Tuesday, March 10, 2015


"Topol is up there with such masters of the labyrinthine as Robert Ludlum and Tom Clancy."

- The Washington Post

"John Grisham and Richard North Patterson may have a new successor"

- Publishers Weekly

"Topol creates believable characters with real problems and emotions; he constructs a tight, suspenseful plot that has us flipping pages as fast as we can find out what happens while we root 100% for a hero we don't altogether like."

- The Los Angeles Times

"Takes off at warp speed... Topol has done his homework."
             -Washingtonian Online On Conspiracy

"Topol's Fiction Is Woven From The Threads Of Real Events And Real-Life Concerns"
                                   - Legal Times on Dark Ambition

By Allan Topol

Hard on the heels of The Argentine Triangle and also The Russian Endgame comes author Allan Topol’s next great thriller, THE WASHINGTON LAWYER. In the high-stakes world of Washington politics, hotshot lawyer Andrew Martin is being put to the test. When long-time friend Senator William Jasper calls, it’s with explosive news—and a favor to ask. A sex tryst at Martin’s beach house in Anguilla has gone awry and former model Vanessa Boyd is dead. Just how far will Martin go to protect the chief justice nomination on which he’s built his entire career?

Rife with sophisticated backdrops and hairpin plot turns that put Topol on the best-seller list, THE WASHINGTON LAWYER is a heart-stopping foray into human vice coupled with power accelerating towards catastrophe. 

Topol, himself is a well-established partner at one of DC’s top law firms and author of 11 thrillers. THE WASHINGTON LAWYER is a penetrating glimpse into Capitol Hill’s seedy underbelly. Topol impresses again with this latest escapade into the intricate underpinnings of Washington’s influential power layers, drawing the reader into a new of questionable morals, deadly intrigues and treachery from which this is no escape.

Allan Topol THE WASHINGTON LAWYER is Topol’s eleventh novels of international intrigue. Two of them, SPY DANCE and ENEMY MY ENEMY, were national best sellers. His novels have been translated into Japanese, Portuguese and Hebrew. One was optioned and three are in development for movies. More recently, his books had focused on his Craig Page series, including THE ARGENTINE TRIANGLE, THE RUSSIAN ENDGAME, SPANISH REVENGE and CHINA GAMBIT.

In addition to his fiction writing, Allan Topol co-authored a two-volume legal treatise entitled SUPERFUND LAW AND PROCEDURE. A graduate of Yale Law School, he is a partner in a major Washington law firm, and an avid wine collector, he has traveled extensively, researching dramatic locations for his novels. He wrote a weekly column for Military.com and has published articles in numerous periodicals including the New York Times, Washington Post, and Yale Law Journal. He also has blogged for Huffington Post.     For more information, visit www.allantopol.com.

By Allan Topol
Select Books, Inc., March 2015
$16.95; 288 pages
ISBN13: 978-1-59079-266-7
Fiction/Political Thriller

Q & A With Allan Topol
Q:           Is the Washington Lawyer one of those legal novels that deals with trials and witnesses?

A:            It is  not.  There are no courtroom scenes in the novel.  Although one of the lead characters, Andrew Martin, is an influential Washington lawyer, it is a political thriller with espionage.  It involves a young woman’s death, her twin sister’s desire for revenge, and an inside look at the seedy aspect of Washington politics. 

Q:           At the heart of the Washington lawyer is a fateful Veteran’s Day weekend tryst involving a U.S. Senator, Wesley Jasper, and a Congressional staffer, Vanessa, who was a former runway model.  Does this kind of thing happen in Washington?

A:            Absolutely.  I have  been a Washington lawyer myself for many years.  Periodically, events like this occur.  Three examples:  One is Senator Ted Kennedy’s Chappaquiddick incident.  Another is stripper Fanny Fox out on a date with a powerful congressman, Wilbur Mills, and she dove into the tidal basin near the Jefferson Memorial.  And most recently, Bill Clinton and Monica Lewinsky.

 Q:           You have been a partner in a powerful Washington law firm for many years.  Have you modeled the firm in the Washington Lawyer after your law firm?

A:            The law firm in the Washington Lawyer is a composite of many law firms I have seen.  In addition to the thriller aspect of this novel, the reader will gain insights into the operations of powerful Washington based international law firms.

Q:           Chinese spies play a pivotal role in the Washington Lawyer.  Is this your creation or is Chinese spying a major factor in Washington?

A:            Chinese spying in Washington is huge.  The Chinese are now doing what Russia and the KGB did during the Cold War days.  I wanted to shine a light on this Chinese conduct in the Washington Lawyer.

Q:           One of the major issues in the Washington Lawyer is the bond between Allison and her twin sister, Vanessa, as well Allison’s determination to find out what happened to Vanessa on that fateful weekend in Anguilla.  Why did you decide to write about the bond between sisters?

A:            I have three daughters and have observed them first hand.  I have seen my daughters’ strong bond and commitment to each other.  I know that many books dwell on the jealousy and backstabbing of sisters.  But in the Washington Lawyer, Allison and Vanessa always were proud and supportive of each other. 

Q:           Why did you make Allison an archeologist on an excavation in Israel?

A:            I have always been intrigued by archeology and especially in Israel.  So this was a way to add another dimension and locale to the Washington Lawyer.  Also, archeologists dig and that’s what Allison does metaphorically to discover what happened to her twin sister Vanessa in Anguilla with Senator Jasper.

 Q:           Why did you use the Caribbean island of Anguilla for the tryst between Senator Jasper and Vanessa?

A:            I wanted to pick a peaceful and secluded island where the rule of law prevails.  I made several visits to Anguilla before writing the book.  When I decided to use it, I went back and did research.  When authors write about international locales, it is important for them to know the place.  Only then can the author make it come alive for a reader.

Q:           The Washington Lawyer is your eleventh novel.  How have you found time to write novels while being a Washington lawyer yourself?

A:            I’m fortunate that I don’t need much sleep, so early mornings are perfect for writing.  I travel a great deal on business and am able to tune out noise around me.  That makes airplanes great for writing.  Also, being an international lawyer has complimented my novel writing.  It has enabled me to meet people, see places, and observe events which can go into the novels.

Q:           Do you have an agenda or objective in writing your novels? 

A:            I want to entertain readers in the sense that I want them turning pages to find out what happens next.  However, I also want to provide insights about world events and people.  In the Washington Lawyer, one of my objectives is to focus readers on the rivalry between the U.S. and China and the extent to which the Chinese are spying on the U.S.  At the same time, on a personal level I want to show people making critical decisions which lead to a chain of events out of their control, particularly Andrew Martin, the powerful Washington lawyer.  At the beginning of the book, Martin is a paragon of virtue.  He desperately wants to become Chief Justice of the Supreme Court.  The Washington Lawyer explores how far Martin will go, what he is willing to do on the dark side, to obtain his objective.  This parable is at the heart of the novel. 

Q:           Do you have any advice for aspiring novelists?

A:            First, develop a compelling story because story, story, story are the three major ingredients of a good novel.  Second, create vivid characters whom the reader will root for or despise.  Prepare a detailed outline—scene by scene.  Mine are typically around 50 pages.  Then sit down and write a first draft in a white heat.  Don’t read a word until you finish your draft.  Then read it and evaluate what you have.  Find a trusted reader.  Obtain input from that reader.  If you believe you have a possible book, begin the painstaking process of rewriting and polishing.  Nothing is more satisfying than seeing your book in stores or online.

Monday, March 9, 2015

Shadow Ritual Blog Tour Q&A with Eric Giacometti and Jacques Ravenne

Inspired by the true story of mysterious Freemason files thought to hold a terrible secret, which were stolen by the SS in 1940, recovered by the Red Army in 1945, and returned a half century later, SHADOW RITUAL (Le French Book; March 25, 2015; $16.95) by Eric Giacometti and Jacques Ravenne  is a fast paced international thriller that takes the reader from France to Italy to Israel.
An electrifying thriller about the rise of extremism. Two slayings—one in Rome and one in Jerusalem—rekindle an ancient rivalry between modern-day secret societies for knowledge lost at the fall of the Third Reich. Detective Antoine Marcas unwillingly teams up with the strong-willed Jade Zewinski to chase Neo-Nazi assassins across Europe. They must unravel an arcane Freemason mystery, sparked by information from newly revealed KGB files. Inspired from the true story of mysterious Freemason files thought to hold a terrible secret, stolen by the SS in 1940, recovered by the Red Army in 1945 and returned half a century later.
How did the two of you come together to write SHADOW RITUAL?
Many things led us into this adventure. First of all, Jacques is a Freemason, and Eric had investigated scandals linked to freemasonry. We had two different visions of this brotherhood. Second, Eric had already written a mystery and his French publisher was encouraging him to write another one. Thirdly, we had known each other since our teenage years together spent in Toulouse, in the south of France, when we shared a passion for esoteric mysteries and secret societies. At the time, while others were flirting, we were exploring Cathar castles and Templar outposts, certain we would find some lost treasure, perhaps even the Holy Grail. We always kept a bit of that feeling of wonder. All of this came together with the idea of a Freemason inspector. Two other inspirations fed Shadow Ritual: the little known story of Freemason persecutions in Nazi-occupied France, and the true story of French Freemason archives stolen by the Nazis in 1940, recovered by the Soviets in 1945 and only returned to France in 2000. What secret did they hold?
How does the fact that Jacques is a Freemason and Eric is a Profane affect the portrayal of the relationships between your characters?
It gives us a more balanced view of freemasonry: one that is not too indulgent and not too full of fantasy.
What was the inspiration for the characters Antoine Marcas and Jade Zewinski?
Antoine embodies an upright Freemason who believes in his ideals, but is aware that the brotherhood is not perfect. He is always doubting, and that is his strength. Jade is hostile to freemasonry and challenges Marcas, by asking him all the questions the Profane have about this secret society.
The Inspector Marcas series is an international phenomenon! Has the success of the series changed your life?
The success of the series has allowed us the freedom to write and earn a living from it, which is a real luxury.
How did you decide to write a series with a freemason as the protagonist?
We though thrillers are an excellent way for readers to discover the world of freemasonry. Then, we were doubly lucky: at the time, nobody in France had had the idea of creating a positive Freemason protagonist, and Dan Brown published his Da Vinci Code a year before we brought out the first Antoine Marcas mystery in French. We were the first French authors to benefit from the Dan Brown effect.
SHADOW RITUAL deals with actual Freemason history and the potential implications of a breach; has SHADOW RITUAL ruffled some feathers?
At first, Jacques’s brothers were a little thrown off. But over time, freemasons have become fervent supporters of Inspector Marcas. The rituals and meetings described in the books are genuine, and readers can understand a little bit more about the brotherhood.
How much research do you have to do, which are the most difficult types of scenes to research, and have you ever had to go to extreme or unusual lengths to research a scene?
We spend a lot of time in libraries, often in Freemason libraries, which have many rare books. We also meet with scholars. This is a fascinating part of the work, but it’s important not to get lost in the research or to recount too much of what we found in books. The hard part is building a plot and adjusting the mechanism to work like clockwork.
What are you reading now?
The Black Swan by Nassim Nicholas Taleb, a fascinating book about the unforeseeable events that change the destinies of nations.
Who or what has influenced your style of writing?
Jacques’s influences are very literary, as he was a French professor and a Paul Valery scholar. Eric’s are more thrillers (both books and movies).
What’s up next for you, Eric?
I’m heading to New York for Thrillerfest in July. I can’t wait to meet other thriller writers. And next year, there will be another Antoine Marcas thriller in English, one with surprising Freemason information about the Statue of Liberty and the Eiffel Tower.
What’s up next for you, Jacques?
Las Vegas in August to celebrate my son’s twenty-first birthday, and shared impatience with Eric for the next Marcas adventure.

I did not receive any compensation for this review. I did, however, receive a free copy for my review from Meryl L. Moss Media Relations, Inc.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Q & A With Jay Richards, Author of SILHOUETTE OF VIRTUE

By Jay Richards
Face Rock Press
344 pages
ISBN: 978-0988589001

About Jay Richards:

DR. JAY RICHARDS, PHD, is a forensic psychologist and expert witness with over thirty years of experience in diagnosing, managing, and studying psychopaths, sex offenders, and mentally disordered offenders. He is currently on the faculty at University of Washington and Seattle University, and appears as a psychopathy expert on a variety of media, including NPR, Dateline, and The Washington Post. His fiction explores how people (normal and disordered alike) make choices in a world that is simultaneously predetermined and stultifying–unpredictable and dangerous. His first novel Silhouette of Virtue is based, in part, on actual crimes that occurred on a university campus during the mid-1970s, and is also informed by experiences gained by the author while studying and teaching African literature in West Africa later in that decade. Richards believes that task of fiction is to create and share a vision of the world that is worthy of humanity.

About the Book:

It is 1973. A small college town in Southern Illinois is terrorized by a spree of sadistic assaults. The rapist tells the victims–all Asian women–that he is making them pay for America’s betrayal in Vietnam. When the only other Black faculty member is accused of the crimes, African American philosophy professor Nathan ”Ribs” Rivers struggles to suspend his doubts about his colleague’s innocence.

Rivers reluctantly yields to the urgings of his students and takes up leadership of a campus coalition formed to advocate for a fair trial. Professor Rivers embarks on a vision quest for the truth that is as much about his character as it is about the crimes–a quest that threatens to topple his family and career, ignites in him a spiritual crisis, and plunges him headlong toward lethal unknowns.

Q & A with Jay Richards
1.  What made you want to write a book after decades working as a forensic psychologist? 
Actually, I tinkered around with writing fiction for decades.  I say tinker, but I was deadly serious about it.  Sometimes too serious to open up and create without perpetual, harsh self-criticism.  At some point, I decided to act on the old injunction “Physician, heal thyself.”  I stepped away from my perfectionism and got down to work.
2.  What does a forensic psychologist do? 
Forensic psychologists practice psychology in legal contexts.  They perform evaluations to answer psycho-legal questions, like: Is a defendant psychologically fit (competent) to participate in a trial? Was their crime a result of the person’s mental illness impairing their ability to know what they were doing or that the act was wrong or illegal?  How likely is it that a sexual offender or domestic violence perpetrator will repeat these kinds of crimes?  Forensic psychologists also provide forensic treatment.  This is similar to clinical treatment for mental disorders or problem behaviors, but the focus is on preventing the recurrence of dangerous behavior.
3.  How have your experiences shaped you as a writer?
My work as a forensic psychologist involves evaluating and treating dangerous people with mental disorders.  This work has given me license to be nosy about people at a very deep level, a level of deep wonder about how people experience life.I am always aware that the stakes are high in this work.  A risk assessment that is off target or a serious misstep in therapy can obstruct the patient’s progress, expose others to unnecessary risk of violence, or lead to my being assaulted.
Doing intensive forensic assessment and forensic therapy with dangerous people required me to spend long periods of silence across the table from my patients. At times these extended silences were filled with an empty void. But at other times, they were pregnant with something (terrible or fragile) that had a momentum, something that wanted to emerge and take its chances in the external world of speech and action. 
This is great writing practice, learning how to sit with powerful emotion—those of your own, those of your patient (or character)—while you work to open up a space for something new. Of course, the exotic, often perplexing personalities I have encountered in this work have contributed to some of my characters, but the experience of sitting with them has informed everything else.
Another experience that shapes my writing is a persistent sense of justice that I’ve had my whole life. Ever since I was a child, I’ve sometimes felt an intense sense that something unfair or unjust was happening to me or to others and that no one would listen. This often led me to writing letters to my parents, teachers, and romantic interests that I was usually wise enough not to send. Writing those letters was cathartic, but they would sometimes become more than self-solace and take off on wings of their own.  I would then see my personal complaint as experiential ore for poetry and fiction, stuff that I could refine into something valuable to others through character, story and self-reflective language.
The themes and character development of my fiction parallel this personal process.  Key characters often have a poignant awareness of injustice that sparked them to action.  Many characters—including some of the criminals—long for completion through a performance or exchange, but the experience continually eludes them until an injustice is addressed.
4.  What made you decide to write fiction in particular?
I decided to write fiction largely because I believed I had an aptitude for it and that this capacity, or talent, came with a responsibility.  It’s similar to how the responsibility to stand witness comes from having been present for a significant event and having some degree of unique knowledge about it.
I believe that fiction, like all the arts, is a mode of knowledge. It is valuable because it allows us to feel and perceive in new ways. Those new points of view are often introduced to us by characters who are unlike the people we know in our own lives. And if the characters are familiar to us, we get a more intimate look at them. Fiction brings us “inside” these characters and shows us what the world looks like from their perspective.
Fiction is the one creative art that gives us this inside perspective through language. It is not exact knowledge. It’s more like the kind of knowledge you acquire by intensely playing a game until you dissolve into the flow of it.  There is no substitute for fiction, although you don’t need it to live. It doesn’t bake bread, it opens hearts and minds.
5.     What inspired the plot for Silhouette of Virtue?
The plot is loosely based on a series of sexual assaults that actually occurred on the campus of a Midwestern university that I attended in the mid-70s.  In the real case, a popular African-American graduate student was accused of being involved in the crimes. Early on, I viewed these happenings as having cultural significance, especially in regard to how it forced students into two camps:
one that viewed the charges as racially motivated, and the other that insisted that race had nothing to do with his being a suspect.  I observed these events from the fringes, and after I left the university town I got only fragmented glimpses as the chain of events played out over several years.  There was no internet and the local papers buried the story, so I had no way to follow it closely. As a result, my imagination was given considerable rein.  I bumped up the ante by accelerating the pace of events and by making the both the accused man and the amateur sleuth who tries to find the truth African Americans on the university faculty.
6.   How did people you’ve met in your years of work shape the characters for the book?
In his poem “Little Gidding,” T.S. Eliot writes of a poet who meets “a familiar compound ghost, both intimate and unidentifiable.” I consider the characters in my book combinations of real and imagined people. One of the criminals in the novel is a combination of a close childhood friend, a sadistic patient I had in a therapy group in a forensic hospital, and a black Trickster-figure character (Skeeter) from John Updike’s Rabbit Redux. There’s also a character (with a nod to Superman’s Lex Luther) that is based on an eminent scientist who tries to hide his mean streak and use his authority to mastermind crimes. The protagonist and sleuth, Dr. Nathan Rivers, is the admixture of a perpetual grad student in philosophy who had a noble and compassionate soul, and my impressions of several African-American poets, whom I’ve never met in person. And, oh yes, I shouldn’t forget, a good pinch of  Basil Rathbone as Sherlock Holmes in the 1939 film Hound of the Baskervilles.
 7.     Do you have plans to write another book soon?
I’m playing with the elements of what may become a sequel to Silhouette of Virtue. It would feature the philosophical sleuth from the first novel, Dr. Nathan Rivers, but in a totally different setting, and perhaps even a different era. I would like that book to have some of the adventure, suspense, detective themes, and investigation of racial and sexual identity (as well as wry humor and parody) that are in Silhouette.
I also have a book in progress. It’s a Bildungsroman along the lines of Joyce’s Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man and Haruki Murakami’s Norwegian Wood. It portrays a kind of coming of age story over the course of a decade and captures the tone of culture and society during that passage. The story is set in both America and Africa, and is inspired by my travels in Nigeria during my own coming of age (mid 20s) and my brief friendship with novelist Leon Forrest. Forrest was a writer who was deeply African-American and also somehow African in his sensibility, which was more like that of a lyrical epic poet or African praise singer.  Remembering and thinking about him gives me hope that I can pull together something that covers all this territory in an interesting way.
8.  What’s one thing you want people to take away as a message from your book?
A suspense novel tells the story of a mystery about the identity and whereabouts of evildoers.  The most important clues are in the aberrant or flawed personalities of the criminals, which are always partially revealed and partially concealed in the crimes they commit.  The big message of the Silhouette of Virtue, like many detective mystery stories, is that by trying to untangle a mystery like this, we readers learn more about the mystery that is all around us and within us and others.  In other words, the take-home message is that the real world around us is a terrifying, beautiful, and mysterious place and we are part and parcel of that world.

9.     In Silhouette, does your protagonist, Dr. Nathan Rivers, reflect your own view of the world and how it operates?

Yes, I think so, but he acts on that worldview more consistently and courageously than I can.  He’s a lot less worried about making big mistakes. Like Rivers, I’ve always been drawn to people of diverse backgrounds, ethnicities, and complexities of all kinds. Also, I’ve always wanted to understand what it means to lead a well-lived life, which is a central motive that drives Rivers in the book. Finally, as a black man myself, I share with Rivers the “double-consciousness” that African Americans often develop as being in the American society, but not of it in many ways. This dual identity frees me, like Rivers, to look at America from “the outside” and propose something that I believe is ultimately more American.