FEATURED AUTHOR: CHARLES KOWALSKI
ABOUT THE BOOKThe son of a notorious Nazi fugitive is running for U.S. President. A Secret Service agent sworn to protect him meets a beautiful Mossad spy determined to stop him.
Title: The Devil’s Son
Author: Charles Kowalski
Genre: Thriller (political/espionage)
Publisher: Seabridge Press (July 27, 2018)
Print length: 345 pages
On tour with: Partners in Crime Virtual Book Tours
INTERVIEW WITH CHARLES KOWALSKI
Q: Where’s home for you?
A: I’m a writer in exile, having spent most of the last 20 years in Japan.
Q: What do you love about where you live?
A: The richness of the language and culture, that you could spend a lifetime studying and still barely scratch the surface. (Not to mention safety, convenience, and universal healthcare!)
Q: What is the most daring thing you've done?
A: Driving a rental car through Jerusalem Old City while researching Mind Virus. (And I lived to tell the tale.)
Q: What’s one thing you wish your younger writer self knew?
A: My answers to this question and the question, "What choices would you like a re-do on?" are essentially the same. I would like to talk to my younger self, toying with the idea of someday becoming a serious writer, grab him by the collar and say, “What the hell are you waiting for?”
Q: Do you have another job outside of writing?
A: I teach English at a university near Tokyo.
Q: Would you rather be a lonely genius, or a sociable idiot?
A: A lonely genius. (I already know how it feels to be lonely, so it would be nice to try the genius part on for size.)
Q: What’s one of your favorite quotes?
A: "A writer is a world trapped in a person.” – Victor Hugo
Q: If you could live anywhere in the world, where in the world would it be?
A: Ideally, I’d have a pied-a-terre near Washington, DC – just for convenience when researching political thrillers – and a writer’s retreat on Mount Desert Island, Maine.
Q: What would you like people to say about you after you die?
A: I’d like them to say that a book of mine made a difference in their lives. (And I’d like to go on living, and writing, long enough that they’ll have plenty to choose from!)
Q: What would your main character say about you?
A: I doubt she would take much notice of me. She’s way out of my league.
Q: How did you create the plot for this book?
A: For the past couple of years, I had a plot in the back of my mind involving a Secret Service agent who comes to realize that his two mandates of upholding the Constitution and protecting the President are mutually incompatible. That story, however, never really came together in a way that satisfied me. Then, while I was visiting the States last summer and saw the news from Charlottesville, another idea occurred to me: “What if the President were a Nazi – as in a real one, on the run from the Mossad?” At first, I dismissed that as unfeasible; he would be too old and ineligible for the presidency if he wasn’t a natural-born citizen. But the idea wouldn’t leave me alone, and I started thinking about taking the conflict into the next generation: the son of a Nazi fugitive vs. the child (I eventually decided on daughter) of the old, washed-out Nazi hunter who narrowly missed him. Then it occurred to me that these two plots could be combined, to make a tale of intrigue pitting the Mossad against the U.S. Secret Service. After that, the story practically wrote itself.
Q: Are any of your characters inspired by real people?
A: Any similarity to any actual persons, events, or presidents is purely coincidental.
Q: I see! Is your book based on real events?
A: Real events have caught up with the book – and overtaken it, in frightening ways that I couldn’t have foreseen. As C.S. Lewis once said, “The trouble with writing satire is that the real world always anticipates you, and things that were meant as exaggerations turn out to be nothing of the sort.”
Q: Who are your favorite authors?
A: I’ve been inspired by other writers of thrillers with a religious angle, like Dan Brown and Daniel Silva. I’ve also been encouraged by other Japan-based thriller writers whose scope has expanded worldwide, like Barry Eisler and Barry Lancet; I hope I can do the same, even though my name isn’t Barry!
Q: What’s one pet peeve you have when you read?
A: Since I live in Japan, I often get annoyed with writers who set stories here and get details of the language and culture wrong. Research, people! (But if I say that too loud, I’m sure someone will catch me on some similar solecism with Israel in The Devil's Son!)
Q: What’s the best compliment you’ve ever received about your writing?
A: One reader described her experience of reading Mind Virus: “It’s one AM already? Oh…one more paragraph!”
Q: What’s the hardest thing you’ve ever had to write?
A: The application for my mortgage.
Q: You can be any fictional character for one day. Who would you be?
A: Harry Potter, especially if it can be a day when he has a vial of Felix Felicis (the “liquid luck” potion).
Q: Good choice! What would your dream office look like?
A: It would be a quiet place in the woods, with a view of the sea – that’s the Mainer in me – and it would have plenty of room to pace, because I think better when I’m up and moving than when I’m sitting in a chair staring at a screen. In the winter, a fireplace would be a big plus.
Q: What are you working on now?
A: After two highly charged, research-intensive thrillers, Mind Virus and The Devil's Son, I’m working on something lighter and hopefully non-controversial: a middle-grade historical fantasy set in 17th-century Japan, featuring Simon Grey, an English boy who runs away to sea to escape from his “gift” of seeing ghosts.
READ AN EXCERPT
Azriel “Azi” Horowitz grimaced as his partner’s Zippo flared in the darkness beside him. He had never been a smoker, and in the confines of the Ford Mainline – a clunker, but the best rental they could find, and not out of place in the working-class Olivos neighborhood in Partido Vicente Lopez – the fumes from the Lucky Strikes nauseated him.
“Yaki, you know I have a little problem with noxious gases in closed spaces.”
Yaakov Lavan shrugged, with his usual easygoing grin. “We’re just two old friends having a chat, right, Azi? And we have to do it in the car, because my wife won’t let me smoke near the baby.”
Horowitz had to concede the point, although he still thought it was a rather thin cover story. One small mercy of operating in Argentina was that the sight of two men conversing in a parked car at night was not altogether uncommon, but every little extra touch of realism they could add was vital. If anyone accosted them, they would have a lot more explaining to do than either of them could manage in Spanish.
Lavan took a deep drag from his cigarette, held it for a moment, and slowly exhaled a white cloud with a look of supreme contentment. As much as Horowitz hated the smell of tobacco, he felt a touch of envy for his partner, and wished he had some similarly portable means of calming his own nerves. His mind continually flitted over the long journey that had brought them to this moment – the years of detective work that had traced their targets to Argentina, the months of secretly stalking and planning in their theater of operations – and all the hundreds of things that could still go wrong.
In addition to the unease in his mind, Horowitz felt another kind in his body: he desperately needed a bathroom break. Thanks to one of the men they were waiting for, his kidneys had stopped growing at the age of seven.
Their targets called themselves Carlos Vasquez and José Mendoza, and had the identity cards to prove it, but Horowitz had first made their acquaintance under different names. One was SS Hauptsturmführer Karl Weiss, #7278, the sadistic Lagerführer – deputy commandant – of Auschwitz. The other, holding the same SS rank, was Josef Mengele, #317885, a living desecration of the title of “doctor.” Anyone who had ever passed through the gates of Auschwitz knew him by yet another name: der Totesengel, the Angel of Death.
If all goes well, Horowitz thought, tonight will be a night for the history books. With luck and the blessing of the Almighty, they would soon have their targets in hand and be on their way to the safe house code-named Tira – “castle” in Hebrew – where Mengele and Weiss would go straight into an improvised holding cell, to join the worst of the worst: SS Obersturmbannführer Adolf Eichmann, “the Master,” architect of the Holocaust, personally responsible for the murder of millions.
The Israeli government naturally regarded Eichmann as the grand prize, but Horowitz had a personal score to settle with Mengele and Weiss. As soon as the cattle car arrived in Auschwitz, Weiss had sent Horowitz’s mother and father directly to the gas chambers, but knowing Mengele’s notorious fascination with twins, kept Azriel and his sister Rachel alive as subjects for his experiments. Mengele had tried to change Rachel’s eye color by injecting her eyeballs with a substance that left her blind, and then infected her with typhus, keeping a careful record of her wasting away. When her end was near, rather than let the disease claim her, Mengele passed her on to Weiss, who used her in one final experiment to see how long it would take to die from a new type of lethal injection.
It had taken twelve minutes and nineteen seconds before she stopped screaming.
“Look,” came Lavan’s voice, bringing Horowitz sharply back to the present. “Is that them?”
Horowitz gazed through the windshield and saw two figures staggering tipsily along the route from the Hofbräuhaus, the German restaurant Mengele and Weiss were known to frequent, towards the guest house where they lived. At first, the darkness and distance made it impossible to make out their features. Then they stepped into the light of a street lamp, and Horowitz risked a quick glance through his binoculars. At the sight of their faces, he felt a sudden burning pain in his left forearm.
Fifteen years had passed since Horowitz last saw those faces, but there could be no mistaking the granite jaw and ice-blue eyes of Weiss. Nor was there any doubt about the gap-toothed smile that gave Mengele the appearance of a little boy – one who delighted in torturing anything smaller and weaker than himself. Many children in Auschwitz had seen that smile on the face of their self-proclaimed “Uncle Josef” as he sat them on his knee, gave them sweets, stroked their hair – and in a soft, soothing voice, ordered an aide to inject them with poison.
“It’s them,” Horowitz said.
Lavan stubbed out his cigarette. He turned around in the driver’s seat, pointed a hooded flashlight at the car behind them, and gave it two quick on-off bursts. The crew in the second car would relay the signal to Tabor and Rosen, who were waiting around the corner.
Right on cue, they appeared a moment later, Tabor in a suit and fedora, Rosen in a coat that would allow her ample freedom of movement. They sauntered toward Mengele and Weiss, with the same relaxed, unsteady gait as their targets, pretending to be absorbed in conversation, occasionally leaning on each other for support. To all appearances, they were a couple coming home from a party with a few too many drinks under their belts, too wrapped up in each other to take much notice of their surroundings.
They would maintain this masquerade until they passed their targets, right between the two cars. Then they would turn and grab them from behind, as the driver of the rear car switched on the high beams to blind them. Horowitz, and the other strongman in the rear car, would jump out and help Tabor and Rosen subdue their targets and bundle one of them into each car. They would apply an ether mask to knock them out, and the two cars would take off on separate routes to Tira, where they and their captives would stay until the plane was ready to take them all back to Israel.
And then, Horowitz thought, all the stories you thought would lie buried with your victims will be told to the world, from a courtroom in Jerusalem. The world will know what we mean when we say, “Never forget.”
He pulled on a pair of gloves. The May night was chill enough to warrant them, but more than that, he might have to use his hand to muffle Weiss’s screams. It revolted him to think of his bare hands touching the mouth that had ordered his parents gassed and his sister tortured to death.
Tabor and Rosen were fifty paces away from their targets and closing.
Horowitz heard the roar of a motorcycle approaching from behind. He tensed, and took an anxious glance in the rear-view mirror. The last thing they needed at this moment was for the police to pass by. The upcoming celebrations for Argentina’s hundred-fiftieth anniversary, which had all of Buenos Aires in a festive mood, had proven to be a double-edged sword for Horowitz and his team. The diplomatic entourage from Israel, one of many visiting from all over the world, had provided the perfect cover, but the influx of high-level international visitors also meant the constant menace of police patrols and checkpoints. The Mossad team was conducting this operation without the knowledge or approval of the Argentine government, and if they were found out, they might well go to jail. And, far worse, their targets might well go free.
The motorcycle passed by the lead car. Horowitz took a sidelong glance and saw no police insignia, just a single rider driving rather unsteadily. He breathed a little easier, but his heart was still pounding.
“Get ready to meet the real Angel of Death, you sons of bitches,” Horowitz muttered aloud.
Excerpt from The Devil's Son by Charles Kowalski. Copyright © 2018 by Charles Kowalski. Reproduced with permission from Charles Kowalski. All rights reserved.
ABOUT THE AUTHORMind Virus, won the Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers' Colorado Gold Award, and was a finalist for Killer Nashville's Silver Falchion Award for Best Thriller of 2017. His latest, The Devil's Son, was shortlisted for the 2018 Adventure Writers' Competition Grandmaster Award. He divides his time between Japan, where he teaches at a university, and Downeast Maine.
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