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Guest Article: Historical Inspiration Peeked from Rough Riders to The Volunteers by John Nuckel

I welcome John Nuckel to Oh, for the Hook of a Book! to talk about the inspiration for his latest book, Drive, which he found after reading about the Rough Riders and The Volunteers. I’m always intrigued by secret societies and this time period in NYC. John uses his research as the basis for a modern day crime thriller. I hope you enjoy the article as much as I did. Enjoy!

How I Found Historical Inspiration in The Volunteers

by John Nuckel, author of Drive

My latest book, Drive, is the first novel in The Volunteers series.

The idea for The Volunteers came to me as I was reading the history of Teddy Roosevelt’s Rough Riders. I found that many of the men in that troop came from my hometown, New York City. It was especially compelling to find that many of the officers in the Rough Riders were from prominent and wealthy families. I learned that William Tiffany of jewelry fame died as a result of a fever he developed during his time in the Cuban jungles with the Rough Riders. In that era people of a certain class were expected to serve and to make a contribution towards the greater good.

The creation of The Volunteers series came to me after my research led me to another wealthy New Yorker who served with the Rough Riders. Woodbury Kane was a relative of the John Jacob Astor family. It is Kane in the foreground in Remington’s painting of the storming of San Juan Hill, pistol in hand. When I sought out his bio and read that his profession was Yachtsman and Bon Vivant, I had to use him as a character.

The story starts when Kane returns home to New York and is no longer content to live the life of the gilded set. He forms the Volunteers to fight against the tyranny of Tammany Hall around the turn of the last century. Kane is joined by his friend, Jacob Riis, the trailblazing journalist, and Teddy Roosevelt himself. Together they work to do what is right: “Et Omnia Recta.” Their purpose is to lift the common man from the oppression of the corrupt Tammany government.

Like any great world city, New York has more interesting characters and events to count. In Drive, Kane and Riis deal with the forbearers of the American Mafia, Paul Kelly, and Monk Eastman, the enforcers for Tammany politicians and founders of the gangs that produced Myer Lansky, Lucky Luciano, and Al Capone, among many others.

The Volunteers have stayed active in the background to this day. They still meet in the saloons and mansions of the early years and remain steadfast in their calling, Et Omnia Recta.

The parallel story in Drive takes place in today’s New York, when Annie Falcone, a NYPD officer, is recruited to protect America’s greatest technological mind from a murderous Chinese hacker. Her assignment takes her to Martha’s Vineyard, where it will take all of her skills and her “drive” to survive the mission.

The Volunteers series will cover many of the scandals and news events in New York City over the last 120 years. The second book in the series, will be set during the Harlem Renaissance. The famous Cotton Club was owned by and Irish gangster, Owney Madden, and is the heart of the story.

Every crooked politician, mob king, showgirl, and jazz musician in New York spent time in the club. What could possibly go wrong? What fun to write and read.

I hope you enjoy Drive and that you will join me on my journey with The Volunteers series.

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Drive, Synopsis –

Et Omnia Recta—to make things right.

n the late 1800s, a secret society is formed by a captain from Teddy Roosevelt’s Rough Riders with the support of the nation’s leading industrialists and bankers. Over a century later, the tradition continues, in the same saloons and boardrooms of New York City where it all began.

In this crime thriller, where history and current events unite, Woodbury Kane, Jacob Riis, and Roosevelt himself fight the tyranny of Tammany Hall in the first mission of the Volunteers during the turn of the last century.

In today’s New York, the descendants of the Volunteers recruit Annie Falcone, a New York police officer, who takes the oath: Et Omnia Recta. She is to provide protection to one man, America’s top technological mind, from his longtime adversary, Sheng, China’s most brutal hacker.

Annie is unaware that she’s merely a decoy to draw Sheng out for the hit squad that was sent ahead of her. Her instincts alone will be the force behind the success or failure of the mission.

Like so many other Volunteers before her, Annie’s survival depends upon her courage, her skill, and her DRIVE.

John Nuckel, Biography – 

John_N-9.jpg

John Nuckel went from the welfare apartments of a middle-class town to a successful career in the financial world. Even in the midst of his accomplishments, he knew he needed to express himself creatively. He’s always said he met enough characters sitting on barstools on Wall Street to fill a dozen books, so now he’s embracing his creative spirit by writing. He encouraged others to do the same on his radio show, “Wake Up and Dream.”

He is a New York Times contributing writer and the author of three white-collar crime thrillers in The Rector Street Series (The Vig, Grit, and Blind Trust), as well as two short stories (The Victory Grill and The Garden). Drive is his latest work.

Find more about John –

Website

Facebook

Twitter

Goodreads

Purchase Links – 

Amazon

Thanks for a wonderful article, John!

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Review of Baudelaire’s Revenge, Winner of Hercule Poirot Prize for Best Crime Novel

02_Baudelaire's Revenge

Giveaway~

Before we get to my review of the award-winning Baudelaire’s Revenge, if you are interested in entering, you can click HERE for the Rafflecopter link. I have two copies, so there will be two winners. U.S. and Canada only.

Review~

Baudelaire’s Revenge is a book that was written in 2007 by Bob Van Laerhoven, yet it was published in Dutch. Now translated by Brian Doyle (who did an amazing job), this winner of the Hercule Poirot Prize for Best Crime Novel is available in English!

I was thrilled to read it as I have a penchant for foreign writing, especially for books written from the Nordic countries, Belgium, or the Netherlands. These writers have a literary knack for descriptive and raw imagery, content, and structure that I embrace with a passion, so I knew that reading Bob’s novel would be exciting for me, especially since I have a love of studying literature and poetry.

Bob has been an intense writer for many years, a traveling writer and journalist, and has seen social harm in places and countries you wouldn’t believe until you read about them. Though I hope some of his novels (that I hear rain with his experiences and with social injustice warnings and content) will also be available in English soon, I enjoy a good historical mystery, this one taking place in 1870s Paris, during the time of the Franco-Prussian War and the Seige of Paris, when it was captured by the Prussians.

During this time of instability, when France was a hub for refugees from many surrounding Eastern European countries as well as Spain and Sephardic Jews, obviously there were many various infused cultures. Also due to the unrest, workers had a difficult time, people were hungry, and political unrest was everywhere. Many tried to alleviate their stress with absinthe and prostitutes and feed themselves by stealing and murdering.

Even the detective star of the book, Commissioner Lefevre, loved prostitutes as much as he loved his poetry.  The French have a long-standing legacy of supreme writing, poetry, and the arts of course, and Lefevre admired poets, such as Charles Baudelaire (who was very controversial at the time, but happened to later inspire various modern literature). So when a mystery evolves surrounding a poem written by the late Baudelaire that was left on a victim, Lefevre sets his eye on an investigation.

Bob’s sentences were so eloquent, each sentence full of life, dripping in details, succulent word choices, and amazing imagery. His writing flows so naturally, but his sentences are not ones that you can read as one whole sentence in one look. It is like you almost must savor each word in his sentences as none are filler, all are precisely planted. The characters were flawless in design, such as Lefevre, who in his imperfect life became the perfect detective, one of whom looks at every minute detail in slow motion, much like Agatha Christie’s Poirot. All good mysteries, the old-fashioned type, need a detective with an attributing personality. Bob’s characterization didn’t disappoint. Riddled with anxiety from trauma (much like PTSD today) during war, death and thoughts of death surrounded Lefevre. It seemed to propel him and I could feel his anguish as much as the down-trodden aura of the vice filled streets of France. I felt myself trying to solve the puzzle along with him as well as seething at the social climate and culture during this era of France!

You must know as a reader that there is explicit content in this book, in a strange cobblestone and street lamp sort of way.  Imagine modern hardcore sex but in an experimental and crude society. The book also dealt with much of the problem of STDs that were stealing so many bodies and especially minds during that period. It worked with the book especially given Baudelaire’s own writing content, as his writings controversially surrounded sex, death, fear of Satanism, and unmoral character.  It didn’t bother me to read (it bothered me it happened for real though).  It read like a foreign film, which generally are more uncensored.

The 19th Century of France was wrought with prostitution and Bob doesn’t leave anything for the mind to wander about, but offers phrasing and technique that about leaves you breathless. He treats the social norm of prostitution as they might have, showing how they rendered it as an art or science. Yet he also shows us the plight of human nature when miserable and looking for satisfaction that is hard to find during intense depressive times.  Behind the mask of passion, sometimes evil lies.  In human nature, abhorrent actions occur that reap multitudes of deception.

Historically very well-researched, Bob really captures the climate and culture of Paris with fervent abandon and authenticity as well as he accurately portrays the political scene.  With as much care, he also brought Baudelaire to life, showing how such talented people, yet reaped in poverty during their lifetimes, were wrought with turmoil.

This book is NOT for the light reader of romance or mysteries. It’s for a readers that like to savor a book of high intellect and intent, as well as enjoy intense reading. It’s not a book you’ll flip fast through because it is an event, not just entertainment for an evening. Bob’s book deals with common issues through the ages of human nature and interaction, poor vs. rich, political and societal issues, death and dying, and controversial and mad creative people. On top of all those layers, there is a very sophisticated detective story, with a superb plot and an ending I didn’t see coming but completely enjoyed. I appreciate Bob’s ability with his writing to tear off the shell of morality and show the dynamics that lay beneath.

Baudelaire’s Revenge, Synopsis~

02_Baudelaire's RevengePublication Date: April 15, 2014
Pegasus Books
Formats: eBook, Hardcover

It is 1870, and Paris is in turmoil.

As the social and political turbulence of the Franco-Prussian War roils the city, workers starve to death while aristocrats seek refuge in orgies and seances. The Parisians are trapped like rats in their beautiful city but a series of gruesome murders captures their fascination and distracts them from the realities of war. The killer leaves lines from the recently deceased Charles Baudelaire’s controversial anthology Les Fleurs du Mal on each corpse, written in the poet’s exact handwriting. Commissioner Lefevre, a lover of poetry and a veteran of the Algerian war, is on the case, and his investigation is a thrilling, intoxicating journey into the sinister side of human nature, bringing to mind the brooding and tense atmosphere of Patrick Susskind’s Perfume. Did Baudelaire rise from the grave? Did he truly die in the first place? The plot dramatically appears to extend as far as the court of the Emperor Napoleon III.

A vivid, intelligent, and intense historical crime novel that offers up some shocking revelations about sexual mores in 19th century France, this superb mystery illuminates the shadow life of one of the greatest names in poetry.

Praise for Baudelaire’s Revenge~

“[An] intense historical crime thriller. The intricate plot, menacing atmosphere, and rich evocations of period Paris have undeniable power.” (Publishers Weekly)

“Vigorous. A finely-tuned balancing act between style and content. Add to all this the extremely convincingly painted tragic characters and the multitude of mysterious figures, and what you get is a winner who gives added luster to this jubilee edition of the Hercule Poirot Prize.” (The jury of the Hercule Poirot Prize)

“Van Laerhoven packs much complexity into 256 pages, giving this historical mystery the heft of a far longer work ( …) The book’s main preoccupation is the conclusive demonstration that everyone is guilty of something—the only mystery is, to what degree? The flowers of evil, sketched in lurid botanical detail…” (Kirkus Reviews)

“(A) decadent tale….Commissioner Lefèvre’s philosophical discussions with artists and poets and a creepy Belgian dwarf are fascinating….” (NY Times Book Review)

“Published for the first time in English, this roman policier isn’t so much a straight detective story (although there are two detectives in it) as an evocation of a mind-set that now seems extravagant: the 19th-century poet’s fascination with sex and death. It’s no wonder this title won the Hercule Poirot Prize: the author is Belgian, as is the prize, and the twisted plot is as complicated as Agatha Christie’s most convoluted mystery. Mystery aficionados will love this pastiche of Wilkie Collins and Edgar Allan Poe.” (Library Journal)

“(A) gritty, detail-rich historical mystery novel involves the reader in a subtle narrative web. This complex mystery from an award-winning Belgian author joins history and literary history to create a sly, smart revenge tale.” (Shelf Awareness Pro)

Watch the Book Trailer~

Link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=NMz1poUVmUw

Buy the Book~

Amazon
Barnes & Noble (Hardcover)
Barnes & Noble (Nook)
IndieBound

Author Bob Van Laerhoven, Biography~

Bob Van LaerhovenBob Van Laerhoven became a full-time author in 1991 and has written more than thirty books in Holland and Belgium. The context of his stories isn’t invented behind his desk, rather it is rooted in personal experience. As a freelance travel writer, for example, he explored conflicts and trouble-spots across the globe from the early 1990s to 2005. Echoes of his experiences on the road also trickle through in his novels. Somalia, Liberia, Sudan, Gaza, Iran, Iraq, Myanmar… to name but a few.

During the Bosnian war, Van Laerhoven spent part of 1992 in the besieged city of Sarajevo. Three years later he was working for MSF – Doctors without frontiers – in the Bosnian city of Tuzla during the NATO bombings. At that moment the refugees arrived from the Muslim enclave of Srebrenica. Van Laerhoven was the first writer from the Low Countries to be given the chance to speak to the refugees. His conversations resulted in a travel book: Srebrenica. Getuigen van massamoord – Srebrenica. Testimony to a Mass Murder. The book denounces the rape and torture of the Muslim population of this Bosnian-Serbian enclave and is based on first-hand testimonies. He also concludes that mass murders took place, an idea that was questioned at the time but later proven accurate.

All these experiences contribute to Bob Van Laerhoven’s rich and commendable oeuvre, an oeuvre that typifies him as the versatile author of novels, travel stories, books for young adults, theatre pieces, biographies, poetry, non-fiction, letters, columns, articles… He is also a prize-winning author:  in 2007 he won the Hercule Poirot Prize for best thriller of the year with his novel De Wraak van Baudelaire – Baudelaire’s Revenge.

For more information please visit Bob Van Laerhoven’s website. You can also connect with him on Facebook and Twitter.

 Tour Schedule: http://hfvirtualbooktours.com/baudelairesrevengetour
Tour Hashtags: #BaudelairesRevengeBlogTour

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