In 1881, an old diary is found on the shelves of an antiquities shop in Victorian London. Hired to translate it from its original French is Julian North, a young file clerk for the London Times. He spends weeks poring over the brittle pages, uncovering the story of an ill-fated idealist, an epic sea battle, and an abandoned army lost in the Egyptian desert. But, hidden within a puzzling code, the diary holds secrets. A mysterious visitor and a night of violence soon reveal just how dangerous these secrets are — to Julian and to the world. From a safe but aimless existence, Julian is pulled into a fire-storm as grand causes clash around him on the world stage. It's a game of high stakes where, not only Julian's fate but the fate of nations, hang in the balance.
Nate and Peter had been pals since the fifth grade. But Peter’s fate had been decided long before that.
Once promising artist, Peter Caruso, has not been seen or heard from in five years. When he is found shot to death in a dingy New York City apartment, Nate Parks, his boyhood friend, is horrified. Who on earth would want to kill Peter? And where had Peter been for those five long years? As Nate deals with his own struggles in the New York City art scene, his search for answers only leads to more questions, about Peter and about the paintings he left behind. Risking more than he realizes, Nate works his way into the dark and dangerous world of a Peter Caruso he never knew. It’s within that world that he finally uncovers long-buried secrets, eventually learning the truth behind Peter’s death and the truth behind a group of forty masterpieces that come to be known as The Caruso Collection.
Jake Barrows is deep in debt and his wife just left him. It’s beginning to dawn on him that, at thirty-two, he’s a little old to continue on in his life as a Miami pool hustler. He's able to land a job as an escort driver for a trucker hauling an oversized load to Tucson and things go smoothly at first. Then, along a lonely stretch of the I-10 in Texas, violence erupts. Someone is trying to hijack the cargo. And, besides that, the cargo is starting to exhibit strange and dangerous properties.
Driven first by fear then by greed then by something he doesn’t quite understand, Jake tries to chase down the truth. Over hundreds of miles he’s drawn deeper into a desperate conflict and ever close to a scientist whose momentous project has spun wildly out of control.
The world is about to change and Jake Barrows is about to become The Scientist's Accomplice.
And, introducing the latest mystery…
Doctor Lydia Thornhill died in 1920 with her hands tied to a kitchen chair. Though she'd once been famous for her work in the budding field of psychology, her name had become tarnished and, at the time, few had taken note of her passing. Over the decades, Doctor Thornhill’s work became nothing more than a footnote in college textbooks. But now, because of a police detective in present-day Boston, that is about to change.
His name is Ben Marshall and he’s just been suspended from the force for firing his weapon at something he thinks he saw, but didn’t. When psychologist Amelia Silvers becomes involved in his case, Ben begins to doubt his sanity. His search for answers uncovers a past he never knew. It's a past that draws him north into Maine's deep woods where Dr. Thornhill spent her final years. What he finds there will give her the world-wide fame she’d always desired, but it could also cost Ben his life.
In February of 2016, I took a trip to China. It was one of the most fascinating vacations I've been on and through the video below and through numerous photo's, I'd like to share it with you.
CHINA: Detroit to Shanghai to Xi’An to Beijing (with cruise stops in Okinawa Japan and Busan South Korea)
NOTE: I took many photo’s some of which you’ll see in my video and here on my website. These are only the highlights. I’ll be releasing more via Facebook and Instagram in the coming months.
Cost: Roughly $6,000 including airfare, cruise, & spending cash.
Duration: 16 days (includes 2 flying days).
Time of year: Mid-February to early March. Weather generally moderate and you avoid the summer crowds.
Flew into Shanghai direct from Detroit. Toured the city for 2 days.
Caught a cruise ship and made ports in Okinawa Japan and in Busan South Korea. Then sailed back to Shanghai.
Caught a train to Xi’an (pronounced “shee-ahn”) which I toured for 2.5 days (Terra Cotta Warriors—WOW…).
Caught a Bullet train to Beijing where I toured for 3 days (Forbidden City, The Great Wall—DOUBLE-WOW!)
Flew back to Detroit.
1. Unless you have contacts in China, enlist a local travel agent. They will help you set up the itinerary, line you up with great tour guides and give you useful advice. Let them know what interests you most and advise them of any physical limitations you may have and they will guide you accordingly.
2. If you’re long legged like me, get extra leg room on the flight. This cost me about $140 extra each way which was well worth it on the 14 hour flights.
3. You’ll need your passport to be current with an expiration date at least 6 months beyond your date of departure. You’ll also need a Chinese visa (your travel agent can assist with that but apply for it well in advance—it can take a couple of months and costs about $225).
4. Cash and expenses: Call your credit card company a week or so before leaving to let them know where and when you’ll be traveling. I had no trouble using my VISA card anywhere. Take some Chinese cash for miscellaneous stuff. Through my local bank, I converted $500 into about 3000 Chinese Yuan (RMB) and had some left over when I returned which I easily converted back to bucks.
5. Be prepared for and be open to new cultural and culinary experiences—it’s part of the adventure. It’s why you’re going, remember? If you don’t want the Chinese culture to rub off on you a little bit, STAY HOME!
6. I found the Chinese people I met to be very friendly. You will find them to be as curious about you as you are about them. If you know Chinese or if you have a Chinese language app on your phone, that will be a very good thing. You can still get by, as I did, without knowing or having either one. If I were to go again, I’d make sure to at least have the app. There are many good ones out there.
7. “What’s App” is a very good way to communicate with and send pics to the folks back home for free.
8. Have a good camera or phone that takes great pics and videos. I bought an I-Phone 6 before I left and was glad I did. (I also took a selfie stick which I was a little embarrassed about but was glad I had)
9. On your free time, don’t be afraid to get out and walk around your hotel area. Take a card from the hotel so you can ask for help if you get lost. If you’re up to it you might want to use the subway or a cab. I didn’t and I have some regrets about that but, hey, do what you’re comfortable with.
10. When crossing busy streets in the city (and they’re all busy) remember, whether a motorist or a pedestrian, whoever gets to an opening first has the right of way. Just be wary and keep your eyes open especially for left-turners whizzing through the pedestrian stream.
11. Have fun, push the envelope, and be open to meeting new people. Again, it’s an adventure so expect and enjoy the unexpected!
China Customs: took about an hour, no problems. I had one carry-on and one checked bag.
Connections: Met my contact Caroline at the airport. Friendly, high-spirited, good English. She and her driver got me into the city and to my hotel. In all, this took about 2 hours after landing. Great!
Accommodations: Kingstown Plaza Hotel (Superior Queen room) Clean, comfortable, western-style, good buffet breakfast each morning. Friendly staff who spoke enough English for me to get by just fine.
For each of my 2 days in Shanghai I had a driver and guide all to myself. This as a result of going in the low tourism season.
We drove well outside of Shanghai so I got to see the countryside as well as experience the difficult traffic. (Glad I wasn’t driving). The Zhouzhuang water Village, our first stop, is a sprawling settlement of homes and shops and temples crisscrossed by canals and walkways connected by charming stone bridges all of which celebrate a heritage of Chinese culture going back hundreds of years. The Lingering Garden, our second stop, is large and well-tended and, while I can’t call myself a garden guy, being there gave me a good feel for the importance of peace, solitude and introspection in Chinese life. Got back to the hotel around 5, rested up, then walked about 2 miles from the hotel down to the Bund, getting a good feel for the city and a great view of the Pudong River and skyline.
Toured a Confucius Temple, took part in a Chinese tea ceremony, had a great walking tour of the city. Lunch in a typical street-side eatery gave me a good feel for the sometimes frantic pace of the city and its burgeoning, youthful, fun-loving population. With a little advice from my guide, I’m getting better with chop-sticks and can highly recommend the noodles and dumplings.
Checked out of the hotel in Shanghai and was driven to the docks where my cruise on the Quantum of the Seas began. This is a newer ship in the Royal Caribbean line and offers everything you’d want in the way of food and fun. Weather was good but balcony sitting was comfortable for only two of the five days. Made ports in Okinawa Japan and in Busan South Korea. Of these two, Busan was the most interesting. The fish market there is something to see (check out that portion of my video). Also, met a few westerners on board who I was able to pal around with, one with whom I still maintain regular contact.
Returned to Shanghai where I was driven to one of the city’s 3 major rail stations. Boarded a train for Xi’an in the late afternoon. Had “Soft Sleeper” accommodations which gave me a lower bunk in a 4-bed sleeper cabin. If you do this, be sure to get a lower bunk as you have to be something of a gymnast to get into the upper bunks. Shared the sleeper cabin with 2 college guys and a fellow from Nanjin. All were very friendly but no one spoke English. The college guys had translator apps on their phones which proved useful. I had dinner in the dining car which was good (see menu far right) but you may just want to buy food at the station and bring it on board. Slept surprisingly well on the 13 hour trip and arrived in Xi’an on time at about 9am.
Met my contact at the station and toured the city. Rented a bicycle which I used to ride along the top of the huge city walls. Checked into the Grand Nobel Hotel in the late afternoon (great place, clean, western style rooms.)
Toured the Big Wild Goose Pagoda and the fantastic Terra Cotta Warrior exhibit. Which took the entire day. Bummed around the city that night on foot.
Boarded a bullet train (first class) to Beijing. Glided across 650 miles of countryside in a very enjoyable 5 and a half hours. Met my contact at the station who got me to the Sunworld Hotel by about 4pm where I again had good accommodations. On my own the rest of the day. Strolled around the hotel, buffet dinner at hotel, then to bed.
Did a quick walk-along by Tian’anmen Square followed by a tour of the Forbidden City which is an important cultural highlight in the city. After a great lunch (I’m really enjoying Chinese food by this time) we then went to the lake which abuts the grounds of the Imperial Summer Palace. Back at hotel by five or so where I did some more walking around followed by dinner then bed.
The Ming Tomb and the Great wall. Boarded a bus with about twelve other tourists and toured the Ming Tomb which was followed by maybe an hour and a half drive up to the Mutianyu section of the Great Wall. Had lunch near the wall then walked up-hill a ways to a cable-car lift which took us the rest of the way up. Spent about an hour on our own on the wall. This was the highlight of the entire trip. It was a beautiful day, not to cold and the wall was not crowded at all. Back to the hotel by six. Had dinner then to bed.
The last day. Had breakfast and relaxed around the hotel area. My ride came at about 1pm and took me to the airport with time to spare even though the traffic was terrible. The plane was a little late taking off but I still arrived back in Detroit close to on-time. My youngest daughter was there to pick me up. It was a great trip, but I was glad to be back.
Through the course of my trip, I had no trouble at all with accommodations or with making connections. This may have just been good luck, but I think it was more the result of my travel agent paying attention to details and to their having good relationships with the tour-guide network in China. After being there for just the short time, I don’t claim by any means to be an expert on China but, if you need more info or if you have comments or questions, please leave them on my contact page. I’ll answer what I can and maybe some of the visitors to my website can handle the others.