Wine, Diplomacy and Murder

William S. ShepardNow residents of Maryland’s Eastern Shore, the Shepards enjoy visits from their daughters and granddaughters, fine and moderate weather, ocean swims at Assateague, Chesapeake Bay crabs, and the company of Rajah and Rani, their two rescued cats.

Prize winning mystery writer William S. Shepard is the creator of a new genre, the diplomatic mystery, whose plots are set in American Embassies overseas. That mirrors Shepard’s own career in the Foreign Service of the United States, during which he served in Singapore, Saigon, Budapest, Athens and Bordeaux, in addition to five Washington tours of duty.

His diplomatic mystery books explore this rich, insider background into the world of high stakes diplomacy and government. His main character is a young career diplomat, Robbie Cutler. The first four books in the series are available as Ebooks.


I was a career diplomat for many years, serving at American Embassies in Singapore, Saigon, Budapest, Athens, and Bordeaux. Upon retirement, it struck me as curious that nobody had thought to have a diplomat as a sleuth. And why not? Serving in another country, having learned something of the language and customs, an Embassy officer is in a fine position to work within both cultures – the one that sent him, and the one in the receiving nation. As a matter of fact, that is the real meaning of the word diplomat – diplo-matia, “having two eyes,” one fixed on the sending state, and the other interpreting the nation of assignment, where the Embassy is located. Being at the crosshairs of two cultures would give an ideal perspective to an amateur detective, particularly when murder is concerned!

And so began the career of my diplomatic sleuth, Robbie Cutler. But first, I wanted a real understanding of the detective story, from its beginnings with the legendary Vidocq and Edgar Allan Poe, through the British tradition of Collins, Dickens and Conan Doyle, the “cozy” mysteries of Sayers and Christie, and the American “hardboiled” school of Hammett and Raymond Chandler. The result was The Great Detectives (From Vidocq to Sam Spade), and I found many nuggets of information which enrich the experience of reading classic detective stories.

For example, where did the name Sherlock come from? Or Baskerville, for that matter? And in more modern times, just who killed the chauffeur in The Big Sleep? It turns out that Nobel Prize author William Faulkner, who wrote the screenplay for the movie, could not figure it out. He asked the author, and Raymond Chandler said that he had no idea who had committed the murder! The ebook is found at

My diplomatic detective, Robbie Cutler, has served in Bordeaux, Budapest, and the Department of State, and his career now spans five ebooks, beginning with Vintage Murder, where as a Consul in Bordeaux, he must solve a murder and terrorist blackmail scheme involving the famous Bordeaux vineyards. It is a start to an interesting diplomatic career, and a fascinating sideline as a diplomatic detective! Vintage Murder is at

In the latest adventure, The Great Game Murders, Robbie accompanies the Secretary of State on a trip to Southeast Asia, China, India and Afghanistan. He stays in Kabul for a tour of duty in the war zone, and attempts to better the life of remote The Great Game Murdersvillagers in Kandahar Province by providing a village well. But also, several assassination attempts against the Secretary of State must be thwarted, in the Goa coastline region of India, and at Australia, at the famous Sydney Opera House! A side plot involved the terrorist use of cyberwarfare – could it be that danger comes from Robbie Cutler’s own personal computer? This timely novel is at

Bordeaux was one of my favorite assignments. It wasn’t all terrorism! I did have the opportunity to see the world famous vineyards, and my ebook on French wines has been a best seller in both Britain and the United States. Treat yourself at Here I have done some detective work as well. You’ll find that not all sparkling wine made in France qualifies as “champagne,” for example – and some of the best, including the very first French sparkling wine, sells for a small fraction of the price of champagne! Saving money adds something to the pleasure of wine, readers tell me!

So, pour yourself a glass of wine, open your ebooks, and enjoy a mystery or detective story. And let other readers know how you enjoyed the experience!


Shepard evokes his last Foreign Service post, Consul General in Bordeaux, in Vintage Murder, the first of the series of five “diplomatic mysteries.” The second, Murder On The Danube, mines his knowledge of Hungary and the 1956 Revolution. In Murder In Dordogne Robbie Cutler and his bride Sylvie are just married, but their honeymoon in the scenic southwest of France is interrupted by murders.

The Saladin Affair, next in the series, has Robbie Cutler transferred to work for the Secretary of State. Like the author once did, Cutler arranges trips on Air Force Two – now enlivened by serial Al Qaeda attempts to assassinate the Secretary of State, as they travel to Dublin, London, Paris, Vienna, Riga and Moscow! And who killed the American Ambassador in Dublin?

The Great Game Murders is the most recent of the series. There is another trip by the Secretary of State, this time to Southeast Asia, India, China and Afghanistan. The duel between Al Qaeda and the United States continues, this time with Al Qaeda seeking to expand its reach with the help of a regional great power nation. And Robbie Cutler’s temporary duty (TDY) assignment to Kandahar Province, Afghanistan, carries its own perils. Fortunately, Uncle Seth helps unravel his perilous Taliban captivity in time!


Shepard's Guide to Mastering...        Vintage Murder         The Great Detectives