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John Childress

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My Fascination with Historical Thrillers

Posted on November 19th, 2012 by John Childress

In the mid 1990’s my wife and I decided to buy a second home in France.  My wife, being French, wanted to have a second home so our children (not yet born) could spend time in France and learn the language properly.  My criterion was it had to be near the mountains and the ocean, her criteria was that it not be too near her mother, who lives in Bordeaux.  So we looked for a major airport in the south of France, landed on Toulouse, got a map and drew a circle that represented about an hour drive from the airport.

We then contacted real estate agents in the region and fully expected to have many lovely weekends in the south of France as we leisurely searched for the “right” place.

Needless to say, we found the perfect place the very first weekend.  A lovely 11th Century stone mini-Chateau on top of a hill about 10km outside the village of Limoux. My wife was excited because this region, the Languedoc, was full of history of the crusades, the Cathars, the Inquisition, and historic ruined castles and fortresses on the tops of mountains.  And the food and wine are great.

My wife tried to convince me that the history was really interesting and worth learning, but, being an arrogant and naive American at the time (less naive now, hopefully less arrogant as well) my reply was:

I’m an American.  We don’t need the past, we create the future!”

To be honest, history was my least favourite subject in school and I just couldn’t see the point of learning about the past when there was so much exciting going on in the here and now.

Anyway, we moved in and lived full-time in the house for two years before moving back to London. And boy, was I wrong about history!

The history of the Cathar Crusades between 1209 and 1324, over a hundred years, was fascinating, and I was living in one of the buildings.  Our house, in the 13th Century was a watchtower and small garrison overlooking a pass through the valley up into the Pyrenees Mountains.  The walls are 1.3 meter thick and made of big stone blocks.  It even has the original arrow slits in the walls. And the more I read about the Cathars, the Crusades and the Inquisition (which started in this region), the more I realized that history is not just a dead subject, but actually a window into the future.

So, all four of my thriller novels, Almost Perfect, Bad Company, Game Changer and Business As Usual are a combination of two stories, one current and one historical, which weave together into an integrated plot where the characters are related through time and deeds.  It is fun researching both the historical and modern aspects of my novels and working to tease out the lessons from history and apply them to here and now.

For example, in Bad Company, which is a thriller about 18th Century female pirates in the Caribbean and modern-day female pirates posing as business consultants, the camaraderie and code of the pirates is appealing to those who feel disenfranchised by those in power and by a lopsided political and social system. What’s fun is making a breakneck thriller out of this concept and connecting the two stories through time.

I hope you enjoy my writing and as always, I enjoy hearing from my readers and fans with suggestions, ideas and comments.

John Childress

Music and Mystery in the South of France

Posted on October 30th, 2011 by John Childress

After silence, that which comes nearest to expressing the inexpressible is music.   -Aldous Huxley

This week we are in the south of France where we are sponsoring a classical music festival.  For the past four years we have organized classical concerts in Medieval village churches and brought talented young musicians from the UK to perform.  Our non-profit organization is Young Virtuosi (a registered UK charity) and each year the demand seems to grow for more venues and more concerts.  This year the kids are giving five concerts in five different villages in the Limoux region where we have our summer home.

What is most impressive to me is not only the musical talent of the kids, but the dedication and hard work they have for their music.  Just this morning I was woken up at 7:30am to the sound of a 14-year old practicing on the piano for her concert this evening!  How many 14 year olds do you know that get up early in the morning to practice?  I certainly didn’t when I was that age.

Talent, or lack of it, is often given as the reason some people do well in life and some not so well.  My observation is that we are all born with talent of some kind, but more important than our God-given talent is the determination and commitment to develop that seed of talent into a full blossoming and radiant capability.  It’s the difference between capacity and capability:  we all have a capacity for greatness but only a few will make the commitment and put in the long hours of practice to turn that capacity into a real capability.

And these kids, aged 12-21 are spectacular in their capability to inspire whole villages to turn out and revel on a summer’s evening in some great classical music.  This year the festival moves down the valley as we perform in five different Medieval churches in the villages of Saint Couat du Razes, Ajac, Castelreng, La Digne d’Mont and La Digne d’Val.  These are tiny villages outside of the much larger town of Limoux but each evening the churches are packed with an appreciative audience of everyone from young school children to the elderly in wheelchairs.  Then of course, in true south of France style, after the concert they open bottles of the local bubbly, Blanquette, and party.  It’s amazing how good music played with style and grace can open up people to enjoy each other’s company.

  The Languedoc Region where Limoux and these small villages are located is rich in the history of the Crusades against the Cathar religion between 1209 and 1325, where it is estimated that close to a million people were put to death either during the sacking of villages or burnt at the stake by the Catholic Inquisitors.  If you are curious about this fascinating period in history I have written a historical novel, Almost Perfect, about the Inquisition and the Cathars.  It is available as an eBook on the Amazon Kindle site in both the US and the UK.

Tight Lines . . .

John R Childress

E | john@johnrchildress.com