Today it is my pleasure to feature The Burgas Affair by Ellis Shuman, which includes a fantastic Q&A with the author, info about the book and Ellis Shuman, and of course my review. Enjoy!
About the Author
Ellis Shuman was born in Sioux City, Iowa, and immigrated to Israel as a teenager. He completed high school in Jerusalem and served for three years in the Israeli army. Along with his wife, Jodie, he was a founding member of Kibbutz Yahel. After working for several years in the hotel industry, he today writes and edits online marketing content. In the years 2009 – 2010, his job was relocated to Sofia, Bulgaria.
Ellis’s writing has appeared in The Times of Israel, The Huffington Post, The Jerusalem Post, Israel Insider, and on a wide range of Internet websites. He is the author of a collection of short stories, The Virtual Kibbutz (2003) and two novels, Valley of Thracians (January 2013) and The Burgas Affair (October 2017).
Ellis lives with his wife, children, and grandchildren on Moshav Neve Ilan, outside Jerusalem. He writes about Bulgaria, Israel, books, travel, and the craft of writing on his blog:
Visit Ellis Shuman Writes ellisshuman.blogspot.com
Follow @ellisshuman on Twitter, ellisshumanauthor on Facebook or on Goodreads Ellis Shuman
About the book
She’s an Israeli data analyst. He’s a headstrong Bulgarian detective. Together they must track down those responsible for a horrific bombing.
In the wake of a deadly terrorist attack at Burgas Airport in Bulgaria, Israeli and Bulgarian intelligence agencies launch a joint investigation. Detective Boyko Stanchev on the police task force teams up with Ayala Navon, a young Israeli intelligence analyst on her first overseas assignment.
The two must establish whether the terrorists were assisted by a Bulgarian crime organization in laying the groundwork for the attack. It should be a routine investigation, but shadows of the past keep interfering.
Boyko’s interactions with a crime boss pursuing a vendetta against him threaten to throw him off track. Ayala’s pursuit of the terrorists and their accomplices brings up painful memories of a family tragedy.
Boyko and Ayala form a shaky alliance, one that evolves into growing cooperation and affection as they desperately race against time to uncover who was behind the Burgas bombing.
The Burgas Affair is a fictional account of the aftermath of a very real terrorist attack. On July 18, 2012, a deadly explosive rocked a tourist bus at Burgas Airport, killing five Israelis and their Bulgarian bus driver. The terrorists responsible for this murderous attack have never been brought to justice.
Q&A with Ellis Shuman
Before we get down to business (i.e. talking about your book) I would like to ask a few questions I call ‘Breaking the Ice.’ (readers love to get to know all about their favourite and new authors)
The last book you read? (Inquisitive bookworms would like to know) The last book I read and thoroughly enjoyed was His Bloody Project by Graeme Macrae Burnet, a historical thriller set in the Scottish Highlands of the 1800s. This is not the kind of book I usually read! I enjoy reading Israeli and Bulgarian fiction, when translated into English. And to pass the time on my train commute to work, I read suspense thrillers that are easy to put down, and even easier to forget.
Books or authors who have inspired you to put pen to paper? When I particularly enjoy reading a book by an author, I will eagerly look for all the other books they have written. As a youth I read all the novels of Kurt Vonnegut. I have also read the books of John Irving and I have a bookshelf filled with all the works of Haruki Murakami.
Now let’s talk about The Burgas Affair!
What was your inspiration for The Burgas Affair? I was born in the United States but I have lived in Israel since I was a teenager. My entire adult life has been in Israel – serving in the Israeli army; being a founding member of a kibbutz; raising a family; and working in the hotel industry and in online marketing. Except for two years, when my job was relocated to Sofia, Bulgaria.
During the time I lived in Sofia, I fell in love with Bulgaria, with its culture, nature, history, and people. I realized that most Westerners have no knowledge of Bulgaria whatsoever. This is a shame, I thought, because there is so much to see and do in Bulgaria. Most of my writing these days, both fiction and non-fiction, is based on my experiences there. I hope that it will introduce people to the country and encourage them to visit.
The explosive and emotional beginning of the book is based on a real terrorist attack. Did you pick this one in particular because of the link between Israel and Bulgaria, and the parallels to your own life? (Perhaps not the attack, but the countries) Having grown up in Israel where, unfortunately, suicide bombings and terrorist attacks are an ever-present security danger, I assumed Bulgaria to be a completely safe place to live. That is why the terrorist attack at Burgas Airport was so upsetting to me. I read every media report about the bombing and the investigation in its aftermath. I envisioned a joint Bulgarian-Israeli investigation and the end result was my novel, The Burgas Affair.
The blurb makes a point of reminding readers that no perpetrator has ever been punished for the attack in Burgas, unfortunately this happens far too often. Was it important to you to remind people of what appears to be a lack of interest in bringing certain criminals to justice depending on who is targeted? The fact that no one was ever held accountable for the terrorist attack gave me quite a bit of creative leeway. I was able to imagine the things that would be investigated and I came up with a fictional motive for the attack. But, as in real life, my novel concludes with an ambiguous ending. In real life, not all crimes are solved. There are not always happy endings. This was what I wanted to express in my writing.
One of the things I enjoyed most about The Burgas Affair is the vivid imagery you create when it comes to the surroundings featured in the book. It is almost as if the reader is there in Bulgaria with the characters. Do you think readers connect better to a story when they have great visual prompts? For me, the location of the story was almost as important as the plot. I envisioned the location (Bulgaria) as a character that had a role to play. Ayala had never previously been to Bulgaria and we see the country for the first time through her inquisitive eyes. If readers come away with a deeper understanding of Bulgaria, I will have achieved my goal.
The relationship between Boyko and Ayala is a driving force in The Burgas Affair. Why do they connect in such a strong way? Both of the main characters in the novel are flawed individuals, troubled by traumas in their past. Boyko is a headstrong, haughty detective who prefers to work independently while Ayala, an inexperienced data analyst on her first assignment outside Israel, sees solving the case as a way to resolve her own personal matters. Their joint investigation changes them and their outlook on life. Hopefully for the better.
This is the most important question for readers. Is this a standalone novel or will we be seeing more of Ayala or Boyko again? The ending of the novel leaves it open to a sequel. It is quite possible that Ayala and/or Boyko will return in my writing in the future!
Thank you for answering all my questions, even the odder ones!
The book starts off with a brutal terrorist attack, which is based on a real terrorist attack that took place in July of 2012 at Burgas Airport. A bomb was placed and detonated on a bus, and the blast subsequently killed five Israelis and the Bulgarian bus driver. No one was ever held accountable for the attack or the deaths, which is unfortunately a tragic reality when it comes to terrorist attacks and also crimes in general. This means the loved ones who are left behind never get any closure let alone any kind of justice.
One of Shuman’s strengths and indeed I would consider it a talent, is the way he describes the surroundings. The way he can evoke vivid imagery in the mind’s eye of the reader. The reader sees and experiences Bulgaria through his words and emotional connection. It made me want to wander the streets and take in the history and architecture. Not every author can evoke that kind of response.
In a way I think Shuman has actually described the way the authorities may have gone about their investigation. The difficulty of cooperating with foreign agencies, whilst being burdened by the rules and bureaucracy of the country the attack happened in, and simultaneously trying to find justice for the victims.
Regardless of all of those obstacles Boyko and Ayala are drawn to each other, perhaps because of the differences between them. At times it felt as if the budding romance was distracting from the criminal investigation, however it did open up avenues for further collaborations between the two of them.
Shuman reels the reader in with a stunning and equally shocking first chapter. It is deceptively happy until the innocence is shattered within moments. Although I think there needs to be a better balance between the descriptive scenes and the dialogues, in a sense that the latter is sometimes a little disjointed, I think this unusual duo could make another appearance. Hopefully we will be reading more by Shuman in the future.
Buy The Burgas Affair at Amazon Uk, at Amazon com or go to Goodreads for any other retailer.
Buy Valley of Thracians at Amazon Uk (debut novel) or at Amazon com
Buy The Virtual Kibbutz at Amazon Uk (short stories) or at Amazon com