I think I’m just about done burying myself in sugar, flour, butter, eggs and fruit. The truth is that, although I love to cook, I also love to write. It’s just that sometimes cooking is easier.
Today, though, I’m getting back to my novel. It’s a mystery, set in Bavaria during the cold war — the summer of 1969 to be exact. The summer of the moon landing.
The protagonist is an American soldier who is a linguist and a security analyst. He’s been to Germany before. Twenty-some years earlier, at the end of the Second World War, when he was quite young, he was among the American soldiers who liberated concentration camp victims. And then he stayed on for the Nuremberg trials. After this shattering experience (one in which he falls in love with a Czech woman he meets at the camp, only to see her die, against the backdrop of translating so many stories of individual evil during the Nuremberg trials), he returns to the states, where he buries himself in his work (at the National Security Agency, as it happens), and keeps himself at a distance from people he might care about.
The novel begins as he is sent back to Germany (as I said, it is now 1969 and he is in his forties), to Bavaria, to look into some trouble on a small military base very much like the one where my father was stationed when I was a child. Like the protagonist, my father also worked at the NSA in the 1960s, and was a Russian linguist. So, it’s a subject I’ve been interested in for a long time. As for the novel, pretty soon, someone is murdered, and off we go. You don’t actually learn much about the hero’s past for quite a while, and then only in small bits. I’m about half to two thirds of the way through, having killed the second person and my hero is finally getting his butt in gear to figure out who the bad guy is.
The novel has a name — The Secret War — which is what the cold war was sometimes called. And, of course, since it’s a mystery, there are a lot of secrets. Because it’s set in Germany, not long after the war’s end (only twenty years) the secrets are often about what people did during the war. One thing I love about the mystery genre is the way, as the central mystery is solved, so many other things are uncovered. I’m particularly interested in secrets — what lies beneath the surface, unsaid, but still present in other ways, in part because when we lived in Germany during my childhood, there seemed to be so many of them. Unfortunately, one of my troubles as a writer is that, for as long as I can remember, I’ve been quite mistrustful of language — disturbed and saddened by how it often fails to get to the truth, and also how often it’s used to disguise what’s true. it’s a slippery tool for me. But it’s the one I know the best.
Today, then, I’m heading out to write.