Why Malta? A Mystery-Thriller Author Tells Why

"Why Malta?" my new Maltese friends kept asking me when they find out that my mystery-thriller The Cellini Masterpiece is set on Malta. Mind you, only the Maltese ask that question. (Some kind of national inferiority complex?) Americans ask "Malta Who?" or "Where the heck is Malta?" or "Is it about the Maltese Falcon?" (They must always think that they're the first ones to think that up.)

The difference in questions is obvious. The Maltese are puzzled. Americans are plain ignorant. Someone once wrote that the way Americans learn geography is by war.

Why Malta is the question that is harder to answer. My usual comeback is why not? That usually brings a laugh, but it's difficult to explain how a tiny bit of limestone southwest of Sicily should hold such an interest for an American for so many years. I will be 65 by the time this article is in print, but I fell in love with Malta sight unseen as a 10-year-old in Minneapolis, Minnesota. I was a stamp collector and bought one of those cheap worldwide stamp packets, with one stamp showing Verdala Palace in Malta. Somehow it grabbed my interest, and a few years later I started reading about Malta until I had exhausted the local library collection. The chance discovery of a stamp led me to one of the most geographically and historically significant places in the world. Literally the crossroads of the Mediterranean, it has Neolithic temples pre-dating the pyramids and has been occupied by every world power since the ancient Greeks. I'm a historian, for heaven's sake. Who wouldn't be interested?

I was hooked. My stamp collection turned into a business, which I named Maltalately (for Malta philately). Even so, all my life I wanted to write a novel set in Malta.

At age 14 I read Cellini's Autobiography. The rogue artist absolutely intrigued me. I also know he lived in the mid-16th Century and that the Knights of St. John defeated Suleiman the Magnificent's Turks in the so-called Great Siege. It was the greatest holy war of all time and may have saved Europe from occupation by the Turks. Voila. Somehow my novel would involve Cellini and the Great Siege. I even had a punch-line. Now all I had to do was write it.

It took more than twenty years but I finally had a finished draft in 1985. The Jonathan Lazear Agency decided to represent it. Unfortunately, they weren't able to find a publisher and the manuscript went back on the shelf to languish for nearly ten years before I finally went to Malta for the first time at age 54. I stayed at a bargain accommodation, the Soleado Guest House in Sliema. What a great location to set the novel! I dusted off the manuscript and started again. My first change was to give Rick, my hero's, sidekick a sex change. My male cab driver was now a sexy young woman. The manager of the Soleado, Joey Bugeja, got a gender change, too. He was now Josefina. How could I miss?

The events of September 11, 2001, although tragic, provided another powerful plotline, since Malta is near North Africa and has close economic ties with Libya. I should be able to polish the book off in a couple of months, I thought.

Not. Things still didn't fit together quite right. In September of 2003 I enlisted the help of a musician I had met while I was selling postcards. He liked thrillers and had a keen ear for the music of language and a discerning eye for the continuity of my story. Taking him on board was one of the best decisions I have ever made, and by the beginning of 2004 I could envision the final draft. Then I heard about the North African boat people who were landing in Malta. Wow. Now all I had to do was tie Benvenuto Cellini to Suleiman the Magnificent and add in a plot from World War II with another involving modern-day terrorists and refugees. What could be simpler? Even Snoopy could do it.

Somehow I did do it. And according to my readers, successfully. Why Malta? Because there is no other place in this whole wide world where the story would make sense.

The other answer to "Why Malta" is found, for me, in a quote from Somerset Maugham's The Moon and Sixpence. It could have been written for me. "I have an idea that some men are born out of their due place. Accident has cast them among certain surroundings, but they have always nostalgia for a home they know not?. Sometimes a man hits upon a place to which he mysteriously feels that he belongs. Here is the home he sought, and he will settle amid scenes that he has never seen before, among men he has never known, as though they were familiar to him from his birth. At last he finds rest."

SAHHA u hbibierija.

To read a chapter of The Cellini Masterpiece, or to ask John a question or comment, log on to http://www.cmasterpiece.com

More Resources

Unable to open RSS Feed $XMLfilename with error HTTP ERROR: 404, exiting

More Book Reviews Information:

Related Articles

The Southwest Airlines Way - AchieveMax® Top Ten Book Review
Over the years, several books and countless magazine and newspaper articles have been written about Southwest Airlines. Numerous MBA programs highlight the Southwest structure, its culture, its CEO, its low fares and other reasons as to why it is the bright spot in an otherwise dismally performing industry.
Book Summary: EVEolution
For any business to survive today, it needs to understand how to market to women. The fact is women make 80% of all purchasing decisions.
Book Summary: The 17 Indisputable Laws Of Teamwork
To achieve great things, you need a team. Building a winning team requires understanding of these principles.
IZEE Growing Up In A Logging Camp: Chapter One
Chapter OneI was ready to start the fourth grade, the year we moved to Izee. Prior to that time, the Miles family had lived in Bates, Oregon.
The Global Wolf Pack
Description:Intense action and gripping suspense characterize the seemingly real story about tax evation, money-laundering, intrigue and murder in corporate world.Book DescriptionThe fast-paced story about tax evasion, money-laundering, fraud, intrigue, and murder takes the reader from the outskirts of Munich to the vibrant vitality of Manhattan, from the South African wilderness to Tokyo's nightlife, from the hustle and bustle of Hong Kong to the serenity of Alberobello in Italy.
Sound Bodies through Sound Therapy - Book Review
"Dorinne Davis has written many books that concentrate on the subjects of hearing and sound. In the well-researched textbook, Sound Bodies through Sound Therapy, she looks at the concept of sound being a nutrient for our bodies.
Be the Captain of Your Lifes Ship
In his book, "Crossing the Unknown Sea: Work as a Pilgrimage of Identity," author David Whyte explores the concept of work from an internal perspective and how work allows us to become the individuals that we are. He refers to the works of the well-known poet and engraver, William Blake.
James Martells Methods and Yahoo
In James Martell's Affiliate Handbook, he mentions that he focuses on optimizing almost exclusively for Google, since they get the bulk of search engine traffic. But there's been a little bit of controversy lately about some of James's sites being penalized by Google.
Empowering Teenagers - A Few Clues About Teens And A New Book
EMPOWERING TEENAGERSFrom a new book: "Adolescence is a difficult period, both for the emerging adult and for those around him/her. Intellectual growth, sexual awareness, quantum physical growth and the need for increasing independence are all natural and expected patterns.
Her Backyard: Book Review
Her Backyard by Doreen Lewis is an adventure, romance novel that depicts a career woman in the middle of self-discovery. It is about making choices that may not be so easy to make and complex relationships between co-workers, siblings and friends.
Headlong Into Quicksand: The Tale of Today in America
America´s 220 years of Democracy (of its 400 years) is longer than the Greek 100 (of 1000), the Roman 150 (of 1000), or the British 180 (of 1600.) These European democracies are the only large ones ever.
Author Releases Comprehensive Family History Book On The Family of JACKEL, JECKEL, IEKEL, YAKEL
When the topic of family history comes up, where do you stand? How do you respond when someone asks you where you are from, or when questions about your surname are raised? Do you wish you could give something more than a vague reply, such as, "I grew up around here, and I'm not sure about the name. .
Execution... I Mean The Book
Larry Bossidy & Ram Charan have created quite a stir in corporate circles with their book entitled "Execution: The Discipline of Getting Things Done". The book outlines the behaviors and elements required for leaders to become successful in executing their plans.
The Rich Jerk - A Study in Anti-Marketing
I've always been fascinated by "anti-marketing", and how powerful its effect can be if done properly, so when I stumbled upon The Rich Jerk salesletter, I was immediately intrigued.I'll admit, I'm one of those people who *never* reads a salesletter when I am considering buying something (I do read them when researching techniques, but that's another story), but from the moment I read The Rich Jerk's headline, I couldn't keep from reading the entire thing.
Men of Extreme Action - Book Review
"Action, thriller and humor - this book has it all! Men of Extreme Action by Joseph Kochanoff is one of the better books I have reviewed this year. Based in the action movie making industry, Joseph incorporates murder, excellent fight scenes and sabotage.
Nice Girls Don't Get the Corner Office 101 - A Book Summary
Dr. Frankel clearly identifies the common mistakes -101 in all-that women commit unconsciously to sabotage their careers.
Twin Falls, Gooding, Jerome, ID, and Regional Economic Outlook for 2005
Twin Falls Economic Report done by me; Twin Falls, ID has potential for additional car washes, Detail Centers and mobile washing units. Twin Falls has enough water in their reservoirs to make it through the Summer for farmers and agriculture industries.
The Isaiah Effect, by Greg Braden
Why do some prayers seem to be answered while others not? "The secret of prayer lies beyond the words of praise, the incantations, and the rhythmic chants to the `powers that be."We are only using a small part of the "equation" of prayer and those elements that we are missing are emotion, thought, and feeling; it is these elements that when properly aligned are the formula for creation.
Thinking for a Change - AchieveMax® Top Ten Book Review
John C. Maxwell is back again in Thinking for a Change: 11 Ways Highly Successful People Approach Life and Work to add to his more than 30 previous titles with his encouraging tone and down-to-earth writing style.
Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince - A Review
If writing was a religion, it shall be easy to deem 'Harry Potter and the half-blood prince' as the penultimate blasphemy, an utmost sacrilege. A book that discredits its own magnitude, it is a joke in the Queens' English that bravely illustrates the argument for its painful ineptitude.