‘The Malta Es­cape’ – US au­thor bases new novel al­most en­tirely in Malta

The Malta Independent on Sunday - - NEWS -

Stephen Calleja Three years af­ter vis­it­ing Malta with two other Amer­i­can writ­ers, New York Times best­selling au­thor Chris Kuz­neski on Fri­day pub­lished his book “The Malta Es­cape”, a thrilling novel which takes read­ers on a roller-coaster ad­ven­ture mostly set on the is­land.

“The Malta Es­cape” marks a re­turn by the au­thor to the Payne & Jones se­ries which made him fa­mous and which he tem­po­rar­ily put aside in 2013 to in­tro­duce a new group of ad­ven­tur­ers named the Hun­ters, who have been the pro­tag­o­nists of Kuz­neski’s last two books.

In “The Malta Es­cape”, the ninth pub­li­ca­tion in the Payne & Jones se­ries, the duo are in­volved in a show­down against a Rus­sian crim­i­nal as he seeks to lo­cate a long-lost trea­sure of the Knights Hospi­tallers, be­lieved to be buried in Malta.

Kuz­neski’s con­nec­tion with Malta started some years ago when he re­ceived a let­ter from a Mal­tese fan, and “just for fun”, as he ex­plains in his au­thor’s note at the end of his new novel, de­cided to men­tion the coun­try in the book he was then writ­ing, “The Lost Throne”.

Fol­low­ing that ci­ta­tion, as one of his read­ers, I had sent an email to Kuz­neski, telling him that usu­ally au­thors tend to ex­clude Malta, even on maps, and so I had been de­lighted to see my coun­try’s name in his work. Kuz­neski had replied within 24 hours to tell me that he had been sur­prised that his book had made it to Malta, given that he had no pub­lisher here.

Since that ex­change, the first of many that fol­lowed be­tween us in sub­se­quent years, Kuz­neski made it a point to some­how al­ways in­clude Malta in the books that fol­lowed.

“Un­will­ing to mess with a good thing, I men­tioned Malta again in ‘The Prophecy’ and have con­tin­ued the tra­di­tion ever since, al­ways find­ing a way to men­tion Malta in my nov­els,” Kuz­neski ex­plains in his note.

I had alerted the Malta Tourism Au­thor­ity about Kuz­neski’s reg­u­lar ref­er­ences to Malta and, in 2015, he was in­vited over to­gether with best­selling au­thors Boyd Mor­ri­son and Gra­ham Brown.

The three spent a week vis­it­ing Malta’s tourist sites, many of which are now fea­tured in “The Malta Es­cape”.

“We were given pri­vate ac­cess to sev­eral of Malta’s most im­por­tant doc­u­ments and his­tor­i­cal sites. Need­less to say, we were blown away by the MTA’s hos­pi­tal­ity and have viewed Malta as our home away from home since that once-in-al­ife­time ad­ven­ture,” Kuz­neski says.

Both Mor­ri­son, who came over with his wife Randi, and Brown have also pub­lished books with Malta serv­ing as set­tings in their sto­ries.

As “The Malta Es­cape” was pub­lished in­ter­na­tion­ally on Fri­day, I again caught up with Chris to ask him a few ques­tions. This is how he replied:

What made you re­turn to Payne and Jones af­ter writ­ing two books in the award-win­ning Hun­ters se­ries?

Based on fan mail, the Payne & Jones se­ries is my most pop­u­lar se­ries. Then again, it prob­a­bly isn’t a fair com­par­i­son since the duo has been around for six more books than Jack Cobb and the Hun­ters. Not that Payne and Jones care about fight­ing fair. Those guys will ex­ploit any ad­van­tage they can get and will crack jokes while they’re do­ing it.

Speak­ing of jokes, are read­ers to ex­pect the usual hu­mor­ous ban­ter be­tween the duo?

Ab­so­lutely! If any­thing, I de­cided to crank up their ban­ter to an all-time high. Al­though there are sev­eral good ac­tion-ad­ven­ture se­ries out there, I feel the one thing that sets the Payne & Jones se­ries apart is the hu­mour. In re­al­ity, my books are ac­tion­ad­ven­ture come­dies. Or com­i­cac­tion ad­ven­tures. Or ac­tion-comic ad­ven­tures. Truth be told, I don’t ac­tu­ally know how to de­scribe them, but I do know that they’re funny. And I think THE MALTA ES­CAPE is my fun­ni­est book yet.

What kind of ad­ven­ture will they be fol­low­ing?

Payne and Jones fly to Malta for a well-de­served va­ca­tion and bump into an old friend who is search­ing for a long-lost trea­sure of the Knights Hospi­tallers — a trea­sure with pos­si­ble ties to Paul I and the Rus­sian Empire. When Ivan Volkov, the ruth­less leader of a Rus­sian crime syn­di­cate, learns about the an­cient hoard, he does ev­ery­thing in his power to make sure that he finds it first, even if that means de­stroy­ing half of Malta to get it. I know that doesn’t sound very funny, but trust me, Payne and Jones have a way of find­ing hu­mour in just about ev­ery­thing.

What spe­cific lo­ca­tions in Malta are fea­tured in the book?

Since I’m to­tally in love with your coun­try, I fea­tured as much of Malta and its his­tory as pos­si­ble. Ma­jor lo­ca­tions in the book in­clude the Na­tional Li­brary, the Up­per Bar­rakka Gar­dens, the Grand Har­bour, Sliema, and Birgu. When peo­ple fin­ish read­ing this novel, I want them to do two things. First, I want them to go to my web­site (chriskuz­neski.com) to take the vir­tual tour of the book, be­cause the pic­tures of Malta do your coun­try more jus­tice than my words ever could. Then I want them to buy tick­ets to visit Malta to see it for them­selves. Un­less you’re sick of tourists, in which case I can tell all of my read­ers that THE MALTA ES­CAPE is a work of fic­tion and the coun­try doesn’t ac­tu­ally ex­ist. Just let me know as soon as pos­si­ble, so I know how to han­dle the me­dia.

Where will the book be pub­lished?

The English-lan­guage ver­sion of THE MALTA ES­CAPE will be avail­able in hard­cover, trade pa­per­back, and ebook from on­line stores around the globe on Novem­ber 9, and the au­dio book will be re­leased as soon as they’re done record­ing it. In ad­di­tion, I also signed a Mal­tese deal with Miller Dis­trib­u­tors, who will be pub­lish­ing a mass­mar­ket pa­per­back in Malta.

Will it be trans­lated into other lan­guages?

My lit­er­ary agents just at­tended the Frank­furt Book Fair in Oc­to­ber, where they ac­tively shopped THE MALTA ES­CAPE to for­eign pub­lish­ers. Once for­eign edi­tors have a chance to read it, we should start get­ting of­fers from for­eign mar­kets. So far, my books have been pub­lished in more than twenty lan­guages, which I find funny since I can’t speak any of them. Heck, if you lis­ten to my crit­ics, I even strug­gle with English.

Any hope of see­ing you in Malta again?

Def­i­nitely! My first trip to Malta was sim­ply mag­i­cal, and yet there were so many things I didn’t get to do and see. I fully ex­pect to visit Malta again and again in the com­ing years, so much so that you’ll prob­a­bly get sick of see­ing me.

Chris Kuz­neski

Chris Kuz­neski, Gra­ham Brown and Boyd Mor­ri­son dur­ing their stay in Malta in 2015

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