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“I actually could not put the book down. It is well written and kept my interest. I want more from this author.”
Reader review of Maximilian and Carlotta Are Dead on Amazon.com 

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Tuesday, November 3, 2020

Thumb Out

It happened again the other day. On one of my occasional isolated Covid walks, I met a neighbor, and we had a chat to catch up. He reported that he had reached the final three chapters of Searching for Cunégonde.

“Go on,” he said, “these are all things that happened to you, right?”

By now I just deal with these comments by wearily “confessing” and saying, yes, every single incident in the book is something that I actually experienced myself. Even the crazy lovemaking incident in Santiago as well as the one in Berlin. All of it.

To be fair, in the first Dallas Green novel, Maximilian and Carlotta Are Dead, many of the incidents were plucked from youthful experiences I had with my wild best friend. Or with one of my college roommates. Or some other friend I made along the way. Others were stories I had heard and which I shamelessly stole. The thrust of the story, though, was a fiction. I never traveled the length of Mexico in search of a missing friend. As if I would put myself out that much for someone else.

In the next book, Lautaro’s Spear, fiction veered ever farther away from my own reality. I never lived and worked in San Francisco, though I might have if life had not led me to Seattle instead. I have never attended the Deauville American Film Festival, as much as I would like to. On the other hand, I did once wander the streets of Paris all night long, and I did visit Jim Morrison’s in the Père Lachaise cemetery. Also, as I have recounted here before, I did spend a night on a train drinking fine scotch with a group of random people who all spoke different languages, more or less as I described in the book. Disappointingly, I still have not heard from any of them, so presumably none of them have chanced across my book, found that long-ago experience described therein and recognized themselves. Or if they have, they haven’t bothered to make contact.

The narrative of Searching for Cunégonde is even farther removed from my own biography. While I have spent much time in Connemara, I have never hidden out there on my own. I certainly have done no farm work there—or anywhere else for that matter—for at least six and a half decades. Taking photographs did happen to be one of my duties at an early newspaper job of mine many moons ago, but unlike Dallas, I can by no means be considered a photojournalist. I certainly did not witness the fall of the Berlin Wall, and in fact, I was nearly oblivious to the event because at the time I was working day and night at a time-consuming job in the software industry. And no, I did not live in a small apartment with a beautiful French woman in the 15th Arrondissement off the Rue de Vaugirard or, for that matter, in any other quarter of Paris. And I most definitely have never attended a World Cup soccer match.

Having said all that, I will confess that there is one interlude in the novel that was taken largely unaltered from my own experience, and it is likely the one you might least expect. On the day of French President Georges Pompidou’s funeral in Paris, there was indeed a young Dutch-Indonesian man trying to wend his way through the chaos of the traffic. And he did indeed pick up a hitchhiker on the way there, somewhere in northern France. And he did tell the hitchhiker a story about how he emigrated from Indonesia to Europe. And he was indeed engaged to be married to the daughter of a prominent and wealthy Argentine family, though he was not rushing to meet her on that particular day. Where Chapter 5 of Cunégonde deviates from reality is that the hitchhiker was not Irish but American, and he most certainly did not steal anything. Furthermore, I have no idea what happened to the driver of the car after that day. I never saw him again, and as far as I remember, we did not even exchange names.

Will he (or someone close to him) happen across my book and recognize himself and perhaps get in touch? I am sure the odds against such a coincidence are astronomical, and while I have had some quite interesting coincidences in my life, they usually are not as unlikely or as full of portent as those that happen to Dallas.

Why do I think that if I told my neighbor, who is prone to believe that everything book is something that happened to me, that the incident in Chapter 5 was one of the few things in the book that actually had happened to me, he wouldn’t believe it?

Oh yeah, and a priest really did tell me that he had performed an exorcism in Australia.

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