I have said before that one of the perks of being an expat living in Costa Rica is the ease with which I have found people of like mind or compatible personalities with whom I have made friends. They often include people from places that I have never visited in the U.S. or elsewhere.
As a result, I have become a member of different interest groups, and one of the most important in my life is my writers group.
Within the first year of living here I became part of a writers’ group, all women. The group dissolved, but those of us still here, remain close friends and are still writing.
My current writers group is quite large and co-ed. The members have changed, and the numbers fluctuated over the years and now count five men and four women. We meet for lunch at a member’s home and enjoy good food, good conversation and listening to the work in progress of one or two writers.
I dropped out of the group for a while, but missed the conversation and the people and am back to being a regular. While I was gone, the then members worked hard and published a compendium of their works. That, and other works by them and new members would give one a month of good reading.
“Costa Rica Kaleidoscope” is a collection of articles and stories about life in Costa Rica seen through expat eyes and contains some quite wonderful reading.
Frans Lamers, our Costa Rica historian, writes on the history, culture, sports, money, parks and whatever of Costa Rica. His background in anthropology gives him a special view. I found his history of Costa Rica the most interesting I have read.
Greg Bascom writes, among other topics, of the joys of illicit love in romantic Costa Rican settings and the sometimes hilarious consequences of being a dutiful husband.
Mike Crump gives a voice to and portrait of the campoand the life of people and their pets in the campo as seen from his small coffee farm and his empathy for the people.
Carol McCool, writes of her experience as a gentlewoman farmer, environmentalist and the owner of a B&B with the insights of a psychologist, which she is.
Lenny Karpman is our food/culture maven and offers truly knowledgeable chapters about the food of Costa Rica as well as cultural comparisons from his experience as a world traveler. He has a number of other books on food and travel, and his “Feast and Foraging in Costa Rica” is a much referred to volume in my cookbook library.
Robin Kazmier writes about her experience as a volunteer at a cocoa farm, which I find terrifying. She also writes about her experience on city buses, which she finds terrifying.
“Costa Rica Kaleidoscope” is available in hard cover and as a Kindle book on Amazon and is the most enjoyable reading bargain (Kindle version is $1), you will find, whether or not you are interested in Costa Rica.
Since then the members of this writers group, whom we smilingly named The Bards of Paradise for the Kaleidoscope book, have produced even more books.
Greg has “Lawless Elements,” a suspense novel that takes place in the Philippines, where he once lived and worked. It is the story of Steve Bryce the accidental detective, who is in love with a Moro woman who is fighting for the rights and land that have been taken from her Muslim people by the government. The novel is filled with interesting people and plot turns. It also includes, Marty, the first villain I have ever liked. And I am an avid reader of suspense and mystery novels.
If you remember the Depression of the 30s, are Jewish (or Italian) had immigrant parents or grandparents, were poor, love good food, are an armchair traveler or actual one, and remember the big cities of yesterday, you will love Karpman’s memoir, “Food Bridge to Everywhere: Confessions of an Old Foodophile.”
Unless Mike Crump is still worrying over every adjective, “Candyman,” the story of a young Guatamalan-American caught up in the civil war of his birth country, should be on Amazon. It brings home to us once again the brutality and familial grief of civil wars from the point of view of a young man who set out to be a gentle scientist.
And finally, our latest member whose writing name is Aaron Aalborg, has released his first historical novel, “They Deserved it.” Like other historical novels I have read, it probably is closer to the truth than history. They Deserved It takes place in 17th century Italy and is about the skullduggery and corruption of the rich and famous, most of whom, at the time, were members of the Catholic clergy or their families, or the people who helped put them in power. The Inquisition was still active as a means of punishment and revenge and the victims were often women, i.e. witches (the old teligion had not yet been stamped out, or rather burned out.)
The story centers on the life and fate of Gabriella, a battered young wife of a nasty old nobleman named Pietro, the young priest, Gianni to whom she confesses, La Spara, a woman who was born poor, but with brains and imagination and a knowledge of alchemy, provides the means for unhappy wives to get rid of their rich old husbands. The Catholic hierarchy gets involved.
In this case, I could find no villain towards whom I felt kindly, although I did like Catherine, another bright but poor young woman who plays this game of thrones her way.
The book extends into recent history with the descendants of some of the characters and takes place in both the United States and Costa Rica.
Aalborg gives women their rightful place in history as both heroes and villains. He also adds some historical notes, a short treatise on poisons and discussion notes, all of which I enjoyed thoroughly.
Although at the moment these are the only books recently published by the Bards of Paradise, more will be forthcoming from members I haven’t even mentioned. You no doubt will hear about them later.