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Suspense Thriller Fiction by John T. Cullen

Jean-Thomas Cullen writing as John T. Cullen

=  Valley of Seven Castles  =

Valley of Seven Castles, a Luxembourg Thriller is a rollicking romantic suspense thriller set in Europe. Besides a love story and adventure, the novel has an underlying progressive political message for the USA and the European Union as we move into the 21st Century. As I did with my 1990s political suspense thriller CON2: The Generals of October, I found it compelling to write a romantic thriller with high suspense, overlaid upon progressive political ideas in our increasingly dark century. That novel was modeled uon earlier suspense thrillers and movies I enjoyed (above all the political suspense thriller Seven Days in May; but also Three Days of the Condor, The Parallax View, The Manchurian Candidate, and more. I say all this to indicated that I felt comfortable blending the adventurous writings of a Leslie Charteris, Agatha Christie, Eric Ambler, Helen MacInnes, Georges Simenon, John Le Carré, or Ian Fleming to name just a few, with their more serious ponderings (of varying degrees). I think they all presented a fun side, but also a serious one as well, so I feel I am in good company with my own CON2, Orbital Sniper, and Valley of Seven Castles. I should soon have all these ready on the Galley City website under the Bookstore Metaphor (read half/try buy) and read-a-latte programs.

I was a fan and reader of Robert Ludlum during his lifetime, starting with his novel The Gemini Twins, which I discovered as a young soldier in Cold War Germany (FRG) in a U.S. Army PX (Post Exchange) in Kaiserslautern. Highest praise to U.S. Army and other military librarians, by the way, for maintaining for the readers among us a pied-a-terre back to our favorite libraries back home!

The Bourne Identity. I loved Robert Ludlum's The Gemini Contenders, which made me a lifelong Ludlumite, although in certain ways it turned out to be quite different from his later novels (in my opinion). That's not my main point now: I want to tell you that the 2003 movie (based on probably the best known Ludlum novel) The Bourne Identity starring Franka Potente and Matt Damon is one of my all-time favorite romantic suspense thriller movies, and I consciously tried to adapt some of its compelling features in my novel Valley of Seven Castles. Whereas Ludlum features a deadly dash from the Mediterranean Coast to Paris in The Bourne Identity, I feature a deadly dash (by two lovers on the run) from Paris to Luxembourg. But wait! There is a lot more!

The Thirty-Nine Steps by John Buchan (1915). On one hand, I purposely engineered this novel to mirror the adventures of the two lovers in the 2003 movie The Bourne Identity, although the deadly dash in my novel starts effectively in Paris (after a brief moments in Shanghai and Belgium). I want readers to feel that thrilling urgency, the dark danger, the romantic zest, of the Ludlum novel…but there's far more! As I'll try to briefly explain here, the plot sequence is purposefully modeled on a 1915 classic by U.K. author John Buchan. His novel The Thirty-Nine Steps is not only a classic. In my terminology, it is archetypal—meaning it demands to be remade, generation after generation. Among the many adaptations over the past century was a 1935 espionage/adventure film by Alfred Hitchcock, titled The 39 Steps.

Alfred Hitchcock's Final Secret. The way this started, actually, is that I was itching to write my next thriller. As it happened, I had a cheap Dover edition of John Buchan's great novel lying nearby, waiting to be read (I'd already seen two or three movie versions including Hitchcock's 1935 film). I was looking for a fun plot ladder to climb, so to speak. And there it was. I became drawn in to Buchan's ten-part plot, and decided to essentially model my suspense on that and upon the 2003 Damon/Potente movie, but also use the structure from Buchan's novel. I figured that there must be some magic there (and wow, was there ever!) because it's not only a classic, but an archetype demanding to be remade time and again.

North by Northwest (1959, Hitchcock). Here's where a great heap of further story magic happened to me. While having fun analyzing the compelling plot in Buchan's novel and in Hitchcock's 1935 movie based on Buchan' novel, I began to get this crawly feeling up and down my back. I'd seen this story before, elsewhere, in one of my other all-time favorite suspense thrillers. That movie is none other than Hitchcock's 1959 classic North by Northwest, which follows the ten-stage progression of Buchan's novel and Hitch's 1935 with astounding fidelity. Trust me, it's all buried in Valley of Seven Castles, a Luxembourg Thriller which I hope you will read and enjoy. Please note that I have already published and copyright-registered a paper on this topic, which will be available for popular consumption soon. [JTC]

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About These Pages

But Wait, There's More!. This is one of my novels that comes with a prop-wash of tons of information that I'll summarize here. At the Big Romantic Novels page, I currently list four huge historical thrillers. One of them is my Luxembourg Thriller. Clicking the standard button brings you to this info page, where you can read about the novel, and then click on the Galley City link (directly below here) to start reading half the novel for free (try/buy).

Newspaper Interview In 2017, my family and I traveled in Europe and visited the offices of the national newspaper. They agreed to an interview because (a) the novel is mostly set in Luxembourg, quite unusual for such a small nation; and (b) we hold dual (actually triple) citizenship (US/EU/Luxembourg). I was able to do a screenshot and post it here. Translation will soon follow.

Thrillerology. The story is entirely my own, with strong social and progressive political overtones. Primarily, it is meant as an entertainment. Like all of my novels, it contains both a rollicking suspense element, as well as a strong romantic love story between the hero and heroine, ending in HEA. Structurally, as I show in the Thrillerology that is unique to this novel, it draws upon some of the leading novel and film creations of the 20th Century, including work by John Buchan, Robert Ludlum, and Alfred Hitchcock. Don't miss the Thrillerology (links above).

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