Interview Alan Austin
Topics 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.