Today I am pleased to bring you a special edition of my #bookhangover feature with author Adam LeBor as part of the blog tour for his latest novel, The Reykjavik Assignment.
We will look at the book in a moment but first lets find out what gets Adam all hungoverish!
Who are you and what do you do?
My name is Adam LeBor – I am a Londoner, an author and a journalist. I’ve been a foreign correspondent since the early 1990s when I moved to Budapest. I’ve written eight non-fiction books, two of which, Hitler’s Secret Bankers and City of Oranges have been shortlisted for literary prizes, and four thrillers. My latest, The Reykjavik Assignment, is the third volume in a trilogy featuring Yael Azoulay, a former Mossad agent who now works as the covert negotiator for the United Nations secretary-general.
What gives you an actual hangover?
Drink-wise – mixing spirits and wine, which I try not to do. But lately I have noticed a new type of hangover, from binge-watching series on Netflix or amazon. It’s so easy to watch three or four episodes back to back until the early hours of the morning. Then my brain is over stimulated, I can’t get to sleep and when I finally do I have over-vivid dreams and wake up feeling unsettled. Fine TV drama, like fine wine, can be too much of a good thing.
What TV programme?
I have just finished Peaky Blinders, (#ETLBW – I adore this series! A definite must watch series if you haven’t already seen it!!) which was very engrossing with realistic period settings – although it wandered off somewhat in series three where I had a sense that the writers were running out of storyline. I love political conspiracy thrillers (which is one reason why I write them). The Americans, about long-term deep-cover Russian agents in the USA, is superb, with excellent character development. The ongoing tension, resentment and on-off sexual attraction between the husband and wife brings a fantastic narrative drive. I also enjoyed Occupied, about a Russian takeover of Norway and The Man in the High Castle, which is set in a USA that lost the Second World War. Both are richly detailed and construct very convincing – and unsettling – alternative worlds.
My two favourite films are Casablanca and Reds. Both feature brave, determined but flawed heroes, who sacrifice something for a cause greater than themselves. In Casablanca, the hero is Rick, whose deep cynicism turns out to be a cover for his enduring love for a woman and belief in standing up to evil. Reds is based on a true story, the life of John Reed, an American journalist whose book Ten Days That Shook The World, is a classic account of the Russian Revolution. The film does somewhat sanitise what were brutal and bloody times, but it captures the powerful sense of idealism that a new, and more just world, was there to be built.
I don’t have one particular favourite song. For background music while writing, I have Miles Davis’ Kind of Blue on near-permanent loop. It’s familiar enough not to be intrusive, but varies enough in pace and tempo to bring some variety. I also like to write to Harold Budd and Brian Eno. Away from my desk, it has to be the classics of my youth, the great 1980s bands such as The Smiths, The Cure, Echo and the Bunnymen, Teardrop Explodes and the rest.
One of the great things about living in Budapest is that duck and goose are easily available and not especially expensive. Roast Duck or Goose leg, with onion-mashed potatoes and crispy red cabbage is pretty much unbeatable, especially in the winter – especially when accompanied by a spicy, full-bodied Hungarian red.
I love the company of all my family and friends. No hangovers there.
And finally … Which book?
Dark Star, by Alan Furst. This extraordinary novel is a kind of time travel, which takes the reader back to Europe as the continent slides towards the Second World War. “Yes,” you think as you turn the pages, “it must have been like that”. The hero is a Russian journalist who is caught up in a dangerous web of espionage and intrigue. Yet despite its dark setting – and title – Dark Star is profoundly human and uplifting. Phrases, scenes, sentences still resound for me. It’s my ultimate book hangover, but one that I love and which inspires me to write the very best books that I can.
Adam, what a great #bookhangover, thank you so much for calling round, The Americans has been on my To Watch list for ages! I really need to start it but I’m still stuck on The West Wing!
Adam’s latest novel, The Reykjavik Assignment is out now and you can grab your copy over at Amazon UK . . . but here’s the blurb to get you started . . .
UN covert negotiator, Yael Azoulay, has been sent to Reykjavik to broker a secret meeting between US President Freshwater and the Iranian president. Both parties want the violence to stop, but Yael soon realises that powerful enemies are pulling the strings. Enemies for whom peace means an end to their lucrative profit streams.
In this gripping, intelligent thriller, Adam LeBor uses insights gained from twenty-five years of frontline reporting to show us who really has the upper hand in the international game of politics.
Be sure to follow the rest of the tour this week, tomorrow is Linda’s turn !