Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Please Welcome Mystery Author Eliot Pattison

Omnimystery News: Guest Post by Eliot Pattison
with Eliot Pattison

We are delighted to welcome author Eliot Pattison to Omnimystery News today.

Eliot's eighth mystery in his Edgar Award-winning series featuring Shan Tao Yun is Soul of the Fire (Minotaur Books; November 2014 hardcover and ebook formats). We asked him what it is like writing books that take place in such a remote place like Tibet, and he titles his guest post for us today, "The Challenge of Faraway Mysteries".

— ♦ —

Eliot Pattison
Photo provided courtesy of
Eliot Pattison

Writing novels like Soul of the Fire set in a distant and sharply different culture involves the same challenges as writing historical novels. I have to create a background that faithfully reflects that culture and its people, staying true to the broad facts of life in their faraway land. But the presentation has to resonate with the Western reader, meaning I have to translate that indigenous experience into terms familiar to the reader. A simple example would be the way Tibetans speak to their gods. I've had readers already immersed in that culture remark that Tibetans don't "pray" to an almighty deity, they invoke the teaching of a particular spiritual being in a complex pantheon. I think "prayer" works fine in conveying the point to my readers, without having to digress into long discussions of cosmology.

Writers of historical novels won't succeed if their work reads like a history text, and writers of faraway mysteries won't succeed if their work reads like an anthropology tract. Readers need to "learn by doing" in the sense that they must learn about the foreign culture indirectly, often subtly, while they are working their way through the underlying mystery.

This is why in Soul of the Fire and in all my Shan novels the answers to the nagging questions behind the crimes are wrapped up in cultural elements. The crimes Shan encounters are rooted in both a modern, materialistic and militaristic Chinese world and an ancient, spiritual, and passive Tibetan world. Shan is able to solve those riddles only because he is able to bridge those markedly contrasting worlds and interpret one from the perspective of the other. He spans both those worlds but belongs to neither, often reminding me of the mandarins exiled to distant lands in early Chinese dynasties who became hermit poets.

Readers comment that they never understood what was happening in modern Tibet until they read my novels. This is another perspective on the same point. Histories, and news reports from distant lands are typically sterile and impersonal, so that individual humans who populate those stories are little more than shadows in a fog. The novelist has the ability to penetrate that fog, to put a face on faceless accounts. Novels focused on peoples distant in place and time, when done well, can transport the reader to the stark realities of those lives, allowing the reader to experience those lands, and that adversity, on a much more personal, even visceral, level.

Soul of the Fire, focusing on self-immolations by Tibetans, is meant to grab readers on this visceral level. These suicides, the last acts of men and women who can find no other way to express their frustration, are among the most desperate acts of protest the world has ever seen. Researching the new book was sometimes so wrenching I had to just put down the reports I was reading and take a walk or sit with my dog to calm myself. While the descriptions of self-immolations in the novel were painful to write, the actual factual chronicles on which they are based are even more disturbing. But they cannot be ignored.

— ♦ —

Eliot Pattison has been described as a "writer of faraway mysteries," a label which is particularly apt for someone whose travel and interests span such a broad spectrum. After reaching a million miles of global trekking, visiting every continent but Antarctica, Pattison stopped logging his miles and set his compass for the unknown. Today he avoids well-trodden paths whenever possible, in favor of wilderness, lesser known historical venues, and encounters with indigenous peoples.

An international lawyer by training, early in his career Pattison began writing on legal and business topics, producing several books and dozens of articles published on three continents. In the late 1990's he decided to combine his deep concerns for the people of Tibet with his interest in venturing into fiction by writing The Skull Mantra, which won the Edgar Award for Best First Mystery.

A former resident of Boston and Washington, Pattison resides on an 18th century farm in Pennsylvania with his wife, three children, and an ever-expanding menagerie of animals.

For more information about the author, please visit his website at EliotPattison.com and his author page on Goodreads, or find him on Twitter.

— ♦ —

Soul of the Fire by Eliot Pattison

Soul of the Fire
Eliot Pattison
A Shan Tao Yun Mystery

When Shan Tao Yun and his old friend Lokesh are abruptly dragged away by Public Security, he is convinced that their secret, often illegal, support of struggling Tibetans has brought their final ruin. But his fear turns to confusion as he discovers he has been chosen to fill a vacancy on a special international commission investigating Tibetan suicides.

Soon he finds that his predecessor was murdered, and when a monk sets himself on fire in front of the commissioners he realizes that the Commission is being used as a tool to whitewash Tibet's self-immolation protests as acts of crime and terrorism. Shan faces an impossible dilemma when the Public Security officer who runs the Commission, Major Ren, orders the imprisoned Lokesh beaten to coerce Shan into following Beijing's script for the Commission. He has no choice but to become part of the hated machine that is devouring Tibet, but when he discovers that the most recent immolation was actually another murder, he realizes the Commission itself is riddled with crime and intrigue.

Everywhere he turns, Shan finds new secrets that seem to lead to the last agonizing chapter of his life. Shan must make a final desperate effort to uncover the Commission's terrible secrets whose painful truth could change Shan's life — and possibly that of many Tibetans — forever.

Amazon.com Print/Kindle Format(s)  BN.com Print/Nook Format(s)  iTunes iBook Format  Kobo eBook Format

0 comments:

Post a Comment

Omnimystery Blog Archive

Total Pageviews (last 30 days)

Omnimystery News
Original Content Copyright © 2020 — Omnimystery, a Family of Mystery Websites — All Rights Reserved
Guest Post Content (if present) Copyright © 2020 — Contributing Author — All Rights Reserved