The series, Joseph Schneider, Traitor-Patriot is fictional, but the characters are based on men and women I’ve met in my 30 years of traveling the world. In many ways, they are real people. The only name that is real is Alejandra.
Paul Trifthauser is a composite of several people I met in my travels, some oilfield workers, some US and British embassy workers and covert spies. He is typical of the Bond type characters live in that world.
Alejandra is Paul Trifthauser’s right arm. She helps navigate the underbelly of Europe’s power elite and royalty. She is based on two characters, a Brazilian prostitute I met in an exclusive club in Zurich and a former beauty queen I met in Manila.
Alejandra is, to this day, the most beautiful woman I have ever met. In fact, I thought she was the wife of a rich Swiss. She wore an extremely expensive dress, her hair was braided and wound in a ball on her head and she wore the kind of jewelry royals wear. Her “dates” were exclusively middle eastern millionaires as she billed out at what would today be equivalent of $10,000 per night. She was so enticing it was difficult to sit next to her. And it wasn’t just sex. Her “dates” took her to Zurich’s best restaurants and most exclusive clubs.
The other half of Alejandra was a former contestant (according to her) in a Miss World competition. She occurs also in “Formula One,” in the Henri Bordeaux series. In Manila in 1985, a woman could get killed for a tenth of the jewelry this woman wore, but her “dates” sent cars and bodyguards. This part of Formula One is true.
I met her through the wife of a friend, Aussie Greg, who owned a bar in Manila. Greg, a loud mouthed obnoxious Australian drunk, was killed in a drive by shooting in front of his bar. His wife, a 30 something Filipino, didn’t appear too bereaved. How she got the idea that I was going to spend $3,000 for a “date” was anybody’s guess, but I must admit, she was as cool as a cucumber. She was also so sexy she could make a porn star blush.
Joseph Schneider is based on my grandfather, Joseph Reeb, a mysterious character that no one, including my mother, really knew. The son of a German immigrant, he had 6 brothers that no one in my family ever met. He had a daughter, my oldest aunt whose history was unknown.
After working as a tanner for the Pierce Arrow Company in Buffalo, he inexplicably left the US at the age of 26 to join the army and fight in WW1. Strangely, he went to fight against the Germans, even though his father was German. A man who spoke very little, he spoke to me. As a toddler, I remember sitting on a cement block watching him work as he told me stories of the war and Buffalo in the 1920’s. He died in a convalescent home at the age of 97.
Arianna Pernovic, Paul Trifthauser’s fiancé is based on two women. An Austrian ballet dancer I dated in Innsbruck in the 80’s and a Ukrainian orphan I met also in Innsbruck. Both women were extremely strong, and very smart. Arianna (the Ukrainian) was as sexy as any man could imagine. In fact, she was dangerously sexy.
Gunther Kronenberger, Trifthauser’s banker is based on a gentheman I met in Saint Moritz in the late 80’s. A Swiss banker, he was a European power broker, who had a chiseled chin, steel blue eyes and was as arrogant a German as you could imagine.
Irving, the CIA agent that follows Paul Trifthauser is ironically based on a woman. She was a CIA agent based in Bangkok in the 80’s and in my Scuba class in Pattaya, Thailand. She was an analyst, but a bit of a Mister Magoo.
Sammy Reese, Trifthauser’s childhood friend, is fictional, but his wife, Celena is not. Also a character in my first novel, “To Sharazad, Wherever you are,” she is based on an Iranian I met in Maui in the 80’s, who I corresponded with for about 7 years. Related to the Shah of Iran, she was forced into exile after the Iranian revolution.
Unable to return, she was separated from her family and lived alone in Los Angeles. Such is often the fate of the families of displaced royals.
Vaidehi is based on a woman I met on a flight between Singapore and Hawaii. An Ivy league graduate and an Indian, she spoke the Queens English and was extremely stylish, but her most endearing quality is that she could play games with her eyes. Like many Indian actresses, Vaidehi did an eye dance that was mesmerizing.
Uncle Hiram (Hiram Issiac) is a composite based on several old Polish men I knew in Lackawanna as a child. I met them when they were old and worn. Many settled in Lackawanna after WW2 and had lost entire families in the wars. They were frugal, worked any hours at any job, and seemed perpetually sad. You could see them sitting on bar stools slouched over their 50 cent beers, staring at nothing.
I could talk about these men for a week and never run out of stories. One I knew was so tight, he built a house for his wife, a double with a second-floor rental, with cash. To save money he dug the basement, alone, with a shovel. Everything that could be hand-made was hand made. The doors, the moldings, you name it. He died of a heart attack at the age of 67, leaving his wife with a bank account worth $700,000.
Lucy’s Tiger Den was a bar in Bangkok that closed with the death of its owner, Tiger, in the late 80’s. It seconded as American Legion China Post 1, of which I was a member. Although the events in the story are fictional, the characterization of the Post is accurate according to my recollection.
The annual meeting was as I spelled out. Petr, who appears as a guard for Paul Trifthauser, is based on a Dutch friend of mine whose dalliances with $5 hookers meant he had venereal disease as much as most of us had the flu. It’s also true that Petr was a smuggler. What he smuggled I have no clue, but much of that business centered around helicopter spare parts smuggled into Thailand from Vietnam.
Additional characters in Books 2-4.
Although many of the above characters reappear in books 2-4, most of the new characters are pure fiction, with a few exceptions. They are…
Carlos, Paul Trifthauser’s cousin. is based on a friend I knew from Bodytech, a gym in Bogota. Carlos was as good looking a guy as you could imagine, had a crushingly hot Colombian wife, who had a body like a caricature in an action poster. Carlos spent almost all of his free time hitting on other women.
Karl is a combination of two men I knew from the Bogota beer company, what used to be THE place to go in Bogota in 2003-2004. One was as he is in the series, a hostage negotiator. The other was a UN inspector that inspected, among other things, Guantanamo Bay.
Bradley, Paul Trifthauser’s assistant, is based on the concierge in a hotel I where I used to stay in Zurich. Bradley was as I describe him. Incredibly intelligent and good looking, he spoke five languages and was as gay as an Easter Parade.
Collette is a royal and Paul Trifthauser’s love interest in the novel Discordia. She’s based on a woman I met in Monaco in 1987. Her father owned the hotel I used to stay in. (And though he liked me, he forbade an American dating his daughter) You could walk into the nicest restaurants in Monaco with her and she was as at home as in her own living room. A total class act.
Sabrina Luneberg, also a royal, is prominent in the last 3 novels. She’s based on a woman I met on the French Riviera. The daughter of an industrialist who owned a professional football team, she was a spoiled shrew of a women, and as daffy as a duck. She was very smart, spoke German, English and French and had no idea what it meant to pay a bill.
She was also, unlike my character, as uninhibited as you could imagine. When she wanted to go skinny dipping, (She said it was a private beach.) she simply took off her clothes and jumped in the ocean. When she got out, she walked back to her room topless. She would put her drinks on my bar bill, hundreds of dollars-worth.
But she was also worth the bar tab. She lived with “friends of her family” in Monaco on a street I describe in “Formula One,” a neighborhood so disgustingly expensive that prices have no meaning. At the same time, she was fiercely disciplined. If she wanted something, even an engineer from Lackawanna, she found a way to get it.
The reason I mention this is a reoccurring theme in my novels is how totally detached from reality the daughters of rich men and royals are and how often they are used by the powerful men they meet. If I had to guess, I’d say Sabrina today is on her 5th husband and can’t remember the other 4.
Samantha, another of Paul Trifthauser’s guards doesn’t appear until very late, but I wanted to mention her here. She’s prominent in the Henri Bordeaux series. She was an African woman I met in San Jose Costa Rica and dated for a brief time.
The best way to describe Samantha (not her real name) was she was the one that got away. I met her through an old friend Henri, who owned a building supply store in Costa Rica and was a famous drunk.
Samantha was one of the sweetest women I’ve ever met. The reason I mention this is because she was also the strongest woman I’ve ever met. Packed into a 5-foot 6 inch, 130 pound body, she could run like a gazelle and jump like a cat. She was very black, and had dark brown, almost black eyes, and a smile that would break your heart.
As I describe in the book, she ran a near world class 100 meters. The only “soft” parts of her body were (excuse me for saying this) her lips and her vagina. Her breasts were as hard as her biceps.
But to sit in a café and watch her speak, her blend of English with a soft French accent, was worth the price of the flight to San Jose. She had a heart of gold and legs of steel. Of all my characters, she’s probably the one I miss the most.
The series, Joseph Schneider, Traitor-Patriot is a work of fiction. To the extent that some of the characters are real, they’re really caricatures of people I once knew. In many cases, they’re composites of different people. In most cases though, I’ve tried to keep their personalities and experiences accurate.
The story itself, although fictional, is based on my understanding of the world and it’s soft, often evil underbelly. If some characters seem evil, diabolical and criminal, all I can say is welcome to the planet earth.
One of my favorite authors of psychology is F. Scott Peck a man that was popular in the 70’s but is all but forgotten today. Peck was an atheist that became a devout Christian after working in the US prison system. His most famous book, “The Road Less Traveled” is not his best. His most insightful is a book called “The People of the Lie,” a book about the roots of evil.
Below is a list of books that have helped shape my world view. This along with the people I’ve met in hundreds of bars and pubs all over the world are the grease that lubricates my novels. I hope you enjoy.
Noble House, James Clavell
War and Remembrance, Herman Wouk
The Raj Quartet, Scott Brown
Savage Continent, Keith Lowe
A Short History of Byzantium, John Julius Norwich