Please welcome Robert J. Mrazek to the blog. His new book, The Bone Hunters, just came out, and he kindly answered a few questions about the book, and more!
Will you tell us a bit about The Bone Hunters? What can fans look forward to?
The foundation of the story is the greatest unsolved archeological mystery of our time. In 1928, a fossil was unearthed near Peking, China. The Peking Man, as it was later called, was determined to be the first living example of Homo Erectus, or modern man. Scientists estimated that the fossil was nearly 800,000 years old and possibly our earliest known human ancestor. In December 1941, as the world came to the brink of the Second World War, the Chinese government decided that Peking Man was at risk of being captured by the Japanese army.
According to eye-witness accounts, the priceless remains were packed into two wooden crates at the Peking Union Medical College and put aboard a US Marine truck convoy bound for the port of Qinhuangdao in northern China. From there, Peking Man was to be sent aboard the S.S. President Madison across the Pacific, the ultimate destination being the American Museum of Natural History in New York City.
Peking Man vanished enroute to the port city. He has never been seen again.
In The Bone Hunters, the mystery is solved by Lexy, Steve, and Barnaby Finchem, Lexy’s mentor. I needed to create a new set of plausible and nuanced scoundrels worthy of doing battle with my heroic trio. I found them in a vicious Chinese oligarch billionaire and his malevolent son Li, who join forces with a seven and a half foot tall Bahamian former NBA star turned drug lord. They came alive for me on the page and hopefully will for the reader. The story plays out in a series of adventures on land, in the air, and under the sea off the Bahamas in a torpedoed World War II cargo ship. I hope it is as much fun for my readers as it was for me writing it.
What makes Lexy and Steve such compelling characters? How would you say they’ve grown since Valhalla?
I like to think that Lexy and Steve are compelling because they are real people, not cardboard heroes. They are smart, resourceful, and brave, but they also have flaws. Steve is very much in love with Lexy but she is strongly independent and looking to make her mark in a brilliant archeological career that doesn’t leave room for a traditional romantic relationship. At the beginning of the story, Steve is self-destructively putting his life at risk as a bush pilot in Central America because he no longer has any interest in living without her.
What other characters did you particularly enjoy writing?
My favorite character is Barnaby, probably because I made him my age and gave him the kind of infirmities old people have to deal with while still feeling young inside. They say 70 is the new 40 but it only works if you remove all the mirrors from your house. I also like to create a good supporting cast of characters, good and bad, who are quirky and fun. The verbally befuddled Carlos Lugo comes to mind.
What kind of research did you do for the book, and what is your writing process like?
I read everything on record about the disappearance of the Peking Man fossil in 1941. I was very fortunate to have a historian friend who found a trove of declassified documents at the Marine Museum in Quantico, Virginia, that probably shed more light on what happened to Peking Man than anything yet published. I also researched the growth of new religious movements in China that have been stamped out by the Chinese government wherever they have flourished.
I prefer to write in the morning, starting before the sun rises and enjoying the light as it slowly suffuses the sky around my writing lair, which is a brick garden house at the end of my back lawn.
Have you always wanted to be a writer? Will you tell us more about yourself and your background?
I have wanted to be a writer since I was a small boy. Later on I developed a love for film and film making. In 1968, I had just gotten out of Newport Naval Hospital and was attending the London Film School when Sen. Robert Kennedy was assassinated. At the time, it felt like what I was doing in school over there was pretty trivial while our country was being torn apart by the war in Vietnam. I ended up coming back to the U.S. and going into politics. That detour lasted twenty five years. I decided to try writing again after five terms in Congress. Now it’s nine books later.
I also had the chance to recently make a feature film, at least writing and co-directing it. It was pretty exciting but I’m enjoying the quiet life again.
What’s one of the first things that you can remember writing?
I wrote my first “book” when I was six or seven. It was about five pages long. A number of others, children’s mysteries, followed. My parents saved them but I no longer remember what happened to them. I also loved reading from an early age and still have a copy of one of my favorites, Singing Wheels (c1940).
What are some of your favorite authors?
As far as fiction, they include Erich Maria Remarque, C.S. Forester, John McDonald, Charlotte Brontë, Raymond Chandler, Dorothy B. Hughes, Lionel Davidson, F. Scott Fitzgerald, and Ernest Hemingway.
If you could experience one book again for the first time, which one would it be?
Catcher in the Rye.
Have you read any good books lately? Anything you’d recommend?
Lately I have been re-reading books that I enjoyed in the past and have come to look at as old friends that I enjoy connecting with after many years. The last one was The Caine Mutiny by Herman Wouk.
What are you currently reading?
I am currently reading Abroad: British Literary Traveling Between the Wars by Paul Fussell, which is a wonderful non-fiction book about traveling in Europe during the twenties and thirties with stories about writers like Graham Greene, Evelyn Waugh, Peter Fleming, and D.H. Lawrence.
What’s next for you? Is there anything else you’d like to share?
The movie is premiering in April and there is a lot of work to do in preparation for the theatrical release. I’m also hoping to continue the current series with another adventure in faraway places.
Keep up with Robert: Website
About The Bone Hunters:
The award-winning author of Valhalla brings back archaeologist Lexy Vaughan and retired Air Force officer Steve Macaulay, as they race to save a priceless discovery from disappearing forever.…
One of the greatest archaeological finds of all time, Peking Man, the 780,000-year-old remains of our earliest known human ancestor, disappeared during World War II from a cargo ship bound for America.
Now the Chinese government is fighting to keep a new religion from taking hold—a faith based on the belief that Peking Man is God. And they dispatch ruthless operatives to find and destroy the world’s most priceless fossil.
But the U.S. government has its own team on the hunt. From the mountains of Bavaria to the jungles of Central America and across the vast Pacific, Professor Barnaby Finchem, his brilliant protégé, Lexy Vaughan, and pilot Steve Macaulay will brave the wrath of nature and of man to win a race against unbridled tyranny.…
About the author:
Born November 6, 1945, in Newport, RI, Robert Jan Mrazek grew up in Huntington, Long Island, New York. He graduated from Cornell University in 1967 and then joined the US Navy. Following his discharge from the Navy, Mrazek spent 1969-1971 as an aide to US Senator Vance Hartke (D-Indiana). In 1975, he was elected to the Legislature of Suffolk County and became its minority leader, serving through 1982.
In 1982, Mrazek defeated John Le Boutillier, a one-term Conservative Republican, to serve in the 98th US Congress as Representative from the 3rd Congressional District on Long Island. Although freshmen Congressmen do not normally get to sit on the House Appropriations Committee, Mrazek was able to persuade Tip O’Neill, Speaker of the House, to make an exception for him. He remained in the US House of Representatives through the 1980s and into the early 1990s.
While serving in Congress, Mrazek wrote several pieces of landmark legislation, among them a law to preserve 3,000,000 acres of old-growth forest in Alaska’s Tongass National Forest, and a bill amendment to significantly hamper US military intervention in Nicaragua. With Representative Michael Andrews, he co-wrote a law to protect the site of the Manassas Civil War battlefield. Mrazek also authored the Amerasian Homecoming Act that brought home the USA children of American military personnel who’d served in Vietnam, as well as the National Film Preservation Act, which established the National Film Registry in the Library of Congress.
Mrazek was a delegate to the Democratic National Convention in 1980, 1988, and 1992.
After Mrazek retired from politics in 1993, he returned to writing. He is the author of a number of published books, fiction and non-fiction, all set during the time periods of the American Civil War and World War II.
He and his wife live in upstate NY and Maine.