A Travellerspoint blog

New Orleans Two Years After Katrina

Visiting the city where I went to law school and where I set the first novel in the Jonathan Brooks series.


View USA (LA) 2007 on AC Frieden's travel map.

NEW ORLEANS, Lousiana (Nov. 3, 2007) -- I'd longed to come back after Katrina struck this city, a place filled with memories from law school and the hometown of the main fictional character, Jonathan Brooks, for the novels Tranquility Denied (2006) and the sequel, The Serpent's Game (announced for 2009). My visit also coincided with my 10-year Loyola law school reunion.

I visited the Ninth Ward, the most severely hit area of the city. The pictures speak for themselves...

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I also visited other sites for the second thriller in the Jonathan Brooks series. These included various sites around town, including a cemetery.

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--- Summary of Travel Spots (and Ratings) ---
Hotels: Pavillion Hotel (8)
Restaurants: Arnaud's (8)
Bars/Night Clubs: Pat O'Brien's (8)

All photos and text Copyright © 2008 A.C. Frieden. No reproduction permitted without prior written approval by A.C. Frieden. For reproduction rights and higher resolution images, send email to afrieden[at]avendiapublishing.com.

Posted by AC Frieden 14:40 Archived in USA Comments (0)

Uncovering Krakow's Secrets

Research trip to Krakow and surrounding region for Frieden's upcoming novel, The Serpent's Game.

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View Poland & Austria 2007 on AC Frieden's travel map.

KRAKOW, Poland (Sep. 19, 2007) -- I needed some scenes from Krakow, Poland, for two novels that I'm working on, Red Vault and The Serpent’s Game. I flew into Vienna, spent a morning in the city to catch a chocolate-filled breakfast at the Sache and walk around the old town before zipping back to the airport for my connection to Krakow, the third largest city in Poland, situated on the Vistula River. I toured several sites in the city’s Old Town in search of scenes for my manuscripts, and I took an unplanned detour to visit Osweicim where the Auschwitz and Birkenau Nazi concentration camps are located (which I haven't yet decided how to incorporate into either book, if at all).

Exploring a Historic City

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(above and two below) A view of Krakow from the top of Kościuszko Mound (Kopiec Kościuszki) in Kraków, a 325 meter high artificial mound modeled after the prehistoric mounds of Krak and Wanda. The height offers a panoramic view of the Vistula River and the city.

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(above and below) Wawel castle sits on the Vistula River.

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(above) Sukiennice (aka the Cloth Hall) in Kraków is one of the city's most recognizable buildings and was once a major trade center. It is located in the heart of Old Town, surrounded by cafes and restaurants and adjacent to the City Hall Tower and St. Mary's Basilica.

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(above) The 17-century Baroque church of St. Peter's and St. Paul's at Grodzka street

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I also interviewed locals and scoured the city's outskirts for interesting venues, including churches, restaurants, markets, hotels, night clubs, as well as old cemeteries and synagogues in Kazimierz, Krakow’s historic Jewish quarter from the 14th century until the Second World War. During the trip, I was accompanied by two close friends, FBI Special Agent Bach Melick, a counter-espionage and counter-terrorism expert and former classmate from Loyola University School of Law, and my fellow Chicago lawyer/author Suhaib Ghazi. And to make the stay even more thrilling, we rented a three-bedroom luxury apartment walking distance from the historic city center. An amazing place indeed.

The Concentration Camps

After a one-hour drive from Krakow, I arrived in the town of Osweicim for a grim reminder of the past: the Auschwitz and Birkenau concentration camps. The sites are open to tourists and they will shock you, whether you are Jewish or not. And let's not forget that Jews were not the only ones slain here.

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(above) The gas chamber and crematorium at the Auschwitz concentration camp, near Osweicim.

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(above and both below) Birkenau concentration camp, near Osweicim.

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(above) Bach Melick, A.C. Frieden and Suhaib Ghazi.

All photos and text Copyright © 2007 A.C. Frieden. No reproduction permitted without prior written approval by A.C. Frieden. For reproduction rights and higher resolution images, send email to afrieden[at]avendiapublishing.com.

Posted by AC Frieden 23:42 Archived in Poland Comments (0)

An Inside Look at Venezuela's Political Landscape

Interviews with members of Venezuela’s political, diplomatic, academic and literary communities for Frieden's upcoming novel.

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View Venezuela 2007 on AC Frieden's travel map.

CARACAS, Venezuela (Jul. 10, 2007) -- I arrived in Caracas to continue research for my upcoming political thriller entitled Where Spies Go To Die. In hopes of better understanding the complex and ever-changing political environment in Venezuela, which forms an important basis of the novel’s plot, I interviewed key people from the country’s political, diplomatic, academic, business and literary communities.

I had the fortune to interview Herma Marksman, a historian who spent nearly ten years as “the other woman” at the side of President Hugo Chávez Frías during his rise to power and through his imprisonment in the early 1990s. As Hugo Chávez’s lover, Herma shared his passion for a new Bolivarian revolution, but today she considers herself part of the opposition, dismayed by the extreme politics of the man she once new intimately. In 2002, she and noted political analyst Alberto Garrido co-authored the book El Otro Chávez, a portrayal of Hugo Chávez through her eyes and she has since stopped meeting with the press. She is an elegant, knowledgeable woman and made the 4 hour interview an enjoyable experience.

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(above) Interviewing Herma Marksman (second from right) at the Gran Melia hotel.

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(above) The bustling urban heart of Caracas viewed from my room at the Gran Melia hotel.

I also interviewed various local and foreign government officials and representatives, including Benedict Gubler, Chargé d’Affaire at the Embassy of Switzerland in Venezuela, as well as members of academia, including Professor Romelia Hurtado (Romy), a Caracas native and professor at Eastern New Mexico University; Professor Aida Bexama Farias, University of Chili in Santiago; and Dr. Carmen Sweeting, Principal, Colegio Internacional de Caracas. Although I had anticipated a sharp contrast of views on the current political situation, much like the polarity of views on the Bush administration, it seemed to be far more personal to the citizens of Caracas. Indeed, Venezuela is a divided nation.

My metro and taxi, I visited the city's most important sites, like the Plaza Bolivar and walked by Miraflores, the presidential palace. I also visited Avila, the mountaintop oasis with spectacular views of the city and a short distance away on the other side, Galipan, with its views of the Caribbean coastline.

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(above) View of Caracas from the condola to Avila mountain top.

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(above) View of the city from higher up the slope of Avila.

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(above) Near the village of Galipan, north of Caracas.

I also explored some of the areas of Caracas that tourists never see, including some of the slums like Petare, which I've included a few scenes in the novel.

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(above) The slums of Petare on the eastern side of Caracas.

Quite surprisingly, to conclude my visit, Romy managed to arrange a clandestine meeting with several militant and moderate chavistas, including attorneys, sociologists, a government ombudsman, state engineers and physicians, many of them exercising significant power in Chávez's government and political movement. After being screened at two downtown locations, I finally was ushered to a private room in the back of a restaurant, where the core team waited with mixed drinks in hand, smiles, rehearsed answers and a good dose of curiosity about my research interests and background (no, amigos, I am not with the CIA). It was a lively discussion and no topics were off limits. It was interesting to witness disagreements from within the group, particularly relating to Chavez's policies on oil revenue distribution and international relations.

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(above) Clandestine meeting with key members of Chavez's party.

For press release and additional information, click here: http://www.acfrieden.biz/pressrelease-07122007venezuela.pdf (PDF)

Posted by AC Frieden 22:19 Archived in Venezuela Comments (0)

Mexico City's Hot Spots

Exploring one of the Western Hemisphere's largest cities for scenes to use in the sequel to Canvas Sunsets Never Fade, my first novel.


View Mexico 2007 on AC Frieden's travel map.

MEXICO CITY, Mexico (Jun. 10, 2007) -- After a week in Acapulco, I arrived here in the Mexican capital for my first real chance to visit the city. I'm staying at the new W hotel in Polanco, the hip area on the northern edge of Chapultepec park. The wide boulevards and quaint streets and the sheer size of the city are just some of the things that hit you upon arrival.

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(above) View of north-central Mexico City, including Chapultepec park.

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(above) View of Metro line crossing Avenida 24 de Abril as plane lines up for final.

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(above) Avenida Francisco I Madero in downtown Mexico City.

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(above) The Metropolitan Cathedral facing the Zocalo.

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(above) Julio Verne street in Polanco has quaint shops and restaurants.

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(above) View from my room at the W Hotel in Polanco

The city offers an amazing urban assortment of sites for my sequel, and perhaps for one or more other books in the pipeline. I also visited the archeological museum and went to the artsy market at San Angel.

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(above) Artwork for sale in San Angel's market square.

All photos and text Copyright © 2007 A.C. Frieden. No reproduction permitted without prior written approval by A.C. Frieden. For reproduction rights and higher resolution images, send email to afrieden[at]avendiapublishing.com.

Posted by AC Frieden 15:55 Archived in Mexico Comments (0)

My Russian Book Launch

The exciting European launch of my latest spy thriller, Tranquility Denied.

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View Russia & Spain 2006 on AC Frieden's travel map.

MOSCOW, Russia (Nov. 24, 2006) -- As most of my friends back in Chicago were preparing their Thanksgiving meal, I celebrated the launch of my latest spy thriller Tranquility Denied in the bustling Russian capital, Moscow. I connected through Madrid and arrived in the evening.

I was eager to return to Russia, to see the dramatic changes brought about by oil money. The luxury cars, the specialty stores, the traffic jams, the fashionably dressed pedestrians, and the infrastructure of the city center were all clues that prosperity had indeed arrived, belatedly, after a bitter ten-year struggle after the collapse of the Soviet Union. But it was equally clear from my ventures in the suburbs that wealth was not well distributed. And with a tight hand on power, President Putin and his entourage of political elites were securing a path for Russia not necessarily consistent with Western democracies. The future of this beautful and powerful country will be very interesting to follow and will continue to be among the preferred settings of my upcoming novels.

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(above) Visiting Red Square

For the book launch, the reception was hosted by Anglia British Bookshop, Russia’s largest English language bookstore. Among the VIP guests attending the event were Russian hockey legend Vladislav Tretiak, currently a member of the Duma (the Russian Parliament) and head of the Russian Hockey Federation. Other VIPs included diplomats from the Swiss embassy and American, British, Dutch and French expatriates living in Moscow. Several local academics and avid mystery readers also attended. My presentation began with a reading, followed by a briefing on current U.S.-Russia relations, including the ongoing political tensions that are rivaling those of the Cold War. I also talked about my observations of Moscow, having studied at the law school of Moscow State University in 1996 and had returned in 1998.

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(above) Signing the reserve stock of books at Anglia British Bookstore

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(above) Standing with special guest Vladislav Tretiak

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(above) In the company of the store manager and diplomat VIPs

Returning to this fascinating city gave me the opportunity to again see many of the sites where my novel's hero, Jonathan Brooks, went to, although my passage was far less turbulent than his! (I didn't get shot, nor was I chased by FSB hitmen or rogue CIA agents)

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(above) The Russian State Library, formerly the Lenin Library, and a place from which Jonathan Brooks secretly enters the Kremlin.
(below) The Oruzheynaya Tower near where Jonathan Brooks escapes from the Kremlin.

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(above) The Kremlin's Beklemishevskaya Tower facing the Moskva river

See the press release for information.

Also, check out the book launch video, featuring a few clips from this trip to Moscow.

All photos and text Copyright © 2006 A.C. Frieden. No reproduction permitted without prior written approval by A.C. Frieden. For reproduction rights and higher resolution images, send email to afrieden[at]avendiapublishing.com.

Posted by AC Frieden 16:53 Archived in Russia Comments (0)

Return to Acapulco on the Trail of My First Novel

A Journey to relive parts of my first novel, Canvas Sunsets Never Fade, and plan its sequel.

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View Mexico 2006 on AC Frieden's travel map.

ACAPULCO, Mexico (Jun. 14, 2006) -- I'm here again in Acapulco, Mexico, at the Las Brisas resort, which is the spectacular setting for several scenes in my debut novel, Canvas Sunsets Never Fade (Avendia Publishing, 2004), now in its third U.S. printing. Using the resort as his base of operations, the story’s main character, Richard Nash, tracks down the elusive Lina Mundhir, a wealthy woman and sister of the FBI’s lead suspect wanted in connection with the murder of the Saudi Ambassador’s wife. But Nash’s success in finding Lina is short-lived, as both of them suddenly find themselves pursued by killers who will stop at nothing to silence them. They barely escape from Acapulco and head inland in a desperate attempt to stay alive.

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(above) I am holding a copy of my first novel on the deck of my casita, in front of one Mexico's most striking panoramas.
(below) Not only are the private casitas and pools at Las Brisas a perfect place to write novels, they are also great spots to include in stories, as was the case for my first novel.

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This was my sixth trip to Acapulco (each time at the Las Brisas resort) but my first since Canvas Sunsets Never Fade was published in 2004. I had the pleasure of again meeting several members of the resort’s management and donating copies of his book. I'm also planning to a sequel, which for nostalgic reasons will include scenes from Acapulco.

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For details, read the press release.

Posted by AC Frieden 15:50 Archived in Mexico Comments (0)

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