Category Archives: Stories

MERRY CHRISTMAS, HAPPY HANUKKAH, AND A HAPPY NEW YEAR

Blog 332 January 2, 2017

happy-new-year-facebook-cover

            I’m flying North with Santa Claus and won’t be back until after New Years. All of which means I’ll be off the page until January 9. HOWEVER —

Here’s what’s coming! In addition to my current two blogs, [WISE ON THE MIDDLE EAST and MIRACLES NEVER CEASE] beginning on January 18, 2017, I will start a 30 minute radio talk show that you can tune in through your computer. If you appreciate my blog Miracles Never Cease (miraclesnevercease.wordpress.com) you will enjoy the expansion and elaboration on these stories.

  • You will discover what I’ve been learning as I talk with people who experienced divine interventions.
  • You will find inspiration.
  • You’ll realize new insights. Here’s how you tune in! Text blog talk radio.com/ Robert Wise. Turn your speaker on any time of the day and you will receive the program. Sound Simple! It is! EACK WEEK YOU’LL BE CHALLENGED AND INSPIRED
  •  The program is entitled MIRACLES!

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BOOKS YOU’LL LOVE: THE STORY BEHIND THE STORIES

                                                        THE ASSASSINS

 

Obviously, my novel is about the battle between good and evil.

 

Novelist have been struggling with this topic for centuries because it is one of the most basic fundamental issues effecting all of humanity. We read about the conflict because we have all been there. It’s our story, our experience. And we keep reading because we’re never sure which side is going to win.

The Assassins begins with a completely evil design. Vladimir Putin intends to have the top American leaders killed and sends out three henchmen to do them in. None of these men is particularly bright, but they all know about murder that they are quit willing to commit. Will evil triumph under these circumstances? The reader keeps turning the pages to find out.

Friedrich Nietzsche lived in the last half of the nineteenth century and was a major philosopher whose impact has not been diminished by time. He appears to have had a deep distrust of words in conveying and describing evil. Our time has seen so much mayhem and murder, I often wonder if we haven’t been moved existentially closer to Nietzsche’s point of view.  Not that we wrestle intellectually with the problem of evil, but that we have become so adjusted to assassination, revolutions, war, and the possibility of nuclear explosions that we no longer are able to find the words that convey the draconian nature of the ongoing situation with which we live.

 

Perhaps, a novel remains one of the best tools to walk us inside the terrors of human manipulation and deceit. The Assassins is of course fiction, but look at the parallels with the murder of Alexander Litvinenko who was poisoned in London. Litvenenko, a FSB agent (formerly called the KGB) got crossways with Vladimir Putin and fled the country to avoid being killed. In London, he remained a harsh critic of Putin’s role in encouraging corruption. A close friend of journalist Anna Politkovskaya, he knew she was investigating his charges against Putin. The female journalist was then shot to death in Moscow. Sound a little familiar?

Can words adequately convey the force of evil in such a situation? Friedrich Nietzsche said no.  The will to power remains too strong. His solution was to create an entirely new language. I’m afraid Nietzsche got too close to the edge, but he does press us to recognize how powerful evil is in the world around us.

Personally, I find novels by Daniel Silva do an adequate job of forcing anyone to recognize the reality of evil. Hopefully, The Assassins does the same thing. While such a story is fiction, by its very nature it forces us to look into the non-fiction world with greater perspective and a more adequate grasp of the power of evil.

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BOOKS YOU’LL LOVE: THE STORY BEHIND THE STORIES

THE ASSASSINS

 

“Robert, how can you get inspired to write about assassinations? Isn’t that a rather heinous subject?”

As I listened to the woman’s question, I wondered what she meant by the word inspiration. Her reply proved interesting.

“Why, I thought the word meant ‘God breathed,’ she said. “Isn’t inspiration something that the Holy Spirit brings?”

Well, yes and no. Certainly, we think of The Bible as being inspired and that definitely means the Holy Spirit was at work. I would like to think that my books are “God breathed,” but that’s more than a little presumptive. Generally, divine inspiration implies that a new or creative revelation has occured. Hey, I’m certainly not claiming such lofty status But actually, inspiration has a wider range of meaning than my friend related. We can be emotionally or intellectually inspired. A feeling may bubble up that touches us deeply.  Alex Haley’s Roots had such powerful emotionally inspiration. The last TV episode as he discovered his personal origins in Africa moved me to tears. The Imperial Presidency didn’t have such an  emotional push but it was an intellect assessment of the government.  Often, we are deeply moved by some such event and want to convince others only to find out they don’t care. Before you feel bad, remember that divine inspiration also gets the same reception in some quarters.

So, my book The Assassins doesn’t have to claim to be divinely inspired to have a quality of creative thought that some people might find to be moving. While I’d never put myself in a class with Fedyor Dostoevsky, The Brothers Karamazov definely touched on universal issues that are still studied in seminaries. I will argue Dostoevsky was definitely inspired, but not just because he wrestled with issues affecting the Roman Catholic Church. His focus was moral and concerned with the future of civilization.

My story is certainly not so lofty, but it seeks to explore the idea of what happens when a head of government is willing to commit murder to acheive the purposes of his government. Today we know such a goal is possible. My story suggests that those draconian purposes run afowl of ultimate values, including the value of human life.

When the Oklahoma City Murrah Building terrorist bombing occurred, I was the first clergyman on the scene and stood in the back of the building as the bodies were brought out. I will forever remember standing by those tarp covered remains of people killed by a man whose values were eschewed to the core. During those hours as more and more bodies were brought out, I wondered what will come next and shuttered.

And yet as the days, weeks, and years have gone by, the actions of good people have transformed those tragic deaths into monuments to eternal truth and the endurance of righteousness.  Decadence has been transformed into inspiration.

Inspiration often arises from unanticipated circumstances and humble origins. Even evil actions may unexpectedly give rise to redemptive expressions and results. We have to be ready for inspiration to come at the most unexpected moments.

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WHAT’S THE NEXT STEP IN AN ATTACK ON IRAN?

Bashar Al-Assad has finally acknowledged the civil war is destroying his country. The Syrian military has been increasingly stretched thin trying to fight on multiple fronts. At the same time, they are fighting smaller battles on some fronts. However, no matter how the story is told, the situatition is not going well for Assad. Early on Saturday, August 1, rebels captured an air defense base in the eastern province of Deir el-Zour and took at least 15 soldiers captive as well as capturing ammunition. Rebel commanders reported destroying several helicopters while attacking two separate military airports. This raises the possibility that rebels have captured shoulder-fired Manpads or antiaircraft missiles.

As the world now knows, Iran has been sending troops into Syria often disguised as pilgrims or other such pretenses. But what happens if Iran attempts to make a strategic attack to pull Assad out of the fire? A new aspect of this dangerous situation became more evident during the past several weeks that could have serious consequences for Lebanon  and Gaza.

Should Iran perceive an attack was on its way, they well might instruct Hezbollah and Hamas to unleash tens of thousands of missiles on Israel. Not a pretty picture indeed!

Israel knows that Iran has a limited number of missiles. If the attack were coming, they would probably call on any ally in sight to jump in the fray. Granted many of the missiles the Palestinian terrorists control would be small and some of the home-made variety, nevertheless they have been firing these rockets from Gaza for years and often kill Israelis. They may not be large, but the rockets can do damage and they could conceivably cover all of Israel.

While Israel has an “Iron Dome” system provided through US military funding, the protection has never been tested. All that needs to happen is for the shield to fail once and disaster explodes. Therefore, it would seem logical that Israel would strike the infrastructure in Lebanon and Gaza. The main targets would probably be power plants, oil refineries, and airports. Of course, daily life would be thrown into a total upheaval. The price Lebanon and Gaza could pay would be horrible. Probably, parts of both Lebanon and Gaza would be totally destroyed.

How would the world react to such destruction? Hard to say, but the United Nations and surrounding countries have done viritually nothing to stop the carnage in Syria. “The usual suspects” would scream, but Israel would probably walk away without punishing international response. Regardless of the current hesitant responses of the Obama administration, everyone from Secretary of State Hilliary Clinton to Secretary of Defense Leon Peneta have sworn the US remains on the same page with Israel. In other words, in a worst case scenario, Israel has America in their corner.

Israel has gone from being a small country standing in the shadows waiting for the USA to tell them what to do, to an independent force ready to stand on its own to protect its citizens. Iran had better pay close attention. Anyone who attempts to formulate how an attack on Iran’s nuclear facilities might unfold is only specutlating (that includes me)  However, the new situation seems to suggest Israel would be poised to hit Gaza and Lebanon as part of a strike on Iran.

My personal fear remains that the Iranian regime will not handle these facts logically, but put them in a religious and irrational contact. Sorry. I must be a pessimist.

Question: Can the United States do anything that diminishes the danger to the entire Middle East?

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Stories Behind the Stories you Love: The Assassins.

The Assassins

 

Writers are often asked about what makes a character interesting. What’s the difference between a Scarlet O’Hara and Mary Mud who you forget in 30 seconds? Part of the answer is contrasts.

Within interesting characters are built-in contradictions that make the person memorable. Unfortunately, beginning writers tend to produce one dimensional hollow stereotypes who stay the same through the entire story. Readers may not understand why they find these characters disinteresting, but they quickly close the book and move on in search of a more genuine human that intrigues their imagination.

Scarlet O’Hara stays with us because she is beautiful and charming while being conniving and manipulative. She can rebuild Tara, her father’s estate, because there’s no price she won’t exact from those around. She builds by destroying. A contrast indeed!

In The Assassins, we begin with a FSB type operative Masha Khaykina who has done whatever was necessary to get out of the poor countryside and into the thriving city. From humble beginnings, she rises to the top of the state’s secret spy agency. But early on in her life, we discover a grandmother who cared and instilled values. In Russia, grandmothers preserve the best of the past and care on the best the church has to offer. Marsha has been infected with this goodness that keeps surfacing even in the midst of her philandering. Something higher found its way into her soul earlier in life.

One of the values that stuck with her was a concern for people faced with injustice. She is willing to stick her neck out to even the score. As the book unfolds, we will discover  this quality has a dramatic effect on how the plot turns.

In contrast, the other assassins are flat, one-dimensional types. Not very likeable, they are bestial and brutal. Contrary to many movie images, I’ve found this to be the way killers truly are. Some years ago, I worked with Lou Smit, a well known and highly successfully detective. He wanted me to help encourage a serial killer to talk by offering to write his story. The man had killed at least forty women, but we never got the story off the ground bcause his psyche proved to be empty. Almost nothing was there.

The Assassins offers other insights into Masha’s development. As she became involved with the Russian Orthodox Church, we received glimpses into her inner journey. We see her thinking new and humane thoughts. Expanding insights introduced her to a new appreiation of life and relationships. The reader observes a kinder and more humane person emerging from under a rough and permissive past.

Russia remains an enigma to many in the West. However, genuine Russians continue to intrigue us because their contrasts are often severe while reaching to a greater depth than is often displayed in America. Many of our cinema and popular celebrities exist purely for entertainment, but who wants to live next door to them? The Kardashians have an effective publicist, but they’d never make it in a serious novel. Too superficial.

So, hopefully Masha captures your attention because she offers a complex character reaching out to find a higher and better way of life.

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STORIES YOU’LL LOVE: THE STORY BEHIND THE STORY

STORIES YOU’LL LOVE: THE STORY BEHIND THE STORY

 BOOKS YOU’LL LOVE: THE STORY BEHIND THE STORIES
  “And why did you write that story?”
     Authors hear the question everyday. What’s hidden within the folds of the story? What secrets created the tale I’m telling. When the book is non-fiction,
the riddle may even be more intriguing. During the decades that I wrote my 32 published books, these are the back pages behind the headline episodes.
Here are the fascinating scenes behind the big picture!

THE ASSASSINS

            In The Assassins, Masha Khaykina enters the Russian Orthodox Cathedral of St. John the Baptist in Washington, D.C., and begins a journey that will change her life. Perhaps, some readers of mysteries and murder novels will find this interjection of religion inappropriate. However, if one knows Russia, the combination of spies killing people and a Christian perspective will feel quite at home. Such is the way of Russia, a country that has lived through horrendous violence and loves poets.

It has been estimated that Stalin killed 20 million people during his purges. Another 20 million died during World War II before the country quite counting. All of this happened in the country that features the Bolshoi Ballet.

I discovered the power of their faith during a visit with the Metropolitan of Minsk. Because it was l985 and in the Soviet Union, the meeting was arranged in clandestine fashion. We came in one door and the Orthodox priest came in a back door. The encounter was in a winery with a large wine tasting back room. We sat on one side of the table and the Metropolitan sat on the other side. In his high black kamlavka or maitre, black cassock, with a heavy staff, he was most impressive.

The introductions were made and pleasantries exchanged. The Metropolitan quickly pushed us to the heart of the discussion. He wanted to know what we believed and what motivated us to come to Minsk. Were we truly men and women of peace? Did we really want to avoid a war with the Soviet Union?

Our responses assured him that we sought only the highest objectives. In turn, we pressed the priest to tell us how he had survived World War II, the political purges, and the struggles with Communism. To our surprise, the large man answered in a forthright and straightforward manner.

His story of endurance left us staggered and overwhelmed. We were listening to a man who had walked through hell and back. The Metropolitan had seen the worst violence a time of horrendous upheaval could produce. Living through nights of intense pain and fear, he had come out a man of peace and faith. His story left us unable to speak. None of us had ever experienced his world of struggle.

Finally, the Metropolitan asked us to sing an American hymn. We looked at each other in consternation. None of us were musicians and my singing is beyond terrible. Nevertheless, we decided a Negro spiritual would be an authentic expression of native American music. We launched into “Go Down Moses” sounding like Moses probably wouldn’t ever want to be coming back after that number.

Then, we asked the Metropolitan to sing. He suggested the Sanctus from the Mass would be best for him. Leaning back in his chair with his eyes turned upward toward heaven, he began singing in Russian. No one in our delegation understood the language, but our hearts melted as the transcendent, mysterious hymn literally took us out of the room to the feet of our Creator. The majestic sound transformed us into participants in eternity. We were left overwhelmed and awe-inspired.

The heavenly sound came from a man who had endured the worst the world had to offer.

Religion in Russia? Yeah, it will always be there regardless of Stalin, Putin, and whoever tries to repress faith. Masha’s experience with the icons is different from the American world, but so typical of Russia.

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TALKING OUT OF BOTH SIDES OF OUR MOUTH U.S. CONCERNS AND THE MIDDLE EAST

TALKING OUT OF BOTH SIDES OF OUR MOUTH

U.S. CONCERNS AND THE MIDDLE EAST

 

WHAT’S WRONG WITH THIS PICTURE?

            Pictures of the Syrian Army’s air fleet always feature Russian Mi-25 Hinds. Russia has been supplying helicopters to Syria for years and continues to do so. Back in June, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton expressed concern to the Russians that they were shipping gun ships to the Assad regime in Syria.

Did her complain stop them?  No.

Herein is a strange little story and a big contradiction.

The United States continues to develop and maintain lucrative contracts with Rosoboronexport, a Russian arms firm that has the main role in supplying the Assad government with the arms to repress the rebels fighting the central government. What make this story particularly interesting is that Rosoboronexport is not a private business. Far from it, the company is a state corporation.  Since 2007, the organization has been the single state intermediary agency for arms shipments. The records of arms shipments made it clear that the port of Oktyabrsk in Southern Ukraine has been sending ship loads of armaments straight to Syria.

Get ready for an amazing and straight little twist in this tale. The US government is currently committed to a $375 million deal with Rosoboronexport for the purchase of 21 Mi-17 helicopters to be used by the Afghan Air Force. The latest transactions with the Russian company were made on November 3, 2011.

This particular contract didn’t go unnoticed. A letter from both Republican and democrat senators to Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta demanded a cancellation of the contracts. Pentagon Under-Secretary James Miller rejected the senator’s letter, saying the helicopter acquisition was critical for the Afghan’s security.

Huh?

Doing business with the country propping up Syria is critical?  With millions of Americans out of work, we can’t built a comparable helicopter in America? Even if it is easier to train pilots on a Russian system, can this investment of American dollars be justified in today’s economy while we scream about Syrian atrocities created by this exact helicopter? Something’s definitely wrong with this picture.

By the way Rosoboronexport still sells weapons to Iran.

Back in 1982, Jack Lemon and Sissy Spacek made a movie entitled Missing, based on a true story. A conservative business man goes to South America looking for his missing son, a left-wing journalist. The America ambassador expresses concern but the country has been in a revolution and no one is sure about what is happening. The punch line is that the CIA pulled off the revolution and killed Lemon’s movie son. The boy had been in a morgue while the American government lied to Lemon. Costa-Gravas (the director) left the audience wrung out as they realize the duplicity of the American system.

Sound familiar?

Are we getting the flim-flam treatment from government leaders? Afraid so. And we wonder why Israel doesn’t trust America’s dealings with Iran? Straight talk doesn’t often come for Washington because the conversation has traveled such a convoluted path under the table.

Why don’t we have more leverage with Russia? Might hurt business.

Question: This blog surprise you? What are you going to do about the problem?

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BOOKS YOU’LL LOVE; THE STORY BEHIND THE STORY

BOOKS YOU’LL LOVE; THE STORY BEHIND THE STORY

   “And why did you write that story?”
     Authors hear the question everyday. What’s hidden within the folds of the story? What secrets created the tale I’m telling. When the book is non-fiction,
the riddle may even be more intriguing. During the decades that I wrote my 32 published books, these are the back pages behind the headline episodes.
Here are the fascinating scenes behind the big picture!

THE ASSASSINS

            People often ask where I get the ideas for my books with a range from near-death experiences (Non-fiction, Crossing the Threshold of Eternity) to World War II adventures (Fiction, The Narrow Door at Colditz). I imagine different authors have very different approaches to the question. One of my dearest friends is a romance writer who dreams (literally) her plots. That’s a fascinating one for you! I find her angle truly intriguing.

In my case, there are a number of factors at work. In the first place, I never intended to be a writer. One of my college degrees is in art and ceremics. Painting the great watercolor attracted me. I got into writing when a publisher heard a series of tapes I produced on amalgamating psychology and theology. Hesitantly, I ended up producing a little book called, Your Churning Place and that started the typewriter clicking. With time, I got so deeply into writing, I didn’t have time for my art work anymore. (That’s changed lately)

As a reluctant author, my fiction books, like The Assassins, have grown out of a number of factors. Certainly, travel created a unique context. As I noted in earlier blogs, my time in Russia filled in many of the blank spaces in my thinking. Somewhere along the way, I lost count of how many countries I have visited. I know it’s over 60 and touches every continent except Australia. Travel always confronts one with the unexpected and that provides material for writing. My time spent in Rome and the Vatican offered surprises and exciting twists for novels. During the days of Apartheid, I traveled to Sourth Africa and even stayed in a black township (which was then illegal). For me, travel has turned out to be significant.source of information in writing books.

I find information in newspapers peakes my curosity. Before I wrote The Assassins, I began gathering data on the internet attack on Iranian computers that halted their nuclear program. The more I read about the Strunex virus, the more I pondered how such an attack might have occurred. From those stories began to evolve the plot that turned into a book. One of my favorite writers is Daniel Silva with his stories of international intrigue. In an unexpected way, Daniel Silva’s influence contributed to my own story.

Actually, reading is one of the most important activites any writer can do. I find many people who want to write never read. Sorry. It won’t work. Reading takes one into worlds that can never be visited but can be experienced through words. Books indirectly help stimulate one’s ability to use words. Perusing through books helps you come to grips with your own style and voice. Writing a book may sound like a fascinating idea, but if you don’t want to read all the time, put that idea in the closet with Santa Claus.

Where’s all this going? Well, the bottom line on what makes an author (in my opinion) is imagination. You can learn the technics of grammar and and style, but no one can teach you imagination. E.B. White wrote the classic on writing simply, but he can’t tell you how to go to the moon in a rocket ship called magic thinking. Visonary thinking keeps the world spinning and the plot thickening. It’s the greatest fun in the world. And makes books happen!

So, let your mind roll on and what comes out may really surprise you.!

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MAKING SENSE OUT OF ISRAEL TODAY

MAKING SENSE OUT OF ISRAEL TODAY

            Recently, a friend who follows this blog ask me to evaluate Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. As I explained how different and complicated the Israel political system is, I remembered a statement the the Prime Minister once made to President Bill Clinton. “Mr. President, you know that Israel has very few friends, and these Evangelical Christian leaders are the best friends that Israel has in all the world.”

No matter what else one says about the Prime Minister, he certainly knows who he can count on.

Often identifying themselves as “Christian Zionists,” this large and significant group support Israel with financial, political, and spiritual influence. When any attack comes, these Evangelicals are ready to respond … and will!

In the present political environment, disillusionment with the current American administration may have a significant effect on how these Evangelicals vote in the fall. Obama is not a popular figure in Israel and is currently blamed for failure to act decisively. Christian Zionists attacked Secretary of State Clinton for having a Moslem aide, Huma Abedin. They fear the administration may have ties to the Moselm Brotherhood and display a lack of balance toward Israel in the United Nations. While the opposition would oppose many of these accusations, they may still effect Evangelical voters as the fall approaches. Regardless of who is elected, Evangelical Christians argue they will remain the most valuable asset Israel has in America.

Netanyahu understands this fact and will not be shy about using their influence.

At the same time, other voices fear that Israel may be faced with the specter of a “fading democracy.” Former speaker of the Knesset and the chairman of Molad, the Center for Renewnal of Democracy recently expressed such fears in the August 5, 2012 edition of The New York Times.  Burg deplored recent comments in Israel by the Republican presidential candidate urging Israel to strike Iran. Burg perceives such talk as reflective of a shift in both countries, moving away from mutually positive values toward a new set of interests in bombs, fear, and war. Brug worries Netayahu is bending toward the pressure applied by a fundamentalist coalition within Israel.

Israel began as a secular democratic country framing its hopes by the example of Western European democracies. Avraham Burg believes this motivation has shifted because the most extreme Orthodox groups lean hard on the government. Any observer can see that the country has become less secular and is now defined far more in religious terms, The country is also less modern. He writes, “the winds of isolation and narrowness are blowing through Israel.”

How the nation of Israel deals with the creation of a Palestinian state will possible provide the answer for which way Israel is going. Coercion and indifference toward other people’s right could radically derail the country. Israel is standing at an extremely important crossroads. All of which brings us back to Benjamin Netanyahu and the caliber of job he is doing.

The real answer lies in the decisions he makes about Israel’s destiny. The issue is much larger than simply bombing Iran.  Does Iran have it coming if they start building a bomb? Of course. But the fate of the nation is much more complex than Mitt Romney understands. It’s time for genuine soul searching in the Prime Minister’s office. (585 words)

Question: What can be done to keep the exteme Orthodox from turning Israel into a Jewish expression  of the same factors than control a country like Iran?

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BOOKS YOU’LL LOVE: THE STORY BEHIND THE STORY

BOOKS YOU’LL LOVE: THE STORY BEHIND THE STORY

    “And why did you write that story?”
     Authors hear the question everyday. What’s hidden within the folds of the story? What secrets created the tale I’m telling. When the book is non-fiction,
the riddle may even be more intriguing. During the decades that I wrote my 32 published books, these are the back pages behind the headline episodes.
Here are the fascinating scenes behind the big picture!

 

 

THE ASSASSINS

            The Assassins features three Russian killers: Alex Orlov, Sergei Lapin, and Nikolai Markov. The books notes a “remarkable sameness” in these men because I attempted to pattern them after Russians I met in different capacities during my travels in the Soviet Union. I saw pudgy-cheeked men, fattened from eating too much pastry and a consumption of vodka and cognac that to this day remains legendary. Often, one sees eyebrows that remind an observer of Leonid Brezhnev. Plum cheeks squeezing the eyes are in every public setting.

Why so similar and predicable?

Because that’s the way Russian society looks. Too much lard and grease in the diet.

As I traveled from Moscow to Minsk and on to St. Petersburg, I found the travel guides tried to impress me on how affluent their society really was. However, once you strolled down the main street of any city and then turned down a side street, you immediately realized that there weren’t any curbing on the streets. A visit to Kum’s Department store near the Kremlin revealed not a plush mall, but stalls boxed together like a flea market. During the Stalinist era, all resources went into armaments and the rest of the society dangled on the end of a thin thread. The Russian heritage had been to create illusions that were nothing more than cardboard and plywood store fronts with nothing behind them.

I wanted these assassins to fit the scenery that exists behind the illusions. Some years ago Gorbachev was briefly deposed by men in the Kremlin who appeared on television wearing the same gray suits, sitting together discussing why Gorbachev had to go. I think that particular coupe last three days, but during that time we got to see plenty of the “grayness” of official Soviet bureaucracy. My three assassins reflect the same bland, meaninglessness of the Soviet system.

Someone might protest that these three killers seem flat, colorness, and animalistic. Correct. Americans have become adjusted to exciting villians in the movies. We get everything from the Joker to Hannibal Lecter. We’ve come to expect exciting and challenging “bad guys.”

Even Vito Corleone and his sons became the anti-heros who were better than the other criminals so we ended up cheering for the Corlione family. Are genuine real-life criminals like this?

No.

For some time I worked as a counselor in a 3,000 prisoner institution. At the end of the day, I’d generally went home depressed. The vast majority of the prisioners were not very bright and many were borderline normal. Their crimes were stupid and their behavior often ridiculous.  Once they were released, many quickly returned for crimes ranging from shop lifting to holding up a small grocery store with a toy pistol. Coming from broken and deprived homes, their behavior tended to be predictable, meaningless, and often frighteningly destructive.

I wanted the assassins in my story to reflect the real world. Killers of this sort are definitely sociopathic and probably on the psychopathic side. That means they don’t feel the pain they inflict on others. Murderers are self-preoccupied and indifferent to the chaos they impose on other.

Only Masha Khaykina in the story was different. In her struggle to survive, she remained in touch with human values.

I hope my explanation  makes the character a tad more real for you.

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