Target: Tinos by Jeffrey Siger

By Rick Reed

Jeffrey Siger was born and raised in Pittsburgh. He practiced law at a major Wall Street law firm before leaving to establish his own New York City firm where he continued as one of its name partners until giving it all up to write full-time among the people, life, and politics of his beloved Mykonos.

The Greek Press has called his work “prophetic,” and he was awarded the City of San Francisco’s Certificate of Honor, citing that his “acclaimed books have not only explored modern Greek society and its ancient roots but have inspired political change in Greece.”

His newest and fourth book in the Inspector Kaldis series, TARGET: TINOS will be released in June, 2012 as a hardback original. PUBLISHERS WEEKLY awarded it a starred review, calling it “superb…a winner.”  The story begins in an isolated olive grove on the idyllic Aegean island of Tinos, revered by pilgrims around the world as the Lourdes of Greece, where the remains of two bodies charred beyond recognition are discovered chained together amid bits and pieces of an incinerated Greek flag. An enraged press screams out for justice for the unknown victims, until the dead are identified as gypsies and the story simply falls off the face of the earth.

With no one seeming to care, the government has no interest in resurrecting unwanted media attention by a search for answers to such ethnically charged questions and orders the investigation closed.

But Andreas Kaldis, feared head of Greece’s special crimes division, has other plans: He presses on in his inimitable, impolitic style to unravel a mystery that yields more dead, a modern secret society rooted in two-hundred-year-old ways, and a nagging suspicion that his answers lay in the sudden influx of non-Greeks and gypsies to Tinos.

It is there, on Tinos, Andreas learns of priceless hoards of gold, silver, art, and precious gems quietly amassed over centuries out of the offerings of grateful pilgrims. He has found a motive for murder and an irresistible inspiration for robbery.

TARGET: TINOS is the fourth Inspector Andreas Kaldis mystery and, perhaps, the most thought provoking yet. You be the judge.
“Thrilling, thought provoking, and impossible to put down, Jeffrey Siger’s TARGET: TINOS takes readers into the heart of modern Greece and also into the profound mysteries of the relationship between the Greece of today and its incomparable past. Greece has been chronicled for centuries by fine writers, and Jeffrey Siger fits right into the tradition.”
–Tim Hallinan

“A fast paced thriller where the reality of modern Greece is jarred even further sideways by warring gypsy clans, a national outrage and a veteran detective told to ‘just make it go away’. Andreas Kaldis is back to ruffle feathers, catch some killers and, maybe, have the happiest day of his life.”
–Cara Black

“Siger does a splendid job…it’s a cracking good mystery with great characters to love and hate with an antagonist you’re unlikely to identify until the very end…a primer on the woes of corruption and immigration as they affect modern Greek society…without complicating, or slowing down, the story.”
–Leighton Gage

I recently had an opportunity to interview Jeffrey Siger.

What drew you to Greece? 

A friend first brought me to Greece—Mykonos to be exact—telling me that I’d love it.  She was right.  I think “love at first sight” is the perfect way to describe it.  But of all the beautiful places to live in Greece, what keeps meon Mykonos is easy: the people.  I love the light—there’s none like it anywhere in the world—and the island’s natural beauty inspires me.  Even the nightlife I find invigorating.  But what definitely keeps me coming back are the Mykonian people, for despite all the changes to their island they retain the same generosity of spirit and hospitality that captured me on my very first visit.

I’m sure your readers will want to know, what is it like living on an island in the Aegean Sea? 

When I realized I would not live forever and decided to leave my career as a name partner in my own New York City law firm, moving to Mykonos was an easy decision.  I’d been going there for years,living among Mykonians who treated me as family—in both the good and not so good connotations of the word.

What most tourists think of when they hear “Mykonos” is its legendary 24/7 in-season lifestyle and dozens of magnificent beaches.  All that is true, but at its core Mykonos remains an island of proud people raising their families in keeping with rich cultural traditions and a storied-history tracing back to the glory days of the nearby holy island of Delos.

In the winters I’m generally on book tour or visiting family back in the U.S., but as with many islands, outside of late May through September, Mykonos’ population is mostly locals.  Out of season, life is laid back with more time to spend with friends, but the summer peak brings a fantasy-like energy to the island.  It may not be for everyone, but it’s definitely something to experience.  As for my life, I partake of it all.  Each season inspires my writing in some way, and during the summers hushed conversations at five in the morning yield wonderful book material from persons who should know better than to share secrets with a man holding a notebook and pen.

And then there are those times sitting by the edge of the sea staring off toward some distant horizon, catching sunlight dancing on the waves, when I realize I’m sharing a moment with travelers from thousands of years past and the gods of antiquity. It makes me wonder how akin their thoughts might have been to my very own at the moment.

In your newest book, TARGET: TINOS, your story has aspects of the actual history of the island of Tinos, such as the pilgrimage for the feast of the Virgin Mary.  Do you draw your characters from history as well?

Greece is a land filled with mystery and intrigue, both ancient and modern, and I draw upon it all in forming my characters and themes.  I spent about six months immersed in research for TARGET: TINOS.  Of course that involved the Internet (what did we ever do before it?), magazines, books, etcetera, but much of my insight came from conversations with persons possessing first-hand knowledge of the issues, experiences, and intrigues I described.  I also took great care to verify that geographic and historical data were accurate—adding a modest bit of literary license only when necessary.  Onsite visits to verify settings and conduct interviews supplemented off island research into the history of the most revered icon in Greece, the church on Tinos in which the icon is visited each year by more than a million pilgrims, and the relatively unknown but extraordinarily rich and powerful entity that has stood behind it all for nearly two-hundred years, The Evangelistria Foundation.

How important is research to your writing?Are there cultural differences in writing from a Greek perspective as opposed to American?

I write about Greeks and Greek themes because they’re the flesh and blood embodiment of the ambiguity that is and always has been Greece.  As much of what I’ve written has come to pass, the Greek press often scrutinizes my books, making accurate research seminal to my stories.  Yet, my writing is intended to explore issues confronting modern day Greece in a way that accurately conveys to non-Greeks what I see and why I so love the country—all within the confines of a fast-paced mystery-thriller.  That means at times employing a manner of speech or conduct that is not what one would observe in Greece, but is readily recognizable to those foreign readers.  It is the emotion rather than the act that I am seeking to convey in order that my readers can readily bond to my characters and bridge to an understanding of more significant things affecting Greeks and their culture.

However, Greek-language versions of my novels convert those acts and phrases back to the “original Greek” which I can assure you tests the extraordinary abilities of my translator and publisher and finds me confronting questions like, “Jeffrey, what do you mean by ‘sweats like a pig’ and ‘an anonymous duck on a pond’?

You worked as lawyer for many years.  How much do you draw on your legal experience in your writing?

I was trained as a courtroom lawyer to be internally consistent, succinct, and persuasive in my writing and I’ve always written creatively, though as a lawyer my prose was stylistically—not factually—so.  My background as a practicing lawyer disciplined me to get to the facts quickly and be as accurate as possible in my descriptions.  Even today, my stories may be fiction but I want to be honest with my readers about details, such as geography, weather, and locales.  And since much of my practice involved litigating high profile society scandals and international and domestic disputes, I gained considerable insights on the sorts of characters and intrigues running around our planet.

I love your protagonist, Inspector Andreas Kaldis!  Is he based on an actual person, and does he have some of your own characteristics?

Thank you!  Friends tell me that Chief Inspector Andreas Kaldis and I share the same sense of humor and the same way of addressing problems.  I never intentionally set out to do that but I think ultimately a writer cannot help but put part of himself into many of his characters.   Having said all that, Andreas is an Athenian born second-generation cop (which I certainly am not), and a politically incorrect, honest observer of his times; he endures and grows, despite all that life and the powerful throw at him and his beloved country.  His name I borrowed from two friends but his character is of his own creation. I find that with each new adventure Andreas keeps evolving in ways that surprise even me—hopefully bringing me along with him.

What other types of writing have you done, and which do you prefer? 

As I mentioned before, I’ve written creatively for practically all my life, though mainly as a lawyer.  I’ve several unpublished novels in a different series that I may start to tinker with again, a joint biography with my son that we hesitate to publish, an adult fairy tale currently under consideration for a film project, a short story based on Japanese kidnapped from their homeland by North Koreans that is included in a collection put together by Tim Hallinan to benefit Japanese Tsunami victims (SHAKEN: STORIES FOR JAPAN), an essay on “Plotting” in a soon to published collection on the subject, and my weekly blog spot on Murder is Everywhere, plus a monthly gig on the Poisoned Pen Press blog.

The bottom line is I just like to write.  Though no more of the legal sort, if I can help it.

Do you have a writing routine?  Without giving your ‘special’ place away, is there a special type of place that you like to work? 

Every day I wake up with a plan—to do what I’d planned to do the day before.  Never seems to work out though.  Life here is less about carrying out plans and more about calls from local friends asking, “Jeffrey mou, can you meet me in five minutes at…”  Whether it’s the port for a coffee, a beach for a swim, a boat for fishing, a church or home for a family event, or some other place for some other reason, the purpose is always the same: to make me part of their lives, and they part of mine.

Still, every day that I’m working on turning out a new novel I aim for three finished pages a day.  At that rate it takes about three months to have a manuscript ready for an advanced level of rewriting.  During those periods I try to confine that sort of writing to between 11AM and 3PM—so to maintain some sort of “outside” life.  But what inevitably happens is that as the book gets cooking I fall into a zone that has me writing twelve to sixteen hours a day, until my very understanding girlfriend slams shut the cover of my laptop.

But even if I’m not working on a novel, I write something creative every day, be it a blog or just comments to the blogs of others.  It’s like exercise.  You must do it every day to stay in shape.

As for where I write, it really doesn’t matter as long as no one disturbs me.  I can write on the busy front porch of a hotel or at a tavern in the harbor.

Any hints or tips for upcoming authors?

Aside from DO NOT GIVE UP, I think the only insight I’d offer is that readers deserve the unexpected and so concentrate great effort on bringing surprises to them in an utterly believable way.  Murder mystery writers have an advantage over those in other genres because we start out with an act that puts all that follows in perspective and gives purpose, a goal, to your protagonist’s actions.   Answers must be found for immoral acts and resolution requires balancing the justifiable latitude of the means for achieving that against the unpleasant truths of the world in which your protagonist lives.  It is an exhausting effort for a writer to find that balance in a unique, atypical, but still always entertaining plot.  But if you can pull it off, there’s no feeling like it in the world.

I understand there are hundreds of inhabited Greek islands.  Can we expect to see more Inspector Kaldis mysteries? 

Greece is rich in mystery so I don’t think I’ll ever run out of story lines or locales, both island and mainland.  It is a country that has persevered and adjusted for centuries to a continually changing world, and I’m confident will do so again.  And through it all, Andreas Kaldis and I will be here rooting for Hellas and telling it like it is, God willing.

Join me in exploring Greece by visiting Jeffrey Siger at www.jeffreysiger.com for more on his current and upcoming releases. 

*****

Jeffrey Siger was born and raised in Pittsburgh. He practiced law at a major Wall Street law firm before leaving to establish his own New York City firm where he continued as one of its name partners until giving it all up to write full-time among the people, life, and politics of his beloved Mykonos.

The Greek Press has called his work “prophetic,” and he was awarded the City of San Francisco’s Certificate of Honor, citing that his “acclaimed books have not only explored modern Greek society and its ancient roots but have inspired political change in Greece.”

 

Rick Reed

An expert in criminal investigations and police procedures, Rick Reed is the author of The Cruelest Cut, and The Coldest Fear, the books that launched the Jack Murphy thriller series. He is also the co-author of the acclaimed true crime novel, Blood Trail. Rick’s background includes Army Intelligence, Korean Language expert, Probation Officer, Circuit Court Investigator, Deputy Sheriff, and police detective, assistant professor of criminal justice. He now writes full-time in the San Francisco area.

Visit Rick at: www.RickReedbooks.com

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