Maverick archaeologist Dr. Sky Wilder has never been able to prove any of his outside-the-box fringe theories... until now. When he breaks what had been an impenetrable code, he unearths a long-buried Egyptian stone tablet in Arizona'’s Red Rock country.
Whoever possesses all three hidden tablets holds the key to locate an ancient alchemical text containing a formula for physical immortality. The bodies pile up as Wilder realizes he'’s been set-up as a pawn, caught between opposing covert agencies and secret brotherhoods that have been warring for centuries.
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Interviewer: Unseen Forces combines many different areas of interest, from alternative archaeology to remote viewing in the American military. They all combine seamlessly to form a believable plotline. Was it difficult combining these seemingly disconnected subjects, or do they have elements in common that made them ideal for each other?
Ed: I worked very hard plotting the book, and believability is important to me. The book isn't fantasy or science fiction, even though there are characters who dabble in the occult. I structure carefully--an old habit learned from my screenplay work. Mystery writers like the late Donald Westlake, who could write a novel off the cuff without plotting it out first are rare birds. In terms of characters, unusual juxtapositions intrigue me. When I stand back and look at my life, I see a pastiche of disparate elements that don't necessarily go together logically. I like dichotomies, and I think it makes for more interesting characters in fiction.
Interviewer: Any male reader who has a pulse will be enamored with your heroine, Diana Hunt. Are 60% of the CIA's female field operatives really chosen for their seductive good looks?
Ed: What I referenced in the book is that 60% of all international assassins are female. That was an Interpol statistic I came across years ago, so the percentage may be different today. I wanted Diana to have a dark past, to have been exploited by her government in a sexual way. Unattractive females don't make for very good bait in honey traps!
I did meet a former military female remote viewer. She was a career intelligence officer, both in and outside the remote viewing unit. She was no femme fatale, but an effective officer. I'm sorry to say she was tragically killed in an auto accident several years ago in Russia. The paranoid part of me would like more information about how exactly she was killed.
Interviewer: Apart from the action and conspiracy theories, your novel also deals with the very real and tragic plight of the Burmese people. I've been following the story of Aung San Suu Kyi for many years, but the drug trade in the Golden Triangle has remained largely unreported in the West. Tell us about your experiences in Thailand and Burma (Myanmar), and how it affected your novel?
Ed: I'm a sucker to support the underdog, the average guy. I'd been following the genocide against Burmese ethnic groups for a long time, and wanted to give some ink to their plight. For me, the best way to do that with veracity is to go there. I made both legal and illegal incursions into Burma, in the Golden Triangle, to see things for myself. I also spent time down in Mae Sot, what was then a very dangerous border town. I visited Burmese refugee camps on the Thai side of the border that were shelled and attacked by the Burmese army, until driven away by Thai Rangers.
In the Golden Triangle I traveled with different guides. One day in Mae Hong Son, I was told I was suspected of being DEA - not a good thing in an area where everyone is dealing dope. I was strongly advised to leave the area immediately for my own safety. I'm gratified to hear from so many readers who tell me the chapters set in Asia are their favorite part of my book.
Interviewer: Sky Wilder is a man with an interesting past. Is there a little bit of Ed Kovacs in Sky Wilder?
Ed: Perhaps I'm most like Sky Wilder in that I'm a person who, once I decide to do something, I go out and find a way to get it done. I'm decisive, methodical, and enterprising. I also have plenty of foibles, and I look forward to complicating Sky's personal life in future adventures with the kinds of problems that are the stuff of life.
Interviewer: Wilder's childhood friend, Professor Frank Bacavi, is a Navajo. How did his character evolve, and will we see more of him in the future?
Ed: Frank will play larger roles in future books; most certainly in the next one. Los Angeles is such a melting pot. In my old neighborhoods Caucasians like me were the minority, and I'm quite comfortable with that. I have mixed-race children and two former wives, both from a different race than myself. I always populate my fiction with people of color because that's how my world is populated, but a character like Frank is an ethnic whose ethnicity is immaterial. I hope he's an interesting character, who just so happens to be Navajo. He's intelligent, successful in his field, stylish to the point of vanity, and much more skeptical of paranormal stuff than Sky. I didn't want him to be any kind of stereotypical 'Indian,' but nor did I want him to be 'whitewashed.'
Interviewer: You've written quite a few screenplays. How does novel writing compare to writing for the big screen?
Ed: I learned discipline and plotting from writing screenplays and that helps me a lot with my novels. I work out the story and sub-plots in a three act structure much like I would a script. The story and plotting are of course more complex than if I had been writing a script. I write five pages, single spaced, about each main character and their backstory. In a novel you can allow a story to breathe and explore tangents. There's not much allowance for that kind of thing in screenwriting. I so enjoy writing novels that I don't care if I ever write another script.
Diana woke early, feeling jet-lagged, and tried to join Ping for the short walk to the talaat, the daily market, the largest in Mae Hong Son Province.
"Please Miss, better we walk alone."
Ping didn't want any part of the woman who had cold-cocked him, so she waited five minutes on the stairs, then descended to the streets. The mists had mysteriously returned to the region and the overcast didn't dress up the dirty concrete buildings that looked to be crumbling from poor construction. Diana detected the smell of sewage as she walked; at first faint, then powerful, then faint again, all the time blended with the sweet sharp fragrance of incense and acrid whiffs of smoked opium emanating from the opening storefronts.
The collection of individual stalls comprising the market delivered an assault on Diana's every sense. Northern style Thai "country music" blared from a cheap blaster as the less than hygienic-looking merchants hawked every consumable known to Southeast Asia: red and green chilies of all sizes and shapes neatly sorted and stacked; cut sugar cane; purple and white orchids, heaven-scent creamy white frangipani blossoms and pink lilies; ten different types of bananas and almost as many of coconuts; special northern Thai-style sausages hanging from poles; countless bins of strongly pungent Chinese medicinal herbs; row after row of homebrew liquors either packed with herbs or boiled down in vats of frogs or snakes; large and small jars of beans, nuts, seeds, powders, spices, oils, and just-grated bamboo shoots.
Smells of sweet ripe fruit, rotting garbage, piquant fish sauces and fermenting bean curd, cigarette smoke, dog excrement, fresh and rotting fish, and rancid meat seeped into her lungs, a cacophony of odors that somehow tainted her tongue with its jumbled flavor and propelled her onward into a dank, open-sided, grubby, tin-roofed building full of dry goods, designer knock-offs, and tables full of unrefrigerated freshly dressed beef, pork, chicken and game, the meats lorded over by butchers' wives who leisurely shooed flies from the exposed victuals using sticks with plastic bags tied to the end as swatters. A butcher, cheroot firmly in mouth, offered to cut a chicken in half to show Diana the quality of the innards.
She'd lost her bearings in the crush. Sweet-smiling children darted past her giggling, faces streaked with sanapka, a bone-colored powder made from the bark of a jasmine bush and believed to protect from the sun and promote a good complexion. She followed their laughter onto the street, and oriented herself to the mountaintop wat. As she turned to reenter the talaat...
"Why lover, there you are. Ready for breakfast on the lake?"
The man wore green Bermuda shorts and knee socks, a military-style shirt with epaulets, oiled-canvas Australian bush hat, day pack, and held a Thailand travel guide and a camcorder. The very cliche of a western middle-class tourist ready for the jungle. He peered at her over his neatly trimmed mustache and through heavy black plastic-framed eyeglasses, then shot her a 5000 watt smile.
"Just smile," said Wilder. "Mae Hong Son, like other border towns, is crawling with Burmese intelligence agents, undercover Thai Border Police, the occasional DEA operator, displaced ethnic rebels, smugglers of every stripe, adrenaline-junkie thrill-seekers, loose-lipped hookers, and trekkers looking to score some dope. You were noted when you first showed up the other night, but I've been under wraps. Anyway, you know I can't stand to be cooped-up indoors, so let's go have a power breakfast."
Within ten minutes Wilder and Hunt sat on the banks of Jong Kham Lake, although the appellation "lake" seemed generous, as it occupied an area only about two blocks square. A number of guesthouses, the most inexpensive kind of lodging in Thailand, circled the placid water. Two Burmese-style wats, stood sentinel side-by-side on the south end of the lake, morning sunlight igniting their gold gilt stupas. He produced a breakfast of honey cakes and two cans of Japanese coffee.
"It would be great to take another two weeks to plan our little sojourn, but aside from the fact that we don't know what Forte is up to, the long-range weather forecast suggests the rainy season might arrive early. Traveling in the dry season where we're going is tough enough. Rain makes it virtually impossible."
"I've got two main concerns: Ping and Dang," she said, sipping the tinny-tasting coffee.
"I've got about thirty more than that, but, what can I say? Ping used to be a hill tribe trek guide and he married a Lisu girl from Shan State. He speaks dialects of Lisu, Akha, Lahu and pretty good Tai Yai."
"The Shan dialect. So he knows his way around. As for Dang, he speaks Chinese and has been on a few cross-border trading mule caravans into areas close to where we're going. He's got a nose for what stinks and I'd want him on my side in an alley fight."
"But we haven't vetted them. And Dang worked in Thai intelligence."
"Mister Lampang, Tasnee's dad, vouches for them. We can't go in alone. Too chancy."
"Well..." Diana had something in mind. "We could helicopter in right to the site, fast rope down, gear following. Since travel is so tough we should have at least forty-eight hours before any bad guys show up. We grab the tablet, leave the gear and fast rope out."
"So you want the chopper pilot and the load master to know the exact location of the site? Think they'll be more trustworthy than Dang or Ping?"
"Okay, bad idea," she said, nodding. "But don't you fly rotary craft?"
"Sure, I could fly us in, but we'd need a pretty large bird for four people plus all the gear. And Google Earth hasn't been very helpful in checking out the site. But even if we had access to a spy satellite, it would be hard to know with certainty what's under the jungle canopy. We could be landing onto a heroin refinery or a methamphetamine lab. Or a Burmese army platoon. Any idea what they'd do to a couple of big-nosed white foreign devils carrying guns and commo gear? And a chopper landing would alert anyone for miles around."
"But going in by mule, we run the risk we don't even make it to the site."
"You're right. And I'm right. I don't want to walk in with Ping and Dang and pack-mules. A squad of Delta Force commandos and a Blackhawk spec-ops chopper would be nice. But we got what we got."
She nodded, then her eyes focused on someone approaching. As Sky picked up the camcorder and swept the lake vista to look more touristy, an old man, no doubt a former hill tribe dweller, walked past aimlessly, eyes glazed over with the emptiness of opium addiction. No attempt is made to rehabilitate older addicts; the official and unofficial policy is that withdrawal would do them more harm than good, so let them have their peace.
When the old addict walked out of earshot, Diana said quietly, "Look, I only said Ping and Dang were my main concerns. I wanted to talk to you about the helicopter insertion again because... I have a strong feeling we're heading into trouble."
He shrugged. "That's an understatement to say the least. Aside from the snakes, we'll be crossing through areas with all kinds of parasites, leeches, wild boar, bears, jungle cats, even tiger."
"Absolutely. And Shan State has over fifty different strains of malaria, most of which have become chloroquine- and Fansidar-resistant. There's rampant typhoid, cholera, meningitis, hepatitis, dengue fever, yellow fever, amoebic dysentery, Japanese encephalitis... even polio and leprosy. A real litany of incapacitating virus and disease. There are few good roads and the terrain is rugged. We can only take in so much medicine. So if you or I get sick--"
"About this title" may belong to another edition of this title.
Book Description Ardelyan Press, 2004. Paperback. Book Condition: New. book. Bookseller Inventory # M0976209705
Book Description Ardelyan Press, 2004. Paperback. Book Condition: New. Never used!. Bookseller Inventory # P110976209705