Fiction Writing and Other Oddities

Friday, December 23, 2011

Guest Author: William S. Shepard

Diplomacy and wine, who can resist? I'm pleased to have William Shepard join me again to talk about his diplomatic mysteries. So this is my holiday treat for my blog readers. Happy Holidays!

Diplomacy and Wine

William S. Shepard

I was a career diplomat in the American Foreign Service, and served at our Embassies in Singapore, Saigon, Budapest and Athens, retiring as Consul General in Bordeaux. “Write about what you know,” is the usual advice given writers, and for me, that was the Embassy world. During one of my five Washington tours, I found myself staying late one late evening, as Duty Officer for the Secretary of State. I perused the files and diplomatic cables, and then realized what a variety of information from all sources a diplomat has access to. That is when the idea came to my – when I retired, I would write mystery stories set in American Embassies overseas.

It is a new genre, and to my knowledge I am the only writer writing what I call “diplomatic mysteries.” It now have a series of four, and my protagonist, Robbie Cutler, is a thirty something career diplomat. He serves where I have served, and where necessary, I have gone back overseas for research purposes.

The first novel, “Vintage Murder,” is set in Bordeaux. The bad guys are the Basque ETA terrorist group, who attempt to raise money by terrorism the great vineyards of the region. In “Murder On The Danube,” Robbie has been reassigned to the American Embassy in Budapest. Someone is killing prominent visiting Americans, in order to keep his secret, that he was a traitor to the Hungarian Freedom Fighter cause during the Hungarian Revolution.

Robbie is intelligent and knowledgeable, but he is not a people person. His sister, and then his wife Sylvie, often have a better feeling for people and their motives than he does. Readers like them both, but many prefer Uncle Seth, Robbie’s great uncle, a nationally prominent man, once Time Magazine’s Man Of The Year, who has access to Washington intelligence circles.

Where did the names come from? “Robbie” is a family name, and Cutler was my mother in law’s maiden name. I had an Uncle Seth, whom I just remember, and Seth is my middle name. Bad guys? They are all sorts, but they are not one dimensional. The ETA gunman in the first novel was motivated by a police killing of a member of his family. The bad guy in the second novel believes (incorrectly) that one of his fellow Freedom Fighters murdered his brother.

As I said, this is an original mystery genre. As the President of the American Foreign Service put it in a cover blurb, “London has Sherlock Holmes and San Francisco has Sam Spade, and now Washington has its first diplomatic sleuth, Robbie Cutler. Learn about embassy life from the inside, as you enjoy Bill Shepard’s latest diplomatic mystery.” You’ll have an enjoyable read in the process!

But diplomacy and wine go well together, as I discovered during my residence in Bordeaux. The 2011 Kindle edition of my book on French wines, “Shepard’s Guide to Mastering French Wines,” has just been issued. It costs less than one-third of the 2003 print first edition! And there are new features, including dozens of hyperlinks that take the reader from the book to websites of the great French wine estates! There are even e-mail forms embedded into many links, so that if you are actually thinking of planning your own overdue trip to France, you can send an e-mail directly from the book to the wine estate you wish to visit, and request the appointment to taste the estate’s wines!

Writing this wine book was a labor of love, and it grew out of my visits to the vineyards in Bordeaux. But we also went to Burgundy, Alsace, Champagne, the Rhone and Loire Valleys, to sample the wines and form judgments as to which wines were of fine quality and still offered the best value for the American consumer. Since returning to the USA I have become Wine Editor for two websites, with over 150 columns on French wines published on the internet.

It should be an easy errand for the purchaser of this book, at $5.95, to save more than the book’s cost with the first wine purchase made with its help. The two diplomatic mysteries are just $2.99 each.

And since all three books are now on Kindle Select, anyone enrolled in that program can borrow one of these books at no cost! That may just be why the wine book has been my best selling book for the holiday season.

Did you know that you can send one of these Kindle books as a gift to a friend? Just click on the “gift” button, and you’ll be linked with the e-mail message that you can fill out for a lucky friend! That’s also turning out to be a popular holiday season option.

And here are the links for these three books -
Vintage Murder
Murder On The Danube
Shepard’s Guide to Mastering French Wines

Now residents of Maryland’s Eastern Shore, the Shepards enjoy visits from their daughters and granddaughters, fine and moderate weather, ocean swims at Assateague, Chesapeake Bay crabs, and the company of Rajah and Rani, their two rescued cats.

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.

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Thank you so much and I hope folks take advantage of the holidays to check out gifting, or the pleasure of reading, your books!

May you have a warm, cheery holiday season and a bright New Year!

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