A chat with Tom Crawford, author of 'Goli Otok (Naked Island)'

jpaprocki@islandpacket.comAugust 26, 2013 

Name: Tom Crawford

Book: "Goli Otok (Naked Island)"

Printed by: CreateSpace, Charleston

Residence: The Seabrook, Hilton Head Island

Where to buy: Top of the Lighthouse, Harbourtown; Burke's Pharmacy, 110 Main St., and Walgreen's, 11 Palmetto Bay Road, Hilton Head; Amazon.com; Kindle.

Plot summary in 50 words or less: A Soviet intelligence officer undercover as a Moscow Radio correspondent in Belgrade seeks to learn about his father's death during the liberation of the Serbian capital from the Germans in October, 1944. His discoveries help explain the collapse of the Soviet Union and the fall of Yugoslavia.

First sentence: "Sasha walked into the breakfast room and spotted a table for two in the far corner to the right."

Previous writing experience: Crawford got his start as a journalist. He was a reporter for The Worcester Telegram in Massachusetts, a foreign correspondent in London and the Balkans for United Press International, an editor at the former Springfield Union and Springfield Sunday Republican in Massachusetts. In retirement, he's written "Foibles," a collection of humorous vignettes, and pieces in two Island Writers' Network anthologies.

Earliest writing memory: As a boy growing up in World War II-era New England, he wrote a poem about the practice bombing runs conducted by naval aircraft over Cape Cod.

The story behind the novel: He spent three years in the mid-60s as the bureau chef for UPI in Belgrade. Fascinated by the history and politics of the region, he wrote "Goli Otok" in the early 80s, only for it to be rejected by a publisher. He returned to the Balkans in 1989 for the 600th anniversary of the Battle of Kosovo, an event that sparked tensions that lead to the collapse of Yugoslavia. After more research into the history of the region, he picked up writing again in 2000. "I knew I just had to finish this book," he said.

Favorite books: Herman Melville, "Billy Budd: Foretopman" and "Moby Dick;" Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, "The First Circle;" John Fowles, "The French Lieutenant's Woman;" John LeCarre, "The Spy Who Came in from the Cold;" Thomas Hardy, "Jude the Obscure" and "Tess of the D'Urbervilles;" Morton Thompson, "Not as a Stranger" and "The Cry and the Covenant"; Sinclair Lewis, "Arrowsmith;" John Steinbeck, "The Grapes of Wrath;" George Santayana, "The Last Puritan."

What's next: He soon plans to release "Resurrections ... of an Obituary Writer," a collection of essays and obituaries of the 45 most memorable people of his life.

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