My guest today is novelist Donn Taylor whose novel The Lazarus File, like its namesake, has returned to life. I asked Donn to tell us about the research and writing of this most unusual novel. Over to you, Donn:
Thanks for inviting me onto your blog, Donna, and thanks for the prompt about how I came to write my suspense novel The Lazarus File. For Lazarus has been resurrected once again—this time as an e-book available through Amazon and B&N.
Unlike my mystery Rhapsody in Red, which developed rather suddenly, Lazarus was a long time in coming about. In the mid-1960s I was assigned as commander of an Army aviation company in Verdun, France, and my pilots were flying deHavilland Otters all over free Europe and the Mediterranean area. I happened then to read Gavin Lyall's The Wrong Side of the Sky, a suspense novel set in the Mediterranean area, and I decided, "Someday I'd like to write a novel like that."
The writing had to wait out a Vietnam tour, graduate school, and eighteen years of college
teaching before I got around to it. Meanwhile, I met Lewis Tambs—historian, former ambassador to Colombia and Costa Rica, and a member of the National Security Council. From him I learned many details of Communist global strategy and its interface with Colombian insurgent forces and drug cartels. (Tambs is the man who coined the term "narco-terrorism.") Meeting with him led me to set the novel in the Caribbean area. Ambassador Tambs was also kind enough to let me use some of his concepts in the novel, and he enjoyed the fact that I put them in the mouth of a CIA defector.
From there, I did library research on Colombia and drug smuggling, part of which resulted in an accurately detailed drug-smuggling flight in the novel. For that, I also had to track down an actual DC-3 aircraft and learn its basic operation. Originally, I'd planned a male-oriented story much like Gavin Lyall's—a disgraced pilot working his way back to the right side of the sky. But the characters asserted themselves in other directions. The woman who was to be a minor love interest blossomed into a business genius determined to improve the lot of her workers. The disgraced pilot changed into an undercover agent only nominally disgraced, a man who keeps his promises even to the point of death.
And then there was Ramón, intended as a minor character used to bring hero and heroine together. But in doing so, he spoke in chop-logic and clichés that he never got quite right. ("You will find the grass is greener when you are not straddling the fence.") So he developed into a character who uses wildly elaborate masquerades and other schemes to achieve fairly simple results.
I must also credit my friends in The Woodlands Writers Guild for innumerable critiques and suggestions: I found it harder than I'd thought to convert from scholarly and technical writing to fiction writing. And somewhere in there, Guida Jackson, who has eighteen books to her credit, formed Panther Creek Press and asked to publish Lazarus. I certainly didn't say no. So the novel lived its life and eventually went out of print.
Meanwhile, Moody publishers brought out my mystery, Rhapsody in Red
, which is still very much
alive. Yes, there's a murder, but the book is a light-hearted story set on a small-college campus, with a history professor who suffers musical hallucinations and a hard-headed female professor of comparative religions. There's also a good bit of satire of the campus scene, including the foolishness of political correctness.
But now I'm happy that Lazarus
has been resurrected as an e-book and able to reach a broader audience than its small-press origins enabled. It can be previewed at http://www.donntaylor.com/suspense.html
My thanks again to Donna for inviting me onto her blog. I remain impressed by her remarkably detailed expertise in medieval English history. Keep writing those Monastery Mysteries, Donna!
Donna Fletcher Crow (US) is the author of forty-some books, mostly novels dealing with the history of British Christianity. She is the author of The Monastery Murders series; The Lord Danvers Victorian True-Crime series; The Elizabeth & Richard literary mysteries, GLASTONBURY,A Novel of the Holy Grail and more.