Mar 19th 2014

The Resistance Man: A Talk With Martin Walker

by Mark Rubinstein

Mark Rubinstein was born in Brooklyn, New York. He dreamed of playing baseball for the Brooklyn Dodgers since his all-time hero was the Dodgers’ first baseman Gil Hodges. Rubinstein played high school baseball and ran track. His love of sports led him to read sports fiction, and soon he became a voracious reader, developing an enduring love for all kinds of novels.He graduated from New York University with a degree in business administration. He then served in the army and ended up as a field medic tending to paratroopers of the 82nd Airborne Division. He was so taken with these experiences that after his discharge, he re-entered NYU as a premed student.He entered medical school at the State University of New York’s Downstate Medical Center. As a medical student, he developed an interest in psychiatry, discovering in that specialty the same thing he realized in reading fiction: every patient has a compelling story to tell. He became a board-certified psychiatrist practicing in New York City.In addition to running his private practice he developed an interest in forensic psychiatry because the drama and conflict of the cases and courtrooms tapped into his personality style. He also taught psychiatric residents, interns, psychologists, and social workers at New York Presbyterian Hospital and became a clinical assistant professor at Cornell University’s medical school.Before turning to fiction, Rubinstein coauthored five medical self-help books: The First Encounter: The Beginnings in Psychotherapy (Jason Aronson); The Complete Book of Cosmetic Facial Surgery (Simon and Schuster); New Choices: the Latest Options in Treating Breast Cancer (Dodd Mead); Heartplan: A Complete Program for Total Fitness of Heart & Mind (McGraw-Hill), and The Growing Years: A Guide to Your Child’s Emotional Development from Birth to Adolescence (Atheneum).Rubinstein lives in Connecticut with his wife and as many dogs as she will allow in the house. He still practices psychiatry and is busily writing more novels. Mad Dog House, his first novel, was named a Finalist for the 2012 ForeWord Reviews Book of the Year Award (Thriller & Suspense).

Martin Walker is a senior fellow of a private think tank for CEOs of major corporations. He is also editor-in-chief emeritus and international affairs columnist for UPI, and for many years has been a journalist for the Guardian. He has written five previous novels -- all international best sellers -- in the Bruno, Chief of Police mystery series. He lives in Washington, D.C. and the Dordogne region of France. His most recent Bruno novel is The Resistance Man.

Tell us about Bruno Courreges, chief of police of the small town of St. Denis in the Dordogne region of France.
For about fifteen years, we've had a house in the Perigord region of France. One of my great chums, Pierrot, is the village policeman for our small town. He's a hunter, a wonderful cook and a very decent man with an idiosyncratic method of law enforcement. He's also my tennis partner. He's very much the inspiration for Bruno.

Bruno, a former soldier, is the village policeman. He built his own house, cooks, loves his horse and his basset hound, Balzac, and has two very attractive and strong women in his life. In The Resistance Man, he must deal with a sudden crime wave leading to revelations about his country's past, and his own, as well. The Dordogne is a lovely region with great food and wine, a beautiful landscape, and incredible history. It struck me as an almost inescapable opportunity to write about Pierrot and the area, in a fictional way, of course.

Bruno is certainly an expert cook and oenophile. How much of you does he represent?
I wish I was as good a cook or had such knowledge of wine as does my friend. Or, played tennis as well as he does. There's a certain wistfulness about any writer of mystery stories, if there's an attractive hero. These days, particularly with Scandinavian noir, the idea seems to be to have an alcoholic protagonist who can't get along with women, and never speaks to his children. I prefer a likable, even admirable hero, someone like Bruno.

And, the women Bruno finds attractive are extremely independent and strong-minded. One, Isabelle, is passionate about her career and determined to let nothing stand in its way. She wants to live in Paris, which Bruno would hate. The other, Pamela, is a divorcee who has no intention of marrying, though she's quite happy to share her bed with Bruno from time to time. Bruno is desperate to become a father, yet he keeps falling for women who don't want to marry and have children.

Your novels tap deeply into French history. They're almost historical mysteries. 
I studied history at Oxford. My earlier non-fiction books were historical. I wrote one about Gorbachev and Perestroika. Another involved the history of the United States in the Twentieth Century, while another was about the Cold War. History has always been a passion for me. As a foreign correspondent, I would dive into a new culture and read its history.

I've always been fascinated by French history in particular because of its grand divisions -- pro and anti-revolution of 1789; or pro-republic or anti-republic after 1870. There's still a division between those who were Vichy collaborationists in 1940, and those aligned with De Gaulle and the Resistance. In my village, there are still families who will not speak to each other because one was collaborationist and the other was with the Resistance. Some of this friction is reflected in the Bruno novels.

You've been a journalist and a non-fiction author. How did you make the transition to writing fiction -- specifically mysteries?
When we bought a home in the Perigord region, I felt a compulsion to write about the area, but not in a non-fiction venue. I wanted to convey something about the extraordinary local lifestyle and culture, landscape and the region's wealth of history. The area's human past extends back to pre-historic days and the famous caves of Lascaux are just up the river from our home. There are more than a thousand medieval castles in the Dordogne valley. The region is drenched in history.

About twelve years ago, I wrote my first novel, The Caves of Perigord. But that didn't really scratch my itch. I had this idea of writing about a policeman. I never took any writing courses. It just seemed to come naturally as an outgrowth of journalism, of simply writing. So Bruno, the chief of police of our little town was born, and I've been writing about him ever since.

With your busy schedule, do you write every day?
Before beginning a novel, I write a thirty page synopsis. Then, I set myself a target of a thousand words a day. Whether I'm on a plane or away from home attending a conference, I take out my laptop and get my 1,000 words written. It's part of my daily routine.

What do you do when you aren't writing?
I read a huge amount. I travel quite a lot -- even more so these days because the Bruno books have had success and impacted tourism for the Perigord. When they have museum exhibitions for the Lascaux caves, whether in Houston, Montreal or elsewhere, I help do the presentations with a team from the regional tourist board. I do the same for the international wine fairs for the wines of Bergerac. I was madechevalier of fois gras and became an honorary ambassador for the Perigord region. And, there are book tours keeping me busy.

Do you read other writers in your genre while writing a novel?
Sometimes. It depends on how much I'm travelling. If a new novel by Alan Furst comes out, I'll read it immediately. I read a great deal of history, biography, and a bit of science fiction as well.

When reading another author's prose, are you tempted to emulate that author?
Not really. If I go to a Shakespeare play, I don't start writing in verse. (Laughter). I think having been a journalist for a daily paper for so long affected my style; it's rather workmanlike. It's really quite well set. I think I write naturally. I write the way I think and speak.

Who are the writers you admire?
My hero is Sherlock Holmes. That was the first time I came across the mystery genre as a boy. I enjoy reading Donna Leon and Peter Robinson. I very much enjoy the art mysteries of Iain Pears, and really liked the first of the Stieg Larsson trilogy, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. I enjoy reading novels by Ian Rankin. I very much like science fiction and was struck when I read Robert Heinlein's The Moon is a Harsh Mistress. As for non-fiction, I recently read The Man who Changed China by Robert Kuhn. I also read Bourgeois Dignity by Deirdre McCloskey.

If you could have dinner with 5 people, either writers or historical figures -- living or dead -- who would they be?
First would be Eleanor of Aquitaine, the wonderful Twelfth Century woman who married two kings. Another would be Queen Elizabeth the 1st. She'd have to bring Shakespeare along with her. (Laughter). Then I'd invite Lord Byron. A fifth would be Abe Lincoln who I think would get along very well with Eleanor of Aquitaine.

If you could invite some contemporary people, who would they be?
Bill Clinton would be one. We were together at Oxford. Later, as a journalist, I covered him a lot; and from time to time, he graciously invited me to join him on Air Force One. Another would be Mikhail Gorbachev. Then, I'd invite someone I've never really understood -- Angela Merkel. I find her rather shrouded in mystery, but obviously, she's very accomplished. As for contemporary writers, I'd love to have Eric Flint at dinner. His mind is so very interesting. He began a series called Ring of Fire, which is a wonderful historical creation. I would like to have C.J. Samson at the table; he's written several marvelous books about an English lawyer living during the Sixteenth Century. I wouldn't mind having Ian Rankin there, too.

Where would you dine and what would you eat?
I would take them all to my home and cook them a grand Perigord meal. We'd start with a soup made from a duck's carcass. We'd then go on to an omelette au touffe with eggs from my own chickens and truffles from the hillside near our home. I would cook Aiguillette de canard, using a thin strip of meat just below the breast. I would cook it with mustard seeds and honey. I would add to that,pommes sarladaise, which are potatoes thinly sliced and cooked in duck fat, with garlic, parsley and truffles. It would all be done in the Perigord style.

And the wines? 
The white wine would be a Bergerac sec from Chateau Jaubertie. Then I would offer everyone a deeply robust 2005 Chateau de Tiregand. It's made by a friend of mine in the village.

Would Bruno be there?
Absolutely, as would Pierrot. We've had this particular meal on several occasions. Oh, and I'd also serve some fois gras. I would serve it with a glass of chilled sweet wine, Monbazillac from Chateau de Tirecul. It's something akin to Sauternes. I would finish it off with some cheese, of course.

What's next for Martin Walker?
I've finished number seven in the Bruno mystery series. It's called Children of War. I'm about to go off on a U.S. book tour. Then, I'll return to France where I'll be working away on Bruno number eight. I'll also be judging a fois gras competition. Then, for one month, I'm off on a book tour in Germany. I'm starting a futurology project about what Germany may look like in the future. It will all keep me happily busy. And, when I get back to France, I'll be planting my vegetable garden.

You can follow Mark Rubinstein on Twitter:
Proceed to Mark Rubinstein's
web site here.


Browse articles by author

More Essays

May 1st 2021
EXTRACT: " The sad reality is that the Mizrahim (Jews of Middle Eastern and North African descent) were discriminated against from the day of Israel’s inception, whose Ashkenazi (European Jewish) leaders viewed them as intellectually inferior, “backward,” and “too Arab,” and treated them as such, largely because the Ashkenazim agenda was to maintain their upper-class status while controlling the levers of power, which remain prevalent to this day." ..... " The greatest heartbreaking outcome is that for yet another generation of Israelis, growing up in these debilitating conditions has a direct effect on their cognitive development. A 2015 study published in Nature Neuroscience found that “family income is significantly correlated with children’s brain size…increases in income were associated with the greatest increases in brain surface area among the poorest children.” "
Apr 25th 2021
EXTRACT: "We all owe Farah Nabulsi an enormous debt of gratitude. In a short 24-minute film, The Present, she has exposed the oppressive indecency of the Israeli occupation while telling the deeply moving story of a Palestinian family. What is especially exciting is that after winning awards at a number of international film festivals​, Ms. Nabulsi has been nominated for an Academy Award for this remarkable work of art. " 
Apr 25th 2021
EXTRACT: "When I crashed to the floor of my home in Bordeaux recently after two months of Covid-19 dizziness, I was annoyed. The next day I collapsed again. Now I was worried. What I didn’t know was that my brain was sloshing around inside my skull, causing a mild concussion. Nor did I know that I was in for a whole new world of weird and wonderful hallucinations."
Apr 13th 2021
EXTRACT: "Overall, our review has found that there isn’t evidence to back up the claims that veganism is good for your heart. But that is partly because there are few studies ....... But veganism may have other health benefits. Vegans have been found to have a healthier weight and lower blood glucose levels than those who consume meat and dairy. They are also less likely to develop cancer, high blood pressure and diabetes. "
Apr 8th 2021
EXTRACT: "Pollock’s universe, the universe of Mural, cannot be said to be a rational universe. Nor is it simply devoid of all sense. It is not a purely imaginary world, although in it everything is in a constant state of flux. Mural invokes one of the oldest questions of philosophy, a question going back to the Pre-Socratic philosophers Parmenides and Heraclitus – namely, whether the nature of Reality constitutes unchanging permanence or constant movement and flux. For Pollock, the only thing that is truly unchanging is change itself. The only certainty is that all is uncertain."
Apr 8th 2021
EXTRACT: "Many present day politicians appear to have psychopathic and narcissistic traits too. It’s easy to spot such leaders, because they are always authoritarian, following hardline policies. They try to subvert democracy, to reduce the freedom of the press and clamp down on dissent. They are obsessed with national prestige, and often persecute minority groups. And they are always corrupt and lacking in moral principles."
Apr 6th 2021
EXTRACT: "This has led some to claim that not just half, but perhaps nearly all advertising money is wasted, at least online. There are similar results outside of commerce. One review of field experiments in political campaigning argued “the best estimate of the effects of campaign contact and advertising on Americans’ candidates choices in general elections is zero”. Zero!"
Mar 30th 2021
EXTRACT: "The Father is an extraordinary film, from Florian Zeller’s 2012 play entitled Le Père and directed by Zeller. I’m here to tell you why it is a ‘must see’." EDITOR'S NOTE: The official trailer is attached to the review.
Mar 28th 2021
EXTRACT: "Picasso was 26 in 1907, when he completed the Demoiselles; de Kooning was 48 in 1952, when he finished Woman I.  The difference in their ages was not an accident, for studies of hundreds of painters have revealed a striking regularity - the conceptual painters who preconceive their paintings, from Raphael to Warhol, consistently make their greatest contributions earlier in their careers than experimental painters, from Rembrandt to Pollock, who paint directly, without preparatory studies."
Mar 26th 2021
EXTRACT: "Mental toughness levels are influenced by many different factors. While genetics are partly responsible, a person’s environment is also relevant. For example, both positive experiences while you’re young and mental toughness training programmes have been found to make people mentally tougher."
Mar 20th 2021

The city of Homs has been ravaged by war, leaving millions of people homeless an

Mar 20th 2021
EXTRACT: "There are two main rival models of ethics: one is based on rights, the other on duties. The rights-based model, which traces its philosophical origins to the work of John Locke in the 17th century, starts from the assumption that individuals have rights ....... According to this approach, duties are related to rights, but only in a subordinate role. My right to health implies a duty on my country to provide some healthcare services, to the best of its abilities. This is arguably the dominant interpretation when philosophers talk about rights, including human rights." ........ "Your right to get sick, or to risk getting sick, could imply a duty on others to look after you during your illness." ..... "The pre-eminence of rights in our moral compass has vindicated unacceptable levels of selfishness. It is imperative to undertake a fundamental duty not to get sick, and to do everything in our means to avoid causing others to get sick. Morally speaking, duties should come first and should not be subordinated to rights." ..... "Putting duties before rights is not a new, revolutionary idea. In fact it is one of the oldest rules in the book of ethics. Primum non nocere, or first do no harm, is the core principle in the Hippocratic Oath historically taken by doctors, widely attributed to the ancient Greek philosopher and physician Hippocrates. It is also a fundamental principle in the moral philosophy of the Roman statesman Marcus Tullius Cicero, who in De Officiis (On Duties) argues that the first task of justice is to prevent men and women from causing harm to others."
Mar 18th 2021
EXTRACT: "Several studies have recently compared the difference between antibodies produced straight after a coronavirus infection and those that can be detected six months later. The findings have been both impressive and reassuring. Although there are fewer coronavirus-specific antibodies detectable in the blood six months after infection, the antibodies that remain have undergone significant changes. …….. the “mature” antibodies were better at recognising the variants."
Mar 15th 2021
EXTRACT: "Like Shakespeare, Goya sees evil as something existing in itself – indeed, the horror of evil arises precisely from its excess. It overflows and refuses to be contained by or integrated into our categories of reason or comprehension. By its very nature, evil refuses to remain within prescribed bounds – to remain fixed, say, within an economy where evil is counterbalanced by good. Evil is always excess of evil." ....... "Nowhere is this more evident than in war. Goya offers us a profound and sustained meditation on the nature of war ........ The image of a Napoleonic soldier gazing indifferently on a man who has been summarily hanged, probably by his own belt, expresses the tragedy of war – its dehumanization of both war’s victims and victors."
Mar 14th 2021
EXTRACT: "A blockchain company has bought a piece of Banksy artwork and burnt it. But instead of destroying the value of the art, they claim to have made it more valuable, because it was sold as a piece of blockchain art. The company behind the stunt, called Injective Protocol, bought the screen print from a New York gallery. They then live-streamed its burning on the Twitter account BurntBanksy. But why would anyone buy a piece of art just to burn it? Understanding the answer requires us to delve into the tricky world of blockchain or “NFT” art."
Mar 14th 2021
EXTRACT: "Exercise is good for your health at every age – and you can reap the benefits no matter how late in life you start. But our latest research has shown another benefit of being physically active throughout life. We found that in the US, people who were more physically active as teenagers and throughout adulthood had lower healthcare costs."
Mar 10th 2021
EXTRACT: "Although around one in 14 people over 65 have Alzheimer’s disease, there’s still no cure, and no way to prevent the disease from progressing. But a recent study may bring us one step closer to preventing Alzheimer’s. The trial, which was conducted on animals, has found a specific molecule can prevent the buildup of a toxic protein known to cause Alzheimer’s in the brain."
Feb 24th 2021
EXTRACT: "The art historian George Kubler observed that scholars in the humanities “pretend to despise measurement because of its ‘scientific’ nature.” As if to illustrate his point Robert Storr, former dean of Yale’s School of Art, declared that artistic success is “completely unquantifiable.” In fact, however, artistic success can be quantified, in several ways. One of these is based on the analysis of texts produced by art scholars, and this measure can give us a systematic understanding of how changes in recent art have produced changes in the canon of art history."
Feb 24th 2021
EXTRACT: "The most politically sensitive option we looked at was the virus escaping from a laboratory. We concluded this was extremely unlikely."
Feb 16th 2021
EXTRACT: ".... these men were completely unaware that they had put their lives in the hands of doctors who not only had no intention of healing them but were committed to observing them until the final autopsy – since it was believed that an autopsy alone could scientifically confirm the study’s findings. As one researcher wrote in a 1933 letter to a colleague, “As I see, we have no further interest in these patients until they die.” ...... The unquestionable ethical failure of Tuskegee is one with which we must grapple, and of which we must never lose sight, lest we allow such moral disasters to repeat themselves. "