Hillhouse, Raelynn (J.)
HILLHOUSE, Raelynn (J.)
PERSONAL: Born in MO. Education: Washington University, B.A.; University of Michigan, M.A., Ph.D.; also attended Moscow State University, Moscow Finance Institute, Humboldt University (Berlin, Germany), Eberhard-Karls-Universität, and Babes-Bolyai University.
CAREER: Writer, educator, and health-care administrator. Also worked as a smuggler and money launderer in Eastern Europe.
MEMBER: Association for Former Intelligence Officers, International Thriller Writers, Inc.
AWARDS, HONORS: Fulbright fellowship; International Research and Exchanges Board scholarship; Foreign Languages and Area Studies fellowship; National Merit Award; Best Books designation, American Booksellers Association, 2004, for Rift Zone.
Rift Zone (novel), Forge (New York, NY), 2004.
Contributor to Spirit of Aloha and Mystery Scene.
Contributor of articles about Eastern Europe to academic journals.
SIDELIGHTS: An expert on Central and Eastern Europe, Raelynn Hillhouse is the author of the 2004 novel Rift Zone, "a satisfying international thriller," according to Booklist critic David Wright.
Hillhouse was born in the Ozarks in Missouri, but moved to Europe at the age of twenty to pursue her education. While living in Germany, she began to run Cuban rum between East and West Berlin, smuggle jewelry and works of art from the Soviet Union to the West, and launder money from East Bloc nations. "I crossed the Iron Curtain hundreds of times and I usually had something with me I shouldn't have had," Hillhouse stated on her Web site. "I know from firsthand experience what it's like to be taken aside for questioning and have your belongings ransacked. I also know what it's like to suddenly find yourself in a situation when soldiers are pointing Kalishnikovs at you; civilian police are running toward you and everyone is yelling at you in a language you don't understand."
Rift Zone, Hillhouse's debut novel, is based on the author's own experiences. Set in 1989, the work concerns Faith Whitney, a smuggler who becomes involved in an East German plot to assassinate Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev. To prevent this disaster, Faith must rely on her old boyfriend Max Summers, an explosives expert, as well as on her estranged mother, a former smuggler who now operates an orphanage in Moscow.
Rift Zone received generally positive reviews. Eugen Weber, a contributor to the Los Angeles Times Book Review, described the novel as "evocative, gripping and convincing." In the words of Library Journal critic Ronnie H. Terpening, "a resourceful female protagonist, sexual undertones, explosive tension, and tradecraft galore add up to a spellbinding tale."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Booklist, July, 2004, David Wright, review of Rift Zone, p. 1798.
Kirkus Reviews, review of Rift Zone, p. 596.
Library Journal, Ronnie H. Terpening, review of Rift Zone, p. 70.
Los Angeles Times Book Review, October 17, 2004, Eugen Weber, "L. A. Confidential," review of Rift Zone, p. R9.
People, September 6, 2004, review of Rift Zone, p. 60.
St. Louis Post-Dispatch, September 8, 2004, John M. McGuire, "The Spy Who Loved It," review of Rift Zone, p. E1.
Tribune Books (Chicago, IL), August 22, 2004, Dick Adler, "Smugglers, Spies, Killers, and More," review of Rift Zone, p. 3.
Bookreporter.com, http://www.bookreporter.com/ (September 10, 2004), interview with Hillhouse.
Raelynn J. Hillhouse Home Page, http://www.internationalthrillers.com (March 15, 2005).