Education: University of Cambridge, Ph.D.
Home—Edmonton, Alberta, Canada.
Writer and historian.
Pavel & I (novel), Bloomsbury (New York, NY), 2008.
Dan Vyleta is a writer and historian. His Czech parents immigrated to Germany in the 1960s. He went on to earn a Ph.D. from Cambridge University. Linda L. Richards, interviewing Vyleta in January Magazine, asked about his writing process. To this he replied: "More computer than pen, though I take sketches and notes by hand. Working out everything about the plot ahead of time kills it for me. It needs to start in language rather than in some abstract idea, however sexy; I don't like the feeling that I am merely putting words to pre-existing ideas. I used to write only at night, but it turns out any time is good. What I need is a strange mixture of inspiration and bloody mindedness," appending that "sometimes it's best to let it sit for a day, until something moves me. And sometimes I just have to buckle down and keep on pushing, no matter how dull I feel."
Vyleta published his first novel, Pavel & I, in 2008. Set during the infamously cold winter experienced in Berlin in 1946, the story follows an American soldier, a German homeless person, and a prostitute around the city in the years after World War II. When a friend shows up at Pavel's door with a dead midget, they learn that he is well connected with the Russian secret service and holds the secret to a missing treasure. In an interview on the Raincoast Books Web site, Vyleta explained the inspiration he had in writing this book, noting that "ideas come to me by way of images and feelings: a sort of emotional ‘tone’ that is connected to a character and place. So the opening scene of the book coincides with its inspiration—it just popped out of my pen and urged me to carry on. Then, in retrospect, you construct all sorts of reasons why it made sense that you were drawn to the material, and what its ‘meaning’ is."
Abigail Wilkinson, writing in Time Out London, commented that "the knowing tone that Vyleta adopts about traditional noir creates a sensation of disassociation," but appended that the story fosters "a genuine interest in Pavel, who is the real enigma at the centre of the novel." Ekaterina Rodyunina, reviewing the novel on the Bookbag Web site, allowed that "the characters are believable and intriguing" and "the style sharp and laconic." However, Rodyunina recalled that "somehow it did not strike me as a great book." Nevertheless, Rodyunina called it "a pleasant read." James Smith, writing in the London Times, remarked that "there is much to like about this book, not least the way in which Vyleta describes both the merciless winter and the epidemic of cruelty that gripped Berlin in 1946." Harriet Klausner, writing on the Mystery Gazette Web site, observed that "this is a fabulous historical mystery in which the atmosphere of Berlin just after WWII owns the well written story line," adding that the characters "seem genuine."
Jonathan Gibbs, writing in the London Independent, commented that the author's "plain style is welcome in a book so full of suspicion and subterfuge. Some readers of literary fiction treat thrillers as a guilty pleasure. Pavel & I, by contrast, is an entirely guilt-free treat." Richards, also reviewing the novel in January Magazine, described the account as a "gorgeous debut." A contributor to Publishers Weekly noted that the novel contains "an overabundance of minor characters" and its conclusion "isn't exactly surprising." The same contributor concluded that "Vyleta conjures a convincing postwar Berlin in all of its moral ambiguity." Booklist contributor Blair Parsons remarked that "this novel charges through a frigid winter and an equally chilling political adventure." Ron Terpening, reviewing the novel in Library Journal, opined that "the mysteries themselves—and the details of plot—are far less interesting than the characters."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Booklist, November 15, 2007, Blair Parsons, review of Pavel & I, p. 31.
Independent (London, England), March 7, 2008, Jonathan Gibbs, review of Pavel & I.
January Magazine, February 5, 2008, Linda L. Richards, review of Pavel & I; June 20, 2008, Linda L. Richards, author interview.
Library Journal, December 1, 2007, Ron Terpening, review of Pavel & I, p. 103.
Publishers Weekly, March 7, 2008, review of Pavel & I, p. 40.
Time Out London, March 7, 2008, Abigail Wilkinson, review of Pavel & I.
Times (London, England), March 28, 2008, James Smith, review of Pavel & I.
Bookbag,http://www.thebookbag.co.uk/ (August 8, 2008), Ekaterina Rodyunina, review of Pavel & I.
Mystery Gazette,http://themysterygazette.blogspot.com/ (January 4, 2008), Harriet Klausner, review of Pavel & I.
Raincoast Books Web site,http://www.raincoast.com/ (March 10, 2008), author interview; (March 11, 2008), author interview.