Nearly all stories have a general platform from which to launch into exclusivity. I wanted to write something that I felt hadn’t been done or at least something different to what I’ve read. Of course, there’s no such thing as a tale that hasn’t been told. All you can hope for is that you might create a unique twist. Mine was a simple enough idea. I would present a set of non-western characters. How is that different? Well, in the novels I’ve trawled my way through over the years I’ve found that even in the most exotic of settings there is an American or European hero to sort out the mess. If you read Birth of an Assassin you’ll see that needn’t be the case.
But what stage could I use for my story and what genre? Being a thriller addict the genre went without saying, but what about setting? Well, I have an uncle by marriage whose parents fled anti-Semitism under late 19th century czarism. My uncle passed on little odds and ends relating to the hardships Jewish people had at that time and I thought there might be a story waiting to be told.
I researched the period and there were lots of events that could easily be weaved into a single fictitious account. I’ll give a couple of examples to explain what I mean:
In the second half of the 19th century, a Jewish boy was conscripted into the army to fight on one of the many battlefronts against The Ottoman Empire. The boy was killed and tsarist police operating in The Pale, a barren stretch of land where the Jewish population was forced to live, came to the house of the boy. They didn’t tell the parents he’d been killed in action. No, they said he was a deserter, and that the family was left responsible for his crime. The parents were fined several hundred roubles. Their belongings were sold for 40 roubles, leaving the family with a debt of, yes several hundred roubles. This became ritual; they rebuilt and their belongings were taken and sold as payment towards the fine.
In the early 1900’s a Russian child was murdered. The Jewish population was blamed and a series of state supported pogroms followed, ending in Kishinev in 1903 where the worst of the persecutions took place. Later, it turned out the child’s family had been responsible for the murder – and police had covered it up.
I could go on, there were a multitude of travesty’s over many years. Enough to say, I collected the makings of a story, but looking into that period, I saw no believable way that anyone Jewish could possibly come out on top, so I worked my way through Russian history looking for a home for my plot. It wasn’t until reaching post war Soviet Russia that I found a window. That isn’t to say my hero wins out in Birth of an Assassin, but I needed a place where he at least had a chance. Unfortunately I had to take my protagonist’s religion away, but his burning ambition to be a part of the Red Army wouldn’t have worked with it.
So, I had someone to represent the Jewish population. Now, I needed a core of anti-Semitism: along came Otto to provide the conduit for my story.
If you read Birth of an Assassin you can be forgiven for not seeing my analogy. When all’s said and done it’s simply an adventure thriller with goodies and baddies. And if I were to itemise now what happens in the book against its past equivalent I would be giving you a series of spoilers.
Set against the backdrop of Soviet, post-war Russia, Birth of an Assassin follows the transformation of Jez Kornfeld from wide-eyed recruit to avenging outlaw. Amidst a murky underworld of flesh-trafficking, prostitution and institutionalized corruption, the elite Jewish soldier is thrown into a world where nothing is what it seems, nobody can be trusted, and everything can be violently torn from him.
Genre - Thriller, Crime, Suspense
Rating – R
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