a busy week, though not because of, like usual, an over-enthusiastic attempt to complete 10 projects at once. No, I’ve been resolutely focusing on one project, the last book of the Eastern European series, called The Falling Sickness.

As I’ve mentioned before, it’ll be a rather cumbersome book upwards of 1000 pages, but I’m nearing the end of the first of its three large section, titled “1986: The Leaving Party”. The next major sections will take place in 1989 and 1990. Not done, but the end of this one section is in sight.

Because of the size, each section is essentially a novel, with a beginning-middle-end, a self-contained storyline, and a conclusion of sorts. Put simply: Writing this will take the work of writing three novels.

So while I’m pleased to have made it this far, I know there’s tons of work still ahead. Which is why it was a nice encouragement today to find in the Los Angeles Times a section called “A Few of Our Favorite Books”. They “asked a number of writers about the most surprising new book they encountered in 2005.” And unexpectedly, esteemed historian, journalist and novelist David Halberstam had this to say:

This summer, I picked up a copy of “36 Yalta Boulevard” by Olen Steinhauer, a detective novel set behind the Iron Curtain. Steinhauer is a young American writer who spent time in Romania on a Fulbright listening closely to old stories of the worst of times, and he has now fashioned a precinct house all his own out of that world. What he’s created is a group of detectives, all with secrets and vulnerabilities, at work in an Eastern European country in the early 1950s, dealing with the political burden of the Stalinist years. Some of the names are Hungarian, some Polish, some Czech, and the setting feels like Budapest. His people are real, the crimes genuine, and he is telling larger truths about that era, making it unusually accessible.