Excerpt from Chapter 1
Mari Quispe looked down from the peak of a hill above an archaeological dig near her home in Cusco, Peru. She was the official head of the project, largely owing the influence of her father, but she had no illusions. Few would follow her instructions without it, despite knowing she was the most knowledgeable investigator among them.
As her gaze crossed the dry expanse she saw her assistant climbing the hill toward her. She smiled down warmly. She waved a second then replaced her hand again over her thick eyebrows when the sun blinded her.
As she waited for Sandrine to walk up the rise, Mari looked off into the distance. She could see the tall rocks of Sacsayhuaman rising from the desert-like ground, some of them heavier than 100 tons. The sight of the Incan site made her smile, just anticipating what treasures she might dig for there in the future.
At last, Sandrine reached her and said without any chatty preamble, “I think we should shore up that section behind the corner.” She pointed. “I’m worried about the weight from the earth above.”
Mari nodded her agreement about the cave. “We’ve made good progress. Maybe too good.” She checked the angle of the sun. “Do you think it can wait until tomorrow, or should we clear everyone out now?”
She scrolled rapidly down a mental list of who would have to be contacted to do the work and how long it would take. She had enough men on staff to tackle it, but no one with the expertise except Sandrine and the three students. She didn’t want to spare them for that.
Sandrine read her mind. “It will wait, I’m sure. We can get a whole day in today.”
Mari thanked her and went off to find someone to take a message to town for the contractor. This high in the Andes and several miles from Cusco her cell phone was useless.
One of the local workers told her the contractor was at a small house a kilometer from the site. She trotted off to deliver it herself, reaching the shack in a few minutes. She knocked on the door and out came the man, the leathery skin on his face looking flushed from drinking too much Chicha de Jora.
She was still arguing with him, insisting over his drunken resistance that he start first thing in the morning, when a young man rushed up to her. He hadn’t bothered to knock on the open door, a serious breach of local manners. Mari suspected the reason. She turned to him, ignoring the barking coming from the contractor.
He said, “It’s collapsed! The cave!”
She rushed up the hill, her running feet barely touching the trail sloping to the dig. She rounded a turn a few minutes later to see a group of young men standing in front of the cave. She screamed, “What are you waiting for?”
Mari hustled forward to the now-blocked entrance, transformed by the cave-in to an avalanche of dirt, limestone, and shattered support beams. She tapped the stone beside the entrance with a hand pick and waited.
She heard a hollow echo, a good sign. The interior hadn’t collapsed, just the front. If Sandrine had been deeper inside she would be uninjured. Mari checked her watch. She estimated they had about two hours to dig her out before the air ran out.
Her time estimate had been too optimistic.
Three hours later it was nearly dark and everyone was exhausted. Mari was sure they were nearly through, though. They had opened up a hole big enough to admit adequate air. Everyone fed off her confidence and she refused to let up. She urged them on. An hour later, there was at last a hole large enough for a person to slide inside.
She pulled Sandrine’s upper body by the armpits between her own legs and onto her stomach, then she grabbed her around the chest. She scooted backwards, pushing with her heels, dragging her precious cargo along, careful not to bang her friend’s head on anything.
When Mari scrambled out after her, she saw Sandrine stretched out near the rubble, lying alone. The group of onlookers stood back several feet. No one was looking at the body. She was about to shout what idiots they all were but stifled it and began mouth-to-mouth resuscitation. She worked at it for a solid two minutes, then paused to examine Sandrine’s face with the flashlight.
She could see the effort was futile.[…]
“Fascinating, detailed and complex, an investigation that takes us from the present day back to 9th century Ireland.” Lili – Goodreads
“Perren’s masterfully crafted adventure story covers more than just one marine archaeologist’s discovery of a twelve hundred year old bridge. Flawlessly written and paced to take the reader on a journey of discovery with main character, Griffin Clonmac,” Gregory Lamb – Goodreads
“Jeffrey Perren has created some fine, odious villains for his protagonists to contend with even as they explore and deepen their feelings for each other.” James Ellsworth, Amazon
Where are you from? Tell us a little about yourself!
I was born in Independence, MO right around the corner from Harry Truman’s house. But then, at the time, everything there was right around the corner from Harry Truman’s house. Right now I live in Sandpoint, Idaho with my wife.
I wrote my first short story at age of 12 and went to win the Bank of America Fine Arts award at age of 17. I graduated from UCLA with a degree in philosophy and studied physics later at UC Irvine. The lure of writing soon outweighed everything, though.
Tell us about your book? How did it get started?
Well, for my latest novel, “CLONMAC’S BRIDGE” an historical mystery, my inspiration was a real-life discovery.
I’ve always been fascinated by important archeological discoveries, and I found this one particularly interesting. Maritime archaeologists aren’t common characters and they fit splendidly in the story I had in mind.
Also, it’s set in Ireland, a land I love very much. Like the main character, my mother’s ancestors were Irish and I admire the people. But mainly, I wanted to tell about individuals who strive to give their best because they love their profession.
The germ of my debut novel, “COSSCAKS IN PARIS,” came from a contemporary news clipping about the Battle of Paris in March, 1814. The hero, Breutier, was inspired by the true story of a soldier who participated in the conflict that actually led to Napoleon’s abdication, long before Waterloo.
According to the news story:
“As he was about to be taken over, this young man, keeping a cool head, jumps into a ditch filled with water, crosses it with his musket held high above, leans against a tree, ten paces from the Cossacks and, there, calmly loading his weapon several times, kills four of those savages.
The musketry from the battalion having obliged the enemy to retreat, this brave and dashing young man runs back to take his rank with his comrades who had just admired his courage.”
“DEATH IS OVERRATED” had several influences, but the chief one was an old film called DOA. The protagonist is poisoned and has 48 hours before dying to discover who gave him the fatal dose.
I spun that idea into a scientist on a caving vacation who is accused – through mistaken identity – of killing himself. He has to prove he’s neither the victim nor the murderer. That combined with my insatiable travel bug led to the characters and plot of this romantic mystery story.
How do you create your characters?
Some of them are in my mind before I start, some are inspired by real life, others by an abstract idea I want to convey. When a fictional character takes shape in my novels I have an idea right away of his or her inner self. But as the story grows, the plot thickens and subplots are needed to let that character act according to a unique personality.
What inspires and what got your started in writing?
I want readers to see in my work the view that life can be good, that we can flourish, and our thoughtful choices have a huge influence on whether or not we do. Sheer persistence in the face of obstacles over a long, often difficult period are what make great drama — and a fulfilling life, in my view. Typically, in life as opposed to literature, those hurdles are not big, dramatic one-time events. More often, they’re the day-to-day inertia of wet human cotton balls, to use a horribly mixed metaphor. Those barricades are usually held in place by small souls who, paraphrasing Mencken, fear that someone, somewhere may be happy.At heart, I’m a romantic writer – but in the 19th century sense of that term.
Where do you write? Is there something you need in order to write (music, drinks?)
In my corner, at home, in my favorite chair — and always with my cup of hot tea at hand.
How do you get your ideas for writing?
At the risk of sounding pompous, from years of long, hard thinking about what I observe in life. Sadly, in a way, it supplies a great many ideas for conflict, injustice, and tragedy. But fortunately, there’s a great deal that’s lovely and triumphal, too. I try to put it all into every story. In particular, they might come from anywhere: news stories, personal experience, historical study… just anywhere.
What do you like to read?
An absurdly wide variety. Everything from adventure and suspense or mystery to history, philosophy, and advanced science. One day it will be a nifty little Agatha Christie novel, the next a pastoral by R.F. Delderfield or an historical by Lawrence Schoonover. I also read a lot of non-fiction for interest and research. One of the latest I’ve enjoyed was a superb history of Venice by Lane.
What would your advice to be for authors or aspiring in regards to writing?
Well there is the trite but true: write every day, as many hours as you can. As importantly, I’d say: try to lead an interesting life and be a careful observer as you go. I’ve had many adventures over the years and it has helped shaped my mind and values. That can’t help but leech into your writing.
Anything else you’d like to share?
Yes, I’d like to say a very heartfelt thank you to anyone who has read and reviewed my work and to you for this interview. Also, an even larger “Thank You” to my wife, for being the divine woman she is and, yet, still choosing to spend her life with me.