I'm pleased to welcome M.J. Malcolm, author of Heart of Lies, to my blog today. She will be telling us a little about her family's history, which is what inspired her to write her debut novel. Also, she has graciously offered to give a copy of her book to one of you! Look at the end of the post to see how you can have a chance to win this book.
My husband’s grandfather was born in Budapest in 1901, so that’s where I began my research. I discovered that when World War I ended, with Hungary on the losing side, the country fell into complete economic and social chaos. Soviet Russia capitalized on the mess by helping to set up a communist government led by a Hungarian of Jewish heritage. This regime used extreme violence to counter any resistance to its “reforms,” and the whole disaster ended with a Romanian invasion. The Hungarian war hero Admiral Nicholas Horthy finally seized control, but some of his followers sought vengeance for the “red terror” as well as the empire’s demise, so they began slaughtering communists, Jews (communist or not) and others deemed “intellectuals.” During this “white terror” they killed an estimated 5,000 people.
The events in Hungary after World War I struck me as a tragic precursor to the Holocaust, so I chose that period as the starting point for Heart of Lies. Then I looked for an actual historical event that I could incorporate as the reason for my main character, Leo Hoffman, to have to flee to Shanghai. I came across a Hungarian counterfeiting scandal that had international ramifications; it was the perfect catalyst for Leo’s escape, and the timing enabled me to move the action to Shanghai and write about that amazing place during its “golden age.”
Within a few years Shanghai became an unofficial country within a country. From the 1840′s, until just before World War II, it was the only place in the civilized world where you could enter without a passport or a visa, and just set up shop. Whether your business was legitimate or completely criminal did not matter. Opium smugglers mingled easily with bankers and industrialists. Chinese peasants froze to death on streets where Europeans threw sable covers on their cars to keep the interior from getting too cold. Although much of this changed when the Japanese invaded in 1937 over 20,000 European Jews managed to survive the Holocaust by making their way to Shanghai before and during World War II.
In fact Liu Tue-sheng, Leo’s nemesis, is based on the very real gangster Du Yue-sheng. He was an important member of the Green Gang, a notorious Shanghai Triad that functioned like the Mafia, only worse. The compromises that Leo makes to try and protect his family end up getting him into trouble with Liu, and force him to make some very difficult choices when he wants to get his family out of Shanghai on the eve of the Japanese invasion."
Now, for the GIVEAWAY!
For your chance to win a copy of Heart of Lies, leave a comment and tell me: Have you ever been to Shanghai? If so, what did you think of it? If not, do you think you would ever like to visit that city?
Don't forget to leave your email address in your comment. This giveaway will end at midnight EST on October 3, 2010. I will contact the winner on October 4, 2010 and that person will have 48 hours to reply with their address in order to receive the book.