Prize winning mystery writer William S. Shepard is the creator of a new genre, the diplomatic mystery, whose plots are set in American Embassies overseas. That mirrors Shepard’s own career in the Foreign Service of the United States, during which he served in Singapore, Saigon, Budapest, Athens and Bordeaux, in addition to five Washington tours of duty.
His books explore this rich, insider background into the world of high stakes diplomacy and government. He evokes his last Foreign Service post, Consul General in Bordeaux, in Vintage Murder, the first of the series of four “diplomatic mysteries.” The second, Murder On The Danube, now also available on Kindle, mines his knowledge of Hungary and the 1956 Revolution. In Murder In Dordogne Robbie Cutler, his main character, is just married, but their honeymoon in the scenic southwest of France is interrupted by murders. The most recent of the series, The Saladin Affair, has Cutler transferred to work for the Secretary of State. Like the author, Cutler arranges trips on Air Force Two – now enlivened by serial Al Qaeda attempts to assassinate the Secretary of State.
You can connect with William online here:
Love endures over a lifetime. It grows and changes over time, and new richness is discovered. We have been married now for over 50 years, and marvel how things have changed – with an inner core that remains the same. Emotions and their depth are important, as is a sense of humor and a questing intelligence. There is always something to talk about, and share opinions on, and some new, perhaps transient enthusiasm to share. I think we learn something new virtually every day, and love, while constant, is rarely predictable. One of the reasons that grandparents tend to get along so well with their grandchildren, is that grandparents take the long view, and are rarely judgmental. That is a lesson learned over the years.
Thank you for sharing. Who’s your favorite author of classic literature?
My two favorite authors are Balzac and Charles Dickens. Both were prodigious writers, with imaginations that were far beyond what even gifted authors usually display. Balzac’s Human Comedy attempted nothing less than the portrayal of all society, at every level, with social forces at work, in a time when France was in great turmoil following the downfall of Napoleon. Charles Dickens had an incomparable imagination. He surfaces and throws away more plots in, say, “Nicholas Nickleby” than the average writer could productively use in a decade. And he reinvented Christmas in the bargain! Both writers do not take the easy, happy ending approach to novel writing. Balzac lets his characters, pulled by extreme emotions, guide their way in a manner that is compelling and yet disturbing. Dickens, perhaps realizing the demands of his public, would keep them on edge from chapter to chapter – and then tragedy strikes, irregardless. They are masters of the novel – and given their handwriting, I’d have hated to be their publisher!
Do you have a favorite novel? We'd love to hear about it.
Tolstoy’s “Anna Karenina,” and I think the new translation, by Pevear and Volokhonsky, is a revelation. I had read it previously, but this translation is luminous. It brings the characters to life. I have the impression that Tolstoy is more successful with female than with male characters, and I don’t know why. Perhaps he really did listen to Mrs. Tolstoy after all. And then Stendahl’s “The Red And The Black.” When I first read it, in college, I identified with Julien Sorel, the young protagonist. But then I reread it twenty years later, and got just the opposite impression – Sorel’s treatment of Mme. de Renal is dreadful. So I think that one’s own life experiences change over time, and with them, one’s views of a novel.
What was the happiest moment in your childhood?
I remember a Christmas when I was perhaps four or five. We were at peace, and the family business had prospered, and there was no illness. We had a huge decorated Christmas tree, many presents for everyone, and a sense of joy. Dinner was copious and delicious. That may be the Christmas when I wrapped a catnip mouse for my cat Peter and put the present under the tree. When I awoke the next morning, Peter had ignored the other presents and opened his. That proved to me that Peter could read! And so the local newspaper reported on the front page the following day!
What a wonderful memory! Love that it got reported in the local paper.
“Murder On The Danube” continues my diplomatic mystery series. Robbie Cutler is now Political Officer at the American Embassy in Budapest. The Hungarian Revolution, with its heroic and doomed street fighting against the occupying Russian Army, forms the backdrop to the novel, as the survivors of a resistance group are endangered once again. Someone has something to hide from the old days. There are two love stories. The first is that of Robbie Cutler and his friend Sylvie Marceau. Will he forget her, now that he has left Bordeaux? For a while he starts lunching with the young and bored wife of the Australian Ambassador. Robbie’s sister Evalyn, on a visit to see her brother, sees what is going on – and is not pleased with Robbie!
The second love story is between two Freedom Fighters, Eva Molnar and Csaba Kovacs. She is arrested by the secret police, and he disappears. Will they be reunited? And why is a Russian Mafia contract killer trying to murder the survivors, and Robbie Cutler?
Purchase Link for Murder On The Danube
“Shepard’s Guide to Mastering French Wines” is a comprehensive Kindle guide to the regions and wines of France. Dozens of recommendations will save the reader time and effort, and the first purchase more than repays the cost of the e-book. This is one Kindle book that you will be consulting for years to come. I was Consul General in Bordeaux, lived there for years, and know the great estates personally.
Purchase Link for Shepard's Guide to Mastering French Wines
If you'd like to enter to win a copy of William's, Shepard's Guide to Mastering French Wines, please join the chat and comment on this blog post.
William, thanks so much for guesting today. I enjoyed chatting with you.