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
One of Italy's most popular authors and creator of the Inspector Montalbano series, Andrea Camilleri has died at the age of 93.
Camilleri, who was born in Sicily in 1925, was taken to hospital in Rome in June after going into cardiac arrest.
The author had written a handful of historical novels when, in 1994 at the age of almost 70, he wrote The Shape of Water, the first book starring his now famous Sicilian detective. Set in the fictional town of Vigata, Camilleri was originally going to call his central detective The Commissioner, but decided to pay tribute to the Spanish writer Manuel Vázquez Montalbán, the Spanish author of novels about the investigator Pepe Carvalho.
Saying that the event "has grown exponentially since its launch," the American Booksellers Association is taking over management of Independent Bookstore Day, which began as California Bookstore Day in 2014 and became a national event the following year, Bookselling This Week reported. IBD program director Samantha Schoech will remain in her position and work closely with ABA on planning and promoting the event.
Cressida Cowell, author and illustrator of the How to Train Your Dragon and The Wizards of Once series, as well as author of the Emily Brown picture books, has been named the new Waterstones children's laureate. The Waterstones Children's Laureate is managed by BookTrust, as the UK's largest children's reading charity, and sponsored by Waterstones.
She unveiled her new charter, stating that every child has the right to:
1. Read for the joy of it
2. Access NEW books in schools, libraries and bookshops
3. Have advice from a trained librarian or bookseller
4. Own their OWN book
5. See themselves reflected in a book
6. Be read aloud to
7. Have some choice in what they read
8. Be creative for at least 15 minutes a week
9. See an author event at least ONCE
10. Have a planet to read on
New library borrowing figures from the US show how far England is lagging behind other countries because of its facilities' falling book stocks, according to new analysis from library campaigner Tim Coates.
Using statistics from the Institute of Museums and Library Services, ex-Waterstones boss Tim Coates produced a chart showing English book loans have plummeted year-on-year since 2009/10 while American numbers remain relatively stable...
Lesley Nneka Arimah has won the 20th edition of the Caine Prize for African Writing for her short story 'Skinned'. The prize was launched in 2000, and is awarded annually to an African writer of a short story published in English. The winner receives UK£10,000 prize money, and each shortlisted writer also receives £500.
Arimah is also the author of the 2017 story collection What it Means When a Man Falls From the Sky
Publishers are holding their breath to see if President Trump's decision to postpone the imposition of 25% tariffs on $300 billion worth of goods imported from China will become permanent.
The new tariffs, which included books, were proposed this spring. But after meeting with China President Xi at the G20 conference this weekend, Trump agreed to delay any new tariffs as part of an effort to restart trade talks. In his speech, Trump said new tariffs have been delayed "for the time being."
After Angie Thomas requested that she not be tagged into negative reviews of her books on social media, she has received a torrent of abuse.
History has yet to find the book that is universally adored – or the author who enjoys reading bad reviews. While Angie Thomas has topped the charts and scooped up armloads of awards for her two young adult novels, The Hate U Give and On the Come Up, her recent request that book bloggers stop sending her their negative reviews saw her on the receiving end of a wave of vitriol....
At dozens of barbershops and laundromats across the United States, the sound of children reading aloud mingles with the buzz and snip from barbers' tools or the din of washers. Makeshift shelves and crates hold books featuring cartoon characters, stories about pigeons or the capers of superheroes.
This developing movement, supported by nonprofit groups, entrepreneurs, libraries and community fund-raising, is redefining the borders of traditional neighborhood public libraries by creating literary spaces in places where children find themselves with time on their hands.
It is bringing the book to the child, instead of the child to the book...
With concern in the library community continuing to grow over their ability to provide access to digital content, the Council of the American Library Association yesterday passed a resolution to ramp up its advocacy efforts—including taking the issue to Congress.
The "Resolution on E-Book Pricing for Libraries" was adopted and brought to the ALA Council by ASCGLA (the Association of Specialized, Government and Cooperative Library Agencies), a division of the ALA. The resolution references efforts in Canada to alert the public to the problems of licensing digital content from publishers, and proposes to create a new joint working group to more directly confront the issues in the U.S.
Amazon sells substantially more than half of the books in the United States, including new and used physical volumes as well as digital and audio formats. Amazon is also a platform for third-party sellers, a publisher, a printer, a self-publisher, a review hub, a textbook supplier and a distributor that now runs its own chain of brick-and-mortar stores.
But Amazon takes a hands-off approach to what goes on in its bookstore, never checking the authenticity, much less the quality, of what it sells. It does not oversee the sellers who have flocked to its site in any organized way.
That has resulted in a kind of lawlessness. Publishers, writers and groups such as the Authors Guild said counterfeiting of books on Amazon had surged. The company has been reactive rather than proactive in dealing with the issue, they said, often taking action only when a buyer complains. Many times, they added, there is nowhere to appeal and their only recourse is to integrate even more closely with Amazon...