Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Ellis Shuman's Adventure Thriller Also Historically and Culturally Significant.

"...My name is Sophia, Sophia Ivanova."
"Sophia?" he asked. "Sophia from Sofia, Bulgaria?"...
"Nice to meet you, Sophia from Sofia. I'm Simon Matthews from Chicago. I'm a professor, well actually a retired professor, from the University of Chicago."
..."Oh, you never know!" she said, laughing, her eyes focused on his. "I am also in academia. I teach at our local St. Clement of Ohrid University. In the history department, specializing in Thracian culture..."
"Professor, tell me something. What is the perception of Bulgaria among average Americans?"
"I'm not sure there is a perception of Bulgaria among average Americans. I think there's quite a substantial Bulgarian community in Chicago, where I'm from. At least I've come across some former Bulgarians in the city, and there were many Bulgarian students at the university. But the average American, well, I don't think they could even find Bulgaria on the map."

Sofia Synagogue - See Much More at the Bulgarian Adventure Blog!
I loved the opportunity to pictorially visit the beautiful architecture and other pictures from Bulguria!
Valley of Thracians:
 A Novel of Bulgaria
By Ellis Shuman

If you are like me, I do a lot of my traveling via books! Certainly the setting for many fiction novels takes us to exciting places; however, Ellis Shuman who has spent time there, has taken special care in including much more than the usual, in writing Valley of Thracians. So if you are like myself, as an average American who had no real "perception" or knowledge of this country, then I highly recommend you consider this much more than an exciting adventure thriller--consider it a significant historical and cultural novel from which you will learn much... While enjoying the familial love of a grandfather who refuses to believe his grandson is dead...

"It's called a gaida," one of the Peace Corps instructors
explains to me. "It's quite common all over Europe
..."You know a lot about bagpipes!" I joke with the
"Oh, not really, but I do know one thing," he says,
laughing. "When you finish playing your gaida each
night, you pour a glass of rakia into the bag."
"You must be kidding me!"
"No, it's true. Rakia [beer] acts as an antiseptic
within the bag to keep it from rotting..."
Scott had always been close to his grandfather, finding him easier to discuss things with than his own father. So when the family heard that he had been killed while in Bulgaria, although the body had never been found, his father initially investigated but then worked to go on with life.

But three years later, Simon was still not willing to accept Scott was dead. Having lost his wife, Simon decided to do his own investigation. Before long he met a fellow professor who was quite willing to introduce Simon to her country and its treasures. It is to the character Sophia from Sofia that we are also given a guided tour as she volunteers to help Simon with his search.

Scott had been having some normal teenager problems when Simon began to talk with him. Scott turned around enough to finish school and join the Peace Corps who sent him to Bulgaria. During their training period Scott had lived with a local family, but had also started to use drugs again. That had led to his being blackmailed into some minor crime activities, normally just as a messenger. But soon Scott realized that those with whom he was involved were selling Thracian artifacts!

On the latest trip, he had been forced to deliver one of those artifacts and the sister of the man who was blackmailing him was forced to go with him. But when he actually has to go into the building to meet the buyer, she refuses to go in with him...

That was the last time anybody who knew him could say where he had been... Now Simon was trying to retrace his grandson's steps...

"As they passed the sign announcing their destination with a
colorful montage of pictures, Sophia told him about the
important role monasteries played in Bulgarian history. Over
five centuries of oppressive Ottoman rule, the country's
monasteries--usually situated in the safety of isolated mountain
valleys like this one--were guardians of Bulgarian customs and
served as teaching centers for the Bulgarian language. In the
serene setting, they offered protection to hermits and those
seeking religious salvation, as well as to Bulgarian leaders
planning their rebellion against the Turks. Bulgarians were
not a religious people, Sophia said, but they deeply respected
the country's many monasteries..."
"They call Rila Monastery the Jerusalem of Bulgaria..."
"This man was not his grandson at all, Simon realized,
and then he passed out..."
But word had gotten around that a renewed effort to find Scott was being made... And the original well as the buyer...were keeping track of everywhere that Sofia and Simon traveled...

Poor Simon soon began to get hurt in one way or another, although not badly, as they encounter the men following them! But that didn't stop him because a major clue had been sent to him.Scott's silver chain, which Simon had given to him, had been delivered to where he was staying. Did this mean he was alive? Or did somebody actually know he was dead and wanted to return an important part of Scott to his family...

Soon, though, Simon began to wonder about Sophia... She was making calls or texting without saying what she was doing. Did she think that somehow Scott was tied to the missing artifact that she had told him about when they toured the museum?

A treasure hunt? Or a native Bulgarian who was
 trying to help out a fellow member in academia?
 Simon was beginning to feel his trust fading,
since even the police and fellow Americans
living there were not really helping in any way...

"Sophia explained that ancient treasures were accidentally discovered quite frequently in Bulgaria. Gold and silver vessels were unearthed near the village of Valchitran in 1924, and farmers uncovered treasures while plowing their fields near the town of Borovo in 1974. Other caches of Thracian relics had been dug up by chance at Loukovit and Lemitsa..."What was in this one?" Simon was standing by an empty glass case, the largest in the entire Treasure Room hall...
"They called it the Rogozen Drinking Lion."
This is not a fast-paced thriller, but there is certainly enough action and adventure to keep the thrills moving... Plan instead to sit back and relax and learn about the many Bulgarian sights that Simon enjoys seeing while searching for his grandson. You'll learn much about this country, including, for instance, that because of the high quality of its roses, "mastered over centuries of dedicated cultivation, Bulgaria is one of the world's largest exporters of rose oil, used in the production of perfumes, beauty creams, chocolates, liquors, and jams...and even tooth paste." Cool, right?! Bet you didn't know that, did you... 

Lots more, but most importantly, emails are included between a loving grandson and his grandfather, who never gave up believing he could find his grandson... Highly recommended!


Ellis Shipka Pass, Bulgaria...

About the Author
Ellis Shuman was born in Sioux City, Iowa, and immigrated to Israel as a teenager. He completed high school in Jerusalem and served for three years in the Israeli army's Nahal branch. Along with his wife, Jodie, he was a founding member of Kibbutz Yahel in the Arava Valley in Israel's south. On the kibbutz he worked in agriculture, industry, tourism, the dairy barn, and served as the kibbutz's general secretary. After moving with his wife and three young children to Moshav Neve Ilan in the Judean Hills, Ellis received formal training in the hotel industry. He worked in a variety of positions at the Neve Ilan Hotel and later was Food and Beverage Controller at the Jerusalem Hilton. He served as the moshav's general secretary during a period in which the community underwent major social changes. As a hobby, Ellis began writing on the Internet. He wrote extensively about life in Israel in his position as the Israeli Culture Guide at He designed and maintained websites for the Neve Ilan Hotel and for Indic--Independent Israeli Cinema. For two years he was webmaster for Yazam, an international financial firm that provided support for technological start-ups. Ellis served for three years as Editor in Chief of Israel Insider, an online daily newsmagazine that developed new technologies as it posted the latest news and views, from and about Israel. Starting in 2004, Ellis began working in a marketing company servicing the online gaming industry. In the years 2009 - 2010, his job was relocated to Sofia, Bulgaria. During those years, Ellis and Jodie traveled extensively in Bulgaria as well as in the countries of the region. Today Ellis continues working at this job, based in Ramat Gan. Read about Ellis and Jodie's Bulgarian Adventure at their blog: Ellis writes regularly on his blog at:

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