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
Anna Burns won the 2018 Man Booker Prize for her third novel, Milkman. Burns, 56, is the first writer from Northern Ireland to win the Booker. She accepted the prize tonight at a lavish ceremony in London.
Burns's dark, experimental novel is about a bookish 18-year-old girl caught up in the Troubles in Northern Ireland. Originally set to be published in the United States next fall, Graywolf Press announced tonight that Milkman will be released on Dec. 11.
The New Academy Prize in Literature 2018 has been awarded to Guadeloupean author Maryse Condé. She is the author of about 20 novels, including I, Tituba, Black Witch of Salem; Tales from the Heart: True Stories from My Childhood; Windward Heights; Victoire: My Mother's Mother; and Who Slashed Celanire's Throat?
The New Academy Prize in Literature was created earlier this year by more than 100 Swedish writers, actors, journalists and other cultural figures in response to the Swedish Academy's decision not to award a 2018 Nobel Prize in Literature in the wake of a highly-publicized scandal. The New Academy will be dissolved in December.
A spate of global phishing scams attempting to access agencies' and publishers' manuscripts and other sensitive information prompted Penguin Random House North America to issue an urgent warning to all staff.
The PRH email was circulated with the subject line "Important: New Phishing Alert" and reads: "We have recently seen an increase in attempts to steal our manuscripts. This has occurred in multiple locations across the globe. The individuals attempting to access these manuscripts have a sophisticated understanding of our business. We need to protect ourselves from these threats."
The Bookseller understands PRH UK has been similarly targeted, with fraudsters posing as literary agents and foreign-rights staff from seemingly legitimate email addresses. Other houses have also been affected. Pan Macmillan revealed it had also been targeted by scammers trying to access manuscripts, and has issued an internal briefing to staff. The head of another global publisher said that while there have long been scams targeting confidential information such as contracts, seeking manuscripts is a new development.
The deadline is approaching to cast votes for the USA's best-loved novel. To date, more than 3.8 million votes have been cast.
Organizers of The Great American Read have released a Top 10 list of the leading candidates. The winning book will be revealed in the "Grand Finale" episode on October 23 on PBS stations nationwide.
Viewers can vote for their favorite titles each day through October 18 via Facebook, Twitter, text and phone. Click the link below for full details.
The Top Ten are:
Chronicles of Narnia series
Gone with the Wind
Harry Potter series
Lord of the Rings series
Pride and Prejudice
To Kill a Mockingbird
The number of self-published books topped the 1 million mark for the first time in 2017, according to Bowker's annual report on the number of ISBNs that were issued to self-published authors. The total number of ISBNs issued last year rose 28% over 2016, to 1,009,188.
It is important to note that these figures represent book editions not book titles - for example, a book that is published in three different formats (say hardcover, paperback and audio), would count for three ISBNs.
The gain was due entirely to the increase in the number of print ISBNs issued by Bowker last year: 879,587, an increase of 38% over 2016. The number of ISBNs issued for e-books released by self-published authors fell 13% from 2016, to 129,601.
While Bowker noted that the 2017 decline is the third consecutive year the number of ISBNs issued for e-books fell, the drop is more likely due to authors moving to Amazon's KDP self-publishing platform than an overall decline in the number e-books that were self-published last year. Because KDP uses Amazon's own ASIN identifiers rather than the industry standard ISBNs, KDP's titles do not appear in the Bowker data. Amazon does not disclose the number of KDP titles that it releases annually.
The finalists for the National Book Award are in, and this year, there's more of them than ever before.
For 2018, the National Book Foundation has added a new category for translated literature, in what seems to be an attempt to push back against the idea that Americans don't read books from other countries. It doesn't spotlight only unfamiliar names, though: The finalists in this category include Trick, translated by Namesake author Jhumpa Lahiri, who has written extensively about her decision to begin reading and writing in Italian after years of being celebrated for her beautiful English sentences.
Handbags, briefcases and ties can be checked out for up to three weeks at a time at the Riverside branch of the New York Public Library, as part of a pilot program dreamed up by Michelle Lee, a young adult librarian...
Johns Hopkins University just announced that the school will name a new research building after Henrietta Lacks, the "mother of modern medicine" whose cancer cells revolutionized medical research--and whose story came to the public's attention through Rebecca Skloot's 2010 nonfiction work, The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks.
"Through her life and her immortal cells, Henrietta Lacks made an immeasurable impact on science and medicine that has touched countless lives around the world," Johns Hopkins President Ronald Daniels said during the university's 9th annual Henrietta Lacks Memorial Lecture on Saturday.
Amazon's minimum-wage increase for its hourly workers comes with a trade-off: no more monthly bonuses and stock awards.
Amazon confirmed in an email to CNBC that the company is getting rid of incentive pay and stock option awards as it increases the minimum wage to $15 per hour. The company, however, stressed that the wage increase "more than compensates" for the loss in other benefits.
Among the 25 winners of the 2018 John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation fellowships (widely referred to as the "genius grants," which come with a no-strings-attached award of $625,000) are at least six people who are writers or story-tellers:
- Natalie Diaz, 40, a poet who teaches at Arizona State University.
- John Keene, 53, a writer in the Department of African American and African Studies at Rutgers University.
- Kelly Link, 49, a fiction writer in Northampton, Mass.
- Dominique Morisseau, 40, a playwright at Signature Theatre in New York City.
- Ken Ward Jr., 50, an investigative journalist with the Charleston Gazette-Mail.M
- Raj Jayadev, 43, a community organizer and co-founder of Silicon Valley De-Bug, a story-telling, community organizing, and advocacy organization.