The Dark Lily

The Dark Lily Beirut, 1965. Eccentric American billionaire Zane Smith is quite entranced by tattooed dancer known only as the Dark Lily. In fact, he is so entranced that he takes her back to his hotel room for a private performance. It’s only when he wakes up in the morning with one hell of a headache and the Dark Lily gone that Smith realizes he may have bitten off more than he can chew.
However, none of the valuables in Smith’s hotel room is missing – nothing save an invitation to a party at the American embassy in Beirut. But why would an exotic dancer attempt to snatch an invitation to an embassy party for herself? And who is the mysterious Dark Lily?
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Read an excerpt.

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More formats coming soon.

Some background information:

  • The Dark Lily is a novelette of 10500 words. This story is a digital premiere and has never been published before.
  • The Dark Lily is a prequel to my spy novelette The Other Side of the Curtain and tells the story of how Zane Smith (though he still appears by his full name Zebediah here) and Shoushan Kariyan first met.
  • The Zane Smith and Shoushan Kariyan stories are intended to pay homage to the great spy fiction, films and TV shows of the 1960s. There’s definitely a bit of Modesty Blaise and Willy Garvin not to mention John Steed and Emma Peel in Zane and Shoushan.
  • When writing The Dark Lily, I knew early on that I not just wanted to emulate the spy fiction of the 1960s, I also wanted to write an East meets West story. Hence we have Zebediah “Zane” Smith, the eccentric American billionaire, and Shoushan Kariyan, the Soviet Armenian KGB spy.
  • I was experimenting a lot with first person narration at the time I wrote The Dark Lily, so the novelette featured two dueling first person narrators, Zane and Shoushan.
  • However, the immediate inspiration for The Dark Lily was a piece of vintage comic artwork showing a woman with what appeared to be tattoos spiraling down her arms.
  • I don’t know where the Lebanese setting came from. I suspect the reason is that I was fascinated by the fact that Beirut, a city I mainly associated with bombs, kidnappings and a bloody civil war growing up in the 1980s, had been a glamorous metropolis a mere twenty years before.
  • The original draft of The Dark Lily was written as an assignment for a creative writing class at university. In order to get a grade for the class, I also had to hand in a literary analysis of the story and the writing process. A PDF copy of that analysis may be found here, for those who care.
  • Initially, there was supposed to be a series of more or less loosely interlinked novelettes. But to date, The Dark Lily and The Other Side of the Curtain are the only stories that are finished. More will follow in the future.
  • The direct sequel to The Dark Lily is Saida, which chronicles the adventures of Smith and Shoushan at the pipeline construction and archaeological dig site in the city of Saida, formerly known as Sidon. Saida will be coming soon from Pegasus Pulp.
  • The cover image is a stock illustration by artist David Gn via Canstockphoto. The style of the cover was inspired by the psychedelic artwork of Wes Wilson and Peter Max. The flowers also evoke the so-called Pril flowers, flower shaped stickers that were included as a premium with bottles of Pril detergent in the 1970s.
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