In the catacombs beneath the ruins of the Tower of David Museum, two bestselling spy novelists shared their secrets with an intimate audience of lovers of intrigue in the latest installment of Times of Israel Presents events.
Today the author of 15 books, Mishka Ben-David’s own life story could fill many more pages. Following his army service, Ben-David went on to serve as an officer in Israel’s Mossad, participating in top-secret missions including an assassination attempt on Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal. His first book, “I’ve Never Seen Happy Soldiers,” helped launch his literary career with a sobering story based on his experiences in the 1973 Yom Kippur War.
Adam LeBor is a career journalist who has composed several non-fiction exposés including “Hitler’s Secret Bankers” and “Tower of Basel.” He is also the author of the popular Yael Azoulay spy trilogy. The final episode, “The Reykjavik Assignment,” hit shelves this year. He is currently in Israel updating his history of Jaffa, “City of Oranges,” which is told through the eyes of the town’s time-tested residents.
The next Times of Israel Presents event is on Sunday, April 2, with acclaimed Israeli novelist David Grossman, whose work has been translated into more than 30 languages. With the publication of the English translation of his novel, “A Horse Walks Into A Bar,” Grossman will speak at Beit Shmuel in Jerusalem about choosing life after the death of his Israel Defense Force soldier son in Lebanon during the 2006 war with Hezbollah.
At Tuesday night’s event, protected by the great stone ramparts of the medieval Crusaders’ Hall, thriller authors Ben-David and LeBor agreed to reveal a few nuggets of classified information: intelligence of a more personal nature, and some of their tricks of trade.
While the evening was moderated by journalist Matthew Kalman, the bulk of the Times of Israel’s Personal Pages authors event revolved around a free-flowing discussion in which the wordsmiths laid bare the writing process as it works for them.
Research plays a prominent role for both and they often go to great lengths to visit locations in their stories. LeBor noted, however, that “Google Earth is a real game changer” when logistics proscribe an in-person tour.
Ben-David laughed and compared his virtual pilgrimage to Algiers with LeBor’s digital romp in the Congo, describing long hours spent wandering the twisting streets by proxy.
Speaking about his upcoming novel revolving around an apocalyptic war in the Middle East and the crew of an Israeli nuclear submarine, Ben-David admitted to being “fortunate” enough to have the censors help him with verisimilitude.
“I don’t know anything about this sort of thing — but at least I have the censors to stop me in case I get something top-secret right by accident,” said Ben-David.
For his part, LeBor spoke about the impact the biblical story of Sisera had on him as a teenager. Yael, daughter of Heber — the namesake of his spy trilogy — drove a tent spike through the Canaanite general’s head and subsequently went on to make LeBor “an admirer of strong women.”
Check out these upcoming Times of Israel Presents events
On Sunday, April 2, Times of Israel Presents will host acclaimed Israeli author David Grossman in conversation with Benjamin Balint at Beit Shmuel’s Hirsch Theater in Jerusalem. The event begins at 8:00 p.m. and doors open at 7:45. Advance tickets are available HERE.
On Tuesday, April 25, authors Matti Friedman and Haim Watzman will participate in the second Personal Pages series at Jerusalem’s Tower of David Museum. Tickets for that event are available HERE.
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