Peace Corps Writers

The Serpent's Kiss

The Serpent's Kiss
by Mark T. Sullivan (Niger 1980–82)
Atria Books
384 pages
July 2003

The Serpent's Kiss
Reviewed by W. Tucker Clark (Nepal 1967–70)

REPORTER-TURNED-NOVELIST Mark Sullivan says he learned his first lessons on how to “cover a story” when he was a Peace CorpsPrinter friendly version Volunteer living in Agades, Niger, an oasis on the caravan routes to Timbuctu. He learned, he said, to write “from a cultural anthropology bent” while emerging himself in the nomadic culture he saw in town. These skills would later prove useful to him as a journalist and as a novelist.
     Coming home, he earned a masters in journalism from Northwestern University and became a newspaper investigative reporter in California, using many of the “tricks” he had learned in Africa to submerge himself in new cultures where he found work as a homicide reporter in San Diego.
     It was while he was a reporter that he got the idea of writing a series of mysteries about a homicide cop, Seamus Moynihan.
     Sullivan writes what has been called “real, old fashioned thrillers.” Novels reviewers find to be: heart-pounding tales of suspense, mysteries and adventures where “individuals are caught up in the clash of cultures.” In the The New York Times, one reviewer raved that “few investigative reporters exhibit Sullivan’s sense of poetry.”
     His mysteries are based on the unique way San Diego homicide police investigate homicides — they use a team of specialists, not the two person crime units favored by television series. And once he had his protagonist detective established as a character, he begins to plot the mystery that needs to be solved.
    In this, The Serpent’s Kiss, his sixth novel and the first in a series starring the San Diego Detective Sergeant Seamus Moynihan, Sullivan used the biblical mystery of Cain’s wife, the second woman after Eve. The mystery of serial killings by torturing snake bites became Moynihan’s case to solve.
     In his life and in his writings, Sullivan has always plunged himself in the subject about which he is writing. For a mystery on skiing, he took up extreme skiing. His novel The Purification Ceremony is about deer tracking, a subject he undertook before beginning to write. And for Labyrinth, based on cave explorers, Sullivan became a spelunker.
In fact, in all of his novels, it has been fact followed (or made into) fiction. And good reads they all are.
Tucker Clark has worked as a VH-1 pro-social television producer, Alcoholism Treatment expert and Social Services Supervisor and Administrator, Corporate Trainer and Workshop Leader, E-Commerce and Polling Wizard, and PrePaid Legal Services, Inc Director-level marketer.
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