Summoned out of his safe house by his handlers, Ari Ciminon (The 56th Man) is shown CCTV footage of a group of men arriving at Richmond International Airport. The group is comprised of: lawyer Benjamin Cassin (nicknamed 'the Rabbi' by his admirers); his bodyguard, Henry Jones (an African-American who has converted to Judaism); a small man dressed as a woman, who turns out to be a deadly assassin; and a mysterious Turk whom neither the FBI nor Mossad has been able to identify. Ari immediately supplies the Turk's name. He is an inoffensive salesman working for a contracting company based in Istanbul.
But the puzzle is far from solved. An empty carry-on left behind by the new arrivals casts a sinister light on the group, and suspicion deepens when the Turk abruptly disappears. Once his business at the airport is concluded, Ari is ordered back to his safe house. Sensing an opportunity for profit that he cannot ignore, he disobediently sets out to find the missing man—only to discover the body of the fabulously wealthy Miriam Fleckenstein, a widow who resides in a mansion outside of Richmond.
He learns of a rumor that Mrs. Fleckenstein intended to leave her wealth to an organization dedicated to peace between Israel and Palestine. This goes against the interests of several dangerous parties. A plot is afoot to discover Mrs. Fleckenstein's will and either bring it to the light of day or suppress it entirely. However, like the Turk, the will has vanished.
The mystery culminates in a grand inquisition in a basketball gym, where Ari (with the assistance of maimed former Marine Elmore Lawson, an insurance company investigator) picks his way through a weed field of killers and con-men to expose the truth—and reveal the unique location of the will. Miriam Fleckenstein returns from the dead…and puts everyone in their place.
I was told in no uncertain terms by a community member at Kindle Direct that the covers for my 56th Man series sucked. After some research I decided to simplify and unify. Basing the last five books around Lalange Snow's wonderful photograph of Jack the Translator in Iraq (which I used for the original 56th Man) I have posted the new covers on Amazon and D2D (Backside is only at Amazon, in order to qualify for Kindle Select). After trying out Canva and Snappa I finally resorted to my old standby, Picassa. Here is the new Backside cover:
Sixth in the Ari Ciminon (The 56th Man) series. Homophobic Ari Ciminon (The 56th Man) almost meets his match when he searches for a young man who has run off with the Thebans, a group of gay bicyclists for whom fitness is paramount. Joey Haider, the son of an official at the Iraqi Consulate, eludes his bodyguard in Richmond. Called in to translate for the guard, Ari quickly becomes embroiled in the search for the boy. This puts him in far more peril than he had anticipated, including a run-in with MS-13. This is not helped by his open antagonism towards the gay community. Even when it appears he will not make a dime for his efforts, his hunt is relentless. It takes him to places he would have once avoided like the plague: a gay hostel, a gay club and a house in an unlikely hamlet tucked away in the Virginia backwoods where the Thebans are targeted for execution. All the while he is shadowed by the mysterious Peter Pan, who might or might be a guardian angel. Ultimately, though, his most dangerous adversary turns out to be his own bad back. Now available at:
In a month or two I will be publishing the sixth of my Ari Ciminon books: Backside. This series has already generated some controversy...to the point that a number of reviews were removed from The 56th Man. I was never given the opportunity to read them, so I can't say if they were actually obscene. It never dawned on me that Ari might provoke a negative reaction--not as far as the character was concerned, at least. But it does seem that some people were offended by the idea of an Arab hero. Which seems odd, since even the Crusaders thought of Saladin as a hero. Yes, he was a Kurd, but they considered him an Arab. In any event, I would not be surprised if there is some backlash against the new book--although, considering my limited readership, it should not be too severe. In Backside, Ari takes on Hispanic drug dealers (racial stereotype controversy), the Iraqi Consulate in Washington (political controversy) and a gang of gay bicyclists (uh...). Add to that the fact that Ari is an atheist from a Muslim country (religious controversy) but was raised in a Sunni household and maintains some of their ideals and predjudices (beaucoup cultural controversy) and I have the makings of a real explosion. All right, maybe just a cherry bomb. Since I'm the kind of writer who follows his main character wherever he takes me, I can say this in my defense: I'm just along for the ride.
Nothing if not eclectic: One Second After and A History of Reading. But for protein in my Classics diet I am reading Montaigne's Essays. Thoroughly enjoyed them--and then I read An Apology for Raymond Sebond and was completely floored. One of the great commentaries on life and knowledge (or lack thereof). Although he was a devout Catholic, Montaigne had a quiet, abiding skepticism that I find profoundly...well, charming is too mild a word. Aside from that, this should be a must-read for anyone interested in the welfare of animals. (Didn't know they had seeing-eye dogs way back in 1550!) It will be hard to look at any bird or beast the same way again. I can see why the Church was perturbed by all of this. Being non-religious, I see nothing wrong with forging into the void without God and without much science (due to my ignorance). Montaigne's Catholic deity did not blind him to the big vacancy under our feet. Learn to love vertigo...
I posted a note on Facebook complaining about my difficulties with WordPress. Two women from Writers Helping Writers responded with recommendations for Wix. I Googled it and found an even simpler program, Weebly, but they set me out in the right direction. I wanted to thank them, but that group no longer seems to exist. Still, one way or another, I wanted to say Thanks!
Six or seven years ago the character of Ari Ciminon popped into my head while driving the 800 miles to Montreal. The idea of an Arab protagonist who fit no preconceived notions appealed to me. Look around you. Are we all the same? Of course not. There was no reason to think that Arabs lacked variety in personality and outlook. And Ari is quite different from anyone alive.
He sat in my head for a few months, calling to me. I liked the voice. Finally, I dropped the novel I was working on at the time (Skunk Hunt) and took up The 56th Man. I was very pleased with the result and began the usual round of submissions. I signed a contract with an agent who was very enthusiastic about the project. After so many decades, I prepared to enter the charmed circle of published writers.
Disaster came in the form of a conference my agent attended soon after the digital ink had dried. She was told that "foreign protagonists" did not do well in the publishing field and she was having second thoughts about my book. When she lost faith, so did I, and the contract was subsequently revoked. My rejection file is a couple of feet thick. I took all of this as a matter of course. So I hunkered down and finished Skunk Hunt.
Then I discovered Amazon Kindle. It seemed the whole world had opened up to me and I made haste to publish my novels, or at least those that still withstood scrutiny. Nothing happened for a while, but I was not dismayed. Just the opposite. Anyone in the world could click on Amazon and see my writing. Whether they bought my books or not I left to chance.
I had returned to Skunk Hunt (again) when about six months later I noticed something happening on my Amazon account. Downloads of The 56th Man had skyrocketed. Reviews (most of them decent) were piling up. I thought: there, I was right. Ari is too intriguing to be ignored. As soon as I completed Skunk Hunt, I rushed back to my favorite character. The sequel was The Godless One.
Not much happened after that. It was only later that I learned the Amazon algorithm had kicked me in the teeth. But the lack of compatible success has not deterred me from returning to Ari again and again. I have no idea what he will do next, and I write to find out. I have written five Ari Ciminon novels and am currently working on the sixth: Backside.
I am the author of more than fifteen novels. I was born and raised in Virginia, where I currently reside. I was First-Place Winner of the Hollins Literary Festival a number of years ago. Among the judges were Thomas (Little Big Man) Berger and R.M.W. Dillard, poet and husband of the writer Annie Dillard. Along with my wife, I have rescued and maintained 22 stray cats, which should tell you something about me (good and bad). Permanently addicted to writing, I am currently at work on "Backside", the sixth in the series of Ari Ciminon (The 56th Man) novels.