Back in Vienna
I am in Vienna again, on business, and it is my favorite time of year. Just before Christmas, when the city sparkles with holiday preparations. My wife and I are going to hear the Bach Christmas Oratorio in the Musikverein, but we leave the hotel early to visit one of the many Christmas markets strategically located throughout the former Imperial capital. A site on Google earlier told me that December markets in Austria date back to1294 and there are 25 of them in Vienna alone.
We walk to the Kristkindlmarkt―the Christ Child Market―in the Karlsplatz, which we know well, since we used to live nearby. I indulge in several mugs of Glühwein to warm me up and this give me a pleasant buzz, and tide over my appetite with a Debrecziner and a Fladenbrot, a kind of artisanal flat bread. I vaguely remember that my parents took my brother, Peter, my sister, Clara and me to one of these markets when we were staying in Vienna after we escaped from Hungary in early December, 1956. This was magic for a seven year old, as was everything in this new world on the other side of the Iron Curtain. I try to capture some of this wonder in FOR THE CHILDREN, the memoir of my family’s escape and immigration to Canada which will soon be published by Editions Dedicaces.
Post-war Vienna had just been reunited in 1955; before that it had been a divided city, like Berlin, under the occupation of the four Allied powers. The city was still rebuilding, and this dark and troubled era of Vienna right after the war is marvelously captured in the Carol Reed film, THE THIRD MAN, based on Graham Greene’s novel.
The thriller I wrote when I lived in Vienna, TWISTED REASONS―just published by Deux Voiliers Publishing―was influenced by that book and movie. Vienna was then―and going back right through to the days of the Austro-Hungarian monarchy―as it is now, a very cosmopolitan city. In the book, I try to capture both the elegance of the former Imperial capital and the dark and seedy side of an entrepȏt bustling with illicit trade in drugs, arms, flesh and information. I also weave in some of my own family’s experiences during the Cold War. The plot is based on the reality of the ease with which nuclear material could disappear today from some of the former secret Soviet cities, for example Mayak, where Stalin developed the bomb, often at an immense expense of human life and suffering and environmental devastation. There is little known about much of this, since to this day Russia remains secretive on these issues.
The book therefore is not just an exciting thriller of international crime, but also an examination of how and why people do evil. It is also an exposé of some of the lingering horrific wrongs of Stalin’s decadent régime, and a look at the corrupt successor system still in place today.