George Shuman
 

 

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Please welcome our November featured author George Shuman and our conversation regarding his unique and suspenseful series featuring investigative consultant Sherry Moore!

 

     
 

                                            
             Lost Girls              Last Breath           18 Seconds

 

INTERVIEW:

NMR:  Why don’t you start out with telling us a bit about your very unique female heroine Sherry Moore – who is she and how did she become involved in law enforcement?
 
GS:  Sherry actually started out as a male protagonist in my first novel, 18 SECONDS. I needed someone old enough to gap the memory of crimes from the mid-nineteen-seventies to present day and I chose the Police Chief in the story, Jack Loudon. But then as the writing went on, I though the old grizzled cop had been so overused I wondered if I could create a character with the ability to see glimpses of things long forgotten and yet not jar my own sense of disbelief. This was absolutely crucial to me. I didn’t want to write a story about psychics or science fiction. I needed to demonstrate with effect, that Sherry Moore’s gift was rooted in biology and the neurosciences surrounding how memory is stored.  

It is apparent, from all that I’ve read, that I pulled it off. In fact many of my readers, including a medical professional that spoke with my agent asked if science has actually reached this phase of understanding memory.


 
NMR:  After reading some other interviews where you’ve made the point that you don’t really believe in psychics and that Sherry Moore is indeed not herself a psychic, can you explain to readers where the concept of her ability to see the last 18 seconds of a person’s life comes from and how you have differentiated that ability from what most people would think of as “psychic.”
 
GS:  Simply put Sherry suffered both psychological and grave physical trauma to the brain at age five which left her with retrograde amnesia (she can’t remember anything prior to the injury) and cerebrally blind (her eyes are fine, but her brain won’t let her see.) Like the electrical anomalies of an epileptic, Sherry’s unique rewiring allows her to touch a dead person and through our millions of skin cell receptors, tap into their nervous—neurological—system of wires to reach the frontal cortex of the brain where Short Term Memories are stored. Each of us has roughly 18 Seconds worth of RAM or random access memories and no more. Sherry get’s a fast slide-show-like glimpse of what that person saw or drew from the archives of the brain in the last 18 Seconds of life.


 
NMR:  Personally, it’s always satisfying to read about such an independent heroine when written from a man’s point of view, but it’s also curious as to why you should choose a female protagonist over a male. Can you share with us why you chose this point of view, and also why you’ve given her so many obstacles to overcome?
 
GS:  You know I have to say when I was imagining what this character might look like and what his or her abilities might be, I was drawn to the idea of contrasts. If someone had the gift of being able to see a dead person’s last memories, wouldn’t it be interesting if they were also blind? And even though they were blind, why couldn’t they also be intelligent and capable of handling themselves in precarious situations? And just because they could handle themselves who said they couldn’t be beautiful? I mean I was left with a lot of why not’s and simply followed my imagination.


 
NMR:  You have a pretty extensive background with law enforcement; how close do the villains you create fictionally come to those you’ve fought in real life?
 
GS: I honestly can’t draw comparisons between my characters and any particular criminal I dealt with in the past. Having said that, I’ve dealt with so many and they were so varied that I find it easy enough to pull ingredients together for a memorable villain. Here again, I find the creative process so much more satisfying, than trying to rewrite history.


 
NMR:   Would law enforcement, as you know it, be more or less inclined to accept Sherry’s ability; and in your experience have there been times when such an ability was used to solve crimes?
 
GS:  Less I am certain, but it’s important to remember that credible law enforcement agencies don’t keep psychics on retainer and they never will in my opinion.  Who has ever heard of the psychic who can tell you the precise tag number and address of a killer, rather than “he lives near water and bricks…the car was dark, I feel fear!

I forget who said so eloquently that if there was such a power then why with all the thousands if not tens of thousands of “psychics” in the world, can’t we find Jimmy Hoffa?

Look, people can be whatever they say, I would love to be proven wrong, but I ain’t seen it yet.

Now, in fiction, if someone showed up on the scene who claimed to be tapping into memories; clear, vivid, perfectly precise memories of a deceased person and they were getting famous for cases solved and the scientific community was taking and interest in them, I can see how a police department might be tempted to reach out to them when an officer was found dead and there were no clues as to what he was doing at the time or who he was confronting when he got killed.
            
            
 
 
NMR:  Now about your third book in the series, Lost Girls- and thank you for bringing this very serious crime of human trafficking so vividly and heartbreakingly alive – share with us how this particular crime got your attention and what was it that so compelled you to write such a forceful book about it at this time
 
GS:   Quite honestly I was just looking around the globe for an interesting location to drop characters and decided on Jamaica. I have many friends there and know a little bit about the island than most tourists don’t see. I wasn’t quite sure where I was taking the story at first, but I knew I wanted to use smuggling and the disappearance of women from the islands as a topic. When I started to get into my research I realized I had to tell the story of Human Trafficking.
 
 

NMR:  After doing a bit of research into this crime myself, I was stunned to see how very few laws actually address this issue, which makes it almost impossible to prosecute and, in effect, helps it to actually prosper. What do you think is really behind this almost blissful ignorance?
 
GS: We live in a world that can’t agree on the definition of Crimes against Humanity, or Terrorism or even Property when it comes to the viewpoint of men possessing women and children in some nations. There is so much political greed and infighting around the world that organized crime roams freely, dancing around ineffective or nonexistent laws and taking full advantage of the disadvantaged.

 

 
NMR:  Another thing that makes this book so very realistic and disturbing is the viewpoint from another very important character, the female undercover cop who by happenstance turns into a victim herself of this horrendous crime; how difficult was it to write those scenes?
 
GS: I know something about the terror of hostages in their final hours or minutes alive, I’ve seen first hand some of the distressing dialogue exchanged between a murderer and his victim and it is both heart rending and horrifying beyond description. I could feel Aleksandra’s pain in the scenes you refer to and I fed that pain to her sense of duty and hatred of her captors.


 

NMR:  Was there any point in the process of writing this book as you did with such a truthful and merciless tone, which as I mentioned can be very disturbing at times, did you editor suggest you should “lighten” things up a bit?
 
GS: If anything I was asked to be more specific. The first time I wrote about the red room I left most everything to the reader’s imagination. I stopped at the threshold of the door. I think the writing would have worked either way, but let’s face it, we know what’s going on in there and who am I protecting in the end, the reader or me? I think the editor made the right decision. Tell the truth.

 

 
NMR:  Before reading this book I think, like most readers, I saw this crime as so far-removed from my own existence that it really didn’t strike home, a feeling that was quickly dispelled by your book’s intensity.  Do you think that this is a crime that with its escalating numbers will only get closer to each of us as time goes by?
 
GS: Yes, I honestly do and if the g..d…m.d press spent only half the time they do risking their necks to take celebrity pictures around the world—they might actually expose the kinds of horrors these people have been made to accept is their life. We would see human bondage in such unimaginable proportion and this time it would have a face. Many people around the world, including many American’s, stuck their head in the sand when there were rumors about what was going on in Nazi Germany. Well we’re always doing that aren’t we? We know deep down in our gut that genocide lives on and we know Human Trafficking is every bit as ugly as LOST GIRLS depicts.

 

 
NMR:  I realize this book was by no means meant to be a crusade for justice, but if there’s others who read it and get the same sense of urgency that I did, is there any advice you might offer to them on how to take a least a little step to help battle this horrendous crime?
 
GS: Absolutely. You could start—in America—with the US State Department’s website on Human Trafficking. They’ll tell you to write your politicians for stiffer state laws. To get civic and social groups talking about it, to educate yourself and then study local or world organizations attempting to combat it. The more we know, the more noise we can make, the more people we could free. The State Dept is still using numbers like 600 to 800 thousand annually shipped across borders, 70% of which are young children and women being used as sexual slaves. There is no end to the material available to anyone that really cares.

 

 
NMR:  Well, I think I’d like to end this interview on a positive note and ask if you hopefully have another Sherry Moore title planned?
 
GS:  Sure do!  SECOND SIGHT, due in fall 2009, is a story about the decade following World War II when the newly evolved superpowers were in a race to make the most powerful weapon on earth. Death rays were on the drawing board, weather changing machines, beamed microwaves to drive whole populations mad and of course mind control was at the forefront government research.
 
Sherry has cause to touch a corpse from this era, a corpse whose brain had been affected by one of these mind-altering machines and what it sends back to her are more than just memories. What is sends back will change her life forever.
 


Thanks you George, you’ve done a great job of bringing this serious issue into the public’s mind, and you deserve to be commended!

To learn more about this crime, please visit http://www.humantrafficking.org

Or call The National Human Trafficking Resource Center at 1-888-3737-888

For a review of Shuman's latest novel Lost Girls

 

BIO:

George Shuman is the author of 18 Seconds and Last Breath. A 20-year veteran of the Washington D.C., Metropolitan Police Department, he held executive positions in the resort industry in both Montauk, New York, and Nantucket, MA., before returning to the mountains of Pennsylvania, where he now writes full time.  To learn more: www.georgeshuman.com