Monday, December 5, 2011

Matt Rees

Matt Rees is an award-winning crime novelist and foreign correspondent. He is the author of the internationally acclaimed Omar Yussef crime series, including The Collaborator of Bethlehem. He is also the author of Cain’s Field, a nonfiction account of Israeli and Palestinian society.

His latest novel is Mozart's Last Aria.

Rees's reply to my recent query about what he was reading:
The Confession – Olen Steinhauer

I’ve read a few of Steinhauer’s excellent thrillers over the years, but after getting into The Nearest Exit, his best and most recent, I decided to fill in the gaps with this one. Given that I’ve written about Bethlehem and Gaza and Nablus during times of conflict in my Palestinian crime series, as an antidote to the usual journalistic perspective on them, I enjoy Steinhauer’s approach to Eastern Europe during the turbulent mid-1950s: it’s a period I’ve often read about in history books, but history like journalism tends to focus on politics instead of human interactions. For me, the big political picture was never really enough; I was more interested in the fact that Hungary, 1956, led my grandfather to quit the Communist Party. Steinhauer does a great job of making the Communist bloc of 50-plus years ago seem like today.

The Quality of Mercy – Barry Unsworth

There’s no historical novelist alive who’s even a patch on Unsworth. He’s now 80, so we should cherish every new word from him. He was part of the inspiration for my new novel MOZART’S LAST ARIA, because I wanted to make historical characters seem as vibrant and immediate as he does. This new book is the sequel to Sacred Hunger, a novel set on a slaveship which won the Booker Prize 20 years ago. Sacred Hunger was, in my opinion, on a par with War and Peace for the drama and humanity of its portrayal of a historical period. This one, I’m delighted to report, is just as good.

Travels with my Aunt – Graham Greene

This is the only Greene novel I haven’t read, so I recently decided it was time. Usually I love the mordant darkness of seedy old Graham, but this is a wonderfully comic novel (it’s still pretty seedy). The narrator’s Great-Aunt laments the departure of her West Indian lover by commenting that “his knackers were magnificent.” Not what you’d expect from Greene, but a fine testimony for anyone, I’d say.
Visit Matt Beynon Rees' website and blog.

My Book, The Movie: Mozart's Last Aria.

The Page 69 Test: Mozart's Last Aria.

--Marshal Zeringue