Dance of the Dead by Ines Eberl

By John T. Cullen

Art expert Hans Bosch’s mentor, Prof. Arnulf Salchenegger, dies myseriously of mushroom poisoning. Famous gallery owner Tobias Tappeiner lies dead in the fish pond at Castle Hellbrunn. Bosch rules out accidental death in both cases, and suspects murder. His investigation takes him to a wealthy art collector’s villa, where he comes upon a faked Medieval Madonna. As his involvement deepens, he blends into the shadowy and dangerous  underworld of the art trade—filled with fascinating personalities, including both genuine artists and talented forgers. Hans Bosch’s dramatic and dangerous investigation leads to a harrowing climax.

Ines, thank you for agreeing to an interview about your debut novel from Emons Verlag (Emon Publishers) in Cologne, Germany. What led you to write fiction? Why specifically crime/mystery?

Thank you very much, John. I feel very honoured to be asked for an interview by you and the International Thriller Writers. I was led to write fiction by reading it. When I was a child, I was interested in adventure books and their authors, such as Jules Verne and Daphne du Maurier and – above all – Edgar Allan Poe. Maybe I was the only child who slept well after reading A Cask of Amontillado. Some time ago I started to write my own mysteries,giving it my best. And I was so lucky almost at once to find a publisher who believed in me and gave me a chance. That´s how it started.

Do you read a lot of Krimis (mystery/crime novels)? What are some of your favorite influences (books, authors, films, TV, etc.)?

Of course. Until I started to write books, I read mysteries just for fun. But now I´m interested in persons, language, and plots, too. In Germany or Austria we have no tradition of creative writing courses as there is in America. I´m always impressed how generously famous American authors share their skills with writers at the beginning of their careers. I think this is a big asset in American literature. I admire Stephen King and I am sure he once will be a Classic author like Edgar Allan Poe. I like the atmosphere created by James Lee Burke. There are Tess Gerritsen and Jeffrey Deaver as well. And one of the best is Ruth Rendell.

You are in the midst of a distinguished career in law and its history. To what extent does your law expertise support your crime writing? Have you handled criminal case law? Please explain for us the relationship.

Many mysteries are written by lawyers. Perhaps because they learn to think analytically and logically during their studies. And they have a deep interest in justice. That´s what mysteries are for. History of Law provided me with an idea for my next book  Death of a Hunter. It´s a cold case, settled in the Austrian mountains during the hunting season. I ‘write what I know’ – I´m a hunter in the high mountains.

Are you a long-term student of art? Salzburg is an ancient city with many connections to the wider European culture, and to the arts. Do you find it inspiring to live there? Certainly, you are following the maxim of ‘write what you know.’

Salzburg is a lovely city where you meet culture at every corner, that´s true. It has a very inspiring atmosphere. But I´m no student of art. I started a long-term journey into art when I started to write my novel. And it is not yet finished. But I´m an art collector myself (no Medieval Madonnas!).

Who is Hans Bosch? What kind of person is he? Does he have a love interest in the story? Is there a romantic angle to the novel?

Hans Bosch teaches History of Art at the University. He has a sharp mind, but is not handsome (he loves eating too much), and he is a little bit shy. He dreams of becoming a famous painter while he is standing in front of his students. A young woman, a society reporter, helps him with his investigations and he feels attracted by her. Maybe in a future novel he can convince her of his talents.

Tell us what a ‘Gothic Madonna’ would be in real life, since the forged version is an important plot element. Why would art experts be excited enough for murder to result?

There are only few ‘Gothic Madonnas’ from genuine artists on the market. In Salzburg Death Dance it is a modern artist who is in the forgery business–and he feels compelled to murder to protect his secrets.

Editor’s Note: The author stresses that there is no connection between Gothic (meaning European Medieval), as mentioned in her book, and the current interest in vampires in North America, which is often cast under the borrowed term ‘Gothic.’ The Goths were a Germanic nation (the Visigoths and Ostrogoths) who took over the western half of the Roman Empire after 400 CE. Nobody during the European Middle Ages ever used the term Gothic, whether for Madonnas or cathedrals. The Goths had long since vanished, replaced by other Germanic peoples like the Lombards and the Franks, and ultimately by peoples approximating modern European ethnic and national states. The term ‘Gothic Cathedral’ originated as a term of disdain by Renaissance builders, who felt the great European Medieval cathedrals represented the same barbaric people who destroyed Western Roman civilization a thousand years earlier. However, by modern times, the term acquired an air of respectability, particularly as scholars have come to realize that the European Medieval period represented a high civilization in its own right. It is doubtful that anyone today would look at the majestic cathedrals, like the Kölner Dom, as barbarian piles of rock. The very stained glass windows are incomparable, and still today cannot be duplicated. After rampaging mobs of urban barbarians smashed half of the stained glass windows in the Notre Dame de Paris basilica in Paris during the French Revolution of the 1790s, for example, their replacement windows remain today just pale, sickly imitations of the surviving European Medieval stained glass higher up and out of stone’s throw.

Your names seem a bit exotic, even for a German-speaker like myself. Are they inherently Austrian? Is this just part of the Austrian landscape, or did you add some spice by inventing exotic names? Hieronymus Bosch (1450-1516) was a famous Dutch painter—any connection with Hans Bosch?

The names are Austrian – even complicated for Germans. If there will be an English-language edition, I will take care of my readers and change some of them. Thank you for reminding me of that, John.  Hieronymus Bosch inspired me indeed. The Dutch painter was famous for his  genuine but grotesque sacred art, which had all sorts of hidden meanings. In my novel, Hans Bosch is a strange person, too. He´s a wonderful painter and a nice guy. But his paintings show a dark side, as well. On the one hand, readers will love him–but on the other hand, they may suspect him of being the murderer. Maybe he his. Maybe he is not.

Your initial publication from Emons is in German. Will there be an English-language edition soon? Does Emons make its titles available abroad? It seems logical there would be interest among English-speakers for whom German is a second language, and for German speakers living in North America. Can U.S. or Canadian readers obtain copies of your book?

I talked to my publisher about that some days ago. They told me that Cologne-based Emons sells intellectual property rights all over the world. So – if an American publisher is interested in publishing an English edition of Salzburg Death Dance,  they will be welcome. German-language copies can be ordered at booksellers on line, including Amazon.de.

Is Salzburg a star of the novel as well? Would tourists benefit from reading your novel before coming to Salzburg?

Absolutely. It´s always the setting that gives me the idea for a book. Salzburg is such a great place, with a unique atmosphere. The city is like a person in my novel. Reading my novel should be like journey. As a matter of fact. the bookseller at Salzburg Airport ordered copies for travelers, and high class hotels offer them in their hotel shops. Even a ski resort contacted me. An English edition seems like an inevitable next step.

Should we expect more Hans Bosch crime novels?

My second novel, already in work, is titled Death of a Hunter. Hans Bosch will be on vacation for a while, resting up for his next great adventure after my second novel.

Thank you very much! We all wish you the best success with Salzburger Totentanz.

Thank you so much, John. It was a great pleasure to interview with you. Writing my novel was an adventure for me—I am hard at work on the next one, Death of a Hunter.

We look forward to Death of a Hunter and all your future work.

*****

Salzburger Totentanz (Salzburg Death Dance; also Dance of the Dead) is the debut mystery novel of Ines Eberl. Ines, a law historian and practicing lawyer, was born in Berlin, Germany. She now practices law in Salzburg, Austria with her Austrian-born husband. She has also taught History Law at the University of Salzburg. They have two children.

John T. Cullen

John T. Cullen writes fiction and nonfiction. He is the author of A Walk In Ancient Rome, Revised Second Edition (Sep 2009; nonfiction/ancient history); Lethal Journey (Sep 2009, dark thriller based on a true 1892 crime/ghost story); Umnitsa (WW2 espionage thriller); The Generals of October (suspense: what if we had a Second Constitutional Convention?); and nearly two dozen other books.

Visit John at: www.johntcullen.com.

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