J. SYDNEY JONES
J. Sydney Jones is the author of over a dozen books of fiction and nonfiction, including four novels of the Viennese Mystery series, The Empty Mirror, Requiem in Vienna, The Silence, and The Keeper of Hands. He lived for many years in Vienna and has written several other books about the city, including the narrative history, Hitler in Vienna: 1907-1913, the popular walking guide, Vienna walks, and the thriller, Time of the Wolf. Syd has also lived and worked as a correspondent and freelance writer in Paris, Florence, Molyvos, and Donegal. He and his wife and son now live on the coast of Central California.
I've always loved both reading and writing thrillers and mysteries, and I have an abiding passion for history. I lived in Vienna for almost twenty years and have been researching the history of that city, especially the turn of the 20th century, for even longer. I had written several nonfiction books on Vienna, and I finally decided to put all of this together in the Viennese Mysteries series.
My Vienna series has a hook that helps me to come up with story lines. Each of the books features one or more of the luminaries of Vienna 1900--and there is an ample supply of those folks in the arts, literature, sciences, music, politics, philosophy--you name it. These real-life characters force me to build my story with a close eye to the historical record. Thus, it is not so much a matter of coming up with new ideas for the series, as it is culling and refining the wealth of stuff available to me.
For the first in the series, The Empty Mirror, I have the painter Gustav Klimt accused of being a serial murderer, a tale that morphs into a thriller dealing with royal assassinations. The second in the series, Requiem in Vienna, finds my fictional private inquiries agent, Karl Werthen, and his sidekick, real-life father of criminology, Hanns Gross, hired to protect the composer Gustav Mahler from attacks on his life. Book three in the series, The Silence, features the ten-year-old future philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein, the modernist architect, Otto Wagner, and the demagogic mayor of Vienna, Karl Lueger, in a tale of political chicanery and personal vendetta.
The Keeper of Hands was published in the U.K. by Severn House at the end of February 2013. It features literary Vienna (Arthur Schnitzler and others), a famous fictional madam, and the pacifist writer, Bertha von Suttner (who convinced Alfred Nobel to establish the prize named after him) all caught up in an espionage thriller.
My cast of regulars not only includes Werthen and Gross but also Werthen's very capable wife, Berthe. The books are set about a year apart, so that I can also use the back story of the domestic life of Werthen and Berthe as an anchor for the entire series. In essence, I have two story lines in each book--the mystery-thriller that forms the bass line, and the marriage and working lives of Werthen and Berthe.
I was fortunate to live in Vienna in a time when it was still Central Europe. In the late 1960s, Vienna still felt and showed the effects of WWII and harkened back to an even earlier time. I remember as a student waking in the pre-dawn to the clopping of hooves on cobbles as horse-powered wagons brought fresh milk into town. There was a rawness and a faded elegance to the city that I loved. Gone now, of course, in the modern Eurozone. But I have that breath from the past in me and use it with each of the novels in the Viennese Mysteries. There is also the research--I love that part of the process and I indulge myself with it for several months with each new instalment before getting into manuscript. I also spend hours and hours living in the photographs and the newspapers of the time. Not that long ago, doing such archival research would have necessitated a trip to Vienna, but so much of it is online now. And for accuracy, I also do beta testing of my manuscripts with a small and very discerning group of readers as familiar with and enamored of Vienna 1900 as I am.
I have a story arc for the Viennese Mysteries that takes my characters up to the first years of World War I. The series opener was set in 1898; I am currently working on book five, which is set in 1901. So I think I'll stay busy with this series for a number of years yet.
I also have several stand alone projects--thrillers set just after World War II and in the days before World War I, and one just after the reunification of Germany. Like I say, I love thrillers, mysteries, and history.
Visit the J.Sydney Jones at his home page:
or at his blog, Scene of the Crime:
The Keeper of Hands, due out in England on February 28, 2013, is available at: http://www.amazon.co.uk/The-Keeper-Hands-Viennese-Mystery/dp/0727882694
or as of June 1, 2013 in the U.S. at: