July 19, 2003 - The Metrowest Daily News: Central African Republic RPCV Mark Sullivan writes "The Serpent's Kiss"

Peace Corps Online: Directory: Central African Republic: Peace Corps Central African Republic : The Peace Corps in the Central African Republic: July 19, 2003 - The Metrowest Daily News: Central African Republic RPCV Mark Sullivan writes "The Serpent's Kiss"

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Central African Republic RPCV Mark Sullivan writes "The Serpent's Kiss"

Central African Republic RPCV Mark Sullivan writes "The Serpent's Kiss"

All the write stuff

By Priscilla Yeon / CNC Staff Writer
Saturday, July 19, 2003

Mark Sullivan's vivid imagination can be traced back to his childhood.

Growing up in the Nobscot neighborhood of Framingham, and Medfield, Sullivan didn't have television in his house until he was 10 years old. His mother, an avid fiction buff, filled the void by teaching her son how to read at age 4.

Somewhere along the line, "The Jungle Book" and "The Hardy Boys Mysteries" matured into police detectives and twisted murders. And Sullivan, the voracious reader turned sports writer and investigative reporter, has gone from covering crime to "creating" it in the form of five novels.

His latest novel, "The Serpent's Kiss," combines parts of his youth -- when he worked at a souvenir store next to Fenway Park -- and his background as an investigative reporter in San Diego.

"This is overall the best book I've ever written," said Sullivan, a graduate of Medfield High School, Class of 1976. "Once you start this book, you can't stop until you finish it."

The protagonist of "The Serpent's Kiss" is Sgt. Seamus Moynihan, a San Diego detective who is also a former pitcher for the Boston Red Sox, Moynihan must find the author of the worst kind of human violence. The murder victim is stripped naked and tied to a bed and then assaulted with one of North America's deadliest snakes, an eastern diamond rattlesnake.

The suspense factor is high, but the research involved behind the novel is even greater. Since Sullivan was already familiar with crime scenes in San Diego, he decided to go back to his old sources, the San Diego Police Department. He worked closely with homicide sergeants, who helped him extract ideas and facts for his novel.

"San Diego conducts homicide investigations differently than any other city in America," said Sullivan, who has been nominated twice for the Pulitzer prize for investigative journalism.

He said most cities have teams of two detectives who work on cases where the victim is found and body's temperature is less than 90 degrees. San Diego has a team of five detectives.

"Because of this approach they have the highest percentage (of solving the crimes)," Sullivan said.

He also said he met a narcotics sergeant who was an all-star baseball player in San Francisco. Sullivan said the sergeant helped him understand the emotions one goes through from being a major league athlete to becoming a cop.

"It's a pretty big difference from a baseball player to a cop. In one you have all the popularity, the other you're a public servant," said Sullivan.

Since the protagonist is also described as a "heart-worn womanizer but a loving father," he said he did extensive research on philandering middle age men to discover the reasons they cheat on their wives.

"It's a funny thing talking to a lot of these guys," Sullivan said. "There is a definite age of midlife crisis between the age of 38 to 45. There's just a lot of men who go through a mental freak out."

The idea to write his latest novel originated three years ago from an sentence that included the phrase "the second woman," said Sullivan. He said he contacted a biblical expert who told him that the reference is to the wife of Cain, the brother in the well-known biblical story of Cain and Abel. The expert said Cain's "second wife" is mentioned only once in the Bible, and nobody knows who she is.

The connection of the mysterious woman of Cain and the murder cannot be revealed unless one reads the book, as the murder case is linked like a tapestry to the biblical figure.

The book also has a connection, as the title suggests, to poisonous reptiles. Sullivan said he went to zoos and researched the physiological effects on the human body after a poisonous snake bite.

"It frightens me," said Sullivan of his research on snakes.

Sullivan said it took him 13 months, which he considered to be a fast writing time, to finish "The Serpent's Kiss."

Since the novel brings a world of twisted eroticism, hot herpetology and spiritual cults, Sullivan said the book is suited for adults.

One of his novels, "Labyrinth," soon to be a motion picture by Paramount, is suited for young readers, as the main character is a 14-year-old girl. Sullivan said he based his main character on a Medfield girl.

Sullivan's 1997 novel, "The Purification Ceremony," was a finalist for an Edgar Award, a major prize for mystery writing.

Jim Sullivan, a friend of Mark's since middle school and father of the 14-year-old who the author based his character on, said he remembers Sullivan's favorite subject always being English.

"There are people in Medfield that really pushed me to writing," said Mark Sullivan, who mentioned former English teacher Estelle Stahl.

"She was the first one to tell me that I was a good writer."

Sullivan attended Hemenway Elementary School and Walsh Middle School in Framingham. After graduating from Medfield High School in 1976, Sullivan majored in English at Hamilton College and then traveled in Africa as a Peace Corps volunteer. In 1982, he attended journalism school at Northwestern University.

After years working as a sports writer and investigative reporter for the San Diego Union Tribune, Sullivan decided to pursue his childhood dream of writing novels. In 1994 he wrote his first novel "The Fall Line."

Jim Sullivan said his favorite novel from his friend's collection is "The Purification Ceremony," released in 1998.

"It's one of those books that once you start it, you just can't stop," said Jim of the novel, which Mark said has been translated into 12 languages.

Mark Sullivan lives in Montana with his wife and two children and doesn't have plans to live again in Massachusetts.

"I fell in love with Montana. I like rural areas for writing, I think it helps you focus," said Sullivan, who is also an avid hunter and skier.

Sullivan said he feels his life is complete working solely as a writer nowadays.

"As a kid this is what I dreamed of doing it. I mean what could be better?"

Priscilla Yeon can be reached at 781-433-8354 or pyeon@cnc.com.

Mark Sullivan will discuss and sign copies of "The Serpent's Kiss" at Kate's Mystery Books, 2211 Mass Ave., Cambridge on Tuesday, July 22, at 7 p.m.

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Story Source: The Metrowest Daily News

This story has been posted in the following forums: : Headlines; COS - Central African Republic; Writing - Central African Republic



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