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MURDER BY THE ORIENT EMPRESS

COLIN FALCONER, FACEBOOK, BEST SELLING AUTHOR, ROMANCE, ADVENTURE, HISTORICAL FICTION

Come and join me at the Falconer Club, for selected excerpts and to get free Exclusive Review Copies of my books. JUST CLICK THE FACEBOOK LOGO AT TOP RIGHT!

When people think of bad, bad queens they perhaps – rightly or wrongly – think of Isabella ‘the She-Wolf of England’ (who may not have been bad at all).

Or they might think of Bloody Queen Mary, or Isabella the First, or even – left field – Elizabeth Bathory, the so-called Queen of Serial Killers.

How many people would suggest Hürrem Haseki Sultan – or Roxelana, as she is sometimes better known?

I might, but then I would probably be in the minority.

Who was she? Hürrem was a concubine in the harem of Suleiman the Magnificent in the sixteenth century.

She was born in the Ukraine, which was then part of Poland. Captured in a Tatar raid, she was probably sold as a slave and traders brought her to Istanbul – then Stamboul – and the harem of the Sultan, Lord of Lords, King of Kings, Possessor of Men’s Necks.

What was a harem like?

Most men fondly imagine half-naked young women soaping each other in an Asiatic day spa.

In reality, the harem of Suleiman’s time was a grim and twilight maze of dark-paneled rooms where the sun seldom penetrated. Day to day life was a like a reality survival game – but with enormous stakes.

Imagine, if you will, a Miss World contest where the winner becomes an Empress and the other three finalists are drowned in a sack.

Oh, and all the runners-up only get to leave the stage when they die.

Our Russian slave girl thrived in this snake pit. She not only rose to become the Sultan’s favourite, she then – to the astonishment of the entire court, if not the whole Ottoman empire – persuaded him to break with two centuries of tradition and marry her. No Sultan had taken a queen since the Ottomans lived as nomads on the plains.

But there was more. To everyone’s amazement, he subsequently resigned his entire harem; three hundred of the most beautiful women in the whole empire. He granted his new queen concession after concession.

Scholars have asked why. So I did, too.

You see, many strange things happened during Suleiman’s reign. Before his marriage, his harem mysteriously – some might say, conveniently – burned down. Suleiman had his best friend and two of his sons murdered. He allowed the most abject of his progeny, Selim the Sot, to inherit the throne.

In my novel, “Harem”, I took all the facts that were known about Suleiman and Hürrem and imagined a rationale. Inspector Falconer then gathered all the known suspects in the drawing room for the denouement and pointed a trembling finger at the Sultan’s queen, charging her with adultery, treason and conspiracy to murder.

Unjustly accused? Perhaps. Of course, she denies everything.

But that is the point of speculative historical fiction. The author speculates about what is unknown and hopefully does it in a way that will keep the reader up until two in the morning.

The evidence against her is, admittedly, circumstantial. I’d never be able to take this to the Crown Prosecutor. Perhaps, in my novel, I have wronged an innocent woman. As has been pointed out to me, she was responsible for many charitable works.

But then so was Pablo Escobar, and every Christmas the Hell’s Angels give toys to children’s homes.

All I can say is this: I never fiddled with the dates, or the events. Right or wrong, it all hangs together.

And when those DNA results come back from the crime lab, she’d better watch out …

colin falconer, kitty o'kane, historical romance

COLIN FALCONER

Colin Falconer, romance, adventure, bestseller, historical fiction

Come meet me at the Falconer Club, for exclusive excerpts and to get Advanced Review copies. JUST CLICK THE PICTURE ABOVE!

TELL ME A STORY

COLIN FALCONER, FACEBOOK, BEST SELLING AUTHOR, ROMANCE, ADVENTURE, HISTORICAL FICTION

Come and join me at the Falconer Club, for selected excerpts and to get free Exclusive Review Copies of my books. JUST CLICK THE FACEBOOK LOGO AT TOP RIGHT!

“Tell me a story.”

Like kids all over the world, my daughters loved me reading them a story every night before they went to sleep.

At that time, in movie theatres right across the world, couples settled down with buckets of popcorn as the lights went down, thinking the very same thing.

“Tell me a story.”

Only they asked Steven Spielberg or Jonathan Demme to tell it to them.

My daughters are grown now. Jonathan Demme is gone.

But there are other daughters, other movie-goers …

When did humans first start saying: “Tell me a story” ?

The first graphic novel started with someone scrawling some figures on a cave wall thousands of years ago.

photograph: Clemens Schmillen

The actual genesis of the first audio book was the campfire; the first listeners were dressed in animal skins.

Long before human beings could even read, they were telling stories.

In the millennia since, stories have been variously carved, scratched, printed or inked onto wood or parchment, silk or bark or palm leaf, stone and clay.

These days stories – in some cases, the very same stories – are now recorded digitally, to be read or watched as moving pictures.

The medium has changed – no, it has multiplied – but whether it’s an audio-book or a play or a movie or an eBook or a hardback you can hold up to your nose and sniff for the complete sensory experience – it’s all just a way to provide the very thing that all human beings crave: narrative.

But why? Why do we all consume stories, every day, and in such prodigious quantities?

Psychologists tell us our brains are wired for story.

Even those of us who have never learned 3 Act Structure – and that’s most of the world – understand it, expect it and respond to it.

Without 3 Act Structure, Mister Darcy and Batman and Romeo and Juliet and Cinderella would not have become such a vital part of western culture. (Or in the case of Cinderella, almost EVERY culture.)

Originally, it is believed stories evolved as a way to teach younger members of a tribe notions of morality, about good and bad.

For example, a Native American tribe called the Chippewa told their ankle biters a story about an owl who snatched away naughty children if they did not behave. Most other cultures have similar Santa Claus or Bogeyman myths, with a similar theme and purpose.

But story is more, much more, than this.

Narrative became a way to look for and explore the meaning behind human existence. It is a mirror that shows us who we are, where we come from and where we belong.

We are not talking Booker Prize; we are not just talking JM Coetzee and Margaret Atwood. Narrative is story, any story.

Because telling stories is absolutely central to what it is to be human.

Some people say that Facebook, Hollywood, mobile phones and the Internet have put narrative under threat. Not a bit of it. The medium is not important. (To say otherwise will have us mourning the end of cave painting.)

It is content, not delivery, that shapes us and the culture we are a part of.

A thousand words can paint a picture.

Depending on the message, stories can be used to instil tolerance or breed hate.

For instance, do the stories we learn, the ones we carry with us, teach us to turn the other cheek or take an eye for an eye?

One theme is found in Leviticus and Exodus; the other is from Matthew’s Gospel, (the Sermon on the Mount). Both are from the Christian Bible, ‘the greatest story ever told’.

Both stories are re-told over and over today, with modern plots and themes, in a thousand ways, in plays and movies and novels.

The stories we tell ourselves reflect what we believe, but they can also persuade us to change our minds.

In the fifties and sixties John Wayne told us one story about the plains Indians of North America; more recently, Kevin Costner told us quite another story.

Stories are never just entertainment. From Cinderella to Pretty Woman, Jack and the Beanstalk to The Hunger Games, even the simplest of stories has a message. They explain the world to us; they shape our view of it.

It’s why that little voice inside us whispers to us every day.

“Tell me a story.”

That’s why, in the beginning, there was the story.

The End.

 

COLIN FALCONER, FACEBOOK, BEST SELLING AUTHOR, ROMANCE, ADVENTURE, HISTORICAL FICTION

Come and join me at the Falconer Club, for selected excerpts and to get free Exclusive Review Copies of my books. JUST CLICK THE FACEBOOK LOGO AT TOP RIGHT!

 

colin falconer, bestselling author, international, historical romance, historical fiction, romance, adventure

COLIN FALCONER

WHAT IS STRONGER – LOVE OR HATE?

Colin Falconer, romance, adventure, bestseller, historical fiction

Come meet me at the Falconer Club, for exclusive excerpts and to get Advanced Review copies. JUST CLICK THE PICTURE ABOVE!

What is stronger – love or hate?

Not everyone will have the same answer, depending on their life’s experience so far, their view of the world and life itself.

But it’s a question that intrigues me, and led to the writing of SLEEPING WITH THE ENEMY.

Because who are we really? We have an identity imposed upon us; we don’t choose whether we are born black or white, rich or poor, Muslim or Christian. It’s just an accident of birth.

Yet 7 billion of us cling to these identities as if they describe who we are.

But who we love – well, that can be a choice.

romeo and juliet, romance, love storyLasting love often happens when two people find the best version of themselves.

But what happens when the person who is most like you in the world is unlike you in every other way? When they are born to someone you have been taught to hate?

Where then, does the heart lead?

Shakespeare first posed the question in Romeo and Juliet. (Though I still have a problem with two horny teenagers actually challenging the status quo over a period of three days.)

Still, that story, as metaphor, has imprinted itself on the western psyche.

But four hundred years later the question remains; if we are brought to the edge, as my two lovers are in SLEEPING WITH THE ENEMY, do we follow the tribe – or do we follow our hearts?

Palestine 1933 — Jews flood into the country fleeing persecution in Europe, settling the land that has for centuries belonged to the local Arab muktars.

Sarah Landauer and Rishou Hass’an are divided by the barbed wire of the kibbutz and by their religion yet still fall in love. But as tensions rise in the country, the two are torn apart.

A decade later, Sarah works for the Haganah, the outlawed Jewish intelligence service; Rishou is in Jerusalem, trying to stay out of a war he does not believe in. But as the whole country descends into chaos, they find each other again, and cannot stay apart.

Then the British leave for good, and the Jews and Arabs prepare for the final battle of Jerusalem. Sarah and Rishou meet in secret, keeping their affair hidden even from those that they love. But finally, they must face their final agonizing destiny, forced to choose between their love for each other and their loyalty and duty to their own people.

What is the right choice?

romeo and juliet, romance, love story

 

colin falconer, sleeping with the enemy, fury, jerusalem, freedom

Colin Falconer, romance, adventure, bestseller, historical fiction

Come meet me at the Falconer Club, for exclusive excerpts and to get Advanced Review copies. JUST CLICK THE PICTURE ABOVE!

 

THE SHAMELESS ART OF SELF PROMOTION

COLIN FALCONER, FACEBOOK, BEST SELLING AUTHOR, ROMANCE, ADVENTURE, HISTORICAL FICTION

Come and join me at the Falconer Club, for selected excerpts and to get free Exclusive Review Copies of my books. JUST CLICK THE FACEBOOK LOGO AT TOP RIGHT!

Writing. Really, it’s no big deal.

self-promotion, hemingway, balzac, steinbeck, balzac, advertising

Ernie writing to beer companies looking for a sponsorship deal

It’s the shameless acts of self-promotion that are hard for most of us.

We live in a world where the advances in digital technology have made writing a book not so much an achievement but an obligation to anyone with access to a Microsoft Word program. It has also made the opportunities for self-promotion almost limitless.

Write the equivalent of a long email and you are required to bombard friends, relatives and people you meet in the lift with Facebook alerts, followed by a shit-storm of tweets and YouTube trailers. It is now considered the industry standard.

These days even a print publisher will expect you to do pretty much everything but put ink in the presses and choose the font for the typeface.

Okay. I’ll do it.

self-promotion, hemingway, balzac, steinbeck, balzac, advertisingYet still I can’t shake the feeling that it’s all a touch shameless. I have these bad dreams where I’m a snake oil salesman at a county fair in 19th century Idaho, standing on a box and haranguing passers-by, giving free candy to their kids to lure them to buy.

In others, I am standing on a street corner in a short leather skirt, chewing gum. Won’t do anything for less than seven bucks fifty.

It’s not Tolstoy, is it? It’s not Hemingway.

Or is it?

“For artists, the great problem to solve is how to get oneself noticed.” Who said that? No, it wasn’t Neil Gaiman.

It was Balzac.

self-promotion, hemingway, balzac, steinbeck, balzac, advertising

Captain, my captain; the king of the review farm

The problem was highlighted recently when an author by the name of Ray Dolin, writing a book about the kindness of Americans, was shot in the arm by a passing motorist while hitchhiking across the country. Terrible, right?

Except it later transpired that he’d actually shot himself, in a desperate attempt at self-promotion.

(You see? It works! He’s getting free publicity right here.)

Or, as Stendhal said in his autobiography : “Great success is not possible without a certain degree of shamelessness, and even of out-and-out charlatanism.”

Ray is just following in the footsteps of celebrity authors from before the time of Christ. For example, in 440 B.C. a novice Greek scribbler named Herodotus paid for his own book tour around the Aegean.

He got his big break during the Olympic Games in Athens, when he got a gig at the temple of Zeus and read excerpts from his “Histories” to the city’s smart set. It was like being on Oprah, except with chitons.

self-promotion, hemingway, balzac, steinbeck, balzac, advertisingMore recently, Balzac observed that in 19th century Paris it was common practice to bribe editors and critics with cash and lavish dinners to secure review space. In 1887, Guy de Maupassant even sent up a hot-air balloon over the Seine with the name of his latest short story, “Le Horla,” painted on its side.

Le Horla is about a man going insane. Shortly after its publication Maupassant actually was taken off to an institution by the men in white. Or was it just another piece of blatant self-promotion?

Even sham reviews on Amazon are nothing new. Back in the day, Walt Whitman was bigging himself up this way – anonymously, of course: “An American bard at last! ” he raved in 1855. “Large, proud, affectionate, eating, drinking and breeding, his costume manly and free, his face sunburnt and bearded.”

O captain, my captain. Even John Locke was subtler than that.

self-promotion, hemingway, balzac, steinbeck, balzac, advertising

sold the grapes of wrath and the hops of Ballantine beer

It was Georges Simenon, author of the Inspector Maigret novels, who raised the bar. In 1927 he agreed to write an entire novel while suspended in a glass cage outside the Moulin Rouge nightclub. Members of the public were to be invited to choose the novel’s characters, subject matter and title, while Simenon hammered out the pulp on a typewriter.

Tragically, the newspaper financing this little stunt went bankrupt. But the publicity was priceless and for years afterwards journalists still described the event as if they had actually been there.

And then there’s Hemingway; surely America’s grand old man of letters, winner of the 1954 Nobel Prize for Literature, would not stoop so low?

Better believe it. Papa could have showed Nike or Coca-Cola a thing or two about branding.

Not only did he set up photo ops on safaris, fishing trips and war zones with the shamelessness of a whore on the hustings, he even posed for beer advertisements and endorsed Pan Am and Parker pens. He pursued the limelight like it was a thousand-pound marlin.

Papa was a tart.

He wasn’t alone. John Steinbeck recommended Ballantine beer after a hard day on Cannery Row; even Virginia Woolf was lured away from discussing philosophy and ethics with her Bloomsbury pals to go on a shopping expedition at the French couture houses in London with the Vogue fashion editor in 1925.

So look, I’m up for it. Want me to flog toothpaste? My contact details are at the top of the page. Write a book outside a nightclub? I’ll write one inside if you like. Shoot myself in the arm? Just on the way to the shop now to buy ammunition.

But as Hemingway and Steinbeck both liked to say; just for God’s sake, buy my book!

And to prove to you just how shameless I am, here it is:

East India, Batavia, shipwreck, historical romance, historical fiction, adventure, romance

 

colin falconer, bestselling author, romance, adventure, love stories

COLIN FALCONER

Colin Falconer, romance, adventure, bestseller, historical fiction

Come meet me at the Falconer Club, for exclusive excerpts and the chance to win copies of my books. JUST CLICK THE PICTURE ABOVE!

 

America’s most loved novel

COLIN FALCONER, FACEBOOK, BEST SELLING AUTHOR, ROMANCE, ADVENTURE, HISTORICAL FICTION

Come and join me at the Falconer Club, for selected excerpts and to get free Exclusive Review Copies of my books. JUST CLICK THE FACEBOOK LOGO AT TOP RIGHT!

In a 2014 Harris poll, women in the United States voted it their second most favourite book, and their most loved novel.
(Number #1 spot is still held by the Bible.)

The novel was: ‘Gone with the Wind’.

It is the one they give a damn about the most.

But who was the woman who wrote it – and what was her inspiration?

Gone with the Wind, Margaret Mitchell, bestsellerWell, her name was Margaret Mitchell – and she was bored.

She had broken her ankle and it was taking a long time to heal. All she could do was read.

Her husband was fed up with bringing home stacks of book from the library every day.

Why don’t you write your own book? he said and bought her a Remington Portable No. 3 typewriter.

So she did.

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