Other New Haven & New England Tango
John T. Cullen Thrillers & More
Touched by New Haven or New England. Tango means 'touch' (tangere). I would guess that everything I have written in many decades has contained a bit of New England with its four powerful, dramatic seasons and its long history. This only dawned on me as I launched this website. The original stimulus or falling domino was to write about my 27duet. Then I remembered that, in 2014, I published a sentimental love story (Nice Cry). Oh yes, and ten years ago I published my historical panorama now titled Yesterday Thriller: Memories of Love and War, whose enigmatic, missing U.S. Navy spy Tim Nordhall was originally a clockmaker in New Haven. I'll list the others as I think of them, with short descriptions.
Umnitsa: The Spy's Daughter
A Yesterday Thriller by John T. Cullen
A New Haven Novel. The underlying hero of this story, U.S. Navy intelligence officer Lt. Tim Nordall, is from New Haven, Connecticut. I say underlying because the story occurs in two time frames: his story 1942-1945 during World War Two; and his daughter's time frame during the climactic year 1991 (fall of the Evil Empire) when she begins a global search for her lost parents.
Traces of Pasternak, Waugh, and Wouk. Believe it or not, this novel started as an intended short story set in World War Two San Francisco. Somehow, it grew into one of my two longest works (the other being Doctor Night, my tribute to James Bond and the Saint, via Ian Fleming and Leslie Charteris). If you have actually read Pasternak's potboiler (Doctor Zhivago) rather than watching the sentimental nose-hoser movie starring Julie Christie and Omar Sharif, you may find, as I did, that the novel is both enjoyable for its sprawl and atmospheric detail as it is tedious in its wandering (sort of like a Cat-5 hurricane meandering toward the Gulf of Mexico). I'm sure Pasternak did not seek that effect, and neither did I. I am planning a final incarnation for this novel, some fifteen years after writing it. I'll reveal that in 2018, most likely. Meanwhile, it's worth noting that I was thinking of Herman Wouk's sprawling World War Two sagas (Winds of War, etc.) and the foreign adventures of Evelyn Waugh. Readers who actually found and read Umnitsa found it very readable and enjoyable. I think it will help to underscore 'the point.'
Multiple Points, but First: Savor. Aside from being a readable and enjoyable novel, as most readers have commented, there is an artistic and literary underpinning. It's not a particularly political novel, except to reinforce the point that Josef Stalin and Adolf Hitler were very bad men, as are all demagogues of their ilk. As usual, I did tons of background research in addition to my normal heavy reading in history. I had a lot of fun creating Tim Nordall (echoes of Nordhoff and Hall?) and the women in his life. Ultimately, it is not only the saga of Tim Nordall and his several women (including two wives), but that of a little girl (Umnitsa, "good girl" or "clever girl" in Russian) who survives being marooned with her kidnapped, doomed mother in a remote Siberian coastal village; but is adopted by a wealthy Parisian couple, and becomes the Countess Marianne Didier as an adult. The novel spans her search for her lost parents, and takes her to exotic locales around the world. The time frame is not only flashbacks (1942 to 1945) but Marianne's global search starting with the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991.
Points of Interest. Each chapter or section has special points of interest. For example, since Tim Nordall is on a British ship torpedoed off West Africa in 1942, and he is marooned in Mauritania and Mali before making his escape to the (German occupied) Belgian Congo and its radium mines, he tangentially encounters at least one famous U.S. personality (author Paul Bowles, The Sheltering Sky, historically associated with a long expat residency in French Morocco). If you like history, as I do, you'll revel in the background terrors of the Blitz and other historical tidbits (like the bomb-destroyed ruin of St. Dunstan in the East (London). And we get a flavor of 1945 San Francisco as World War Two is winding down, and another (the Cold War) is beginning, at the locus of the founding of the United Nations. Amid all of that, Umnitsa is what it set out to be, a love story, only not the originally intended short story, but a massive city of a novel.