Monday, September 27, 2010

Heart of Lies by M.L. Malcolm (guest post and GIVEAWAY!)

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.

Heart of Lies: A NovelInspired by the author’s family history, M.L. Malcolm’s first novel, Heart of Lies, tells the story of Leo Hoffman, a dashing young Hungarian with a gift for languages whose life is destroyed by WWI. When his attempt to rebuild it inadvertently embroils him in an international counterfeiting scheme, Leo escapes to with his lover to the decadent city of Shanghai, only to discover that the shadowy gangsters who control the city will not let him outrun his past.

"My mother-in-law was born in Germany. Over the years I collected many riveting anecdotes about how various members of her family had managed to escape the Nazis. One of them made it to Shanghai, a city whose history had fascinated me ever since I visited it as a tourist back in 1988. This incredible family history provided the makings of a great book, but I didn’t really want to write a WWII story, so I looked for a way to explore those experiences in a meaningful way within a different historical context.

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.”

In the 1840′s, the crumbling Manchu (Qing) Dynasty signed treaties with several European countries, including England, France, and America, opening up the walled city of Shanghai to foreign trade. On the heels of these agreements came “territoriality” privileges, which meant that citizens of the treaty countries, while in Shanghai, did not live under the jurisdiction of China. They were governed by the laws of their own countries, and the regulations set down by the Shanghai Municipal Council. “One missionary said, “If God lets Shanghai survive, then He owes an apology to Sodom and Gomorrah.”

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."

Although born in New York, M.L. Malcolm spent most of her childhood in Florida. Her education gradually brought her back north, as she earned degrees from Emory University and Harvard Law School. However, after practicing law for three years, M.L. determined that "she and the law were not meant for each other," and she is now a self-described "recovering attorney."

M.L. has won several awards for her fiction, including special recognition in the prestigious Lorian Hemingway International Short Story Competition, and a silver medal from ForeWord Magazine for Best Historical Fiction Book of the Year 2009. She has also amassed an impressive hat collection (and yes, she does wear them). Her novel, Heart of Lies, was published in June of 2010 by Harper Collins; the sequel, Heart of Deception, will be released in April.

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.

1 comment:

Brenda said...

Never been to Shanghai, and probably will never have the chance to visit it. Thats why I love reading books, I get to visit and never leave the comfort of my home. Count me in on this giveaway.