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Review: Sonoma Has A Man Of Intrigue, Or At Least In Avery Mann's Books Special
Digital Journal Aug 3 2015
By Jonathan Farrell 20 hours ago in Entertainment
Sonoma - Avery Mann, a nom de plume for international law attorney Bruce Janigian, may seem ordinary. But once you delve into his his two books "Angel Landing" and "Persona Non Grata" you are taken from the local to the global.
The two books are woven with the type of intrigue expected from a man of the world.
And, when this reporter says the world, I am talking about truly the international stage of world events. A native San Franciscan and cousin to author and playwright William Saroyan, his two novels both part of his Mark Jamison mystery series, speak of a world where nothing is as it seems; complexity and conflict is everywhere at just about every level.
The character of Jamison is of course the author. He noted that he presents Jamison first as an observer and then as a participant, or perhaps more negotiator. Mann's observations are clearly from the view- point of someone from the outside looking in; but then once within a given circumstance, he obtains valuable insight that can help resolve things.
Part of Jamison's dilemma (which is also Janigian's in real life) is getting people to understand and to cooperate with one another. With his extensive background in international law, much of Janigian's perspective is the conflict between East and West. In his book "Persona Non Grata: End of the Great Game" he speaks of the conflicts between East and West. For Americans that is particularly about the Cold War. But is it really? From Janigian's perspective Russia and Eastern Europe is not completely the monster. There are other things and conflicts involved that most people do not know or comprehend.
Conflicts in the Middle East are still going on and unfortunately according to Janigian, the U.S. involvement in places like Afghanistan, Iraq, Iran and now Syria and Turkey is not able to bring peace to the region.
Like his short novel "Angel Landing" Janigian starts local in conversation. But then his perspective moves to the global scene.
Sophisticated, distinguished Janigian has a sense of authority about him, even when he is in down-to-earth settings like small town Sonoma.
American of Armenian ancestry, the little-spoken of genocide of the Armenian people is always set someplace in the background, not only in his writing. But also at times in his conversations. For those not acquainted with this history, in the early years of the 20th Century, over 1.2 million were slaughtered or left to die at the hands of the Ottoman Turkish Empire during WWI and thereafter until 1923.
This atrocity looms in the collective memory and fabric of the Armenian people. Even those born and raised in the United States, well after that time are aware of the genocide. Similar to the Holocaust of World War II, most Armenian's today can trace at least one relative who died or was a victim during that period. Journalist and historical author Michael Bobelian is one who documents the atrocity and its aftermath in his book "Children of Armenia." Bobelian praises Janigian's "Persona Non Grata" book as "a riveting historical mystery."
"There is so much going on today that many people in the United States just don't have a clue about," said Janigian. "Just because there is an Internet and a World Wide Web, does not expose everything. There are secrets and deceptions out there. It is just that much of what is presented as important news isn't." And, what upsets Janigian is the fact that much of what happened to the Armenian people 100 years ago is happening still. "Oil and power," that is what it is actually about. "Religion is a 'red herring' he said, it is only a ruse that groups use to justify their might and tactics over other people."
Janigian's perspective is unique in that he shares a common heritage in his Armenian background. Just like any group or nation of people, the Armenian history is complicated. Yet it is also ancient, steeped in traditions few people know. Part of that is the fact that Armenia was once an empire, long ago. The Kingdom of Armenia which existed from 321 BC to 428 AD and had three distinct dynasties was also home to one of the first Christian churches. This was before there was any notion of denomination such as Catholic or Protestant.
Which then leads into another aspect to the novel "Persona Non Grata," Armenian Christianity is its own, it is defined according to its own history and tradition as 'Apostolic.' (And, that means it was established by the Apostles of Jesus, before there was a Catholic Church headquartered in Rome). Historical scholars estimate that that Christianity in Armenia even pre-dates the Byzantine period. The Cathedral Of Echmiadzin dates from 301 AD.
Here is where things get more complicated. As a people who had a distinct but ancient history, the region which is or was Armenia was constantly invaded, fought over, confiscated or defined by various powers. The Ottoman Turks were just one among many who sought to tear Armenia asunder. After WWI, the Armenian people hoped their homeland would be reestablished and they would be free to govern themselves.
But Armenia was absorbed into Soviet Russia and Ataturk's Turkey from the 1920's onward. The Ataturk Turkish government denied that genocide had taken place.
With Soviet Russia officially atheist and Ataturk's Turkey secular but strongly Muslim, the Armenian people and culture with its distinct sense of Christianity were forced to die, assimilate or flee. The difficult details of Armenian history are expressed in "Persona Non Grata" by way of a meeting between Pope Benedict XVI and one of his close confidants, a Monsignor Eke over coffee and pastry at the papal apartment.
As expressed in the introduction of "Persona Non Grata," "The Vatican has its own intelligence organization...it is fed from a number of larger collection of sources from around the world." The character of Mark Jamison in the book is privy to this exclusive and elite setting and called upon by the papal enclave to help. In "Persona Non Grata" both the Kremlin and the Vatican use Mark Jamison in a chess-like strategy to locate lost Byzantine treasures in a adventure of espionage and intrigue.
Janigian traces all the lines of history from the early days of monotheistic religious belief and the spread of Christianity to the Crusades and the Muslim conquests to today. "Modernity and religion are frequently at odds throughout history and this, said Janigian is what is going on today in the Middle East."
"When a people have nothing and oppressed religion is usually the only thing they have to fall back upon," he said. What is often a comfort or a sweet sentiment expressed by family and community can be used by tyrants to entangle or divide people. He believes that this is what is happening in the Middle East today by religious extremists.
"When people embrace modernity they are not entangled in religion.
They have the freedom to think for themselves, be educated, travel and enjoy the pleasures of life," Janigian said. "That is why modernity is threatening to religious extremists who view Western civilization as a menace."
But as Janigian points out, here again is where it gets complicated.
"The West, (often the United States) in its expanding capitalism and quest for more, in the form of oil, resources and cheap labor, forget's its boundaries." An example he brought up that is still in the news today, was Iran. "Many people don't realize that in the 1950's Iran was the most 'Western' of all Middle Eastern countries.
But the short-sightedness of powers within the United States government wanted to place a puppet in power over Iran. This was, he said, despite the fact that the Iranian people had elected their leader, prime minister Mosaddeq."
Once the Shah, Mohammed Reza Pahlavi was secured in place, American interests had more control over Iranian oil. This set in motion the conditions that lead to the Islamic Revolution of 1979. The entanglements were far reaching as Europe and the United States have been impacted by it in some way ever since.
Janigian hopes that by telling a story within the context of an exciting novel, people will start to understand the histories a bit more clearer and not rely so much on "bytes of info" fed to them by an ever-superfulous media.
The setting of Persona Non Grata with its pontifical conversations, sounds and feels so real, I had to ask, "did Pope Benedict get a copy of the book?" Professor Felix Unger, MD who currently serves as president of the European Academy of Sciences and Arts, confirmed that it was passed along to him. But the professor did not say what Pope Benedict (the former Cardinal Ratzinger) had to say about it. It is important to note that while the setting of the pope's conversations is real, and the history of which they tell of is very real, such a chat actually taken place is fiction.
Both novels, "Persona Non Grata" and "Angel Landing" speak of not only histories and intrigues, they also illustrate the frighteningly real aspects of power. And, how much of this power is in the hands of an elite few - are you listening Middle Class America? Janigian worries that the tremendous strides Western Civilization has made through American originality and ingenuity will be lost if people keep allowing themselves to being "dumbed down" as he called it.
Janigian has been on the lecture circuit for his book speaking at places like the European Academy of Sciences and Arts in Salzburg, Austria. So far, his literary efforts have been well received, "Angel Landing was a near equal to Persona Non Grata, said Joe Warren is editor of The Independent Daily, whose review was reprinted in the USA Armenian Life, but not quite as enwrapping."
Janigian hopes the audience for his books continues to grow. To learn more about author Avery Mann and the man behind the Mark Jamison Mystery series visit the page on Facebook or the web site.
Bruce Janigian appointed Vice President for Development and Government Relations of AUA
September 19, 2005
Bruce Janigian appointed Vice President for Development and Government Relations of AUA
Oakland, CA - The Board of Trustees of the American University of Armenia Corporation (AUAC) approved the appointment of Bruce Janigian, Esq. A.B., J.D., LL.M., as Vice President for Development and Government Relations of the University.
Bruce Janigian is a member of the Public International Law and Policy Group, and leads the US delegation in the European Academy of Sciences and Arts. His international appointments have included the vice presidency and directorship of the Salzburg Seminar, Fulbright and visiting professorships in international law, attorney adviser for the US Agency for International Development, and legal counsel for the US Navy. His California appointments have included chairman of the California Agricultural Labor Relations Board, and deputy director and general counsel of the California Employment Development Department. He has been a scholar at the Hoover Institution on War, Revolution and Peace and has taught public and private international law in the US and overseas for the past 30 years. He is a Phi Beta Kappa graduate of UC Berkeley's honors program in International Relations, and holds law degrees from the University of California and the George Washington University.
AUA is confident that Bruce Janigian will contribute immensely to the development and prosperity of the university, and will help lead the institution into new direction bringing AUA to a new level of professionalism.