Tag Archives: New York

My novel “Al-Quebeca” ripped from tomorrow’s headlines

10 Oct

Ebook Al Quebeca v4darker charcoal thumbFor years nothing happens. Then everything happens at once. This applies both to writing novels and launching terror strikes.

For the record, I’m a writer, not a terrorist, although I admit to a fascination with the latter. As a Canadian, I’ve watched terror events unfold across the world with frightening speed and consequences. These events usually occur at a distance, allowing Canadians to be mere spectators rather than forced participants. But sometimes, things happen right in our backyard.

In 1999 the LAX bomber, Ahmed Ressam, was intercepted in Port Angeles, WA, with a carload of explosives destined for the LA airport. He’d entered Canada in 1994 with a forged French passport and lived in Montreal for almost five years, surviving by stealing airport luggage. After a trip to Afghanistan where he learned how to build bombs, the RCMP began following him, and alerted US authorities when he crossed the border from Vancouver en route to Los Angeles.

In 2006, the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) arrested a group of jihadists, the Toronto 18, as they took delivery of three tonnes of ammonium nitrate with which they’d planned to build massive bombs in U-Haul trailers. Their targets: the Toronto Stock Exchange, the CSIS offices in downtown Toronto, and a military base. After the bombs, they would storm Parliament, seize the Cabinet and behead the Prime Minister, all in time for the evening news and instant fame via al-Jazeera. But the Toronto 18 had been infiltrated and monitored for over a year by 700 security officers gathering evidence via 80,000 electronic intercepts.

skull-bomb@50%In April 2013, following hard on the heels of the Boston Marathon bombings, two men with alleged al-Qaeda connections were arrested in Canada for plotting to derail a Canadian train travelling from Toronto to New York. Turns out there may have been an Iranian connection, wherein financial or technical aid was provided on behalf of al-Qaeda.

Apparently, news of that domestic terrorist plot raised only tepid interest from the US media, while the Twitter-verse responded with several jokes on the subject. Understandably, a neutralized threat in Canada pales in comparison to exploding bombs in Boston, but seriously, folks… Just because Canadians are liberal and polite doesn’t mean our society is any less liable than America’s in unwittingly harboring terrorists in our midst. Quite the contrary.

I wrote the first draft of my novel Al-Quebeca in 2009 and revised it several times over subsequent years. Each time it all seems even more inevitable. The plot involves an al-Qaeda sleeper cell in Montreal summoned to life by order of a Paris-based mullah. Although Osama bin Laden is dead and gone, he’d issued a fatwa several years ago, vowing revenge against any country, Canada included, that had sided with America in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars.

In Al-Quebeca, the Montreal terrorist plot involves a simultaneous three-pronged strike: to sabotage the Hydro-Quebec electrical grid that supplies power to Boston and New York, behead the visiting Governor of New York and, for body-count bonus points, kill thousands of hockey fans with nerve gas.

Preposterous? Not really. For years the CIA has warned CSIS that Montreal, where almost one in four residents is Muslim or has ties to Arabic-speaking homelands, is a hot-bed of al-Qaeda sleeper cells awaiting the call to jihad. We all think it could never happen here. Until it does.

guns_in_the_sky(Currently, in a case of life mirroring art, the radical jihadist group ISIS is encouraging independent acts of terrorism in every western country that participates in the US-led coalition against their brutal insurrection in Iraq and Syria.)

In Al-Quebeca, the heroine Sophie Gillette is a Montreal homicide detective dispatched in the middle of a snowstorm to investigate the suspicious hit-and-run death of an Iranian engineer who worked for Hydro-Quebec. Defying easy resolution, the case launches her on a collision course with biker wars, arms smuggling and, unexpectedly, a terrorist plot.

In the course of her investigation, Gillette uncovers militant students at Concordia University, drug financiers and a rogue professor with a PhD in chemical toxicology. All are linked to a shadowy figure called al-Quebeca whom Gillette must track to a brutal confrontation.

I just hate to be prescient, but as Aldous Huxley once said, The trouble with fiction is that it makes too much sense.

But don’t take my word for it. Read Al-Quebeca and judge for yourself.

You can purchase it at Amazon, Apple, Barnes&Noble, Kobo or Smashwords.

 

My novel “Al-Quebeca” ripped from tomorrow’s headlines

26 Apr

Ebook Al Quebeca v4darker charcoal thumbFor years nothing happens. Then everything happens at once. This applies both to writing novels and launching terror strikes.

For the record, I’m a writer, not a terrorist, although I admit to a fascination with the latter. As a Canadian, I’ve watched terror events unfold across the world with frightening speed and consequences. These events usually occur at a distance, allowing Canadians to be mere spectators rather than forced participants. But sometimes, things happen right in our backyard.

In 1999 the LAX bomber, Ahmed Ressam, was intercepted in Port Angeles, WA, with a carload of explosives destined for the LA airport. He’d entered Canada in 1994 with a forged French passport and lived in Montreal for almost five years, surviving by stealing airport luggage. After a trip to Afghanistan where he learned how to build bombs, the RCMP began following him, and alerted US authorities when he crossed the border from Vancouver en route to Los Angeles.

In 2006, the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) arrested a group of jihadists, the Toronto 18, as they took delivery of three tonnes of ammonium nitrate with which they’d planned to build massive bombs in U-Haul trailers. Their targets: the Toronto Stock Exchange, the CSIS offices in downtown Toronto and a military base. After the bombs, they would storm Parliament, seize the Cabinet and behead the Prime Minister, all in time for the evening news and instant fame via al-Jazeera. But the Toronto 18 had been infiltrated and monitored for over a year by 700 security officers gathering evidence via 80,000 electronic intercepts.

Last week, following hard on the heels of the Boston Marathon bombings, two men with alleged al-Qaeda connections were arrested in Canada for plotting to derail a Canadian train travelling between Toronto and New York.

Apparently, news of our latest domestic terrorist plot raised only tepid interest from the US media, while the Twitter-verse responded with several jokes on the subject. Understandably, a neutralized threat in Canada pales in comparison to exploding bombs in Boston, but seriously, folks… Just because Canadians are liberal and polite doesn’t mean our society is any less liable than America’s in unwittingly harboring terrorists in our midst. Quite the contrary.

I wrote the first draft of my novel Al-Quebeca in 2009 and revised it several times since then. Each time it all seems even more inevitable. The plot involves an al-Qaeda sleeper cell in Montreal summoned to life by order of a Paris-based mullah. Although Osama bin Laden is dead and gone, he’d issued a fatwa several years ago, vowing revenge against any country, Canada included, that had sided with America in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. Some jihadi never forget, and it’s now payback time.

The Montreal terrorist plot involves a simultaneous three-pronged strike: to sabotage the Hydro-Quebec electrical grid that supplies power to Boston and New York, behead the visiting Governor of New York and, for body-count bonus points, kill thousands of hockey fans with nerve gas.

Preposterous? Not really. For years the CIA has warned CSIS that Montreal, where almost one in four residents is Muslim or has ties to Arabic-speaking homelands, is a hot-bed of al-Qaeda sleeper cells awaiting the call to jihad. We all think it could never happen here. Until it does.

For years nothing happens; then everything happens at once. A week and a half ago, bombs went off at the Boston Marathon. Obviously prompted by FBI concerns that other plots were in play, CSIS arrested the two Canadian men plotting to derail a US-bound train. Turns out there may have been an Iranian connection, wherein financial or technical aid was provided on behalf of al-Qaeda.

Small (parallel) world. In Al-Quebeca, the heroine Sophie Gillette is a Montreal homicide detective dispatched in the middle of a snowstorm to investigate the suspicious hit-and-run death of an Iranian engineer who worked for Hydro-Quebec. Defying easy resolution, the case launches her on a collision course with biker wars, arms smuggling and, unexpectedly, a terrorist plot.

In the course of her investigation, Gillette uncovers militant students at Concordia University, drug financiers and a rogue professor with a PhD in chemical toxicology. All are linked to a shadowy figure called al-Quebeca whom Gillette must track to a brutal confrontation.

I just hate to be prescient, but as Aldous Huxley once said, The trouble with fiction is that it makes too much sense.

But don’t take my word for it. Read Al-Quebeca and judge for yourself.

www.amazon.com/Al-Quebeca-ebook/dp/B00CHQOY8O

www.smashwords.com/books/view/309140

Scorpio Rising: book review by Dell Horoscope

22 Apr

SCORPIO RISING, by Alan Annand

What astrology needs to show its authentic depth is a super-hero in the tradition of Sherlock Holmes, Sam Spade, and Hercule Poirot. Since astrologers have inside information about how the universe works beyond the apparent three dimensions of our manifest world, they should make great detectives. So far, our justice system remains skeptical about how astrologers might help, but a few writers have begun creating protagonists who use the celestial arts to solve murder cases.

Author Alan Annand has created Axel Crowe, an astrology-savvy hero in Scorpio Rising. In this dramatic tale, three murders take place simultaneously in three separate locations across the USA. Axel Crowe has been hired to investigate one of those murders. At first, all he knows about is the one that took place in New York. The other two murders take place in San Francisco and Los Alamos, New Mexico.

Due to the wealth of all three of the murder victims, and the anti-terrorism work of the victim from Los Alamos, all kinds of police investigators and FBI agents are called in. Naturally, they don’t have a clue about whodunit, but Axel Crowe starts figur­ing it out after 300 pages or so. His first insight comes from noticing a variety of threes and triangle shapes during his investigation. The trail is interrupted by some violence, a few sex scenes, and a tangled narration that jumps from one location to the other every few pages.

When he arrives at a place relevant to the case, he adds up the digits in the address to get a numerological clue. He notices whether a corporate building is designed according to vastu (akin to feng shui) principles. When he’s offered a drink, he asks for mango juice (“rich in anti-oxidants”). He quickly sizes peopl­e up according to their ayurvedic body type or the shape of their hands and fingers. He reads signs, coincidences, and is always ready with an appropriate quote from his guru. What more could you ask for in a New Age hero?

Most importantly, Axel Crowe has an iPhone with an astrology app. When he arrives on a scene, he checks the current transits. He can guess a suspect’s rising sign with uncanny accuracy, and thus also derives a natal horoscope to check out character and alibis. As it turns out, the murder he’s investigating took place when Scorpio was rising, hence the title. Most people associate Scorpio with death, sex, and the dark side, and much of this book’s content provides ample fulfillment of this connection.

Take one of the main characters, Carrie Cassidy. In her opening scene, she meets a handsome, studly fellow on the elevator while on her way to visit her mother: “Fit as an athlete and squeaky clean, just the way she liked them.” She quickly hooks up with the stranger to indulge in an afternoon quickie, and still has time to visit her mother without being too late. For most of the story, Carrie appears to be an ambitious, lusty writer trying to make it big with her first novel. She’s spent the last three years working on it and just wants to get the thing pub­lished.

Those interested in astrology will find some satisfaction with Crowe’s analysis and interpretation, and the story line is a welcome entry into twen­ty-first century fiction. Naturally, Axel Crowe is skilled in the martial arts, and toward the end, he has a merry chase through the craggy terrain of New Mexico. In the last chapter, he explains to his client and the hapless mainstream detectives how the murders were all connected.

Spoiler Alert: The plot was akin to Alfred Hitchcock’s film Strangers on a Train, where each stranger agrees to kill the other stranger’s intended victim, a wife and a mother, respectively. In this way, the out-of-town killings would provide foolproof alibis. Hitchcock’s story involved two murders, while in Scorpio Rising, there are three.

Scorpio Rising is a step forward in the New Age detective genre. For those with a mystical blend and more than a touch of Scorpio darkness, you’re in for a treat. Just remember that, as Crowe’s guru was fond of saying, “The subtle has the capacity to penetrate the gross, but not vice versa.”

– Chris Lorenz @ Dell Horoscope

For all the latest REVIEWS of Scorpio Rising, see: http://pinterest.com/alanannand/scorpio-rising/

To purchase Scorpio Rising (digital $2.99, paper $11.99)


Scorpio Rising: book review by Horoscope Guide

20 Mar

 SCORPIO RISING, by Alan Annand, Sextile.com

358 pages, paper $11.99 (available at Amazon.com or Createspace.com). Digital versions for all ereaders available ($2.99) through Smashwords.com.

Independent investigator Axel Crowe has promised to look into the murder of a friend’s sister, who was found dead under odd circumstances on a New York street. Having been allowed access to the detectives assigned to the case, he asks first for the basic details of the murder: where it happened, approximate time of death, and so forth. As the cops give him the requested information, he is thumbing his smart phone, glancing at it from time to time, not the kind of gesture that gets much attention from anyone these days of course. What he is doing, though, is having an astrology app do the chart, and a Vedic chart at that, for the date, time, and place of the murder. He glances down at it and thinks to himself:

With Scorpio rising, a fixed sign suggested murder connected with a family member. The seventh house was Taurus, a female sign, and its ruler was Venus, a female planet. Together, they indicated a female killer. Venus in dual sign Pisces implied more than one person involved. An exalted Venus, in planetary war with Mars, described an aggressive professional who was into sports or martial arts…   

And neatly with a few strokes of a thumb and a not insubstantial fund of knowledge gained from his former guru, Crowe has outlined the clues that begin to lead him to the murder. Earlier in the book Crowe’s guru had cut him loose as someone too much taken with his vices (relationships, drinking, and gambling) to give proper attention to spiritual tasks.

That kind of character work I found refreshing almost from the start of Scorpio Rising, as over the years I’ve read probably most of the small number of works of astrological fiction published, and a major fault in most (with the exception of Barbara Shafferman’s Addie Price in The President’s Astrologer, published in 1998) is that the main character tends to be a type, not a person. One can’t imagine them falling in love, having any bad habits (if they have habits at all), and certainly one can’t conceive of them ever making a mistake. Crowe is good at what he does, but he is not perfect, and he is good at being human, though again not perfect.

Though I’ve started this review with a quote that is firmly astrological, protagonist Crowe is also a palmist and uses other intuitive and symbolic techniques such as vastu shastra (similar to feng shui, though there is only a partial overlap between the two). Mostly though, he is a smart, observant detective who knows how to put together little bits and pieces of clues to make the big picture that leads him to the culprits. While there is no doubt that astrology, supported by these other techniques, is a central player in the untangling of the mystery, that app on Crowe’s smart phone is introduced only where it makes a difference and this is done in such a way that the reader isn’t required to know much, if anything, about the subject.

The story revolves around three murders that occur on the same day in geographical locations far removed from each other, and though from very early in the book we have an idea of who the culprits are (by nature if not by name), just how the murders might be linked, and how that could relate to the motives is always just a chapter or two ahead of the reader. I happen to gravitate toward mysteries in my off-hours reading (and more so since the advent of the Nook and library e-loans), and they tend to fall into two categories: those you read to the end in order to find out what happened, and those you read (sometimes grudgingly) to the end to confirm what you already know.

The first category is the best of course, and Scorpio Rising falls firmly into that class. Around page 150, though I was enjoying the read, I was quite sure that I had figured out most of the key elements of the mystery, but two chapters later I had to stop patting myself on the back when a couple of additional details told me that I had totally misjudged two of the characters, derailing most if not all of my detective work. And so it went, all the way to the end.

What it comes down to is that Scorpio Rising is an engaging mystery with twists and turns that keep you reading all the way to the last page of the last chapter. Axel Crowe is a new kind of character on the mystery scene, who is a quick study when presented with a baffling murder in part because he combines his own mix of intuitive methods with a thorough understanding of methods used by police and crime labs the world over. Though his intuitive insight may give him an edge and put him a level or two above the more tedious tasks of police work, Crowe is not some shiny mystical figure travelling on a higher plane, but rather someone who deals every day with the limitations of his own imperfections.

A good mystery all the way around!

~ Kenneth Irving, editor, Horoscope Guide

For all the latest REVIEWS of Scorpio Rising, see: http://pinterest.com/alanannand/scorpio-rising/

To purchase Scorpio Rising (digital $2.99, paper $11.99)


Scorpio Rising: book review by NCGR newsletter

2 Mar

SCORPIO RISING, by Alan Annand

(reviewed by Donna Van Toen)

And now for something completely different… It’s not common to see a novel where astrology plays a major role, but that’s exactly what we’ve got here.

The protagonist, Axel Crowe, is a criminal profiler, finder of missing people and things, damned fine detective, and just for good measure a Vedic astrologer and an excellent palmist as well. When we meet him early on, he is also a follower of a guru, known only as Guruji. Guruji dismisses Crowe early on, but his pithy comments appear throughout the story – which is definitely not the story of an aesthete living in an ashram. There are murders, there is mayhem, and there are plenty of women.

The action takes place all over the map – in Toronto, in New York, in California, and elsewhere. Annand has a good eye for setting tone, a good ear for dialogue, and excellent ability to whip up a fast-paced plot. And he throws in just enough astrology and palmistry to pique our interest. Not gratuitous astrology or palmistry either – it’s an integral part of Crowe’s bag of tricks and definitely a part of the story.

Annand is a seasoned writer of detective stories and this one doesn’t disappoint. It’s fast-paced and has enough twists and turns – as well as enough astrology and palmistry – to keep you turning those pages and distract you from your more mundane chores. I enjoyed it immensely. I did wonder though, how someone of non-astrological bent might relate to it. So I passed it along to a non-astrological friend. The verdict – he liked it too. “But,” he asked, “is all that stuff about palmistry for real?” I assured him it was, and that the author – in addition to being a good writer, was a pretty fine astrologer and palmist as well.

If you like thrillers and detective stories, this one is a terrific read. You may even be able to justify reading it as “study” because chances are that you will learn a few tidbits here and there. My one caution would be: Don’t lend it until you’re really ready to let go of it. When I went to track down my copy, it had already been loaned to a second person and it took me two weeks to get it back so I could do this review. The borrower did, however, give me a pound of cashews by way of an apology. Guruji would not have been pleased, but I’m pretty sure Crowe would have smiled. He’d know that just like cashews, this is a book to indulge in.

Donna Van Toen is an astrologer, teacher, and author of “The Astrologer’s Node Book” and “The Mars Book.” She coordinates the annual State of the Art (SOTA) Conference, and speaks for groups and conferences throughout the world. http://www.donnavantoen.com.

Scorpio Rising, Sextile.com, 2011,  348pp paper $11.99, digital $2.99

For all the latest REVIEWS of Scorpio Rising, see: http://pinterest.com/alanannand/scorpio-rising/

To purchase Scorpio Rising (digital $2.99, paper $11.99)

Scorpio Rising: book review by The Mountain Astrologer

13 Jan

Scorpio Rising by Alan Annand, part of the New Age Noir series, is a gripping murder mystery with a Hitchcockian twist. Private investigator Axel Crowe is an appealing and upstanding protagonist who uses astrology, palmistry and other esoteric techniques to solve crimes. With bits of Vedic wisdom sprinkled through­out, this book is an enjoyable read and an engrossing narrative.

————————————————

Scorpio Rising by Alan Annand, part of the New Age Noir series, is a gripping murder mystery with a Hitchcockian twist. The protagonist of this story is a private investigator named Axel Crowe who uses esoteric techniques to solve crimes – intuition, numerology, palmistry, horary astrology, Ayurveda, Vedic astrology, and a well-developed sense of smell. One FBI agent refers to Crowe’s bag of tricks as “whatever it is you do.” Years of observing the subtle signs of the environment have given Crowe the courage to follow his intuition.

He also looks for signs in the form of synchronicity. Here is one unusual method for determining someone’s ascendant: “Out in Central Park, the blue kite wheeled high in the air. Blue was the color of Venus. Libra was an air sign ruled by Venus. On the wall was an Ernst litho­graph, Portrait Bleu, featuring a bird-like figure. More corrobo­ration. [She] would have a Libra ascendant.”

Crowe, of course, has to deal with a lot of skepticism from law enforcement officials regarding his methods. When someone suggests that it is quite a leap from criminology to astrology, Crowe responds: “I suppose, although some would say, they’re both black arts.”

Crowe is an “infomaniac,” according to his Vedic teacher, Guruji, who had tutored him for 14 years and taught him that our greatest enemy is our own desire. (The novel attempts to prove this maxim.) Crowe was quite attached to his guru: “His heart brimmed with love for the man who had shown him the narrow trail through a bramble thicket of ignorance and misperception.”

The bits of Vedic wisdom sprinkled through­out this book were my favorite parts. For example, here’s what Crowe has to say about women: “Women were mothers, sisters, lovers, angels and rarely, but possibly, demons. Every now and then you might have the bad luck to meet a Kali, the Hindu goddess of death and destruction, and she would add your head to her collection of skulls.” We meet one such demon in this novel.

This is not a whodunit. By page 60 of the book, a pattern has emerged, and we know who has done what to whom. The reader simply waits for Crowe and the detectives to find the pattern and locate the parties responsible for the murders.

Scorpio Rising is an enjoyable read and an engrossing narrative, but it is not for the super-squeamish. (If you set out to read this book, it is recom­mended that you have at least one Scorpio planet in your chart.) There are several unsa­vory characters here – murderers, adulterers, and thieves – but the police detectives are painted as real working-class people, warts and all, and Crowe is an appealing, upstanding guy who is nonetheless not quite perfect.

reviewed by Jan de Prosse, The Mountain Astrologer, Feb/Mar 2012

Scorpio Rising by Alan Annand, Sextile, 2011. Softcover, 352 pp, $11.99. ISBN 978-0-9869206-4-6.

For all the latest REVIEWS of Scorpio Rising, see: http://pinterest.com/alanannand/scorpio-rising/

To purchase Scorpio Rising (digital $2.99, paper $11.99)

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