Profiles of U.S. ambassadors, a mystery set in England, and more recently released works by local authors
Covering the U.S. State Department for the Los Angeles Times since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, Paul Richter noticed that a small group of skilled career diplomats was often sent to the toughest places. “These people were told again and again that they had to improvise. These were unstable situations where Washington hadn’t figured out a policy to pursue, so they said the ambassadors had to figure it out,” says the Chevy Chase resident and author of The Ambassadors: America’s Diplomats on the Front Lines (Simon & Schuster, November 2019). Richter profiles J. Christopher Stevens, the U.S. ambassador to Libya who was killed in a 2012 attack on the U.S. Special Mission in Benghazi, and others who served in Afghanistan, Pakistan and Syria.
Martha Grimes says she’s always been fond of reading British detective stories and has visited the United Kingdom about 20 times. “From the first time I went to England, I really liked the customs, the speech patterns…the whole setting,” says the Bethesda author who sets most of her books in England, including The Old Success (Atlantic Monthly Press, November 2019). In this latest installment in the mystery series featuring Scotland Yard detective Richard Jury, three detectives team up to solve a murder that occurred off the Cornish coast, another at a country estate and a third at Exeter Cathedral. “I never have an outline,” Grimes says. “If I did, I’d know everything before I started, and I think that would be boring.”
Bethesda’s Eric Lichtblau was fascinated when he heard of Freddy Mayer, a German-born Jew who fled Nazi Germany as a teenager in 1938 and returned as an American soldier who provided intelligence to the Allies. He interviewed the 94-year-old Mayer and pieced together details of his life with letters and military records in Return to the Reich: A Holocaust Refugee’s Secret Mission to Defeat the Nazis (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, October 2019). “At every turn, the story was so improbable,” Lichtblau says. “Most of us would never be able to jump out of that plane down a mountain in the middle of winter, much less go into an officer’s club posing as a Nazi, or a factory posing as a French electrician. It shows such remarkable calm under fire. It was really an inspiration.”
Constance Sayers’ debut novel, A Witch in Time (Redhook, February 2020), is a romantic, historical fantasy about a woman who travels through time to relive a love affair in 19th century Paris, 1930s Hollywood, 1970s Los Angeles and present-day Washington, D.C. “It’s a story about a curse gone wrong and all the implications for a woman who is basically catapulted through four lifetimes with two men—one is a supernatural being and one is not. It’s almost like a love triangle through four different lifetimes,” the Kensington author says. Sayers, who is a media executive, worked in the evenings for two years to complete the book and credits fellow writers and editors she met at The Writer’s Center in Bethesda for supporting her through the process.