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Category: fiction

Book Review: The “Flag Girl” Stumbles but Never Flags

Liar’s Candle, a novel by August Thomas, New York: Scribner, 2018, 310 p. IBSN 9781501172847

 

Liar’s Candle, a novel by August Thomas

When I learned of this book late last year, it struck a chord. It was the first recent political thriller I had encountered set in Turkey, as is part of one I published about six months later. And so, to compare notes, I gave it a read and found that our books are different animals with kindred spirits. Here is my book report.

The title of August Thomas’s debut international thriller comes from a Turkish proverb, “A liar’s candle burns only until dark,” an appropriate motto for the full helping of duplicity that Thomas serves up. This fast-moving tale whips the reader between locales in Turkey and the US, plus a brief, tense incursion into northern Syria. Changes of scene are datelined, dispatch-style, helping to keep one oriented as the action shifts from one exotic setting to another, for example the presidential palace in Ankara, a hotel in Istanbul, a city in far-eastern Turkey, a monastery in Syria, and even into ancient cave dwellings. Thomas also regularly transports us across the Atlantic to an even more inaccessible location, CIA Headquarters in Langley, Virginia. There we find hard-boiled uber-spy Christina Ekdahl remotely rattling the cages of agents and diplomats working in Turkey in the service of American national security and her own self-serving designs.

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Donald Trump Goes to Heaven

Location, date, and perpetrator unknown. Sheer genius.

After suffering a cheeseburger infarction, Donald Trump finds himself queuing toward eternity. He shuffles up to the Pearly Gates in a foul mood for not being accorded élite status. Not relishing taking a deposition from the addled gentleman, St Peter sloughs him off to Paul, his Deputy Secretary for Lost Souls, who asks Donald to name three things that qualify him to enter the realm of eternal peace, harmony, and brotherly love.

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Lights! Camera! Aristotle!

Having written a subversive action novel focusing on the lives and times of a cell of terrorists that some early readers indicated would make a great movie, I gave the project some thought and soon concluded that my story was a natural for film adaptation. It has a simple, linear plot with subplots to spare, featuring appealing, interesting characters, and mostly set in real places I didn’t have to make up, sharply limned in luminous detail.

Suspecting that there was more to writing for movies that I needed to know, I straightaway dove into the turbulent and treacherous waters of screenwriting, only to surface gasping over how ginormous and competitive, how overflowing with talent, copy, and potential productions the screenplay marketplace is. Not to mention the secondary markets for script consultants, synopsizers, agents, contests, how-to books, DVDs, webinars, and software products pawing at you to help you write screenplays that sell. Emerging from my brief and bewildering dip into these waters, it was close-up clear that to navigate a course to celluloid I needed to consult sage practitioners of this elusive art.

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