THE DEATH OF RAFAEL–The San Clemente Literary Book Club



On Thursday, June 21, 2012, I was invited by the local San Clemente book club to discuss and answer questions about THE DEATH OF RAFAEL. The meeting took place at the beautiful home (killer view over San Clemente and the ocean) of Candy and Jim, who were this month’s hosts. They welcomed everyone with big smiles and beautifully arranged (and delicious) refreshments  and hors d’oeuvres. They welcomed me in particular with yellow roses and a big surprise–a ‘yellow bundle.’  When Candy told me in an email that there will be along side the  display of  my novel, a  ‘yellow bundle’, I thought it was something new out there, in the world of hosting events and parties. You know, like those swatches given at the Oscars… I even checked the Internet and all I got was  ‘Pokemon yellow bundle’, or a hardware store that offered ‘yellow cable bundle.’ The surprise was complete and it was the most wonderful expression of welcome for my novel.

 Now I know that some of you may have not read the book, so the photo of the ‘tableau’ so artistically put togheter by Candy, illustrating the very heart of the novel might be a spoiler. Therefore, no words and no captions. 🙂


The book club is a mix of people who are retired and those who are still pursuing their professions and careers.  They have been meeting for two years and have read 27 books. Let me just say that this was one of the most interesting and invaluable interaction I’ve had with readers as a writer.  Not only were they very attentive readers and passionate about what they read, but also they were erudite and insightful reviewers. The questions they asked me provided a fascinating new perspective of the novel. It was also invaluable for my next writing project. (We’re not going to talk about it now…) 

There were lengthy discussions about the characters, how I had created and developed them, what I took from real life events, the research, how the story evolved, how the novel started with one scene, that became its middle, the rest of the narrative moving to the beginning and end of the novel like ripples on the surface of a pond. Quite a few of the members of the club were very interested in the historical part of the novel and (bragging coming up)  expressed their appreciation on how I blended history with the destinies of my protagonists  and in the character of Egon von Klaussen. 

When it was my turn to ask questions, I asked which of the characters in the book interested them most (not LIKE, but INTEREST.) The answer was, well, interesting, as it matched those characters which I found the most interesting to create as a writer–Egon von Klaussen, the priest Antonyin Andreasz, Francisco Cardenaz and dona Isabel.  The character of Giselle elicited sadness more than anything else, but also understanding for the course of her life. The one comment that truly struck to my very core and left me quite frankly speechless was: “that scene you described in the ditch at the edge of the forest we’ll stay with me the rest of my life.’   Also there was appreciation for how Francisco Cardenaz’ character and life evolved through the novel. One of the readers summarized it thus–Cardenaz ended up exactly where he should have. Any other ending would have been ‘unreal’ and would have invalidated the whole novel. Wow. The ending is the hardest part of a novel.

The San Clemente Literary Book Club and ‘moi.’


For those of you who are also writers, you do understand I know how validating a discussion like this can be.  I am very grateful to the members of the club for all that they offered in the discussion and their comments. THANK YOU!   This may sound strange, but they helped me understand and reveal to me the patterns of my writing and creation of stories and characters.

The organizer of the book club is Bill  Thomas, who is a professor of English at one of our local collages and also a writer himself, who had just published his own novel, UPSTAGE, DOWNSTAGE, CROSS. It ia a novel for the theatre lover, based on the career of the author’s father. The background stories Bill told us at the meeting were marvellous and very, very funny, in the true tradition of the British stage. It is a must for my summer reading.  So, check it out!



 Also thanks go to Candy for the photos. I look pretty good in them without photoshopping, so compliments go to the  great photographer.


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