Tuesday, August 27, 2013

How to Write a Thriller like Dan Brown



I remember boarding a flight from Israel to the United States in January 2004, with a copy of The Da Vinci Code in hand. The plane made a stopover in Prague but I barely paid attention. When we landed in Newark, I had just finished reading what I considered the best thriller I had ever read. On my return flight to Israel, I read Angels and Demons in its entirety.

Ever since those non-stop reading sessions, I have been enthralled by the novels of Dan Brown. I purchased and eagerly read Deception Point and Digital Fortress. I pounced on The Lost Symbol shortly after it was published.

Now I have just finished reading Inferno. While I no longer read at the speed of flight, I still finished the novel in a very short time. This won't be a review stating how much I enjoyed the book and why. Instead, it's a review of what makes Dan Brown such a successful writer of thrillers.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Thrills in Exotic Locations



In the opening action sequence of the James Bond movie, "Skyfall", our hero is racing on a motorcycle after an unnamed assailant through the streets of Istanbul, Turkey. The bikes drive over the rooftops of the Grand Bazaar and then crash through a window into the souk itself, where they speed past startled shopkeepers and shoppers. Eventually they reach the railroad tracks where we witness a fight to the death atop a speeding train.

"Take the shot," the command comes from London and a rifle is fired. James Bond plunges off the train to the river far below. The opening credits of the movie begin to roll across the screen.

Rewind to the motorcycle chase. While most viewers are wondering how 007 manages to stay on the bike as it bounds up stairways and through glass, I am enthralled by the scenery barely glimpsed behind the motorcycles. The minarets of Istanbul's amazing mosques. The exotic attractions and fragrances of the markets. The scenic valley through which the train travels. These scenes of a fascinating city bring back memories of my own visit to Istanbul in the spring of 2010.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

The Gates of Jerusalem



The walls of the Old City of Jerusalem
A small, walled area in the center of Jerusalem contains holy sites revered by followers of the three major monotheistic religions. The Temple Mount, where the First and Second Temples once stood, is now home to the Dome of the Rock and the Al-Aqsa Mosque. The retaining wall of the Temple Mount is known as the Western Wall (formerly the Wailing Wall) and it is the largest outdoor synagogue in the world. And Jesus walked along the Via Dolorosa carrying his cross to his crucifixion. The Church of the Holy Sepulchre is considered by many Christians to be where Jesus was buried and the purported site of his resurrection.

The Old City of Jerusalem is without a doubt the most colorful tourist destination in Israel. The narrow passageways of the Arab shuk. The modern housing and reconstructed synagogues of the Jewish Quarter. The wide Cardo street passing on the very stones put into place by the Roman conquerors of the city. The many restaurants, the yeshivot schools, the carcasses of animals hanging from their hooks in tourists' faces, the carpets and olive wood souvenirs in the Christian Quarter. No one can understand Jerusalem's uniqueness without a visit to the Old City.

While people have lived in this area of Jerusalem since early Biblical times, the current walls were constructed in 1538 by Suleiman the Magnificent, Sultan of the Ottoman Empire. Legend says that Suleiman's architects mistakenly left Mt. Zion outside the city walls. Mt. Zion is revered as the traditional location of the Last Supper and the burial site of King David.

Join me on a colorful virtual tour of the gates of the Old City. And then visit Jerusalem to see them yourself!

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Let Fiction Be Your Passport to the World

I recently finished reading The Art of Hearing Heartbeats by Jan-Philipp Sendker, an inspirational love story set in Burma. Admittedly, I don't usually read love stories, and I'm not too keen on inspirational novels either. What fascinated me most about the book was its setting. Burma! Burma - a land of impoverished villages, superstitions, and Eastern values. I really know nothing at all about Burma, yet I was swept away by this novel's descriptions of the country and its people.

This is what I enjoy most about reading. Whenever I pick up a book set in an unusual location I find myself traveling there in my mind. I dive into the customs, history, and cuisine of a place that I imagine based on the narrative and the way the characters interact in that setting. Reading a good book is the perfect way to see the world. I don't read science fiction or fantasy; there is enough in the real world to keep my interest for a long time.

Read the rest of this article on: 
Laurie's Non-paranormal Thoughts and Reviews:

Thursday, August 15, 2013

I Am Fascinated by Jesus



No, not by the central figure of Christianity. I am interested in the Jewish rebel leader who stars in Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth by Reza Aslan.

There is history and there is belief. As a Jew living in the modern State of Israel, I am putting my beliefs and faith aside and openly stating that I am interested in the historical figure that lived in this land two thousand years ago. There are two hard facts about Jesus of Nazareth. First of all, Jesus was a Jew who led a popular Jewish movement at a very tumultuous time. The second fact is that Rome crucified Jesus for doing so.

These two facts set the stage for the meticulously researched biography by Reza Aslan, published just last month. Entitled Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth, this book challenges many long-held assumptions about the man whose life and teachings form the foundations of Christianity. Aslan is not the first author to consider the case of the historical Jesus, but his jargon-free, unprejudiced, reader-friendly presentation of both Scripture and history will ensure that his message will reach a large lay audience.

Friday, August 9, 2013

Bulgaria, Land of Roses



In central Bulgaria, just south of the Balkan Mountains, is a region famous for its rose-growing industry. Bulgarian roses reportedly produce as much as 85% of the world's rose oil, which is an essential ingredient in the production of perfumes. The soil and climate of what is commonly known as the Valley of Roses help produce some of the most beautiful and oil-rich roses in the world. Rose oil is considered the 'liquid gold' of Bulgaria, due to the high demand for it on the world market.

At the center of the Valley of Roses is a small town by the name of Kazanlak. Following the annual rose petal harvest in May and June, a time when the entire valley is enveloped with the fragrance of roses, Kazanlak stages its well-known Rose Festival. The Rose Queen is crowned and people from all over the country parade in the streets in a colorful display of pageantry and culture.

During our stay in Bulgaria, my wife and I had the opportunity to visit Kazanlak during its Rose Festival. Roses and the rose oil industry also play a role in Valley of Thracians. Enjoy photographs of Bulgarian roses and passages about roses from my suspense novel.

Friday, August 2, 2013

Gourmet Dining in the Jerusalem Shuk



How can you not like a restaurant where the waitresses dance gleefully between the tables?

A recent dining experience at Jerusalem's renovated train station left me wondering if any of the new restaurants popping up all over the city were capable of serving a tasty meal accompanied by courteous service. I didn't have to wait too long to discover a gem on the Jerusalem culinary scene.

During the day, the Mahane Yehuda market is packed with shoppers, shoving their way up the crowded passageways past stalls offering fruits, vegetables, boutique cheeses, spices, fresh fish, household goods, delectable varieties of halvah, meat products, candies, toys, clothing, wines, alcoholic and soft drinks, pickled goods, coffees, teas, ethnic fare, nuts, pitot, bread, and other baked goods. The merchants shout out the going price for watermelon, tomatoes, cherries, peaches, plums, mangos, melons, and cucumbers, competing against each other for audio supremacy. Bags of produce are selected, packed, weighed, and paid for. The stream of customers continues unabated, from morning to night, with peaks of activity ahead of Shabbat and holidays.