Can a New York City cab driver and a beautiful private chef prevent a fanatical Middle Eastern dignitary from blowing up the United Nations and launching a nuclear attack on Israel in less time than it took God to create the world?
The Book of Zev is a political thriller that tells the story of two gentle people who change the course of history. Zev Bronfman, a strapping 32-year old-virgin, angry atheist, refugee from a religious Jewish life, and former engineer for the U.S. Patent Office in Alexandria, Virginia, drives a cab and sleeps around in New York City.
After a bitter divorce, Sarah Hirshbaum, a beautiful, redheaded, depressed, God-hating kosher chef, seesaws between yoga and too much red wine. Independently, the two consult the same psychic who inadvertently sends Sarah Zev’s session tape. When Sarah contacts Zev to pick up the recording, a series of events forces them to connect with a powerful terrorist in order to thwart his plans to destroy the UN and Israel, and romance ensues.
Targeted Age Group:: 16+
What Inspired You to Write Your Book?
I met the real “Zev” on a train coming back from DC to New York. The man was a Jew who was traveling to various communities to see where he fit in. Though he was religiously observant, he also was a secret atheist. I was fascinated. He told me that in his understanding, faith was not a requirement for being a “good” Jew. I couldn’t get the conversation out of my head and just began writing longhand. The real guy looked like the actor, Adrien Brody. It’s one of those chance things—you meet someone on a train and suddenly you find yourself writing a story.
How Did You Come up With Your Characters?
We’ve pretty much covered Zev.
I actually got the idea for Sarah first, one night when I came home a bit drunk and fell asleep on my yoga mat. It was very out of character for me personally, but I wondered what sort of person might make this a habit, and so, Sarah was born.
The terrorist in The Book of Zev, Mahmoud Zarafshan, is a composite of Middle Eastern dignitaries. However, in my research I read an article in the London Telegraph that Ahmadinejad, the former Iranian president, was historically Jewish, and it offered an irresistible twist.
The Book of Zev
by Marilyn Ida Horowitz
EXCERPT consists of a portion of the prologue and a portion of Chapter 15
DAWN IN CORNWALL
…On the television, Iranian president Zarafshan addressed the General Assembly of the United Nations. The English subtitles revealed he was denying the Holocaust and, furthermore, was calling for the destruction of Israel. The speech concluded, and the BBC newscaster, a pale man in a drab suit, came onscreen: “The president addressed the General Assembly of the UN in New York City earlier today, causing shock and outrage when he demanded that Israel be cast out of the UN.”
Gwydion thought to himself, Yeah, we heard that—shouldn’t you be pointing out what a sick fuck he is?
Cindal asked, “What is that crazy man chuntering on about?”
Oh, these extremist dickheads believe that there will be a resurrection, the world will end, everyone will be judged, and the good will be sent to heaven and the bad to hell. Most doomsday prophecies foretell that there will be a terrible war that will precipitate the end of the world and the coming of the Messiah. Zarafshan and his mentor, the real power behind the throne, figure that they can speed up the Second Coming by getting the war started sooner. Ridiculous, of course. But I’m afraid they are serious. And they need to be stopped.”
Cindal shook her head and snuggled deeper into her husband’s lap as he put his arms around her. He loved the way she smelled in the morning, a combination of a sweet, floral perfume and fresh milk. “Gwydion, is there any good news on this morning?”
He flicked the remote past several satellite channels, finally settling on some American all-night news show broadcast out of Washington, D.C. The presenters, one a disheveled and seemingly drunk Irishman with curly, gray hair and a fake smile, the other, a too young, overly sexy redheaded sidekick, sat in matching chairs on a raised dais. They watched a video playing on a flatscreen located above and between the two of them. In the video, a tall, slightly stooped but handsome man in his thirties, wearing a peaked cap, walked along a street where a large building was under construction. As he walked beneath some scaffolding, a sixteen-foot steel I-beam came crashing down out of nowhere.
Cindal gasped. “Oh, my God!”
Gwydion felt a cold but unseen hand on his shoulder—the spooky sensation that always indicated it was time to go to work. He clicked off the telly, grasped Cindal gently around her marvelously slim waist, and lifted her off his lap.
“What did you do that for? We’ll never know what happened to the poor bloke.”
“Time for work. It will be as God planned it.”
“Oh, c’mon with the mystical stuff!”
“There are no coincidences, only the appearance of coincidences.”
“Okay, Merlin—if you’re so good, what are we having for dinner tonight?”
“I don’t know, but I know what we’re having for dessert.” He reached out an arm and patted her bum, his hand electric on the soft, smooth skin underneath her short robe.
She giggled and tried to slap it away, but he pulled his hand back too quickly. “Some psychic you are,” she laughed, then said sternly but with a smirk, “Self-fulfilling prophecy does not a psychic make!” She giggled again, amused at her own clever remark. “We’re having steak, Mister Wizard.” She slipped out of the study, closing the door behind her.
Immediately the air shifted and the room grew cold. Gwydion could hear the murmuring of far-off voices, a faint chiming of bells, and what sounded like the nervous fluttering of a flock of birds. The temperature dropped precipitously, and his glasses fogged in the sudden frost. His study filled with shadows and a strange hammering. He blinked and found himself rushing down an endless corridor filled with thick, purplish smoke. He came to a heavy wooden door, opened it and entered. Gwydion now stood in a duplicate version of his own study, but the furniture was transparent, as if it were made of glass, while, ironically, there was no view through the windows, just opaque darkness. There was a crackling fire in the hearth, yet Gwydion could see his own breath. A life-sized stone sculpture of an angel, complete with huge, curving wings and a floor-length gown, sat with its back to the door, posed as if staring out at the black nothingness beyond.
“I am here,” Gwydion said, and the short hairs on his arms stood on end as the angel’s chiseled wings moved slightly. Gwydion had never gotten used to it; his guts twisted as the angel turned toward him, the angel’s face a mirror image of Gwydion’s own but possessing eyes colder than his. This was Gwydion’s guide—an angel with no name. Neither of them spoke; they simply nodded to each other knowingly, and Gwydion sat in his chair, turned on his computer, and clicked on his e-mail. On the screen were the latest of the dozens of requests he got for consultations every day, and more of them popped into view as the computer sprang into action. At the top of the list, there appeared an e-mail from Zephaniah Bronfman, whom Gwydion had just seen on TV. He raised a quizzical eyebrow. So he survived—but how? It is a miracle. The next one down was from firstname.lastname@example.org.
The angel said in a voice colder than the grave, “No miracles, only the appearance of miracles. Give that Zephaniah fellow your next appointment, and the one below it, the cook, that one too. They both will have a role to play on a larger stage. Make sure that you tape your conversations, and send the tapes off directly after each one. We will tell you what to do just before you speak with them.”…
Love in the Rearview Mirror
…Zev stopped the cab and called out, “Hey! Are you okay?” The man, who was already on his cell phone, nodded and gave Zev the thumbs-up. Zev looked around at his passenger, who had a frightened look in her eyes. “You okay?”
She nodded ominously. “Good save. If he had hit us—”
“But he didn’t.”
“That was a miracle.”
“Well, whatever it was, it has inspired me to confess, just in case I can get absolution.” Zev registered that she was flirting with him, or rather with Tom.
“What do Jews get instead of forgiveness?” Zev couldn’t wait to hear what she would say.
“You wouldn’t want to trade for it. No forgiveness for sins, no afterlife, no freedom—though that’s changed somewhat. We get a punishing God who judges—and terrible misogyny against women! Did you know a woman cannot be considered a firstborn? Horrible! Being a Jewish woman is a lose-or-lose-big situation!”
He heard real anger in her voice. Prejudice against women?
“I thought women were considered better than men in your faith?”
She laughed bitterly. “Ha! Don’t you see how condescending that is? It’s the same damn thing in the yoga I study. Yogi Bhajan says we’re better, but he is patronizing us, just like in Judaism.”
“How can such recognition be patronizing?”
“Oh, c’mon! All right—then how about this? When I was about five or six, I overheard my grandfather—who was Orthodox—saying his morning prayers. I used to peek through the keyhole. I loved to watch him wrap the straps of the phylacteries around his arms and head. Anyhow, as he prayed, he said aloud—and in English—‘Thank You for not making me a woman.’ I was shocked—horrified! Why would a man thank God for that, unless it meant women were something less? Understand, I loved my grandfather and recognized he was a man of true faith. So when he came out I asked him, ‘Grandpa, why did you thank God for not making you a woman?’ ”
“And what did he say?”
“He lied to me. He said, ‘No, you don’t understand—I was thanking God for sparing me the pain of childbirth.’ ”
“That sounds reasonable.”
“But he was lying. I could see it in his eyes. He was lying! So I insisted, ‘But Grandpa, you didn’t say that. You said, For not making me a woman. And he belittled me, saying, ‘It’s not what you think.’ So I persisted. I said, ‘But wouldn’t the greatest power be to actually be able to have children? You fight wars—which hurts more than having a baby, doesn’t it? Why did you thank God? What’s wrong with women?’ ”
“So what was his answer?”
“He had no answer. He gave me an angry look, called me a silly child, and disappeared. I remember feeling ashamed for no reason, like I was being greedy or something. Then I tried to pray to a woman God but realized that if I prayed to Her, it wasn’t a true deity that everyone else acknowledged, which was how I understood God. So if God made men ‘in His image’ and Grandpa was a true believer, then God obviously thought less of women—He was certainly not androgynous, but male only. So how could I have faith?”…
About the Author:
Marilyn Horowitz is an award-winning New York University professor, author, producer, and Manhattan-based writing coach, who works with successful novelists, produced screenwriters, and award-winning filmmakers. She has a passion for helping novices get started. Since 1998 she has taught thousands of aspiring screenwriters to complete a feature length screenplay using her method. She completed her tenure as a judge for the Fulbright Scholarship Program for film and media students in 2013. Professor Horowitz is a current member of International Thriller Writers (ITW) and Sisters in Crime as well as a judge for the NYWIFT Ravenal Foundation Grant. In 2004 she received the coveted New York University Award for Teaching Excellence.
Professor Horowitz has a created a revolutionary system, The Horowitz System ®, that yields a new, more effective way of writing. She is the author of six books that help the writer learn her trademarked system, including editions for college, high school, and middle school. The college version is a required text at New York University and has been used at the University of California, Long Beach. Two of her books have been used in the Lights, Camera, Literacy! program taught to over 1,000 children in Maryland’s Montgomery County Public School System (a recent recipient of the “Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award” for outstanding scholastic performance). Professor Horowitz writes articles for Script magazine, and she pens a monthly column for MovieOutline.com, an online magazine with 30,000 subscribers. She is featured in Now Write! Screenwriting anthology published by Tarcher/Penguin edited by Sherry Ellis and the 2014 edition of The Expert Success Solution. Marilyn’s upcoming Suspense Thriller, The Book of Zev, will be out in December 2014.
Professor Horowitz has taught more than 100 classes, seminars, and workshops across the country for groups including the Writers Guild of America East, NYWIFT, Philadelphia Writer’s Conference, Script DC, Screenwriters World East, and the Great American PitchFest. In addition, she also hosts periodic writers retreats in Tuscany, Italy.
Professor Horowitz has written several feature-length screenplays. Her production credits include the feature films And Then Came Love (2007), starring Vanessa Williams and distributed by Warner Bros.; Caleb’s Door (2009), distributed by Around the Scenes; Found in Time (2011); Nocturnal Agony (2011); and The One (2011).
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