Archive for the ‘* THE POPE’S CONSPIRACY’ Category

* Nancy Petralia’s review of THE POPE’S CONSPIRACY … thank you, Nancy

Posted by Lew Weinstein on April 24, 2014


Pope's Conspiracy - cover for blog

Nancy’s review …

I thoroughly enjoyed this novel. The story of the plot to assassinate the Medici brothers is right in the sweet spot of Italian history that fascinates me. The author interweaves this historical account with the tale of a Jewish printer and his family who come to in Florence fleeing Spanish persecution. The details of that storyline were new to me.

The arrival of Benjamin and Ester Catalan with their Gutenberg press causes a shift in both Florentine bookmaking and politics. Befriended by the powerful Medici family, they quickly discover that this is not the only alliance they need to make to survive. I found the parts about their Jewish heritage and religious practices nicely balanced the murder plot. Knowing the outcome, I found my attraction to the characters quite poignant. Even so, the pacing kept me wanting to see how things would turn out.

Mr. Weinstein has done his homework and he pulls in all of the real people who were involved in the plot, bringing them alive for the reader. I was especially pleased with the final section of the book that explains the liberties he took with their stories as well as the basis for his fictional characters. 

If you’re interested in Italian Renaissance history, or a good murder plot, this is well worth reading. Bravo!


Thank you, Nancy

Pope's Conspiracy - cover for blog

  purchase at amazon

The Pope’s Conspiracy

kindle $5.99 … paperback $13.46


The Heretic - new cover

The Pope’s Conspiracy is the sequel to THE HERETIC

purchase at amazon

The Heretic (Hereje)

kindle $5.99 … paperback $13.46


Nancy and her husband John are the authors of NOT IN A TUSCAN VILLA

tuscan villa

Nancy and John were in Key West this week, and Pat and I had the chance to share a drink and conversation. Their experiences reflect a willingness to seek adventure, and their telling of it is quite personal and entertaining.

Here is the review I posted on amazon and Goodreads …

This is a delightful book for many reasons.

For one, it is well written, every page taking the reader deep into the experience of two people who had the courage to take a year and do something totally different from their previous experience. There is a deep sense of adventure, a willingness and a sense of humor to accept that everything will not be as you planned, and the ability to change focus (and houses) when reality proves to be below expectations.

We go along with John and Nancy every step of the way, riding a bike, shopping, eating, volunteering at a food festival and a senior center, absorbing the culture and joy of Italy. There are great descriptions of many places you have heard of, and others not on the normal tourist radar.



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* a new 5 ***** review of The Pope’s Conspiracy” on Goodreads

Posted by Lew Weinstein on January 7, 2014

Pope's Conspiracy - cover for blog


Laura Uplinger‘s 5 ***** review 

In this inspiring book, Lewis Weinstein takes us to the heart of the Medici family and the fledgling Renaissance. He masterfully weaves love, religion, politics and friendship in his writer’s loom and it all becomes so palpable, so discernible… Much of what we experience today in our XXI Century world was germinating in those times of heroic pioneering… Thank you Lewis Weinstein for gifting your readers with a warm peek in the intimacy of the minds of men and women of that epoch.

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* a great book club appearance in the Florida Keys

Posted by Lew Weinstein on April 15, 2013

DSCN0467-Weston Book Club group-cropped

Pat and I had the great pleasure of meeting with the Weston (FL) Book Club to discuss my novel “The Pope’s Conspiracy.” We met in the glorious surroundings of Hawk’s Cay resort in the Florida Keys.

It was very exciting for me since all of the ladies proved to be extremely intelligent and perceptive readers. Their questions, about the book and the writing/publishing process, made for a terrific two hour discussion.

I want to thank especially Kelly Tepper, who found my book in a Google search (novels-Jewish-Florence) in preparation for her recent trip to Italy and who graciously hosted the event.



I really enjoy meeting with book clubs, and would love to meet with yours,

either in person or via SKYPE.

You can contact me at authorlewweinstein@gmail.com.

Lew's 5 novels Apr 2013-centered

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* Lew’s 4 published novels

Posted by Lew Weinstein on February 19, 2013

Lew's 4 novels rev Feb 2013

* The Heretic    * A Good Conviction    * Case Closed    * The Pope’s Conspiracy



* The Pope’s Conspiracy

Posted by Lew Weinstein on May 28, 2012

Florence’s Duomo … the scene of the Pope’s crime



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* excerpts from a review of “The Pope’s Conspiracy” by Shirrel Rhoades

Posted by Lew Weinstein on April 22, 2012

“The Pope’s Conspiracy is a literary time machine putting you in Renaissance Florence at one of the most spectacular periods in human history.”

great characters … a historical thriller … exciting twists and turns

Lew Weinstein is a serious-minded writer, political analyst, and historian. He’s an accomplished novelist, coming to the avocation late in life (if 55 can be called late these days).

His four published volumes have a common theme that he doesn’t mind acknowledging.

“My novels tell the stories of injustices perpetrated by people in power – the Catholic Church, prosecutors who abuse their power, and the FBI,” Lew says.

His latest – “The Pope’s Conspiracy” – is a historical thriller that takes place over the first six months of 1478, mostly in Florence, Italy. Based on historical events, “The Pope’s Conspiracy” brings the Renaissance alive. The story focuses on a young Jewish printer and his wife who become caught up in the political machinations of the Vatican. It is an adventure in the style of Umberto Eco’s “The Name of the Rose.”  

You will enjoy Weinstein’s attention to historical detail, from the workings of the Gutenberg printing press to a tour of Florence’s palazzi and piazzas. This verisimilitude serves as a literary time machine putting you (in your mind’s eye) in Renaissance Florence at “one of the most spectacular periods in human history.”

“I spent a good deal of time in Florence, virtually haunting the Palazzo Medici for several days,” he says. “I spent time with Masaccio’s frescoes, the Baptistry doors, and of course the Duomo. I attended mass in the Duomo, sat where Lorenzo was in my story, looked around to ‘see’ the assassins leap to the attack when the host was raised. Beyond that, I read everything I could find.”

“The Pope’s Conspiracy” is a sequel to “The Heretic,” which was published in 2000. However, either novel can stand alone, reading one not dependent on the other. Nonetheless, they form great companion novels and when I finished this epic, I was delighted to go back and read the other.

Like with the discovery of any great literary characters, I’m looking forward to a third installment of this brave Jewish couple’s exploits in a hostile Christian world. “There is a third book which is largely outlined,” Lew admits. “Maybe someday…”

But for now, Lew tells me he’s working on a novel set in 20th century Germany and Poland. “I intend to explore the process by which a decent likable German boy with no anti-Jewish feelings could be transformed into a Nazi killer.” 


Shirrel Rhoades is a syndicated columnist, book publisher, and former fiction editor for The Saturday Evening Post. He has held senior positions with Reader’s Digest Books, Scholastic, and Harper’s. He lives in Key West.

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* excerpts from Mike’s Goodreads review of “The Pope’s Conspiracy”

Posted by Lew Weinstein on April 8, 2012

The Pope’s Conspiracy is a great read which tightly binds the intrigue of a thriller with the lightness of a narrative history.

There is as much edginess and uncertainty as the historical template will allow, and the characters are extremely well depicted, both real and fictitious. Fans of historical fiction should read it as the thrilling introduction to a very interesting period in time; fans of Renaissance history should read it as the accurate walking tour of Europe’s most important city of the day that it serves as; and those who fit into neither category should read it because historical fiction, Florence and its history and The Pope’s Conspiracy have a huge amount to offer everybody.

The book is set in 1478 in Florence, which was at that time approaching the zenith of its powers as an unrivaled artistic, scientific and financial centre. Rarely can an city on earth have laid a claim to have been so important in the development of the modern world.

Into this world of political chess and creative mastery come the characters of Benjamin and Esther Catalan, whose story began with Lew Weinstein’s previous book, The Heretic. I will give nothing away of the story if I write that, as heroes of fiction should be, the couple are immediately likable, faults and all, and that this leads the reader to hope that they avoid the perils of European Jewry of that age, which surround them from the very first page. That, for reasons which will become clear further down this page, is where I will stop with the historical background.

The story slips by at a great rate and before one knows it, the last page is in sight and this reader was left hungry to find a copy of The Heretic and find out more fully how Benjamin and Esther came to be in Florence.

The story itself is captivating – clearly very thoroughly researched, balanced, and with a development and definition of character that sticks closely to known historical fact as much as possible while leaving room for enough to be changed to suit the direction of the plot without ruining the realism.

There was also enough information on the every day lives of Jews five hundred years ago to open my interests in a new subject altogether, and the book certainly has a wealth to offer in that respect.

Purchase   ** THE POPE’S CONSPIRACY   at amazon … paper or kindle


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* The Pope’s Conspiracy … read Chapter 1

Posted by Lew Weinstein on March 27, 2012

The Pope’s Conspiracy by Lewis M. Weinstein

Chapter 1 … on the Mediterranean

The Abu Sa’d had passed Sardinia and was well into the channel between the islands of Corsica and Elba when the captain’s worst fears were realized. On the horizon ahead of them, one after another, the sails of five mighty Spanish warships appeared. The Spanish did not press closer. Instead, maintaining their distance, they retreated before the Moorish ships, drawing them into the narrowing channel. Each mile they sailed further constricted the ability of the Abu Sa’d to maneuver. After fifty miles or so of this strange dance, the Spaniards ceased their northward course and arrayed themselves directly across the path of the Abu Sa’d and its accompanying ships.

“Our caravel is a faster and more maneuverable ship than the square-rigged warships King Fernando has sent against us,” the captain explained to Benjamin Catalán, his passenger and the reason for the threatening presence of the Spanish ships.

“We could try to sail through them or around them, or we could turn and run southward. But our rowing galleys and the slower trading ship would have little chance to escape a serious attack from five Spanish warships.” His smile was more nervous than confident. “I do have a plan,” he said. “My orders have already been communicated to the crew.”

Benjamin hurried to the small cabin which had been constructed for his family under the deck at the stern of the ship. “We’re going to be attacked in the next few minutes,” he said to his wife Esther.

It had been a long journey fraught with peril … racing out of Seville on horseback; pausing just long enough on the plains for Esther to deliver the baby; almost caught by  the troops of King Fernando of Spain; saved by the Moorish troops of King Hasan of Granada; slipping past Fernando’s warship in the harbor of Malaga; surviving a winter storm in the Mediterranean; stopping at Oran and several other port towns along the North African coast. Now, tantalizingly close to their destination, they were facing a one-sided battle at sea.

“You and the children must stay off the deck,” Benjamin urged.  He bent to kiss his seven year old son Judah and the five week old infant Isaac. There was no question of Esther’s courage or her resourcefulness when in danger. She had proven that many times. But as they hugged, they both knew it might be for the last time.

Returning to the stern castle, Benjamin removed his sword from its scabbard and gazed at the sea ahead. He noticed a slight gap between the three ships on the western end of the Spanish line, nearest Corsica, and the other two ships to the east, nearer Elba. Rather than sail toward that gap, however, the captain had directed his fleet at the most westerly ship. The four galleys led the way, rowing fiercely, followed by the Abu Sa’d, with the large trading ship lumbering behind. All five Spanish warships immediately adjusted course to a more westerly direction.

When the distance had narrowed enough for Benjamin to make out the faces of the Spanish soldiers, the captain raised a signal flag and the Moorish fleet immediately disbursed. The Abu Sa’d tacked sharply back in an easterly direction. The trading ship turned slowly to the west on a wide arc to the south. The four war galleys continued to row straight ahead toward the Spanish warships. The galleys increased their stroke and leaped to a pace Benjamin had not imagined possible.

The three most westerly Spanish warships fired their cannon and a hail of small stones flew at the galleys. Arrows flew from cross-bows on both the Spanish ships and the Moorish galleys. Several soldiers in the galleys were hit and fell overboard. Slaves were also hit, but chained to their rowing positions, they fell forward.

The entangled oars of the dead slaves broke the rhythm of the remaining rowers and the galleys lost speed. By then, however, they had reached their objective. The sound of crunching wood reached the Abu Sa’d as the galleys rammed into the warships. Using their impaled rams as bridges, soldiers from the galleys clambered upward onto the Spanish ships. The first to make the climb were cut down by swords slashing above them, but those who followed gained the decks and began a murderous hand-to-hand fighting.

It seemed to Benjamin that the Moorish warriors were seriously outnumbered. He was right, and the attack soon became a suicide mission. Men are dying, Benjamin thought with a moan, so I and my family can reach Italy. He closed his eyes, grieving for the soldiers and slaves whose lot it had become to sacrifice their lives on his behalf.

Directly ahead of the Abu Sa’d as it now sailed to the northeast were the other two Spanish warships, both of which fired their cannons. Stones raked the deck of the Abu Sa’d. Two soldiers were ripped to pieces; several others were severely bloodied. The Abu Sa’d steered a path splitting the distance between the two warships, forcing the square-rigged ships to adjust sails and rudder to try to narrow the space between them. But as soon as they did so, the more agile caravel veered sharply to starboard and sought to pass to the east of both warships.

It didn’t work. The Spanish warships smoothly re-adjusted course eastward and successfully closed off the opening along the coast. With no more room to maneuver, the Abu Sa’d was trapped. The Spanish cannon were in perfect position to rake the caravel. Surprisingly, however, no more cannons were fired. The Spanish ships closed on either side of the Abu Sa’d. Hundreds of soldiers crowded near the rails, preparing to board the caravel.

“Give us Benjamin Catalán and his family and we’ll let your ship go,” came a voice across the diminishing distance.

“If you want Señor Catalán,” shouted the captain of the Abu Sa’d, “you’ll have to come get him.”

Soldiers on the Abu Sa’d cheered defiantly and prepared to defend their ship and valued passenger. One of the Spanish warships drew up on the starboard side of the Abu Sa’d. Fierce war shrieks accompanied the clang of swords as the first Spanish soldiers clambered aboard. Positioned amidst the defending Moors along the freeboard wall, Benjamin swung his sword and found a target. A Spanish soldier fell into the sea. Several other men on both sides soon lost their lives. But even in the chaos of battle, not a single Spanish soldier attacked Benjamin Catalán. Orders had clearly been given to take him alive.

The second Spanish ship was almost in place on the other side of the Abu Sa’d. Once boarded from both sides, their defense would be hopeless. Benjamin turned to the captain, expecting to see the dejected look of one who had tried mightily but failed. Instead, he saw an ear-to-ear grin.

Benjamin followed the captain’s gaze over the stern of the Abu Sa’d. Closing fast behind them were seven warships, every one of them larger than any of the Spanish ships. The Spanish soldiers who had already boarded the Abu Sa’d leaped back to their own ship, which hurriedly turned and sailed westward. Cannonballs flew several hundred yards across the water, passing the Abu Sa’d and slamming into the sides of the retreating Spanish ships. A huge roar from the seamen of the Abu Sa’d accompanied each volley.

“I didn’t know they had such powerful guns,” the captain gasped. “And they’re firing iron cannonballs, not rocks and stones.”

“Who are they?” Benjamin asked.

“The ships behind us are from the fleet of the Sultan of the Ottoman Empire.”

“What are they doing here?” Benjamin asked.

“My best guess is that like you, they’re on their way to Florence to see Lorenzo Il Magnifico.

The Turkish fleet pursued the retreating Spanish ships, blasted them again and again. The towering mainmasts on both of the fleeing ships came crashing down, crushing the bodies of both living and dead. Shots raked across the decks, killing anyone who was foolish enough to remain standing. Finally, white flags were waved. The Turks boarded, took the few living sailors and soldiers prisoner, threw the dead unceremoniously into the sea, and dispatched their own crews to repair and then sail what would become the newest additions to the Sultan’s navy.

Farther to the west, the other three Spanish ships had disengaged from the Moorish galleys and set sail westward to what Benjamin imagined would be an extremely unpleasant encounter with King Fernando. The damaged galleys picked up whatever survivors they could find in the sea and rowed slowly toward the Abu Sa’d and its Turkish escort.

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* The Pope’s Conspiracy … a brief description

Posted by Lew Weinstein on March 25, 2012

in this exciting sequel to The Heretic …

  • It is 1478 at the very peak of the Italian Renaissance in Florence.
  • Benjamin and Esther Catalán are young Jews who have escaped the claws of the Spanish Inquisition and are brought to Florence under the patronage and protection of Lorenzo de Medici, the wealthiest and most powerful man in Europe.
  • Their promising future is threatened, however, by a plot to murder Lorenzo and his brother Giuliano, a conspiracy organized by Pope Sixtus IV in Rome.
  • As the fast-paced plot moves forward, Benjamin and Esther’s often heroic struggle to build their new lives is set against the evolving progress of the Pope’s plan.
  • Esther Catalán, a woman unlike any other ever seen in Florence, shows blazing intelligence and engaging style as she sets the Catalán Press on a path to print previously unpublished works of Plato and the Jewish Talmud. Her friendship with Lucrezia de Medici, mother of Lorenzo and Giuliano, offers a unique look into the lives of one of the most famous families in history.
  • Benjamin Catalán surprises Lorenzo with his boldness and political acumen. He develops a close friendship with Giuliano, involving football, hawking and hunting with a cheetah.
  • Both Benjamin and Esther become integral participants in the cultured and opulent Medici inner circle even as they seek to re-make their Jewish life in an environment that resembles the anti-Jewish furor they experienced in Spain.
  • Directed from the Vatican, the net around Lorenzo and Giuliano tightens. Rumors of a possible attack are reported by Medici spies.
  • Benjamin joins with the Medici family to try to thwart the conspiracy.
  • Lorenzo refuses to believe the Holy Father is brazen enough to attempt murder almost to the day the would-be assassins arrive in Florence.

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* The Pope’s Conspiracy – a short description

Posted by Lew Weinstein on January 27, 2012

It is 1478 at the very peak of the Italian Renaissance. The Pope’s targets for assassination are Lorenzo de Medici, the wealthiest and most powerful man in Europe, and his brother Giuliano.

Benjamin and Esther Catalán are Jews who have escaped the claws of the Spanish Inquisition and have come to Florence under Lorenzo’s patronage to establish one of Italy’s first printing presses. The young couple are also driven by the dream of Benjamin’s martyred parents that they not only survive, but do so as an observant Jewish family.

As the fast-paced plot moves forward, Benjamin and Esther’s often heroic struggle to build their new lives is set against the evolving progress of the Pope’s plan to murder the Medici brothers. Esther Catalán, a woman unlike any other ever seen in Florence, shows blazing intelligence and engaging style as she sets the Catalán Press on a path to print previously unpublished works of Plato and the Jewish Talmud. Benjamin Catalán surprises Lorenzo with his boldness and political acumen and also develops a close friendship with Giuliano. Both Benjamin and Esther become integral participants in the cultured and opulent Medici inner circle.

Directed from the Vatican, the net around Lorenzo and Giuliano tightens. Rumors of a possible attack are reported by Medici spies. Benjamin joins with the Medici brothers to thwart the conspiracy, even as Lorenzo refuses to believe the Holy Father is brazen enough to attempt murder.

Based on actual historical events, The Pope’s Conspiracy is a tensely drawn portrait of political intrigue at the highest levels, and of a talented and ambitious Jewish couple enmeshed in events beyond anything they might have imagined.

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