William S. Shepard, Author of Vintage Murder

Marilyn: So, William, you’re writing a diplomatic mystery series, what gave you the idea for this?
ANSWER: I was a career diplomat. One evening when on duty for the Secretary of State, it occurred to me that there was no diplomat-sleuth in the literature. That was odd, when a diplomat sees so many secrets - intelligence and diplomatic reports, and crime reports and FBI assessment. The material was all there, and when I retired, I decided to put it together. In the process, I invented the "diplomatic mystery" genre, stories set largely in American Embassies overseas.

Marilyn: Do you share some of the hero’s characteristics?

ANSWER: I share Robbie Cutler's cultural curiosity and like him, I am at home everywhere. Also, like him, I tend to understand logic better than people.

Marilyn: What about the settings? Are these places where you’ve been?

ANSWER: Vintage Murder is set in Bordeaux, where I was Consul General. The second in the series, Murder On The Danube, is set in  Budapest, where I served as Political Officer. (I even went back for research on the book, with the help of the Hungarian Embasy in Washington and the American Embassy in Budapest.) The third book, Murder In Dordognre, is set in the scenic French southwest, part of my consular district in Bordeaux. And the latest, The Saladin Affair, is set in six European capitals, five of which I know well, and on Air Force Two. I arranged trips for the Secretary of State on Air Force Two in one of my Washington assignments.

Marilyn: What made you decide to go the Kindle route?

ANSWER: The last bookstore in our little Maryland town folded. I asked why, and was told that they lacked customers - "Everyone is using kindles!" So I decided to go where the customers are!

Marilyn: How are you promoting this book?

ANSWER: Through blogs, contacting previous readers, and through Kindle sponsorships. Outreach is a key - I am very grateful anytime someone I don't even know recommends my book, or puts a blog notice on their blog or facebook. Every recommendation is a tremendous help.

Marilyn: Now for a few personal questions—not too personal. When did you first know that you wanted to be a writer?

ANSWER; My family has storytellers - one of my Uncles in New Hampshire was legendary for his skill at weaving believable tales around the campfire, making it up as he went along. The writing and polishing, for me, came an indispensable second to storytelling, weaving a believable spell for the reader.

Marilyn: Is there any particular author or book that has influenced you ?

ANSWER: Dickens for the unbelievable fecundity of his plots - Balzac and Dostoievsky for their handling of primal emotions.   

 Marilyn: Do you have any writing rituals?

ANSWER; Morning works best for me. I try to accomplish writing a chapter each week. My cat helps enormously if he goes to sleep and doesn't walk over the computer!

Marilyn: What do you do for fun.

ANSWER; If you can call it that, I am a Boston Red Sox fan. I greatly enjoy music. This weekend, for example, we have enjoyed two concerts and a live broadcast from the Metropolitan Opera. We live on the Eastern Shore of Maryland, and crabbing is great fun, and enjoying the catch with chilled bottles of wine!
Marilyn: Thanks, William, that was a fun interview.
Vintage Murder

            Vintage Murder is set in Paris and Bordeaux, France. It takes you behind the scenes of high stakes diplomacy, and into the shadow world of ETA terrorism. The author, William Shepard, is a former career diplomat who served as Consul General in Bordeaux. He has created a new genre in thrillers, the “diplomatic mystery,” stories set in American Embassies abroad. Vintage Murder is the first in the series of four “diplomatic mysteries” which have appeared to date.

            In Vintage Murder, American diplomat Robbie Cutler witnesses the murder of America’s leading wine critic at a vintage dinner at the Willard Hotel in Washington. Returning to the Consulate in Bordeaux, he is threatened by the Basque ETA, “the last active terrorist network in Western Europe.” A love story ensues, set against the scenic glories of France, as the lovely Sophie Marceau, a journalist, helps Cutler discover that the Washington murder is linked with terrorist threats against Bordeaux’s famous vineyards. They explore the wine regions of Bordeaux, attend a reception at storied Château Margaux, and visit Lourdes, Montségur, and the prehistoric Caves at Lascaux,.

            Robbie Cutler and Sylvie Marceau must stop the ETA killers, and the stakes are raised with the visit of a prominent United States Senator of Basque origin. He and Robbie Cutler are both targeted for assassination, in a thrilling conclusion that takes place in the storied wine city of St. Emilion. And you will be present at a special dinner reception at the American Embassy in Paris, as you match wits with Robbie – and the ETA.


            “Bill Shepard’s first thriller combines diplomacy, terrorism and high stakes politics. He knows the Basque country thoroughly. A great read!” – Paul Laxalt, former United States Senator.

            “Bill Shepard and I served as diplomats in France, he as Consul General in Bordeaux, and his knowledge of that region – the intrigues, the relationships, the people - is encyclopedic. He has adroitly used this knowledge to weave a fascinating story. If you like Bordeaux wine, read Vintage Murder. – Evan Galbraith, former United States Ambassador to France

            “London has Sherlock Holmes and now Washington has its first diplomatic sleuth, Robbie Cutler. Learn about embassy life from an expert, as you enjoy Bill Shepard’s diplomatic mystery.” – F.A. “Tex” Harris, former President, American Foreign Service Association

William S. Shepard

            Prize winning mystery writer William S. Shepard is the creator of a new genre, the diplomatic mystery, whose plots are set in American Embassies overseas. That mirrors Shepard’s own career in the Foreign Service of the United States, during which he served in Singapore, Saigon, Budapest, Athens and Bordeaux, in addition to five Washington tours of duty.

            Shepard first lived abroad in France on a Fulbright grant after graduating from college. His first diplomatic assignment, in Singapore, was cut short with a direct transfer to the Embassy in Saigon, where he served as aide to Ambassador Henry Cabot Lodge. Next, while serving in the State Department’s Executive Secretariat, he handled international crises and arranged trips for two Secretaries of State.

            His assignment to the American Embassy in Budapest as Political Officer was a long cherished dream. While there he came to know personally Jozsef Cardinal Mindszenty. Shepard negotiated the U.S.-Hungarian Consular Convention, the first treaty with then communist Hungary in over thirty years. He was made an Honorary Hungarian Freedom Fighter for this negotiation.

            Following assignments in Washington where he was in charge of relations with Czechoslovakia, Hungary, the Baltic States, Singapore and Malaysia, he served at the American Embassy in Athens, monitoring internal politics. His next tour in Washington was capped by a Congressional Fellowship, and his assignment to the staff of Senator Robert Dole as Foreign Affairs Adviser. Shepard wrote a Senate Resolution on Strategic Arms Control which Senator Dole sponsored, and an OpEd for the New York Times on the proposal. His next and final diplomatic assignment was Consul General, Bordeaux.

            His books explore this rich, insider background into the world of high stakes diplomacy and government. He evokes his last Foreign Service post, Consul General in Bordeaux, in Vintage Murder, the first of the series of four “diplomatic mysteries.” The second, Murder On The Danube, mines his knowledge of Hungary and the 1956 Revolution. In Murder In Dordogne Robbie Cutler, his main character, is just married, but their honeymoon in the scenic southwest of France is interrupted by murders. The most recent of the series, The Saladin Affair, has Cutler transferred to work for the Secretary of State. Like the author, Cutler arranges trips on Air Force Two – now enlivened by serial Al Qaeda attempts to assassinate the Secretary of State.

Vintage Murder may be found on Amazon at http://amazon.com/dp/B004X7F00Q


Monti said…
Sounds like a fascinating lifestyle to live in Bordeaux! A diplomatic background would be wonderful for a writer.

Thanks for hosting, William, Marilyn! Sounds like a great series.
Anonymous said…
This is an excellent interview & what a great idea for a series! Thanks for sharing this interesting writer with us!

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