Talking Thrillers with Alberto Mansur: Only the Dead Know Peace

Alberto Mansur

Alberto Mansur was born in Mexico City, Mexico, where he’s written for Rolling Stone and Forbes magazines.

His first novel, Lo que mata no es la bala, was published in Mexico and named noir book of the year. Only the Dead Know Peace is his debut novel for the English-speaking market.

Read on to learn more about this adrenaline-fueled epic that's been described by Don Winslow as "a powerhouse book."

TFx: Where did you come up with the idea for this book, and what can you tell us about the plot?

Mansur: The idea for this book came from imagining what it takes for two deeply scarred people from different backgrounds to choose the path they walk. On one side is IAN BLOOM, the protagonist, an American playboy and trust fund brat who’s driven by a secret pain to go to Israel and find meaning for his life by serving as a soldier in the Jewish ancestral homeland. On the other there’s FUAD BAGHDADI, a Palestinian teenager who is torn between rebellion, familial love, and community disdain and whose fears and shame drive him into the path of the wrong mentor who exploits his weaknesses and transforms him into a terrorist.

TFx: What perspectives or beliefs have you challenged with this work?

Mansur: When I started writing this story, I was visiting Israel with a large group of friends. We were touring around Hebron and discussing the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, and how, as things stand now, the Peace Process was all but dead, or on life support, at best.

Some thought the Israelis were to blame. Some that the Palestinians were at fault. At least two of us thought Donald Trump had his share of responsibility. What we all agreed on, and mind you, this is a group of friends who seldom agree on anything, was that it was the extremists on the *Other* side who were at fault. Read that again: the extremists on the Other side, not the ones on Their side.

This book goes to challenge that perspective. There are good faith and bad faith actors on both sides of the fence, and if the good faith actors are able to sideline the extremists on their side, and if they can see the *Other* as a partner, and not an adversary, they’ll be able to solve most of the issues that divide them; maybe even attain peace.

TFx: What draws you to writing in the upmarket thriller genre?

Mansur: I love to write stories that blur the line between commercial and literary fiction. I want them to be fast-paced, entertaining stories with a high-stakes plot, but also be able to do deep character development and theme exploration, typical of literary fiction.

My characters are complex, with multidimensional personalities and nuanced motivations; not cookie-cutter flats. All of them, even secondary characters, undergo significant development throughout the course of the story; with their own subplots interweaved with the main story. I also like to explore deeper themes and social issues than the usual good-guy/ bad-guy dichotomy.

I want my stories to be both entertaining and meaningful.

TFx: How much research went into the writing of this book?

Mansur: Plenty. The Israeli-Palestinian conflict isn’t just a background setting for the story, it’s an integral part of it, the catalyst that makes it happen. This conflict is almost a century old, and its history gives context on why the characters behave the way they do, and why things are the way they are.

There’s also a lot of military, spy and antiterrorist tradecraft involved. I had to go back to sources and friends I have in the clandestine services and armed forces to understand the action’s technical aspects.

And there’s the politics aspect. It’s hard to understand the role politics plays in the region and the quest for power that drives many of the actors involved. Fortunately, I was able to get first-hand accounts of how this works from people with intimate knowledge of Israeli and Palestinian politics.

TFx: Which actor can you imagine playing the main character in the movie version of your book?

Mansur: Oh, I have a great cast in mind. IAN BLOOM could be played by Tom Hardy, Tye Sheridan or Barry Kheogan. FUAD BAGHDADI  could be played by Rahul Hohil or Sope Dirisu. ORIT OR could be played by Zendaya, Vanessa Morgan, or Willow Smith. EZEKIEL BENTOV could be played by Johnny Harris or Stephen Graham. MAHMUD could be played by Rade Serbedzja or Jordi Molla. JASMINE HOSECH could be played by Shira Haas or Saoirse Ronan and CRICKET could be played by Doval’e Glickman or Yaakov Zada Daniel.

TFx: What was the hardest scene to write in this book?

Mansur: There’s a scene of a terrorist act in a park filled with children. The scene itself is brief, but the horror of what I was putting down on the page was too much for me. There was a rape scene that didn’t make the cut; that was also hard to write, and I was happy to cut it from the book altogether.

TFx: Tell us something fun about you that readers might be surprised to know?

Mansur: My dog controls my writing schedule. I like to write in my backyard, and he likes to chase a ball. He sits next to me while I write, but when he thinks I’ve worked enough or that I need a break, he brings the ball to me and doesn’t stop pushing it until I get up and start throwing it for him to chase after it. When he decides I’ve rested enough (or he’s chased enough, I don’t know) he lays down next to my writing chair and lets me write, until he’s ready to chase the ball again.

Get Alberto Mansur’s latest release, Only the Dead Know Peace, out now on Amazon

Only the Dead Know Peace

In the spirit of The Cartel, The Little Drummer Girl, and I Am Pilgrim, Alberto Mansur’s debut thriller offers a bracing, wide-angle portrait of the fence dividing Israel and Palestine, the most controversial border on earth. It follows a diverse cast of characters as they fight for love, belief, country, and power.

In Israel and Palestine, religious and political tensions are boiling, threatening to explode an untenable status quo. A renowned baker and his son are at odds, one turning his back on Allah, the other determined to prove himself worthy of God’s love. A rich playboy shatters his life in the States and joins Israel’s special forces searching for purpose and meaning. An Israeli vixen with a tragic past and a penchant for violence finds herself torn between her work for the Russian mob and the people she loves. And a charismatic Jewish leader starts a movement with the most surprising goal of all.

In Only the Dead Know Peace, these characters and more touch each other’s lives as they weave a tangled web of passion, violence, intrigue, and political and religious manipulation.

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