Why Malta? A Mystery-Thriller Author Tells Why
"Why Malta?" my new Maltese friends kept asking me when they find out that my mystery-thriller The Cellini Masterpiece is set on Malta. Mind you, only the Maltese ask that question. (Some kind of national inferiority complex?) Americans ask "Malta Who?" or "Where the heck is Malta?" or "Is it about the Maltese Falcon?" (They must always think that they're the first ones to think that up.)
The difference in questions is obvious. The Maltese are puzzled. Americans are plain ignorant. Someone once wrote that the way Americans learn geography is by war.
Why Malta is the question that is harder to answer. My usual comeback is why not? That usually brings a laugh, but it's difficult to explain how a tiny bit of limestone southwest of Sicily should hold such an interest for an American for so many years. I will be 65 by the time this article is in print, but I fell in love with Malta sight unseen as a 10-year-old in Minneapolis, Minnesota. I was a stamp collector and bought one of those cheap worldwide stamp packets, with one stamp showing Verdala Palace in Malta. Somehow it grabbed my interest, and a few years later I started reading about Malta until I had exhausted the local library collection. The chance discovery of a stamp led me to one of the most geographically and historically significant places in the world. Literally the crossroads of the Mediterranean, it has Neolithic temples pre-dating the pyramids and has been occupied by every world power since the ancient Greeks. I'm a historian, for heaven's sake. Who wouldn't be interested?
I was hooked. My stamp collection turned into a business, which I named Maltalately (for Malta philately). Even so, all my life I wanted to write a novel set in Malta.
At age 14 I read Cellini's Autobiography. The rogue artist absolutely intrigued me. I also know he lived in the mid-16th Century and that the Knights of St. John defeated Suleiman the Magnificent's Turks in the so-called Great Siege. It was the greatest holy war of all time and may have saved Europe from occupation by the Turks. Voila. Somehow my novel would involve Cellini and the Great Siege. I even had a punch-line. Now all I had to do was write it.
It took more than twenty years but I finally had a finished draft in 1985. The Jonathan Lazear Agency decided to represent it. Unfortunately, they weren't able to find a publisher and the manuscript went back on the shelf to languish for nearly ten years before I finally went to Malta for the first time at age 54. I stayed at a bargain accommodation, the Soleado Guest House in Sliema. What a great location to set the novel! I dusted off the manuscript and started again. My first change was to give Rick, my hero's, sidekick a sex change. My male cab driver was now a sexy young woman. The manager of the Soleado, Joey Bugeja, got a gender change, too. He was now Josefina. How could I miss?
The events of September 11, 2001, although tragic, provided another powerful plotline, since Malta is near North Africa and has close economic ties with Libya. I should be able to polish the book off in a couple of months, I thought.
Not. Things still didn't fit together quite right. In September of 2003 I enlisted the help of a musician I had met while I was selling postcards. He liked thrillers and had a keen ear for the music of language and a discerning eye for the continuity of my story. Taking him on board was one of the best decisions I have ever made, and by the beginning of 2004 I could envision the final draft. Then I heard about the North African boat people who were landing in Malta. Wow. Now all I had to do was tie Benvenuto Cellini to Suleiman the Magnificent and add in a plot from World War II with another involving modern-day terrorists and refugees. What could be simpler? Even Snoopy could do it.
Somehow I did do it. And according to my readers, successfully. Why Malta? Because there is no other place in this whole wide world where the story would make sense.
The other answer to "Why Malta" is found, for me, in a quote from Somerset Maugham's The Moon and Sixpence. It could have been written for me. "I have an idea that some men are born out of their due place. Accident has cast them among certain surroundings, but they have always nostalgia for a home they know not?. Sometimes a man hits upon a place to which he mysteriously feels that he belongs. Here is the home he sought, and he will settle amid scenes that he has never seen before, among men he has never known, as though they were familiar to him from his birth. At last he finds rest."
SAHHA u hbibierija.
To read a chapter of The Cellini Masterpiece, or to ask John a question or comment, log on to www.cmasterpiece.com">http://www.cmasterpiece.com
Since 2009 VIDA has tracked the review coverage of major print publications to analyze how many women and gender minorities are represented.
For the 2017 VIDA Count, they looked at 15 major print publications over the course of the year. Even though many, if not all of the publications also have an online presence, they only counted the reviews in the print versions because it is "too easy to confine women, gender minorities, and other marginalized writers to cost-effective web platforms, which frequently pay differently (or don't pay at all), compared to their print counterparts."
Of the 15 publications, only 2 published 50% or more women writers: Granta (53.5%) and Poetry (50%).
Five had women representing between 40% and 49.9% of their total publication: Harper's, The New York Times Book Review, The New Republic, The Paris Review and Tin House.
The majority, 8 out of 15 publications, failed to publish enough women writers to make up even 40% of their publication's run in 2017: Boston Review, London Review of Books, The New Yorker, The Atlantic, The Nation, The Threepenny Review, and The Times Literary Supplement.
The New York Review of Books had the most pronounced gender disparity with only 23% of published writers who are women but it was close to gender parity in terms of contributors, with 47% women.
Renowned surgeon and best-selling author Atul Gawande will lead a major new company aimed at reducing health-care costs, a joint venture by Amazon, JPMorgan Chase and Berkshire Hathaway.
The company, which will be based in Boston, was announced in January with a mission to use technology to make health care more transparent, affordable and simple for the companies' more than 1 million employees.
Gawande, a Harvard physician and writer for the New Yorker magazine, has written on issues at the core of American health care, including why it is so expensive and how to improve end-of-life care. He will take charge July 9.
A Massachusetts Institute of Technology investigation has cleared author and creative writing professor Junot Díaz to return to the classroom for the fall semester. The Associated Press reported that "the inquiry into Díaz's actions toward female students and staff yielded no information that would lead to restrictions on Díaz's role as a faculty member at the university in Cambridge."
Oxford University Press is asking members of the public to submit local words, phrases and expressions from around the world for inclusion in the Oxford English Dictionary:
"Whether you're in Manchester, Mumbai, Manila, or Massachusetts, the OED would like to hear from you. Please use the form below to tell us about the words and expressions which are distinctive to where you live or where you are from. We're looking forward to reading your suggestions."
After writing novels on artificial intelligence, neuroscience and genetics, Powers' has turned to trees with The Overstory. While on a hike through the Great Smoky Mountains, he talks to The Guardian about environmentalism and not having children.
Seattle officials repealed a corporate "head tax" on Tuesday "that they had wholeheartedly endorsed just a month ago, delivering a win for the measure's biggest opponent--Amazon--and offering a warning to cities bidding for the retailer's second headquarters that the company would go to the limit to get its way," the New York Times reported. The tax would have raised about $50 million a year to help the homeless and fund affordable housing projects in a city where the homeless population is the third largest in the country, after New York City and Los Angeles.
Amazon has come under fire for removing reviews from its online book listings, with some customers having had all their reviews removed or being blocked from posting further reviews on Amazon.
Authors, bloggers and publishers have criticized the development, with many sharing their frustration through the #giveourreviewsback hashtag. Amazon has blamed temporary "technical issues".
Mike McCormack has won the International Dublin literary award for his novel Solar Bones
The judges hailed it as "formally ambitious, stylistically dauntless and linguistically spirited". It is written in a single sentence that flows over 270-odd pages, and spans a single day: All Souls' Day, when, according to superstition, the dead can return to the land of the living. Solar Bones
is narrated by Marcus Conway husband, father, civil engineer, a man gripped by "a crying sense of loneliness for my family" and a ghost, a factor that, for McCormack, explains the experimental form. ("A ghost would have no business with a full stop," he once argued. "It might fatally falter and dissipate.")
In an extensive article in the New York Times, John Kidd reports on "The Strange Case of the Missing Joyce Scholar."
Two decades ago, a renowned professor promised to produce a flawless version of one of the 20th century's most celebrated novels: "Ulysses." Then he disappeared...
Nigerian novelist Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie has been awarded the 2018 PEN Pinter prize. She was hailed by Harold Pinter's widow, the biographer Antonia Fraser, as a writer who embodies "those qualities of courage and outspokenness which Harold much admired".