The best historical murder mysteries creating empathy & self-knowledge by building bridges between past & present

Why am I passionate about this?

For me, writing novels is an attempt in metaphor to clear the ledger of unfinished business in my crazy, contradictory, sometimes funny, sometimes sad, and always messy mind. All the books I've written have long and often intensely personal backstories. All of us live two lives, a life in the world of things, relationships, and time (needs), and a life in the world we create in our minds (wants). When needs and wants come into conflict we have the elements that make a novel. I see my job as a novelist to provide an exciting story and plot that carries a reader through the material world.


I wrote...

Whirlybird Island

By Ernest Hebert,

Book cover of Whirlybird Island

What is my book about?

The idea behind Whirlybird Island first hit me during an anti-war demonstration in 1968. It struck me that the rebellious youth movement of the 1960s was blowback from trauma suffered by veterans of WWII and the Korean War and passed down to their progeny. For years—no, decades—I wanted to explore this idea in a novel but I could not do it, because the characters I had in mind were based on real people that I loved; they would recognize themselves, and I didn't want to hurt them. It wasn't until they were all dead that I started Whirlybird Island. So, what is this book about? It can all be summed up in a question: Who is killing Korean War veterans and why?

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The books I picked & why

Book cover of Death Comes for the Archbishop

Ernest Hebert Why did I love this book?

I read Death Comes for the Archbishop when I was fifteen. It was my first encounter with literary prose that was not assigned by a teacher, and it changed my life for the better by giving me a better understanding of myself and the human drama. I thought at the time: This is the best book I ever read. I re-read the novel in 2017 and thought: This is the best book I ever read. There’s no sex in it, but it’s a love story between two men. Cather’s novel has guided my work as a writer for more than sixty-five years.

By Willa Cather,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked Death Comes for the Archbishop as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

From one of the most highly acclaimed novelists of the twentieth century—"a truly remarkable book" (The New York Times),an epic—almost mythic—story of a single human life lived simply in the silence of the southwestern desert.

In 1851 Father Jean Marie Latour comes to serve as the Apostolic Vicar to New Mexico. What he finds is a vast territory of red hills and tortuous arroyos, American by law but Mexican and Indian in custom and belief. In the almost forty years that follow, Latour spreads his faith in the only way he knows—gently, all the while contending with an unforgiving landscape,…


Book cover of Remembrance of Things Past

Ernest Hebert Why did I love this book?

I didn’t come into contact with Remembrance of Things Past until I was in my late twenties—and was immediately turned off. I thought, what a windbag and slammed the book shut. Later, I gave it another try. Then another. I never did finish Swann's Way and the other novels in Remembrance of Things Past. And yet Proust remains not only a powerful influence on my writing, but a guide in the practice of good prose. What has stayed with me were Proust’s long gorgeous sentences. Any time my writing slackens, or my vision falters, I pick up Proust. I read those long long sentences with my lips moving. They inspire me. They make me pay attention to the most important craft element in the writer’s tool kit—the sentence.

By Marcel Proust, CK Scott Moncrieff (translator), Terence Kilmartin (translator)

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Remembrance of Things Past as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

From the French intellectual, novelist, essayist, and one of the greatest writers of the twentieth century: The first two volumes of his monumental achievement, Swann’s Way and Within a Budding Grove.  

The famous overture to Swann's Way sets down the grand themes that govern In Search of Lost Time: as the narrator recalls his childhood in Paris and Combray, exquisite memories, long since passed—his mother’s good-night kiss, the water lilies on the Vivonne, his love for Swann’s daughter Gilberte—spring vividly into being. In Within a Budding Grove—which won the Prix Goncourt in 1919, bringing the author instant fame—the narrator turns…


Book cover of Enduring Vietnam: An American Generation and Its War

Ernest Hebert Why did I love this book?

My book is a story about what often happens to some soldiers after a war, in today's lingo, PTSD. As one who is a veteran himself, I’ve always been conflicted about soldiering, war, the aftermath of war, and the American penchant for war. One book put it all into perspective for me, Enduring Vietnam by historian James Wright. Wright gives you the historical context that brought about the war; the politics that influenced the war; and the battles fought during the war. But he tells it all from the perspective of the soldiers who fought the war, from our fellow Americans and allies in South Vietnam, but also from the perspective of the enemy soldiers, the Vietcong and North Vietnamese.

By James Wright,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Enduring Vietnam as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The Vietnam War is largely recalled as a mistake, either in the decision to engage there or in the nature of the engagement. Orboth. Veterans of the war remain largely anonymous figures, accomplices in the mistake. Critically recounting the steps that led to the war, this book does not excuse the mistakes, but it brings those who served out of the shadows. Enduring Vietnam recounts the experiences of the young Americans who fought in Vietnam and of families who grieved those who did not return. By 1969 nearly half of the junior enlisted men who died in Vietnam were draftees.…


Book cover of Fer-de-lance

Ernest Hebert Why did I love this book?

In 1967 I worked for seven months at DePaul psychiatric hospital in New Orleans, LA as an attendant during the 11 pm to 7 am shift. During that time period, there was often nothing to do but stay awake, because schizophrenics, like everybody else, usually sleep through the night. There was a tiny library in the "Seton Unit" section of the hospital where I worked that featured a dozen or more Nero Wolfe murder mysteries by Rex Stout. I read them all, some of them more than once. The books brought me back to my late childhood years when I read all of the Arthur Conan Doyle Sherlock Holmes stories. What fascinated me about both these sets of books later when I became a writer was the relationships between the storytellers (John Watson/Archie Goodwin) and the larger-than-life detectives (Sherlock Holmes/Nero Wolfe). They acted like bickering but loving married couples while they solved crimes. My version of this kind of relationship, between storyteller and detective, is the foundation that supports my book.

By Rex Stout,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Fer-de-lance as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

As any herpetologist will tell you, the fer-de-lance is among the most dreaded snakes known to man.  When someone makes a present of one to Nero Wolfe, Archie Goodwin knows he's getting dreadully close to solving the devilishly clever murders of an immigrant and a college president.  As for Wolfe, he's playing snake charmer in a case with more twists than an anaconda -- whistling a seductive tune he hopes will catch a killer who's still got poison in his heart.


Book cover of The First Man-Made Man: The Story of Two Sex Changes, One Love Affair, and a Twentieth-Century Medical Revolution

Ernest Hebert Why did I love this book?

The First Man-Made Man: The Story of Two Sex Changes, One Love Affair, and a Twentieth-Century Medical Revolution has haunted me since I read it fifteen or so years ago. The book is about a woman, never comfortable in her skin, who participated in an experiment in the 1920s to turn her into a man. Kennedy informs us in dispassionate and informative language about the early technology that eventually led to today's transsexual revolution. But the part of the book that moved me more deeply was Kennedy's ability to report the huge emotional toll that Laura (later, Michael) Dillon paid as a pioneer in the movement. My own friendship with a gutsy coed who became a gutsy man along with Pagan Kennedy's book led me to create Trinity Landrieu, the larger-than-life detective in my book. That's how it goes with me: my writing is a homage to my experiences in life and to my experiences as a reader of good books.

By Pagan Kennedy,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The First Man-Made Man as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

In the 1920s, when Laura Dillon felt like a man trapped in a woman's body, there were no words to describe her condition; transsexual had yet to enter common usage. And there was no known solution to being stuck between the sexes. In a desperate bid to feel comfortable in her own skin, she experimented with breakthrough technologies that ultimately transformed the human body and revolutionized medicine.
Michael Dillon's incredible story, from upper-class orphan girl to Buddhist monk, reveals the struggles of early transsexuals and challenges conventional notions of what gender really means.


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Cold War: A Novel of the Berlin Airlift

By Helena P. Schrader,

Book cover of Cold War: A Novel of the Berlin Airlift

Helena P. Schrader Author Of Cold Peace: A Novel of the Berlin Airlift, Part I

New book alert!

Why am I passionate about this?

I first went to Berlin after college, determined to write a novel about the German Resistance; I stayed a quarter of a century. Initially, the Berlin Airlift, something remembered with pride and affection, helped create common ground between me as an American and the Berliners. Later, I was commissioned to write a book about the Airlift and studied the topic in depth. My research included interviews with many participants including Gail Halvorsen. These encounters with eyewitnesses inspired me to write my current three-part fiction project, Bridge to Tomorrow. With Russian aggression again threatening Europe, the story of the airlift that defeated Soviet state terrorism has never been more topical. 

Helena's book list on the Russian blockade of Berlin and the Allied Airlift

What is my book about?

Stopping Russian Aggression with milk, coal, and candy bars….

Berlin is under siege. More than two million civilians will starve unless they receive food, medicine, and more by air.

USAF Captain J.B. Baronowsky and RAF Flight Lieutenant Kit Moran once risked their lives to drop high explosives on Berlin. They are about to deliver milk, flour, and children’s shoes instead. Meanwhile, two women pilots are flying an air ambulance that carries malnourished and abandoned children to freedom in the West. Until General Winter deploys on the side of Russia...

Based on historical events, award-winning novelist Helena P. Schrader delivers an insightful, exciting and moving tale about how former enemies became friends in the face of Russian aggression — and how close the Berlin Airlift came to failing under the assault of “General Winter.”

Cold War: A Novel of the Berlin Airlift

By Helena P. Schrader,

What is this book about?

Fighting a war with milk, coal and candy bars....

In the second book of the Bridge to Tomorrow Series, the story continues where "Cold Peace" left off.

Berlin is under siege. More than two million civilians in Hitler's former capital will starve unless they receive food, medicine and more by air.

USAF Captain J.B. Baronowsky and RAF Flight Lieutenant Kit Moran once risked their lives to drop high explosives on Berlin. They are about to deliver milk, flour and children's shoes instead. Meanwhile, two women pilots are flying an air ambulance that carries malnourished and abandoned children to freedom in…


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