t make exactly the right moves, the conspiracy he’s stumbled into will not only ruin lives-it will end them.
With over 60 million books in print worldwide, this former HQ employee was never a PCV, but his books are published in 43 languages around the globe and have been number one bestsellers in over a dozen countries.
Winner of the Edgar Award, Shamus Award and Anthony Award - the first author to win all three - international bestselling author ’s critically-acclaimed novels have been called “ingenious” (New York Times), “poignant and insightful” (Los Angeles Times), “consistently entertaining” (Houston Chronicle), “superb” (Chicago Tribune) and “must reading” (Philadelphia Inquirer).
But he was never a PCV?
But who is the RPCV writer?
Tomorrow, we may know.
Is it this famous writer…..?
“It takes a really crafty storyteller to put people on the edge of their seats and keep them there.”
“The masterful___plays delicious tricks on his readers.”
“_____is the master of the successful suspense mystery.”
Pittsburgh Tribune Review
“____will have you turning pages furiously.”
“____makes chills race down readers’ spines.”
“A master of plot and pacing-and one of those rare authors who can create a genuinely surprising ending.”
“In the hands of _____, nothing is ever simple and no one is really safe. He is the master of suspense mystery.”
“_______knows how to pack in the thrills.”
“______deliver[s] one of his cleverest cases.”
“Like his inspirations, he gives us plenty of gems: shocking situations met with clever wisecracks; sordid personal histories that tumble out in a moment of panic; broken souls who confess their love only when it’s all too late.”
The Oregonian (Portland)
To help you pick the ‘winner’ here are a few more facts about this writer.
- This writer has written 19 novels, 17 of which have been New York Times bestsellers
- First novel published received the Mystery Writers of America Edgar award for best original paperback mystery novel of 1978
- Second novel published was made into a HBO movie
- Third novel was sold to 25 foreign publishers and made into a mini-series starring Brooke Shields
- Third novel was also a Main Selection of the Literary Guild
- Four novel was a Book of the Month Club section
- Fifth novel was a Main Selection of the Literary Guild and a Reader’s Digest condense book
- Sixth novel was a Book of the Month Club Section
- Seventh novel was a Main Selection of the Literary Guild, and selected by the Book of the Month Club
- Writer was also awarded a Distinguished Writers Award
- Writer has co-authored a non-fiction book and written a young adult novel.
- Short stories by this writer have appeared in several anthologies, including The Best American Mystery Stories
Additional Facts about the Writer
- Served in the first decade of the Peace Corps
- Peace Corps assignment was as an Administrative Assistant to Director of Foreign Trade, also worked in the National Planning Agency as a transport economist attached to the Harvard Advisory Group
- Has a law degree
- Has appeared before the United States Supreme Court
- Pioneered the use of the battered woman’s syndrome in four murder cases
- Freed two innocent men sentenced to life in prison for murders they did not commit
- In college took one Creative Writing class and received a C +
- The writer had never met anyone in publishing or anyone who had written a novel before publishing one
- The writer’s next novel will be published by HarperCollins in 2016
- The author’s hometown
Now that, I thought, would get everyone’s attention.
What Peace Corps writer in the 54 years of the agency has made the most money from his or her books, earned the most awards, sold the most books, had the most books on the New York Times Best Seller List, and had their book(s) made into movies?
You pick your writer from this list. All winners will win a special ‘Peace Corps’ prize (from me).
Here are the candidates. Post your choice in the Comment Section of the blog and tell us why you think so….yes, you can google to get facts and figures. If I have missed any writer you think should be on this list, please let me know. email@example.com
T. D. Allman (Nepal 1966-68)
Lauri Anderson (Nigeria 1963-65)
Ron Arias (Peru 1963-64)
Jim Averbeck (Cameroon 1990-94)
Bill Barich (Nigeria 1964-66)
Donald Beil (Somalia 1964-66)
Tom Bissell (Uzbekistan 1996)
Mary Blocksma (Nigeria 1965-67)
Mark Brazaitis (Guatemala 1991-93)
Craig Carozzi (Colombia 1978-80)
Harlan Coben (PC/W 1982-84)
Suzy McKee Charnas (Nigeria 1961-63)
Christopher Conlon (Botswana 1988-90)
Kathleen Coskran (Ethiopia 1965-67)
Paul Cowan (Ecuador 1966-67)
John Coyne (Ethiopia 1962-64)
Timothy Crouse (Morocco 1968-69)
Mark Dintenfass (Ethiopia 1964-66)
Eileen Drew (Zaire 1979-81)
Tony D’Souza (Ivory Coast 2000-02, Madagascar 2002-03)
John Michael Flynn (Moldova 1993-95)
Kinky Friedman (Borneo 1967-69)
Martin R. Ganzglass (Somalia 1966-68)
Clifford Garstang (Korea 1976-77)
John Givens (Korea 1967-69)
Kent Haruf (Turkey 1965-67)
Tom Hebert (Nigeria 1962-64)
Tom Heidlebaugh (Kenya 1965-68)
Peter Hessler (China 1996-98)
Kris Holloway (Mali 1989-91)
Chris Honore’ ( Colombia 1967-69)
Phyllis Greenberg Houseman (Ecuador 1962-64)
Mark Jacobs (Paraguay 1978-80)
P.F. Kluge (Micronesia 1967-69)
Jonathan Kwitny (Nigeria 1964-66)
Charles R. Larson (Nigeria 1962-64)
Eric Lax (Micronesia 1966-68)
Laurence Leamer (Nepal 1965-67)
Peter Lefcourt (Togo 1962-64)
Leonard Levitt (Tanzania 1963-65)
Lawrence F. Lihosit (Honduras 1975-77)
Richard Lipez (Ethiopia 1962-64)
Karl Luntta (Botswana 1977-80)
Eve MacMaster (Turkey 1968-70)
Phillip Margolin (Liberia 1965-67)
Tyler McMahon (El Salvador 1999-02)
Stanley Meisler (PC/W Staff 1964-67)
Roland Merullo (Micronesia 1979-80)
Mike Meyer (China 1995-97)
Marnie Mueller (Ecuador 1963-65)
Edward Mycue (Ghana 1961)
Lenore Myka (Romania 1994-96)
Ann Neelon (Senegal 1978-79)
Joanne Omang (Turkey 1964-66)
Mary Le Duc O’Neill (Ghana & Costa Rica 1970-74)
George Packer (Togo 1982-84)
Ann Panning (Philippines 1988-90)
Reilly Ridgell (Micronesia 1971-73)
Norm Rush (Botswana 1978-83)
Nancy Scheper-Hughes (Brazil 1964-66)
Peter Schwab (Liberia 1962-64)
Bob Shacochis (Eastern Caribbean 1975-76)
Charlie Smith (Micronesia 1968-70)
Mary-Ann Tirone Smith (Cameroon 1965-67)
Tom Spanbauer (Kenya 1969-71)
Eleanor Stanford (Cape Verde 1998-2000)
Mildred D. Taylor (Ethiopia 1965-67)
Paul Theroux (Malawi 1963-65)
Maria Thomas (Ethiopia 1971-73)
Moritz Thomsen (Ecuador 1965-67)
Mike Tidwell (Zaire 1985-87)
Ellen Urbani (Guatemala 1991-93)
Michael Varga (Chad 1977–79
Mark Wentling (Honduras 1967-69)
Susi Wyss (Central African Republic 1990-92)
Richard Wiley (Korea 1967-69)
Simone Zelitch (Hungary 1991-93)
Forthcoming on August 29, 2015, the tenth anniversary of Hurricane Katrina’s landfall a new novel by Ellen Urbani. The story is this….
Rosebud Howard almost survives. She charges through the Lower Ninth Ward, beating the wall of floodwater by a half-block. She clambers out of an attic, onto a roof, into a rowboat. But her grueling trek to Tuscaloosa, in search of help for her family, ends when she’s hit and killed by a car laden with supplies for Hurricane Katrina victims. Passenger Rose Aikens, orphaned by the crash, climbs away from the wreck after lacing the dead girl’s sneakers onto her own feet. When she discovers they share not only shoes but a name and a birth year, Rose embarks upon a guilt-assuaging odyssey to retrace Rosebud’s last steps and locate her remaining kin. The stories and destinies of these two teenagers-one black, one white-converge in Landfall, giving voice to the dead and demonstrating how strangers, with perseverance and forgiveness, can unite to reconstruct each other’s shattered family histories.
Landfall is earning early buzz from bestselling authors, booksellers, librarians, and industry leaders, including Pat Conroy, who called it “a hell of a book” and Mark Suchomel, president of client services for Perseus Books Group, who said “I absolutely loved it and rank it as one of the best books I have read in years.”
Tony D’Souza (Ivory Coast 2000-02, Madagascar 2002-03) said of the novel, “A deeply soulful novel….Landfall recalls Zora Neale Hurston’s Their Eyes Were Watching God for the strength of the women in its pages, and their resilience despite immeasurable loss.”
“Our committee fell in love with Landfall and its strong mothers and daughters,” said Laura Stanfill, publisher of Forest Avenue Press. “In this luminous, warm, heartbreaking family novel, Ellen tells the untold stories, the secrets held tight, that would otherwise have been lost to the storm.”
Ellen Urbani is the author of When I Was Elena (2006) a BookSense Notable selection. Her writing has appears in The New York Times and numerous anthologies. A Southern expat, she now lives in Oregon.
A Writer Writes
Fear and Loathing on the Inca Trail
by Folwell Dunbar (Ecuador 1989-92)
After all these years I still have flashbacks. When I see a child blindly strike a piñata or when I smell a rotten egg, the memory, lodged deep in my scarred bowels explodes to the surface. Like Marlon Brando in the heart of darkness, I recall, “The horror, the horror.”
“¡Levántate Leonardito! ¡Vamos!” the campesino or farmer yelled from the base of the hill. “Get up little Leonardo! Let’s go!”
Like grilled cheese, I was pressed between a lumpy straw mattress and a stack of cheap coarse blankets. I didn’t want to levántate; I was warm and reasonably content. I pretended not to hear. Moments later though, the campesino pounded on my front door causing chards of adobe to cascade down on my head. “Deme un ratito,” I pleaded. “Give me a second. I’ll be ready en seguida.”*
The weather in the high equatorial Andes is strangely unpredictable. The sun, so close to the earth you can almost touch it, burns like a glass blowing furnace. When it’s out, your skin blisters and you have to squint like Clint Eastwood in a spaghetti western. Cover it with a cloud though, and you’ll quickly need crampons and an ice axe. Latitude and elevation are always at odds. Because of this, dressing for a trek along the Inca Trail,** especially on a Peace Corps budget, was extremely challenging. I threw on lots and lots of layers; filled a backpack with reinforcements, including gear for rain, hail and brimstone; stuffed my feet into cheap, Chinese-made rubber boots,*** the traditional footwear of Ecuador; and then, regrettably, left the shelter of my humble abode.
I had promised the campesino I would visit his farm. He raised sheep and alpaca, but was looking to diversify his stock. He wanted to channel water from an irrigation ditch into an earthen pond and stock it with trucha de arco iris, rainbow trout. I had started a couple of fish projects downriver and owned a water quality test kit and a thermometer, which, in the Parroquia of Jima, made me an expert on aquaculture.
We walked along a narrow ridge just above the Rio Moya. The higher we climbed, the smaller and fewer the trees. Eventually, there would be nothing but dry grass or paja. Author’s note: the lack of trees figures prominently in my PTSD haunted memories.
About thirty minutes into the two and a half hour hike, I released a rather inconspicuous burp. Unfortunately, it carried with it the unmistakable scent of sulfur, a telltale sign of giardiasis. Ordinarily, I would have simply popped a few Flagyl**** and soldiered on; but, in my haste, (see “ready en seguida”) I hadn’t packed the Roundup-like super drug. So, instead, I turned to my compañero and begged, “Amigo, is there any chance we could do this another day? No me siento bien. I don’t feel well.”
“Oh Leonardo,” he implored, “we’re so close. Por favor, es muy importante.” I thought to myself, “We weren’t exactly close and it wasn’t all that important.” He then pulled out a rusty flask containing his own home-distilled super drug, aguardiente. He handed me a shot and toasted, ironically, to health, “¡Salud!”
I winced down the kerosene-like concoction hoping it might at least momentarily appease the angry parasites in my gut, and continued along the winding path. It was at that time, between belches, that I had a jarring revelation, a “revelation” that should have been included in some Peace Corps pre-service manual. I noticed that the irrigation ditch, diverted from and channeled above the Rio Moya, flowed below acres and acres of pastureland used by campesinos to graze cattle, sheep, goats and other livestock. It was this same irrigation ditch that supplied my humble abode with agua potable or drinking water. “Hmmmm,” I thought, “that agua is probably not all that potable after all?”
And then, not unexpectedly, there was a second, larger and more pungent sulfuric belch. It was followed by a slow eruption of saliva, another telltale sign of impending doom. I called out to the farmer, “Amigo, me siento muy, muy mal. I feel awful. I have to return!”
Before he could offer me another well-intended shot of firewater, he actually recognized my dire situation. He saw the beads of sweat welling up on my exposed skin, skin that was now bone white and ice cold. He also heard the desperation in my cracking voice. He knew better than to push on. He said, “Leonardito, no hay problema. Perhaps we could do it another day?” He tipped his hat as though at a funeral and walked ahead.
I spun around and took several shaky steps in the opposite direction. I wanted to get away; I wanted to hide. I looked up and down for shelter. A Pot-O-Gold portalet would have been ideal, though I would have happily settled for a tree - My kingdom for a tree! Unfortunately, there was nothing but paja, miles and miles of knee-high paja. At that point, like an exhausted gazelle in the Serengeti surrounded by lions, hyenas and vultures, I simply stopped and waited for nature to take its grisly course…
They say the male human body has six major orifices: eyes, ears, nose, mouth, anus and urethra. All six of mine, along with thousands and thousands of pores, simultaneously erupted.
Stuff, gallons of stuff my body obviously didn’t want, sailed helter-skelter in all directions. I had control over nothing. My layers of cotton and wool absorbed as much as they could with the less viscous excess rolling down my flanks. Like clogged gutters in a toxic storm, my rubber boots, those damn rubber boots, filled to the brim and then overflowed. My backpack, worthless and forlorn, simply hung on for the ride. From afar, I must have looked like a clay pigeon struck by multiple shells. Up close, I looked and smelled like death.
I vaguely remember seeing the campesino glance over his shoulder, cringe, and then pick up his pace. I also noted that the cows and sheep on the hill coughed up extra cud in disgust.
Slogging my way back down the Rio Moya, filled with fear and loathing on the Inca Trail, I muttered, “The horror, the horror.” *****
Folwell served in Ecuador from 1989 to 1992. He raised rainbow trout in earthen ponds, tended sheep from Australia and New Zealand, and kept “killer” bees and cuyes (guinea pigs). A graduate of Duke and Tulane, he is a former teacher, coach and principal, professional developer, school evaluator and change agent. He is currently an educational consultant, writer and artist in New Orleans. He, his wife and their giant schnauzer, live downriver and on the wrong side of the tracks, two blocks from Desire (of Streetcar fame), a levee away from the Mississippi, and a short stagger from the Vieux Carré.]
Folwell “Leonardo” Dunbar is an educator, artist and Peace Corps survivor. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
* In Ecuador nothing happens quickly or “en seguida.” “Ya mismo,” sometime between now and the next zombie apocalypse, is more the norm.
** This was not actually part of the famous Inca Trail. Apparently, even the ancients avoided this route.
*** Even though they make plenty of sense in South Louisiana where I’m from (see Cajun attire), I refuse to wear rubber boots to this day.
**** Like Drano, Flagyl is fairly toxic. It’s supposed to be taken sparingly in regimented doses. For over two years I popped them like Gummy Bears. I also didn’t wear sunscreen, trekked up and down the Andes in cheap rubber boots, and drank way too much aguardiente. Like drinking water from an open irrigation ditch, I’m pretty sure these other youthful indiscretions are going to come back to haunt me as well.
***** Besides being hot, irritable, sliced up with a machete and totally insane, Colonel Walter E. Kurtz in Apocalypse Now probably suffered from dysentery.
My novel Hobgoblin (written in 1981) is being republished in November by Dover Publications. This is how is appears now on Amazon.com for pre-order.
Ancient magic and contemporary horror combine in this tale of a lonely boy’s increasing immersion into a sword-and-sorcery fantasy game. Within the isolation of a medieval Irish manor house rebuilt on the banks of the Hudson, Scott Gardiner drifts deeper into the myth-laden world of Hobgoblin as the line between nightmare and reality erodes. This novel was first published in 1981 at the height of Dungeons & Dragons’ popularity & soon after the intense media coverage of the Egbert steam tunnel incident (urban myths wherein roleplaying gamers enacting live action role-playing games perish, often in the utility tunnels below their university campuses).
Here are two reviews of the first edition from GoodRead. The book, by the way, received a 3.33 of 5 Stars from 39 reviews.
I first got this book in high school. It’s about a kid who has this totally kick ass ‘dungeons and dragons’ character. He moves to a castle with his mom who does historical preservation work or something like that. You guessed it, weird things start happening. He has to battle the things that become real…or are they? I will probably read this book 5 more time before I kick the bucket. There’s just something about it…
(And to balance that review, here’s another…..)
Rebecca rated it 1 of 5 stars
I think I know who John Coyne was, and it’s evident that he has no business writing female characters. The plot was taking forever to get going, the women were insipid, the main character undeveloped, and then it just got so bizarre and infuriating that I put it down.
Read it at your own risk!
Deborah Solomon, art critic of WNYC radio, reviewed two art books under the topic “Montmartre/Montparnasse” for the Sunday, June 28th issue of the NYTimes “Book Review.” One of the books was Stanley Meisler’s Shocking Paris: Soutine, Chagall and the Outsiders of Montparnasse.
Here, in part is what Ms. Solomon had to say about Shocking Paris:
I far preferred Stanley Meisler’s “Shocking Paris: Soutine, Chagall and the Outsiders of Montparnasse,” which picks up where [Sue] Roe’s book [In Montmartre: Picasso, Matiss and Modernism in Paris 1900–1910] leaves off. In 1912, irritated by an influx of tourists who were crowding the cafes and poking around in his neighborhood, Picasso moved out of his studio in the Bateau-Lavoir and across the Seine to Montparnasse, on the Left Bank. Other artists arrived in short order. Among them was Chaim Soutine, a Russian Jewish exile who became the leading Expressionist painter of his era.
For a more personal review of Shocking Paris, click HERE for the review of Shocking Paris by Dick Lipez (Ethiopia 1962-64) that was published on our site on April 23rd.
About Peace Corps Writers
All Peace Corps, all the time — book reviews, author interviews, essays, new books, scoops, resources for readers and writers. In other words — just what we’ve been doing with our newsletter RPCV Writers & Readers from 1989 to 1996, and our website Peace Corps Writers from 1997 to 2008! — John Coyne, editor; and Marian Haley Beil, publisher (both Ethiopia 1962–64)
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