Friday, July 30, 2010
THE BOOK OF SPIES
The Book of Spies by Gayle Lynds is my favorite read of the summer. I used to read thrillers. Lately, I have been reading fantasy and autobiography. About a week or so ago, I started reading "The Book of Spies." I had purchased it for our audio book collection on CD and as I tried to follow the story on audio...I couldn't. So I bought a copy of the book for by Blackberry ereader from Kindle.
A legendary library, containing written works dating back to ancient Rome and Greece, forms the tantalizing background of this winning thriller from bestseller Lynds (The Last Spymaster). When The Book of Spies, one of the bejeweled volumes of the Library of Gold (a rare book archive people have sought for centuries) surfaces, the CIA links a terrorist plot with the library and a cabal of powerful men who have been its keepers. Rare-book expert Eva Blake and former intelligence agent Judd Ryder have personal reasons for joining in the hunt for the library. Eva, released from prison for vehicular manslaughter in the death of her husband, learns that her husband, an authority on the library, is alive. A sniper shot Judd's father, a CIA agent, soon after the father claimed to have learned important information from the library. These two complicated, appealing characters complement the satisfying, conspiracy-laden plot that smoothly moves throughout Europe at breakneck speed.
I have included a little of the author's blog about her research for this book:
"I love research. For me it's mysterious and exhilarating. The common wisdom is that only about one percent of research ends up in a novel. That's a very small fraction, but my experience is it's actually far less - closer to a tenth of a percent, even when the research involves a plot line. For instance my new novel, THE BOOK OF SPIES (to be published in April), has a critical historical element - the real-life lost library of Ivan the Terrible - that required intense research.
I first read about this fabulous collection of illuminated manuscripts twenty years ago in The Los Angeles Times and was instantly intrigued. After all, Ivan's remarkable library had allegedly been the heart of the Byzantine Empire's grand imperial collection and contained priceless works dating back millennia to the ancient Greeks and Romans. Embedded with precious jewels, the books were bound in glittering gold. As I read that, I gave the collection a name - the Library of Gold. Tragically it vanished at Ivan's death, in 1584.
My problem was I couldn't see a way to use any of this in a contemporary spy story. But at the same time I was so interested I began collecting any clippings that were even tangentially related. Then finally, after nearly two decades of haphazard research, the constant drumbeat of this intriguing subject meshed with an idea I had for a modern tale. At last I had a way to use the Library of Gold.
Excited, I began serious research. There is no actual name for the library, so I Googled "Ivan the Terrible," "lost library," "lost books," "hidden library." You get the idea. I waded through thousands of mentions, most of them irrelevant. Still, there were perhaps twenty pieces I printed out, read, and filed. I also needed to understand the environment in which the library had been assembled in Constantinople, how and why it had ended up in primitive Old Moscow, what it had looked like, where it had been located there, and why it had disappeared at Ivan's death. More Googling.
Of course I investigated the calligraphy, inks, paints, and book binding of illuminated manuscripts through the ages, too. As you can imagine one question led to another, and then to a third, and then to a fortieth. I was cutting out articles from newspapers and magazines on almost a daily basis.
Are you getting tired? I wasn't. The secret to research is to be fascinated by your subject, and I was truly fascinated. And if the writer is fascinated, chances are good he or she will be able to pass that compelling feeling on to readers.
I've always looked upon research as an opportunity to satisfy my curiosity.
But the other side of the coin is one must not be so caught up in it that one never gets the book written. What happens to me is I finally feel immersed - and overwhelmed. That's when I began writing THE BOOK OF SPIES, never particularly certain what I would need. But because I had kept my files orderly and my research books stacked close to me on the floor around my desk, I was able to work well. And yes, I still had to stop now and then to do more research, but nothing on the scale as before, and I enjoyed every moment of it
Above is a photograph of one of Ivan’s surviving gold-covered volumes – a Gospel donated by Ivan the Terrible in 1571 to the Cathedral of the Annunciation in Moscow. One of the greatest examples of sixteenth-century Russian decorative art, the illuminated manuscript is studded with precious stones and marked by enamels on a filigree ground. The wreathed inscriptions are linked in nielloed gold. In the center, Christ is risen, and at each corner are saints studying or praying.