WELCOME AILEEN G. BARON
AILEEN G. BARON
Aileen G. Baron has spent her life unearthing the treasures and secrets left behind by previous civilizations. Her pursuit of the ancient has taken her to distant countries—Israel, Turkey, Jordan, Greece, Britain, China and the Yucatan—and to some surprising California destinations, like Newport Beach, California and the Mojave Desert.
She taught for twenty years in the Department of Anthropology at California State University, Fullerton, and has conducted many years of fieldwork in the Middle East, including a year at the American School of Oriental Research in Jerusalem as an NEH scholar and director of the overseas campus of California State Universities at the Hebrew University. She holds degrees from several universities, including the University of Chicago and a Ph.D. in Anthropology from the University of California, Riverside.
The first book in the Lily Sampson series, A FLY HAS A HUNDRED EYES, about the murder of a British archaeologist in 1938 in British mandated Palestine, won first place in the mystery category at both the Pikes Peak Writers conference and the SouthWest Writers Conference. THE TORCH OF TANGIER, the second novel in the Lily Sampson series, takes place in Morocco during WW II, when Lily is recruited into the OSS to work on the preparations for the Allied invasion of North Africa, Operation Torch. In THE SCORPION’S BITE, Lily is doing an archaeological survey of Trans-Jordan for the OSS.
Connect with Ms. Baron at these sites:
Q&A with Aileen Baron
Do you draw from personal experiences and/or current events?
For A FLY HAS A HUNDRED EYES, I drew on my own experience as an archaeologist and on my passion for the mystique of Jerusalem. The story is based, in part, on an actual event. During the British Mandate of Palestine, in 1938, a famous British archaeologist, James Starkey, was murdered on his way to the opening of the Rockefeller Museum in Jerusalem. He was noted, incidentally, for his stinginess, his surly disposition, and lack of sympathy for his workers. The British police never bothered to find out who killed him, and the story going around was that he was so nasty that nobody cared. Eventually, failure to look into his murder became a standing joke among archaeologists. In the field, students working on sites in the Near East would sometimes say to their professors, “Don’t work us too hard, or we’ll pull a Starkey on you,” and start laughing. So for my first mystery, I had a ready-made murder to solve.
Jerusalem was in chaos in the summer of 1938. Terrorists roamed the countryside, the British were losing control of the Mandate of Palestine, and the atmosphere was fraught with conflict, as Europe prepared for World War II. With this backdrop of Palestinian and international tension, I changed the name of the murdered archaeologist, and let my imagination take off from there.
Do you start with the conclusion and plot in reverse or start from the beginning and see where the story line brings you?
I usually start by leading up to a critical incident, like Starkey’s murder, and try to find a satisfactory resolution, weaving in scenes, going back and forth in my mind until a story takes form.
Your routine when writing? Any idiosyncrasies?
When I am into writing a book, wonderful words and phrases tumble into my head while I’m in the bathtub. Sometimes by the time I get out of the tub and dry off, the words and phrases are gone, or not as wonderful as I thought. On the other hand, I do my best thinking while on the freeway. I sort of zone out and drive automatically, just following the car in front of me. Once I followed a car into someone’s driveway in Pasadena. I felt like a fool, looked around and said, “Where am I?” like someone coming out of a blackout.
Is writing your full time job? If not, may I ask what you do by day?
I began writing mysteries after I retired from my full time job as an archaeology professor at Cal State Fullerton.
Who are some of your favorite authors?
It’s hard to say. I like to read. If the book is well-written, I can get lost in it. I like Mark Twain, read everything he ever wrote. When I was a child, I adored Alice in Wonderland, and Through the Looking-glass and laughed and laughed when I read them. I still love them. The first book I read all by myself was The Last of the Mohicans, and said nothing but Ugh! for the next two weeks because I was Chingachgook. After that, I read all of Cooper’s Leather-Stocking tales. Natty Bumpo became my hero, although I sometimes conflated him with Robin Hood, because both were heroes, were extraordinary marksmen, and lived in the woods. I seem to be the exception to the rule about woman mystery writers. Nancy Drew mysteries were not my favorite reading. The mysteries I read were in the pulp magazines that my father read on his commute into the city. The Shadow knows!
My favorite mystery writers from the golden age of mystery are Raymond Chandler, for his skill with words, and of course, Agatha Christie, because she is the patron saint of archaeologists. Of current writers, I like Lawrence Bloch and Ken Follett and Daniel Silva and Rhys Bowen and others too numerous to mention.
What are you reading now?
I just started reading Dark of the Moon, a Virgil Flowers book by John Sandford.
Are you working on your next novel? Can you tell us a little about it?
I just finished working on Return of the Swallows, the next book in the Tamar Saticoy series, in which Tamar, part-time archaeological consultant for Interpol, becomes mired in the devious world of museums and the antiquities trade, ranging from Thailand to California. Tamar was first introduced and recruited by Interpol in the mystery, The Gold of Thrace, published by Poisoned Pen Press in 2010.
In Return of the Swallows, Tamar finds a burnt body while working on the salvage excavation of a burnt mud-brick wall at Mission San Juan Capistrano. Tests reveal that the body is that of a contemporary murder victim, probably a native of the Khorat Plateau in Thailand, where an archaeological site is being looted. Tamar becomes embroiled in a labyrinth of deception and danger in her attempts to identify the body of the victim at the Mission and, working with Interpol, his link to the looted Thai site.
The looting of archaeological sites can be lucrative, and has resulted in murders, as well as connections with international contraband activities. The plot of Return of the Swallows is based, in part, on a real occurrence. I was personally aware of all the details, and knew all the principals, from the archaeologist whose site had been looted to the curators in the museums that received the stolen goods. A Red Notice by Interpol involving the tie-in between the looted Thai site and several museums in the Los Angeles and Orange County areas resulted in Federal indictments.
ABOUT THE BOOK
In the summer of 1938, Jerusalem is in chaos and the atmosphere teems with intrigue. Terrorists roam the countryside. The British are losing control of Palestine as Europe nervously teeters on the brink of World War II.
Against this backdrop of international tensions, Lily Sampson, an American graduate student, is involved in a dig—an important excavation directed by the eminent British archaeologist, Geoffrey Eastbourne, who is murdered on his way to the opening of the Rockefeller Museum. Artifacts from the dig are also missing, one of which is a beautiful blue glass amphoriskos (a vial about three and a half inches long) which Lily herself had excavated. Upset by this loss, she searches for the vial—enlisting the help of the military attaché of the American consulate.
But when she contacts the British police, they seem evasive and offputting—unable or unwilling either to find the murderer or to look into the theft of the amphoriskos. Lily realizes that she will get no help from them and sets out on her own to find the vial. When she finds the victim’s journal in her tent, she assumes he had left it for her because he feared for his life.
Lily’s adventurous search for information about the murder and the theft of the amphoriskos lead into a labyrinth of danger and intrigue.
This impressive historical mystery novel has already won first place in its category at both the Pikes Peak and Southwest Writers Conferences in 2000.
READ AN EXCERPT
Published by: Aileen Baron
Publication Date: September, 2013
Number of Pages: 217
If you’d like to join in on an upcoming tour just stop by our sites and sign up today!
Follow the Tour:
I received a copy of this book, at no charge to me, in exchange for my honest review. No items that I receive are ever sold…they are kept by me, or given to family and/or friends.
I do not have any affiliation with Amazon.com or Barnes & Noble. I am an IndieBound affiliate. I am providing link(s) solely for visitors that may be interested in purchasing this Book/EBook.