Thursday, April 24, 2014

How the Wealthy Nobility Cover Up Scandals

I’ve written a number of novels including A Question of Proof or A Question of Proof (Kindle); Star Time: New Version & New Introduction or Star Time (Kindle); andDeeds or Deeds (Kindle); and Stalking the Sky or Stalking the Sky (Kindle). In my historical novel Birthright or Birthright (Kindle), I wanted to show how Rob Rowell, a wealthy earl, could cajole a nurse into covering up his part in the car-accident death of his illicit lover, the mother of my protagonist, Deborah Kronenegold.

Here’s an excerpt:

Rob Rowell did not see the curve in the road. Or, until it was too late, the large truck with the snowplow snout that suddenly loomed up in front of them.
He twisted the steering wheel and braked. The car careered to the right in a skidding spin. Madeleine’s door smashed against the side edge of the plow. The hardened steel cut through the Rolls like a knife and crushed Madeleine’s body.
The hospital was very near, but Rob, cradling her in a blanket in the truck cab, knew that it did not matter. Although attendants and nurses wheeled her quickly toward an operating room, and doctors alongside hurriedly covered her face with an oxygen mask, injected chemicals into her, inserted in her arms tubes connected to bottles of blood, pressed frantically on her dented-in chest—Rob knew he was watching a futile dumb show performed out of habit. She had left him already, amid the swirling whiteness.

His small suitcase beside him, Rob sat docilely on the bench in the emergency room, trying to come to grips with the finality of what had happened. The moments with her had always seemed luminous, because she was luminous—fresh and spontaneous and always so alive. He tried to summon up vivid recollections of her, so as to hold onto her and to delay his acceptance of the inalterability of her death, but all he could visualize was the angel-perfect profile resting against the black half-moon of steel that had sliced through the white Rolls.
Even in his distraught condition, he could not evade the knowledge that he had been the cause of her death, but he assured himself that no one could hold him responsible; with weather conditions so deplorable, it was true only in the technical sense that he had been at the wheel.

He sat up straight. At the wheel! If the police found out that he and Madeleine de Kronengold had been together in a car traveling back from her country house, the reporters would learn about their affair as well. Lurid stories would smear the two of them across every newspaper in England. There might even be speculation as to whether there had been some negligence involved in the accident. The publicity would be ghastly for him, for Maddy’s family, and especially for the Rowell bank, which was shaky right now as it was. And it would all be quite unnecessary. She was dead, and none of this would bring her back; if it could, he told himself, he would gladly endure it all.

At that moment a nurse approached him diffidently, carrying the forms that would have to be filled out. She appeared to be young and unsure of herself. He gave her a sad but engaging smile. Yes, he was sufficiently recovered to answer some questions for the hospital’s records. He took her hand so she could not write, gazed into her eyes, and began to relate a tragic story of love found and lost, a poignant affair between two members of the nobility, one a prominent banker, the other a married woman from a prominent banking family.

After a while he confided how much being able to tell her about his loss comforted him. And later he explained that it would be so much kinder to the dead woman’s family to leave his name out of the reports. He had been in the back seat asleep when it happened, he told her. He supposed the force of the skid had thrown her across the front seat, to the other side of the car, where the crash killed her. Under those circumstances it wasn’t absolutely necessary to write down that he was also in the car, was it? For the sake of the woman’s grieving husband and children, he would be eternally grateful to her if she spared them by leaving his name out of the reports. They’ve already suffered so much. He pointed to a newspaper front page announcing Samuel’s death. Someone had left it on a chair.

She withdrew her hand from his and fumbled in her pocket for a handkerchief. She nodded. She would do it.

The answering thankfulness on his face was authentic; if her report raised no questions, no one would look further into the matter. He took her phone number; he would like to be able to thank her properly some time very soon. Dabbing her eyes, she smiled and began to write her report.

Read more: Birthright or Birthright (Kindle).

Friday, April 18, 2014

Spain's Expulsion of the Jews in 1492

I’ve written a number of novels including A Question of Proof or A Question of Proof (Kindle); Star Time: New Version & New Introduction or Star Time (Kindle); and Deeds or Deeds (Kindle); and Stalking the Sky or Stalking the Sky (Kindle). 

In my historical novel Birthright or Birthright (Kindle), I wanted to show how in 1492 the Christian monarchs of Spain forced their Jewish citizens to leave Spain, threatening them with death if they remained. The fictional Kronengolds' and my own ancestors were among them. 

Here’s an excerpt: 

As [Samuel's yacht] the Venture approached Malaga, reminiscences were flooding Samuel, seemingly to make up for a lifetime of never looking back. That morning he signed contracts for the land on the Costa del Sol and then drove with Deborah to Granada and the Alhambra, the magnificent Moorish palace he had not visited in fifty years.

Many memories came to him there beneath the slim columns and elegant friezes pierced by light into lace.

"We are originally Sephardic Jews, Spanish Jews," Samuel said to his granddaughter as they stood at the end of the reflecting pool in the Court of the Alberca. "The Christians forced the last of the Arabs and Jews out of Spain the same year Columbus found the New World. In this very place a woman once told me that Columbus may have been a Jew seeking a homeland for his people, that the evidence is rumored to be hidden in the Vatican. ‘Colon,’ his real name, is a Sephardic Jewish name." He described the Spanish Inquisition, how Jews were tortured by the Christians and killed in the name of God.

"Like Columbus, our family had sailed from Spain by then. We have a knack for that, thank God! They had gone to Florence, where their skill as goldsmiths could provide a living."

Read more: Birthright or Birthright (Kindle). Stalking the Sky or Stalking the Sky (Kindle). A Question of Proof or A Question of Proof (Kindle):  Deeds or Deeds (Kindle); and Star Time: New Version & New Introduction or Star Time (Kindle).

Monday, April 14, 2014

Every Defendant Lies, But So Do Witnesses

I’ve written a number of novels including A Question of Proof or A Question of Proof (Kindle); Star Time: New Version & New Introduction or Star Time (Kindle); and Deeds or Deeds (Kindle); Stalking the Sky or Stalking the Sky (Kindle); and Birthright or Birthright (Kindle). In my novel A Question of Proof or A Question of Proof (Kindle), I wanted my readers to understand what an experienced trial lawyer told me when I was fresh out of law school: Don't expect the truth from any one, not from your witnesses, not from the police, and certainly not from your client. No one ever tells the whole truth. Everyone always has something to hide. A witness might claim the defendant stole the money because he did it himself or because he was supposed to be watching the cash register but had gone to see a girlfriend or because he was bribed. A defendant, even an innocent one, may be protecting a friend she believes committed the crime or may be hiding an affair. At one point I even thought of calling the novel False Witness. 

Here's how Dan Lazar, the protagonist, explains it: 

"Believe me, every client lies. If not outright lies, then murky areas the client tries to keep that way. During the trial you'll do and say anything to save yourself—it's your sole priority, and that's natural. You'll cover things up to me, to the judge, to the jury. Everything you've vowed to me—all that 'truth'—could get shredded into confetti."

"I'm innocent. I have nothing to fear," she said fervently. She was staring into his eyes, measuring his love against hers.

He did not reply.

Read more: A Question of Proof or A Question of Proof (Kindle)

Friday, April 11, 2014

What America Was Like in 1963

Birthright or Birthright (Kindle)

I’ve written a number of novels including A Question of Proof or A Question of Proof (Kindle); Star Time: New Version & New Introduction or Star Time (Kindle); and Deeds or Deeds (Kindle); andStalking the Sky or Stalking the Sky (Kindle). In my historical novel Birthright or Birthright (Kindle), I wanted to show what was happening in America when Deborah de Kronengold arrived and how it affected her.

Here’s an excerpt:

THE OVERWHELMING PREPONDERANCE of Americans in 1963 believed devoutly in the democracy, capitalism, and technology that had brought prosperity, the good life—or at least, a progressively better life—to all of them. They believed in change, which had become almost a constant, and the capacity of the nation’s institutions to absorb the bombardment of the new and still remain solid. They believed in their global mission to contain the Communist menace and to spread selflessly their abundance and freedom. They believed in their young, vigorous president, who held these beliefs up before them as a standard they could march behind, who was strong enough to force the Soviet Union to withdraw its missiles from Cuba and still secure enough to sign a nuclear-test-ban treaty with that country. They believed, almost as devoutly as the Establishment coterie that held the foreign policy reins, that the time had come for America to take over for Britain as the moral leader and military policeman of the world. They believed in the promise of America. They believed in themselves.

On September 26, 1963, the day Deborah arrived in New York, The New York Times reported that two bombs had been detonated in a Negro Sunday school in Birmingham, Alabama, eleven days after four girls were killed there in a similar incident, and that twenty-eight Negroes were arrested in Selma, Alabama, for demonstrating in front of the courthouse. On the foreign front, the Times quoted a defense official, who was on a survey of the military situation in South Vietnam with Defense Secretary Robert McNamara and Joint Chiefs of Staff head General Maxwell Taylor, as saying that "military events in Vietnam" were "getting better and better, rather than worse and worse"; the point was rapidly being approached where "the goals set will be reached relatively shortly."

For most Americans in 1963, Vietnam was merely a minor squabble half a world away, the purview of the military boys and diplomats, who knew far more than they. And the Negroes? Now that the problem had been pointed out, civil rights legislation would solve it. After all, this was America, the land of prosperity, of goodness, of ever growing perfectibility, one and united, now and forever, its good crowned by God with brotherhood, from sea to shining sea.

Deborah de Kronengold stood on the steps of Federal Hall beneath the commanding, oversized statue of George Washington, who had taken the presidential oath of office here. Churning with people, Wall Street bisected the skyscraper canyon like a turbulent river rushing at her feet. The taxi driver had suggested a modest hotel in a respectable neighborhood and then driven her to the financial district, as she requested. The taxi fare was a wild extravagance, given her meager resources, but she was impatient to find a job and begin her new life.

She detected little beauty in the facades of the buildings on either side of Wall or Broad streets. The beauty was in the buildings’ massiveness, the walls thick and strong to contain all the energy crackling within them, all the ambition. Here, she sensed, was a country unembarrassed by ambition, nurturing energy. Here was a country for dreaming as high and as far as talent and determination could reach, to the stars and beyond. Here was a country endowed with the possibility of choice. And if the choice was to amass riches and one pursued that choice ferociously, single-mindedly, forsaking all others, every waking moment applied relentlessly to that end, every sleeping moment a grudging delay, here was a country where riches could still be won.

That was Deborah’s goal: wealth so great that she need never rely on another human being again—for anything. When that goal was finally reached, there would be no doubt who she was.

Read more: Birthright or Birthright (Kindle). Stalking the Sky or Stalking the Sky (Kindle). A Question of Proof or A Question of Proof (Kindle); Star Time: New Version & New Introduction or Star Time(Kindle); and Deeds or Deeds (Kindle).

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Learn Court Tactics to Stop a Corporate Raider

In writing my novel Stalking the Sky, I wanted to show how top-flight litigation lawyers would wage a court battle to gain advantages in a takeover fight launched by a company named Faranco Inc. for control of Global Universal Airline, America's premier airline. I also wanted to demonstrate how a great lawyer can come up with a brilliant ploy at the last second.

Here's an excerpt:

A small, disheveled figure hurried through the halls of federal court in Manhattan. One hand was trying to shove the remains of a tuna fish sandwich into his mouth. The other held a brief on the motion he was about to argue. Behind him, long legs taking one step to every two of Eli Teicher's, Chris Flynn would have moved faster than her colleague (over whom the blond, blue-eyed woman lawyer towered) were it not for the armful of law books she came close to dropping at each step.

Teicher suddenly stopped, nearly causing Flynn to crash into him. His gaze was transfixed by a large color poster. A jet bomber streaked upward over the close-up of a pilot's head, to intercept words that invited the reader to join the Air Force.

"Take my word for it, Eli, this country is in big trouble if Uncle Sam needs you," Chris Flynn remarked caustically.

Teicher did not react. The brief he carried argued, first, that the law required CAB approval before the takeover could commence; and, second, that Faranco had failed to divulge over thirty million dollars in questionable "sensitive payments" abroad. Teicher raced to the courtroom to find Will Nye already there. He had only one question to ask.

"Does Global Universal supply planes to the government in time of war?"
Will nodded, but before he could speak Teicher hurried away.

Two minutes later Teicher was on the phone dictating a third point to the brief. Within half an hour, just as Judge Metucci was stepping to the bench, Eli Teicher's secretary arrived in the courtroom with the new last pages.

For two hours, Eli Teicher and Sam Friedman slashed at each other's contentions. . . . Teicher's final, unexpected point was the issue of national security. With absolute seriousness he conjured up an image of armed Communist nations advancing against freedom-loving America. "In whose hands should we leave our nation's safety: those of a great war hero, and airline pioneer, or those of a mercenary multinational corporation, whose divided loyalties—profit versus patriotism—may well threaten us all in a time of ultimate crisis?"

Read more: Stalking the

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

How to Heighten Suspense Employing Ancillary Events

In writing my novel STALKING THE SKY, I wanted to associate the corporate raider, J. Stephen Girard, a ruthless, cunning predator deliberating on whether to seize a premier airline, with a merciless flying predator of a different sort, a trained falcon.

Here's an excerpt:

Finally, the Arab extended his gloved hand, held it there long enough for the falcon to gain her balance, and then cast her upward. Her jesses released, the falcon leaped forward, and with one beat of her powerful wings she was airborne and climbing. Higher and higher she ascended, spiraling upward until she was only a speck herself. Then she hovered motionless, the sun behind her, awaiting the inevitable moment when the guileless pigeons' flight would carry them beneath her.

Girard had sensed the excitement mounting within him as the peregrine sped upward. He felt a kinship with the soaring predator. Every part of her body had been designed by nature for her single purpose in life, the hunt. Success at the hunt meant survival.

The falcon had already chosen which was to be her victim and the point in the sky where they would meet. She seemed to wait forever, as if, hypnotized by the magic of flight, she had forgotten the kill. Then, almost too late, the wings snapping tight against her body, she suddenly plummeted. Faster she dove, until she was no more than a streaking blur. At the last instant, wings and tail spread, talons clenched, she swooped sharply upward into her prey, knocking the pigeon senseless. Helplessly, it fluttered downward like a pinwheel. Within seconds the falcon's claws clenched the stunned bird, and she was returning to earth. There she would mantle the pigeon with her wide wings before taking its neck within her beak and breaking it.

At that moment J. Stephen Girard decided it was time to bid for control of Global Universal Airlines.


Monday, April 7, 2014

Creating a Character Who Is Larger Than Life

I've written a number of novels, including Stalking the Sky or Stalking the Sky (Kindle); A Question of Proof or A Question of Proof (Kindle); Star Time: New Version & New Introduction or Star Time(Kindle); Birthright or Birthright (Kindle); and Deeds or Deeds (Kindle). In writing my novel, Stalking the Sky or Stalking the Sky (Kindle), I wanted a scene over dinner to accomplish several things: First was to give the reader a sense of the vivid, dynamic and virile personality and past of the legendary Ben Buck, head of Global Universal Airline. I did that by having another person at the dinner relate old anecdotes about him that would surprisingly prove important later on in the book. I also wanted to sketch in a little of the beginnings of what grew into the airline industry and did that, too, with an anecdote, this one about an early flyer getting lost on a mail flight.

Here's an excerpt:

Dinner was a noisy affair, laced with half a century of anecdotes about airplanes and the characters who flew them, people like Danny Morell, who had a mail route in the twenties. He was too farsighted to read the compass and too vain to wear glasses, so he followed the railroad tracks below him from one city to the next. One day fog rolled in unexpectedly, and when he finally landed at what he thought was Baltimore, it turned out to be Washington, D.C. "Take me to the Postmaster General," he demanded. "I want to bid on a new mail route to Baltimore I just discovered."

Then there was the time Buck agreed to publicize GUA’s new jets, just delivered to replace piston aircraft. The plan called for him and a planeful of reporters to have breakfast in New York and lunch in Los Angeles; they’d be back in New York for a late dinner that night. It was an eye-catching stunt for a nation only three decades from biplanes and wire wing supports. Unfortunately, a new employee at Los Angeles Airport mistook a football team for the planeload of newsmen; lunch was gone when the jet touched down.

"You know," the GUA man finally admitted after the shock wore off, "I thought they were kind of big for reporters, but I couldn’t be sure. I’ve never been East."

Frey remembered the times during the war when the General, dog-tired from months of unceasing work to build an air transport system capable of supporting the war effort, would disappear for a few days of R & R. Frey was his driver then—that was how they met—and the one who shared the roistering hours when Buck let off steam.

"We were known in every whorehouse in every two-bit town that had an air base. Only the General never gave his real name. He called himself General Benjamin," the small man recalled, with a wink at Buck. "Remember Annette, with the business cards? She had business cards printed to advertise her house, with a line at the bottom of the card saying, ‘Recommended by General Benjamin. ’"

The table exploded in laughter, Buck’s loudest of all. Frey’s head bobbed up and down as he added, "Know what he did when he found out? Know what he did? He insisted on a month of free visits or else he would have his own cards printed up taking back the endorsement." The laughter burst forth again. "Annette’s cards started turning up all over Washington, and two other General Benjamins nearly ended up court-martialed."

Frey waited for the laughter to subside. "But any girl with a hard-luck story, he was the softest touch in America—"

Buck cut him off. "Nobody wants to hear that. Tell them about that time in New Orleans. Remember New Orleans, Pres?"

Frey remembered. "New Orleans was the best. Everywhere we turned there was puss—pardon me, ma’am . . . there were girls. You know what that big stud over there did? He rented the grandest whorehouse you ever saw for one solid week just for the two of us. The War Department and Western Union were three days tracking us down to get a message to the General. The lucky son of a B who delivered the message spent the next two days there with us. Western Union had to send out a search party for him."

The Old Man’s eyes were dancing as he picked up the story. "One of the councilmen got so damned horny waiting all that time for the house to reopen, he had the police break in and arrest us. They didn’t want to say prostitution was going on, so they accused us of ‘illegal entry.’"

As the laughter died down, Frey said, with a faraway look in his eyes, "There was one city where a little girl was so sweet on the General whenever we were there we lived right in the whorehouse, like kings. And me, I never had less than two or three girls there with me at a time. They don’t make wars like that anymore."

Read more: Stalking the Sky or Stalking the Sky (Kindle).

Sunday, April 6, 2014

How to Show First Awkwardness with Ex-wife Then Chemistry with New Love Interest

In writing my novel STALKING THE SKY, I wanted to describe the awkwardness of an ex-husband and wife meeting at a party after a number of years have passed. while also imparting a sense of their ill-suitedness. I also wanted to show how exciting a relationship might be with the man's new lover, who is giving the party.

Here's an excerpt:

As soon as Will began picking his way among the small knots of people to locate Donna, his high spirits returned. The day’s work had been a triumph. The party and the excitement of New York had buoyed him.

"Oh, my God! Will!"

He turned toward the voice. "Hello, Carla."

He had broken off with Carla the same night she asked him to move in with her, as he guessed she would; she had timed every move with exasperating precision. Will had told her he did not intend to be squeezed and bent to fit the empty places in someone else’s life.

"You’re . . . you’re in New York."

"Only for the night. How have you been?"

"I’ve been well, Will." She had regained her poise. "I’m into self-actualization now and it’s given me a great deal of confidence."

"The new hair style, is that part of it?"

"The hair style, the clothes—I think they express a freer, more open me. The best part is that I’ve been able to come to grips with my father’s role in my life—you remember me telling you about my father—and accept him and understand that he acted out of love. I can say all those things openly to him now."

"Isn’t your father dead?"

"That really isn’t the point."

A hand slipped through Will’s arm. "I see you two have found each other again. What do old lovers say to each other?"

Belinda had joined them. Her face was lit by a mischievous grin. Will refused to be drawn in.

"The really old ones talk about their grandchildren, lumbago and hospital costs. Belinda, this is a spectacular show. I had no idea you were so accomplished."

"Thank you. I’m glad you could come." She turned to Carla. "We literally bumped into each other on an elevator this morning. I was with Cassie." She turned back to Will. "Carla is engaged, you know."

"Congratulations. Do I know him?"

Will’s interest seemed merely courteous, Belinda noted.

"Dave Delauney. He’s gone to fetch me a drink."

"The way you say that bodes well for a satisfying life together."

Belinda said, "I hope you don’t mind, Carla, if I introduce Will to some people here."

"It was good to see you, Will. Perhaps we could have dinner."

"Perhaps on some other trip."

Belinda guided Will toward a large canvas. Gloomy colors formed a faint profile of the painter.

"That’s what I look like in the morning," she remarked lightly.

"I apologize for the way my compliment before may have sounded," Will said.

"It’s just that so many of Carla’s friends did nothing with their lives, and they all called themselves interior decorators or jewelry designers . . ."

"Or painters?"

"Or painters. Why do you paint your self-portrait so often? Narcissism?"

"Cheap model." She eyed him wryly. "People who dislike me say it’s a clever way to promote myself. Now, what about you? You live in Colorado, you said. What kind of work do you do there?"

"Legal work, for Global Universal Airlines."

"That’s interesting."

"Every time I tell people who I work for, they insist on telling me how they were bumped off a flight or lost their luggage. What have you lost?"

"Absolutely nothing. In fact, I’m still a virgin with my first set of teeth."

Will laughed unreservedly. With friends, Belinda’s funny, outrageous lines snapped the air around her like firecrackers. But with new people, especially men, enjoyment of them was a kind of test—one that Will had just passed. Particularly now, Belinda would have liked to stay with him, but she had other commitments.


Saturday, April 5, 2014

How an American Hero is Seduced by a Ruthless Financier

In writing my recent book, <ASIN: 0985314494> or <ASIN: B00GWTM998> (Kindle), I wanted to show how a certifiable American hero, who lived one of the great adventures in the history of mankind, walking on the moon, can afterward lose his way to the point that he can be seduced and manipulated by a ruthless financier seeking to take over the airline that recently employed that former astronaut.

Here's an excerpt:

J. Stephen Girard’s office was traditional in a way the French monarchy might have envied. The men took seats on facing twin Louis XVI settees that were ornately carved and upholstered in patterned silk brocade. Besides the settees, two exquisite commodes adorned with gold rococo scrollwork stood against the walls. Girard’s desk was a large Boulle writing table, trimmed with bronze mounts; it was at least two hundred and fifty years old.

All this was lost on the astronaut. He was a scientist, most comfortable with mechanics and quantitatively determinable matters, things as they were in the most basic operational and measurable sense. Despite the mystery that surrounded Girard, Craig Merrill’s first impression of him was quite unintimidating. He seemed to be the familiar sort of wealthy man who could command the presence of sports figures or movie stars or astronauts and then attempted to ingratiate himself with them. But in the next moment Merrill was forced to make a brutal reappraisal.

"Colonel, I will come to the point," Girard intoned. "Your personal finances are in disarray, and you have no present prospect of employment. As I understand it, all your debts, including the twenty-five thousand dollars loaned to you by Western Shore Savings Bank, now come to about forty-five thousand dollars."
Merrill sat bolt upright. "My debts are my own business."

"As a matter of fact they are mine as well," Girard responded with a half-smile. "One of our subsidiaries controls that bank."

Merrill’s hand moved unconsciously to smooth his thinning hair. "If you want your money back, it might take me a few days until I put out the word for some job offers, but you can be sure that—"

Girard answered quietly, but his words cut like a razor. "People would check into your credit rating, the controversy you instigated at Global Universal, the personal problems you have had, and what might be termed your present stability!"

Merrill stood up, his face flushed.

Girard halted him. "Before you make up your mind to leave, Colonel, let me tell you what I am prepared to offer." . . .

The hundred-thousand-dollar figure had a visible effect on Merrill, who dropped back onto the settee. . . .

Girard continued. "Despite your . . . excesses, I believe you are capable, and you understand airplanes and airlines. That will prove helpful to both of us. If my plans work out, you could be president of Global Universal within a few months. At times you will be called upon to do some little thing toward that end."

"Like what?" Merrill asked, but he was unable to mask his desire with wariness.

"Today we will announce at a press conference your association with Faranco and mention that you are also advising us on our investment in GUA. We own a good deal of its stock, and so that would be understandable."

"Sure, that’s fine."

Girard leaned forward slightly for emphasis. "Then you’ll mention how concerned you are about the safety of passengers riding GUA planes, and that you want to get to the bottom of the crash to find out why passenger safety is being jeopardized."

Merrill tried to object. "I fought for a lot of things in private, but we were arguing then about a matter of degree, not outright negligence. How can I—"
"The stock’s price will go down. When we finally make our move, dissatisfied or frightened GUA stockholders will welcome us with open arms—if they haven’t sold out long before that point." Girard leaned back. "Those are my terms." The words carried the finality of a steel vault slamming shut.

Read more: <ASIN: 0985314494> or <ASIN: B00GWTM998> (Kindle).

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

At Oxford Meeting A First Lover

In my historical novel Birthright or Birthright (Kindle), I wanted to show how in Deborah's early days at Oxford she comes back into contact with Rob Rowell, the son of the man she knew to be her mother's lover. 

Here’s an excerpt: 

Deborah de Kronengold walked grimly along the High Street, barely exchanging a word with the shorter young woman beside her. They shared Miss Davis’s tutorial on the history of economics and had not found a single matter on which they agreed since the term had started. Deborah had grown to her full five feet seven inches in height. Her red hair had lost none of its sunrise brightness and was still worn long and straight. She had finely fashioned features, a classic beauty that would have aroused admiration in any age, but today her chin thrust forward belligerently and her blue eyes glared in anger. The young woman who strode just as angrily beside her was Gladys Wood. Brown hair cut to utilitarian shortness, small, pretty face aggressively makeup-free, brow perpetually furrowed to match the disapproving line into which her mouth was drawn, Gladys Wood was a firmly committed Marxist. Deborah, of course, by both birth and inclination, was just as firmly committed a capitalist. Today Miss Davis had surprised them both by telling them they were very much alike; she had enjoyed their wrangles, but the debate was now tending to slip from the academic to the personal. She requested they follow the ancient tradition of no work in the afternoon and do something frivolous together for a change. "Like join the Bell Ringers Society?" Deborah had asked with some asperity, displeased at the prospect of having to socialize with the doctrinaire fanatic with whom she shared the tutorial.

Upon learning that neither of these overly serious young women had so much as taken a meal out of hall since arriving at Prinsworth, Miss Davis had ordered them to spend the next week pursuing a social life—together. As a start they were to go out to lunch at a restaurant that very day.

Looking into the window of the restaurant, which had stood on that spot for hundreds of years, they both hesitated. Nearly all the tables were surrounded by male students.

"Looks intimidating," Gladys breathed quietly.


The women glanced at each other for support, then grinned at their common anxiety.

"Back-to-back, my dad always says," Gladys offered.

"What does that mean?"

"If we fight with our backs to each other, they can’t get behind us."

Deborah nodded. "Back-to-back it is, then."

Gladys squared her shoulders determinedly and walked into the restaurant. Deborah followed.

"Zuleika Dobson, as I live and breathe!" a boisterous voice called out above the buzz of voices.

Other people looked up at them.

"Zuleika! Here! Here!" another agreed, staring at Deborah. Eating utensils began rhythmically tapping glassware.

"Who’s Zuleika Dobson?" Deborah whispered to Gladys.

"You. I’ll explain later."

A figure leaped up and strode toward them. "Dee?"

The face looked vaguely familiar, as if an impressionistic portrait of someone she couldn’t quite place.

"Why—it’s Bash Rowell, isn’t it?" She smiled warmly. She had not seen him in years, since before her first term at Branton. He was tall, and he carried himself with the same casual grace she remembered from his boyhood. His hair was wavy blond, and a lock of it fell Byronically across his brow. His blue eyes were disquieting. She tried not to look into them, which was difficult, because they stared deeply into hers.

"I had no idea you had come up to Oxford, Dee. Please join us. There’s rarely a table to be had in this bloody awful place. The food’s ghastly, the prices are outrageous, but it’s the place to go."

Without waiting for an answer, he led the way back to a table in a corner of the room. Deborah shrugged apologetically to Gladys. "There doesn’t seem anything else available."

"Your social life doesn’t seem a problem to me," Gladys replied with admiration.

"Childhood friend. Another exploiter of the masses, I’m afraid."

"I’ll look the other way in his case. He’s gorgeous."

Yes, he is, Deborah thought. Absolutely gorgeous. And then she knew why his eyes had bothered her so: they recalled his father’s exactly when she had spied Rob Rowell kneeling over her mother in the cottage. For an instant she was tempted to flee, but decided it was unfair to hang the son for the sin of the father.

Read more: Birthright or Birthright (Kindle). Stalking the Sky or Stalking the Sky (Kindle). A Question of Proof or A Question of Proof (Kindle); Star Time: New Version & New Introduction or Star Time(Kindle); and Deeds or Deeds (Kindle).