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text 2015-06-12 01:31
When an Israeli Author Leaps into the Unknown

Last week I signed a contract with an American-based literary agent. My new book, a suspense novel set in both Israel and Bulgaria, is on submission.

I describe myself as an American-born, Israeli author who writes about Bulgaria. My first novel, the self-published Valley of Thracians, was set entirely in Bulgaria. InThe Burgas Affair, the action takes place in two countries I love - Israel and Bulgaria.

You probably have guessed why I write about, and love Israel. I was born in Sioux City, Iowa, and made aliyah with my family at the age of fifteen. I finished high school in Jerusalem, served for three years in the Israel Defense Forces, was a founding member of Kibbutz Yahel in the Arava Valley. I married Jodie, who had moved to Israel from Ithaca, New York, and together we began raising a family. We eventually moved to Moshav Neve Ilan, outside Jerusalem, where we continue to live today.

But why Bulgaria?

My wife and I received an amazing once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and we made the most of it. My position at a Ramat Gan-based marketing company was relocated to Sofia, Bulgaria, on a two-year contract. My company markets online gaming websites and software – only in countries where it is legal to play these games. Our primary market is Europe, and therefore certain management positions needed to be physically located in Europe.

We immediately fell in love with Bulgaria. The food was different and very tasty. The culture was fascinating. The history, both the ancient glory of the Thracians that led me to mention them in my novel, and the more modern dark years of Bulgaria's communist regime – it was captivating. We traveled all over the country, from the Black Sea shores to the mountain villages. We made many Bulgarian friends. I could talk to you about Bulgaria for hours.

The one thing I must mention is the special role Bulgarians played in rescuing their Jewish citizens during World War Two. Although Bulgaria sided with the Nazis, its entire community of some 55,000 Jews survived the Holocaust. Because of the bravery of Bulgarian politicians, clergymen, and ordinary citizens, Bulgarian Jews survived. Unfortunately, this amazing story has a sad element – over 11,000 Jews from the Bulgarian-controlled territories of Macedonia and northern Greece were sent to the camps and died.

Most of Bulgaria's Jewish community made aliyah shortly after the establishment of the State of Israel. There is a small, active Jewish community in Sofia. The synagogue there is an amazing building. Bulgaria is a strong supporter and ally of Israel. Living there, we felt very comfortable and never hid the fact that we were Israelis or that we were Jews.

We visited Bulgaria this month. Our trip to Sofia was like going home. We saw our friends. I spoke a bit of broken Bulgarian that the locals understood – they appreciated my efforts to speak their language. And we drove into the Rhodopi Mountains, a beautiful area near the Greek border that I will be writing about for months to come.

I am not a travel guide – I am a writer. I love to write about Bulgaria in efforts to convince western tourists to visit that country. Bulgaria is stunning, different, and totally affordable. I wish I could show you the country personally. I love Bulgaria!

Coming back to Israel from our two years abroad, I became inspired to write, and in particular, I wanted to write about Bulgaria. But, I also love to write about Israel, the Jewish holidays, and I review books written by Israeli authors, especially those just translated into English for the first time.

I can proudly say that The Times of Israel became my first home for articles, book reviews, and even humorous pieces. My debut blog appeared on these virtual pages on July 12, 2012. This is my 77th article to be published at The Times of Israel.

I now write for the Huffington Post, the Jerusalem Post, the Oslo Times, and a number of other online media sites.

If you want to know more about my upcoming novel, or the identity of the agent who will help me find a home for that book, you can read the short announcement here on my personal blog. This article is not about that, and it's not an attempt to get you to buy my first book. (Although I won't complain if you do.)

This article is about the sky. This article is about how far someone who studied English in a Jerusalem school, and who served in the IDF, and who raised three young children on a very young kibbutz, and who continued to dream and dream for years and years – how far that person can go with his writing.

The sky's the limit.

Source: ellisshuman.blogspot.co.il
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review 2014-12-28 09:31
Not supposed to happen in America

Hezbollah and Mossad agents battle it out on the streets of America in Doha 12, a novel inspired by the 2010 assassination in Dubai of Hamas commander Mahmoud Al-Mabhouh.

This time, Hezbollah terrorist Masoud Talhami has been murdered in Doha, Qatar. Twelve people are suspected of involvement in the hit. Their identities are known, yet, the names appearing on their passports actually belong to innocent people. Now Hezbollah seeks revenge for what it assumes to be a Mossad operation.

"If these people let Mossad use their identities, they're part of the same gang," charges Fadi Alayan, leader of the Hezbollah hit team.

One by one, the innocent included among the Doha 12 fall victim to very strange, tragic accidents. Soon there are only a few Americans left. Jake Eldar is a bookstore manager in Brooklyn and Miriam Schaffer is employed as a legal secretary in Philadelphia. United when they realize their lives are endangered, Jake and Miriam can't convince the police that the plot against them is real.

In what develops into breathtaking cat and mouse pursuit, Mossad agents chase Hezbollah operatives across the American urban landscape. "Mossad isn't supposed to operate in America," notes one, but nobody is following the rules. Telling the FBI that "a Hezbollah direct-action team is going to start killing American citizens because we used their names" is "crazy" says another.

Doha 12 (Wombat Group, January 2013) by Lance Charnes is an action-packed thriller in which one exciting climax follows another. Firefights shoot up crowded train stations, cemeteries, and even Temple Emanu-El in New York City. Agents may wear bullet-proof vests, but no one can escape injury in a powerful battle in which it is difficult to determine which side is good and which is evil.

The Mossad leans "heavily on its sayanim, the civilians who helped it around the world," writes the author. "It was the only way an organization with a mere 1200 members could maintain a global reach." The Israelis portrayed in the book ring true; everyone has a personal tragedy in his or her past, a reason to avenge Hezbollah terror.

Lead characters Jake and Miriam, drawn together by absurd, violent circumstances, are "two people screwed by the system, first in Israel, now in their adopted home." They swiftly realize that the only way they can stay alive is by personally fighting back against impending terror. It's a bit of a stretch to see how the two transform themselves into badass "I can save the world" heroes, yet as readers, we certainly understand their motives. Will Jake and Miriam succeed in escaping Hezbollah's revenge, or will they be the last of the Doha 12 to lose their lives as the thriller reaches its explosive conclusion?

Lance Charnes has been an Air Force intelligence officer, information technology manager, computer-game artist, set designer, Jeopardy! contestant, and is now an emergency management specialist. He has training in architectural rendering, terrorist incident response and maritime archaeology, although not all at the same time. Doha 12 is his first novel.

Buy Doha 12 and read it now!

Source: ellisshuman.blogspot.co.il/2014/12/not-supposed-to-happen-in-america.html
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review 2014-08-13 09:22
The Very Real Question Asked in "The Lie"
The Lie: A Novel - Hesh Kestin

If you are morally opposed to the use of torture during interrogations, how far would you go if a loved one's life was at stake?

Cigarettes abound on the pages of The Lie, the new suspense novel by Hesh Kestin. There are cigars as well, and a trail of butts left by Hezbollah terrorists. Almost all of the characters in this book smoke, and those who don’t, get smoke blown in their faces. Or lit butts held to their chests.

Dahlia Barr, a controversial human rights attorney who regularly defends Palestinians in Israeli courtrooms is offered a position she finds hard to refuse. She transfers to the police force to serve as Special Adviser for Extraordinary Measures, where she will be able to prevent the torturing of suspects during interrogations.

"I could make a difference," Dahlia says. But she never gets a chance because her 20-year-old son, Ari, a lieutenant in the Israel Defense Forces, is kidnapped by Hezbollah and whisked over the border to Lebanon. Hezbollah offers to release Ari and a second Israeli soldier in exchange for Edward Al-Masri, a Canadian professor and Palestinian rights activist with whom Dahlia has a long, tortuous history.

Al-Masri is apparently key to the prisoner exchange, but he's not talking. Not yet, anyways. Perhaps if extraordinary measures are applied, valuable, life-saving information could help Israel fight Hezbollah. It's up to Dahlia, with her son's life at stake, to decide how to act in these most unusual circumstances.

The Lie (Scribner, March 2014) is a suspenseful read, with short chapters that keep the action moving at an incredibly fast pace. In her starring role, Dahlia Barr comes across as a multifaceted character, struggling with both a pending divorce and a troublesome relationship with her mother. Unfortunately, Al-Masri and Ari, in their supporting roles, are not as fleshed out or as credible.

Hesh Kestin, an eighteen-year veteran of the Israel Defense Forces, was for two decades a foreign correspondent reporting from the Middle East on war, international security, terrorism, arms dealing, espionage, and global business. The father of five, Kestin lives on Long Island in New York. 

Buy The Lie and read it now!

Source: ellisshuman.blogspot.co.il/2014/08/the-very-real-question-asked-in-lie.html
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