Thursday, July 3, 2014

The Pale House, Luke McCallin and a Giveaway

PaleHouse-coverThe flawed-but-determined German military investigator Gregor Reinhardt returns this week in THE PALE HOUSE, the follow up to author Luke McCallin’s critically praised The Man from Berlin.

I’m thrilled to welcome Luke here today to talk about this book and his writing. In addition, thanks to Luke and the lovely Loren at Berkley, I have 2 copies of THE PALE HOUSE to giveaway. Please see the end of the post for more details.

First a brief summary of THE PALE HOUSE

     In the bloody final days of World War II, two years after the events in The Man from Berlin, Gregor Reinhardt is transferred from normal army intelligence officer duties to service in a Feldjaegerkorps, a new branch of military police with extensive powers. This unit is sent south, to the Balkans, to help maintain the army’s discipline in the chaotic retreat from Greece and Montenegro into Bosnia. But in this new role, Reinhardt is cut adrift from friends and colleagues.
      Upon arrival in Sarajevo, Reinhardt is witness to a massacre of civilians by the Ustaše, a Croation fascist and terrorist organization. However, he discovers there is much more to the incident than meets the eye, and that the Ustaše are hiding something. Worse, as Reinhardt probes deeper into the apparent mystery, he uncovers increasing evidence of German collusion.
      Reinhardt must use his skills as a detective while struggling with both his own desire to survive the last days of the war against the moral imperative that crime must not go unpunished. However, he understands this is his moment to resist, and fight, even if it is to the death.

Now, please join me in welcoming Luke to Thoughts in Progress as he as graciously answered some questions for me.

Mason - What was your research process like for this book?

I did not have a formal research process as I wrote. I knew a lot about the Balkans already. I worked there six years with the United Nations, and what I did not know I found easily enough. I used to think the novel could have been written in any number of places. It was originally to be in Berlin—a city about which I know nothing and to which I have never been—but when I thought of moving it to Sarajevo, it just seemed to fit so well. It made the research not only effortless, but enjoyable, especially when it began to validate much of what I thought and felt about what I had seen and heard during my time there.

That said, my research for the third Reinhardt novel is far more daunting. I’m taking Reinhardt to Berlin, onto what is for me unknown, emotional and historical territory. Terra incognita. I don’t know Berlin at all, so I do feel a bit overwhelmed by what I need to know, and what I think I need to know. At some point, I'm sure, I'm going to run into the infamous quandary a writer faces, between going with what’s right for the story, and what’s right factually or historically. I just hope I can find the right balancing act when the time comes.
Mason - Now that your book has been published, what surprised you the most about this project and its outcome?

That I had stories that people liked to read, and characters people liked to care and read about! I'm surprised at how Reinhardt and his stories have found their niche, and I’ve been immensely touched by readers’ feedback. Not a day goes by that I'm not contacted by a reader with a short message of appreciation. Some have really engaged with the characters, with the story, with the time and place I write about. I really appreciate that, people taking the time to get in touch.
Mason - If you could write a book with any author (living or dead), who would it be and what would the book be about?

Goodness, that’s a great question! There are two periods of history that particularly interest me: the beginning of the 19thnd 20th centuries. I find them to be periods of upheavals in science and sociology, in the way societies were formed and conceptualized and managed. They were periods of great advancements in science, in medicine, philosophy and art, in government, in technology, in human relations, but also periods of great risk and suffering. Of the two periods, the early 20thentury interests me more, with cataclysm of the First World War drawing a red line between two worlds. I would love, therefore, to write a novel set during, or about, the First World War, with one of the memoirists whose writing marked the period, such as Siegfried Sassoon, or Robert Graves.
Mason - Do you have any habits/rituals you follow when writing such as a certain place to write, favorite beverage to drink, quiet verses noise, etc.?

Black tea, by the liter! I like quiet, but only relative. I work to music a lot. I have a particular soft spot for West African music, especially music from Mali. I used to work in Mali and it’s a musical goldmine, a gift that keeps on giving! I fell in love with the kora, which is a harp-like instrument, and is extraordinary in the hands of a master like Toumani Diabaté. It has an amazing range that can take you away, but it keeps you grounded as well.
Mason - What do you hope readers take away from reading your latest release?

Writing the Reinhardt novels was not so much a question of could I do it—I had a degree of confidence in myself as a storyteller and a writer—but should I do
it. I was afraid that what I was trying to write could so easily have been misunderstood as an apology. The time, the place, a character such as Reinhardt—a German, a soldier, a servant, however unwilling of a regime such as the Nazis—when what I was trying to get at was the human aspect of one man caught between choices.

The watchwords to Reinhardt’s character and story are probably ‘change’ and ‘consequence.’ Reinhardt’s story is a thread woven into a tapestry of a continent in upheaval. He goes through those times initially just trying to keep his head above water and survive, but he changes. It’s impossible not to. I wanted to make people interested in those changes, interested in the consequences of those changes, and to make people believe Reinhardt has something to bring to the table, so to say. I wanted people to care about him, and to survive is not enough.
Above all, what I wanted to do in creating and writing Reinhardt was to make people think that he could be you. An ordinary man in extraordinary times, still trying to behave and believe in what makes sense, but so painfully aware of his own fears and limitations, and still knowing what is right and what is wrong. If you give someone like that an opportunity to do something, be someone, what would he do? What would you do…?

Mason - Are you currently working on any new projects?

Yes, I'm completing the initial Gregor Reinhardt trilogy. I originally conceived of three books, with each one at heart covering a theme: redemption in The Man From Berlin, resistance in The Pale House, and reconciliation in the third. When those three are written, I’m going to dive back in for more! There’s a lot more I’d like to do with Reinhardt, and his times. 

Once the third Reinhardt novel in the original trilogy is written, I want to start working on a fourth book, which will show Reinhardt in the trenches. I always wanted to write a WWI book, and with Reinhardt I think I have the right vehicle. We’ll see him as a young man, faced with an investigation in the trenches at a time of utmost turmoil as the war begins to turn definitely away from the Germans, as men’s discipline begins to fray, and the tide of revolution begins to sweep from the east.

Luke, thanks for joining us and sharing this insight into THE PALE HOUSE. You have definitely made Gregor Reinhardt an intriguing character with many facets. 

Now let me share a bit of background on Luke.

Luke McCallin, author of The Man from Berlin, was born in 1972 in Oxford, grew up around the world and has worked with the United Nations as a humanitarian relief worker and peacekeeper in the Caucasus, the Sahel, and the Balkans. 

His experiences have driven his writing, in which he explores what happens to normal people—those stricken by conflict, by disaster—when they are put under abnormal pressures. 

For more on Luke and his writing, visit his website and connect with him on Facebook, Twitter, and Google+.


This giveaway is for two (2) print copies of THE PALE HOUSE. The giveaway is open to U.S. residents only and will end Friday, July 11. 

To enter, just click on the Rafflecopter widget below and following the instructions. The widget may take a few seconds to load, so please be patient. The winner from this giveaway will have 72 hours to respond after being contacted or another winner will be selected. The email will have ‘Thoughts in Progress Luke McCallin’s Tour’ in the subject line, just so you know what to watch for (in case it goes into your spam folder).

Thank you so much for dropping by today during Luke’s visit. What is it that draws you to read books set in and around World War II?

*This post contains affiliate links. a Rafflecopter giveaway


  1. Thanks very much for the interview, I'm looking forward to reading all three of the books. Good luck in Berlin, Luke. It's a wonderful city, I wish I'd been able to spend more time there myself.

  2. I think we're far enough removed from the events for it not to be just an apology. There were as many facets to World War II as there were people.
    And interesting you worked for the United Nations.
    Congratulations and good luck with the third book, Luke!

  3. This sounds like an exciting read—thanks for the opportunity to win a copy!

    skkorman AT bellsouth DOT net

  4. This sounds like a great series, one that is new to me. I like reading books set in this era, particularly ones that take an area that I don't know much about during the War. The Croatia/Seriba/Sarajevo area would fall into that area as a front that I seem to have missed info about during school. Thanks!

  5. it is set in my part of the world. Ustase killed so many people here, that only the mention of their name inspires fear and shivers in us even today.... Sadly, we are again witnessing the rebirth of fascism and extreme nationalism in most countries in Europe :(

  6. I like era pieces too. Nice interview.

  7. Mason - Thanks for hosting Luke.

    Luke - Thanks for sharing your process of writing. I do like historical novels, and it's interesting to learn about the process of preparing a novel that takes place in a different time. I wish you success.

  8. I read about World War 11 and the Nazis and have always been fascinated with this era and the individuals who fought, suffered, endured and lived to write about their experiences no matter how hard it is to read this heartrending books it is meaningful and important. I am Jewish so this is never forgotten and once again anti-semitism is raising its ugly head throughout Europe. saubleb(at)gmail(dot)com

  9. This sounds like a good book to read.

  10. I also find the 19th and beginning of the 20th centuries fascinating. This looks like a great read.

  11. Dear Mason - a heartfelt thank you for your interview and post. I enjoyed it, and you can have me back whenever you like!

    To all those who took the time to comment, many thanks for your thoughts, comments and encouragement. I hope you enjoy Reinhardt's adventures if you get round to reading them.

    All the best to all, and happy 4th July to my American readers!


  12. Your background and research should make this a terrific read.


  13. Reinhardt sounds like a complicated and interesting character.


I'd love to hear your thoughts on today's post. Thanks for dropping by.