24 August, 2015

#GuestPost :: Story of The Damascus Cover by Howard Kaplan

Story of The Damascus Cover

The Damascus Cover is a story within a story.  The main thread is about a washed out Israeli spy who has made serious mistakes and then is offered an assignment to smuggle some children out of Damascus, something previously below his position.  As a chance back in, he eagerly accepts it.  Unbeknownst to him and to the reader, until much later, the head of the Israeli secret service has a larger mission in mind that he does not share and he will throw obstacles in front of Ari through the mission in Damascus to lead to do something desperate, which is what his handlers intend and need.  What they need from him is revealed in a final twist in the novel.  So it’s a story about the Israeli Secret Service willing to use one of their own, as other secret services would or might, in order to achieve a greater good or greater goal depending on one’s perspective. 

The Damascus Cover feature film was shot this spring in Casablanca starring Jonathan Rhys Meyers, John Hurt and Olivia Thirlby best known as the sister and sidekick in Juno.   It’s a spy thriller and a romance set in Damascus before the current Civil War.  Jonny, as JRM likes to be called, is intense and wonderful.  His cover is Hans Hoffman, and he does the entire film with a remarkable German accent, his hair dyed blonde.  A language coach from Berlin was on the set full time and listened to every take.  Both of them were zealous that none of his Irish brogue slip into the German accented English.  I had the great privilege of spending a week on the set and went out on the 10 hour a day shoots all over Morocco. The producer thought I’d be bored since film production is mostly waiting around and that after a few days I’d head to the more exotic Fez or Marrakech but I stayed the entire week on set.  I’ve traveled a lot and this was a treat especially to watch Jonathan Rhys Meyers work.  He gives his all to everything.  The film will be in theaters in early 2016.

The reviews have been very gratifying.  A sample:

Los Angeles Times
"Kaplan's grasp of history and scene creates a genuine reality.  He seems to know every back alley of Damascus and Cyprus."

Hartford Courant
"A fine, taut, tense spy story full of furious action."

Chicago Daily News
"Exceedingly rich in color about the Syrian capital."

BBC News
"The plotting is beautiful."

American Library Association (starred review)
"A mission inside Syria, a last love affair, and the unfolding of the plot within a plot are handled by the author with skill and a sure sense of the dramatic."

The Damascus Cover is book one in The Jerusalem Spy Series.  Book two, Bullets of Palestine is also out and I’m working on book three To Destroy Jerusalem.

In a last ditch effort to revive his career, washed out agent Ari 
Ben-Sion accepts a mission he never would have 30 years ago, to 
smuggle a group of Jewish children out of the Damascus ghetto. Or so he thinks. 

In Damascus, a beautiful American photographer, Kim, seems to be falling in love with Ari, but she is asking too many questions. His communication equipment disappears. His contact never shows up. The operation is only hours away and everything seems awry. 

Desperate to succeed, Ari might risk everything. Even his life. 

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Two agents. Two opposing sides. 

Israeli Agent Shai is dispatched to eliminate a terrorist threat. To succeed in his mission Shai must win the trust of Palestinian Agent Ramzy who will help him gain access to the infamous and dangerous Abu Nidal. 

Shai is under orders to kill Ramzy when the mission ends. Instead, they forge a friendship that transcends the hatreds of their heritage. Loyalties are tested. Will they capture Abu Nidal or betray each other? In a conflict where both sides dehumanize each other, two extremely human men, are caught in the cross-hairs of the larger war. 

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