Visit the author's website

           Visit the author's website

Interview Alan Austin

opics of conversation:

  • Making Documentaries
  • Experience reporting in Vietnam
  • The Shakespeare Mystery
  • Researching Crime Stories
  • Experience interviewing death row prisoners

Alan Austin was an investigative reporter and documentary filmmaker for almost forty years, working for cbs stations in Topeka, Kansas and Minneapolis, Minnesota, and for PBS (Frontline and Nova). His documentaries won two national Emmys, three Peabodies, two DuPont/Columbia University awards and three Sigma Delta Chie journalism awards. One of his investigations resulted in the exoneration and freedom of a man who had been falsely convicted of two rapes in Houston, Texas. Another, "The Shakespeare Mystery," inspired his book "The Cottage.




"The Cottage" is a self-standing sequel to my novel "The Adagio," in that the   protagonist, Jack Duncan, is the same--an impulsive documentary filmmaker whose   instincts tend to lead him deeper into the labyrinth, arousing ever more beasts   as he goes.

In "The Cottage" he becomes mesmerized by the etherial Terri   Osborne and abruptly proposes to her. She equally abruptly disappears. Omaha   police suspect Duncan. But suspect him of doing what? And to whom? They can find   no record of Terri's past.

Duncan is hired to do a film about   Shakespeare?s true identity. Rather than offering him respite, England gives   Duncan a swarm of new troubles: a castle tour guide who is desperately in love   with the 500-year-old former owner of the castle, sizes up Duncan as a threat to   her delusions, proudly shows him her garden of poisonous plants, and keeps   offering him cookies; a renowned Shakespeare expert repeatedly tries to   eviscerate Duncan with the tip of his brolly; a village roughneck hounds him   with accusations of indecent overtures toward his wife (who claims not to be   married); the curator of a museum-mansion accuses him of stealing a handwritten   letter from Queen Elizabeth the First. Duncan is, naturally, indignant about   that, but then is compelled to wonder why he finds himself, later, sneaking into   the mansion to return the missing letter. He is also puzzled by a diary he  carries with him--Terri Osborne's diary, which he had snatched from under police   noses and in which Terri writes of being terrified of Duncan.

It becomes   apparent that a large chunk of England, at least that part with a vested   interest in the Shakespeare industry, is dead set on preventing Duncan from   getting at the truth. Even his own co-producer is conspiring against him. Only   one "Stratfordian", Robin Corcoran, she with the xylophone laugh, seems   sympathetic with his quest and fascinated by Duncan himself, and he by her. The   reader may want to warn him against that.

Most fascinating of all is the   old gamekeeper's cottage in the woods below the castle. It's full of lore that   ties into the mystery of Shakespeare. And every time Duncan goes there something   terrible happens. Or something wonderful.

Eventually all the   mysteries; ancient ones, new ones, Terri, Robin, the roughneck and his non-wife,   the cottage become entangled. And the adventure becomes an exposure of those who   would distort literary history. The book is, in effect, fact disguised as   fiction.