Wednesday, November 6, 2013

The Hot Country and The Star of Istanbul

Idgie Says:
Kit Cobb - I describe him as bold, cagey, lusty, compassionate, witty, biting and full of verbal word play.  In other words, there is nothing not to like about him.  You not only like him, you really, really like him.  Take him home to dinner and Mama kind of like him.

These books are great adventures to read.  Full of twists, turns, lovely ladies, spies, danger and secrets.  Kit is a foreign war correspondent who travels the world, supposedly writing articles for the paper but somehow always managing to get embroiled in some sort of dangerous situation.  

As always, Robert's writing is worth reading for the word play alone - he could write about growing tomatoes and I'd still enjoy it.  His dialogue is not only spot on with the time and place his characters are in, but his words are like a verbal stream flowing pleasingly past your ears.  

Set in the early part of the last century, these books act as a time portal - you aren't reading about the time - you ARE there with Kit.  You feel the bullets whizzing by, you smell the perfume, you taste the booze.  

I can honestly say that I cannot wait until the third book comes out so that I can continue with Kit and his adventures.

The Hot Country and The Star of Istanbul
Christopher Marlow Cobb Thrillers
The Hot Country, published 2012, Paperback October, 2013
The Star of Instanbul, Hardback, October 2013
Mysterious Press, Imprint of Grove/Atlantic

The Hot Country Book Description:
In The Hot Country, Christopher Marlowe Cobb (“Kit”), the swashbuck­ling early-twentieth-century American newspaper war correspondent travels to Mexico in 1914, during that country’s civil war, and the contro­versial presidency of Victoriano Huerta, El Chacal (The Jackal). Covering the war in enemy territory and in the sweltering heat, Cobb falls in love with Luisa, a young Mexican laundress, who is not as innocent as she seems.

One day the intrepid war reporter soon witnesses a priest being shot, but the bullet ricochets off the cross the holy man wears around his neck and leaves him unharmed. Cobb employs a young pickpocket to help him find out the identity of the sniper and, more importantly, why important German offi­cials are sneaking into the city in the middle of the night from ships docked in the port.

An exciting tale of intrigue and espionage, Butler’s powerful crime-fiction debut is a thriller not to be missed.


The Star of Istanbul Book Description:
World War I is in full swing. Germany has allied itself with the Ottoman Empire, persuading the caliphs of Turkey to declare a jihad on the British Empire, as America’s president, Woodrow Wilson, hesitates to enter the fray. The war correspondent and American spy Christopher Marlowe Cobb has been asked to follow a man named Brauer, a German intellectual and a possible covert secret service agent, into danger aboard the ship Lusitania, as the man is believed to hold information vital to the war effort. Aboard the Lusitania on its fateful voyage, Cobb becomes smitten with the famed actress Selene Bourgani, who for some reason appears to be working with German intelligence.

Soon Cobb realizes that this simple actress is anything but, as she harbors secrets that could pour gasoline on the already raging conflict. After the infamous German U-Boat attack on the Lusitania, Cobb must follow Selene and Brauer into the darkest alleyways of London, then on to the powder keg that is Istanbul. He must use all the cunning he possesses to uncover Selene’s true motives, only to realize her hidden agenda could bring down some of the world’s most powerful leaders. On his own across the war-torn stages of Europe and the Middle East, Cobb must venture deep behind enemy lines, cut off from his only allies, knowing full well he may not return.

A classic tale of adventure, romance and war, The Star of Istanbul firmly cements Robert Olen Butler’s place as one of the great historical thriller writers today.

A Selection from The Hot Country:
Bunky Millerman caught me from behind on the first day of Woody Wilson’s little escapade in Vera Cruz.  Bunky and his Kodak and I had gone down south of the border a couple of weeks earlier for the Post-Express and the whole syndicate.  I’d been promised an interview with the tin-pot General Huerta who was running the country.  He had his hands full with Zapata and Villa and Carranza, and by the time I got there, el Presidente was no longer in a mood to see the American press.  I was ready to beat it back north, but then the Muse of Reporters shucked off her diaphanous gown for me and made the local commandant in Tampico, on the Gulf coast, go a little mad.  He grabbed a squad of our Navy Bluejackets who were ashore for gasoline and showers and marched them through the street as Mexican prisoners.  That first madness passed quick and our boys were let go right away, but old Woodrow had worked himself up.  He demanded certain kinds of apologies and protocols, which the stiff-necked Huerta wouldn’t give.  Everybody started talking about war.  Then I got wind of a German munitions ship heading for Vera Cruz, and while the other papers were still picking at bones in the capital, I hopped a train over the mountains and into the tierra caliente.  I arrived in Vera Cruz, which was the hot country all right, a god-forsaken port town in a desolate sandy plain with a fierce, hot northern wind.  But I figured I’d be Johnny-on-the-spot.

When I got back to Bunky at our table in the portales, he had a mezcal before him and I wondered how many times he’d tapped his saucer already.

But he seemed perfectly clear-headed. “Sniper?” he asked.

“Yeah. Plugged a priest.”


“Nope. Knocked on his ass and stigmatized.”

Bunky nodded as if this were all clear to him, which it couldn’t be. He waited to see if I wanted to say more, and I knew he wouldn’t ask if I didn’t. He was a good man. Maybe he was picking up on my mood about this. I really just wanted to have a drink. I didn’t want to think about a female sniper in Vera Cruz, even if she wasn’t the girl who put a gun to my head a few nights ago.

But I said, “Bullet in the palm and one in the center of his crucifix that did nothing but topple him over.”

“Quaint little story.”

“Quaint little no-story.”

Bunky nodded again. “Surprising lot of folks down here got a beef with the church.”

“It’s about money.”

There was a commotion off to our left. We looked.


An excerpt from The Star of Istanbul:
I made another step to the side and another and I could see her again, in profile now, her long, straight nose beautifully at odds with the usual standards of beauty of this age. I thought: I bet her feet are large too and her hands and she is all the more beautiful for defying this world’s conventions in these details. And I was still entranced by her nose, absorbing even the precise curve where its bridge met her brow, a perfect fit, I fancied, for my fingertip, when she said, “I am a film actress.”

She’d hardly finished the sentence when one reporter leaped in before another hubbub of questions could begin. “Miss Bourgani,” he said, “the world is at war.” She turned her face instantly to him—in my general direction as well—and her dark eyes riveted him and his voice snagged as if he were suddenly beginning to choke. He managed to stammer a couple of meaningless vowel sounds and then he fell silent. The other reporters all laughed. But it was a sympathetic laugh. Hers was a face that could stop a thousand ships.

“Yes?” she said, encouraging him to go on with his question, giving the impression that she’d spoken softly, though I could hear her clearly.“Miss Bourgani,” the reporter began again. “In light of the German threats and this being a British liner, are you afraid to be traveling on the Lusitania?”