Byron de Prorok- Archaeological Innovator

My fascination with Byron de Prorok has been ongoing for many years–that’s why I made him the center of The Count of the Sahara. A lot of my readers think of him as a failure and a ne’er-do-well, which is only part of the story.

There was a time when he was an innovative and inventive (sometimes too inventive) new mind in the field. A recent blog post on the (deep breath) Aerial Photographic Archive for Archaeology in the Middle East talks about our boy (and gives my book a shout-out under resources.)

You can see David Kennedy talk Aerial archaeology on YouTube

David Kennedy, a researcher from both Oxford and the University of Western Australia, outlines how de Prorok was among the first to make filming his discoveries a “thing”, including aerial and underwater photography. Of course, his personal demons overtook any positive contributions he made to the field.

A number of folks have told me that after reading The Count of the Sahara, they looked up old Byron. Here’s another place to learn more about this mysterious figure.

Of course, you can always read the book and leave a review, too. Just sayin’

Radio Interview: Indiana Jones Myth or Reality talks Byron and why Archaeologists Need Presentation Skills

Had a great time doing this one-hour radio interview with Dr. Joseph Schuldenrein on November 18. We discussed Byron de Prorok, why presentation skills matter to scientists, and why I could never…. ever…. be a real archaeologist.

It was a wide-ranging interview, and a lot of fun. Take a listen:

Check out the Indiana Jones: Myth or Reality podcast.
Check out the Indiana Jones: Myth or Reality podcast.

The Logan Museum Honors Pond and De Prorok

What a blast we had on November 9. The Logan Museum at Beloit College invited me to speak to the Three Rivers Archaeological Society  about Byron de Prorok. This was part of their exhibit for the 90th Anniversary of the Franco-Saharan Expedition: Blue Veils, Black Mountains: Alonzo Pond’s 1925 Expedition to Southern Algeria.

Michael Tarabulski and I tour the Logan's exhibit based on his years of research. Great finally meeting him in person!
Michael Tarabulski and I tour the Logan’s exhibit based on his years of research. Great finally meeting him in person!

First, I got to meet Michael Tarabulski, whose research on Byron de Prorok is the cause of all my troubles, and The Count of the Sahara couldn’t have happened without him.

Part of the exhibit. The character of Belaid's wife, Tadefi, was based on the painting in the upper right.
Part of the exhibit. The character of Belaid’s wife, Tadefi, was based on the painting in the upper right.

Then we toured the exhibit… seeing photographs, film and artifacts from the original site, and reliving moments of the book. The story really came alive.

Part of the terrific exhibit at the Logan Museum.
Part of the terrific exhibit at the Logan Museum.

Finally we spoke at the Three Rivers Archaeological Society, a mix of academics, hobbyists and students. What a blast.

Had a blast speaking to the group about Byron de Prorok and how he'd make a great Kardashian.
Had a blast speaking to the group about Byron de Prorok and how he’d make a great Kardashian.

Thanks to all. Of course, if you know any group interested in Midwest history or archaeology, I’m available to speak! Drop me a line on the Contact Page

 

Press Release for November 9 Presentation at the Logan Museum

I am well and truly stoked to be speaking at the Logan Museum/ Beloit College on Monday, November 9. Below is a copy of the press release for the event.

For Immediate Release

Novelist Wayne Turmel to discuss “Count” Byron de Prorok on Nov. 9

The dubious character accompanied Logan Museum explorers on a famous expedition in the 1920s 

Media Contact: Jason Hughes,  hughesj@beloit.edu or (608) 363-2137

Of all the archaeological expeditions in the Logan Museum of Anthropology’s history, none remains so tangible in public and institutional memory than Alonzo Pond’s journey across the Sahara desert in 1925. “Blue Veils, Black Mountains,” the Logan’s latest exhibition takes a full accounting of the Pond trip.

The items Pond brought home from that expedition formed the backbone of the Logan Museum’s collection. “The materials brought back by the Pond expedition created the first large, purposefully and intentionally assembled ethnographic collection brought to the museum,” says Curator of Exhibits and Education Dan Bartlett. Additionally, “Pond’s trip was covered by newspapers across the country,” Bartlett says, “For the greater Beloit community, the expedition elevated Beloit’s reputation as a center of scholarship.”

But like any good expedition, it was not pursued by Pond alone. On Monday, Nov. 9, the Logan Museum will welcome a pair of guests to shed some light on perhaps the most famous member of the expedition, “Count” Byron de Prorok. The event will be held in the Godfrey Anthropology Building, Room 102.

At 7 p.m., Michael Tarabulski, a Beloit alumnus and an archivist with the National Archives, will screen his brief film “A Distinctly Dubious Character: Byron de Prorok and the Tomb of Tin Hinan.”

Immediately following the screening, author Wayne Turmel will discuss his new work of historic fiction, The Count of the Sahara. The novel, told from the point of view of Byron de Prorok’s assistant, follows de Prorok on the cross-country promotional tour he undertook during the year following the Pond expedition as well as a number of flashbacks to the expedition. As readers will note, there is a bit of discrepancy between Prorok’s recollection of events and how things unfolded during the Pond expedition. Turmel’s e-book was one of the most downloaded ebooks on Amazon worldwide the week it debuted.

“Prorok was really one of modern media’s first celebrities,” Turmel says. “He really crafted an image of a swashbuckling adventurer for himself,” Turmel adds. “He was a perfect storm of charisma and accessible fame. He traveled to parts of the country that had never seen film footage of these far-flung expedition destinations before.”

Prorok “drove the archaeological purists crazy,” Turmel notes “because Prorok declared some of his discoveries the greatest since King Tut’s tomb.

Tarabulski and Turmel’s presentations will tell the story of the rise and fall of Byron de Prorok. Following the presentation, the Logan Museum will be open at 6:30 p.m. so attendees have an opportunity to visit the exhibit both before and after the presentations. The Logan Museum is located at the corner of College and Bushnell Streets on the campus of Beloit College.

The Count of the Sahara: Now Available in Paperback

The cover of The Count of the Sahara available now in Kindle format or paperback from Amazon or direct from the publisher.
The cover of The Count of the Sahara available now in Kindle format or paperback from Amazon or direct from the publisher.

At long last, The Count of the Sahara is available in paperback and Kindle.

Not only can you order the book, but people actually seem to be enjoying it.

Good historical fiction leaves you entertained while you learn something. Excellent historical fiction leaves you wanting to know more about the history and wondering where the history ended and the fiction began. This is excellent historical fiction.

Kevin Eikenberry, author of Remarkable Leadership

Wayne Turmel has created an exciting and well-crafted novel that draws the reader in from page one. The hero is Willy but the most interesting character is the fascinating Count de Prorok, a figure that any writer of historical fiction would be proud to have in their book. The story is well paced, set in an interesting period and full of surprises. I look forward to more.

Peter Darmon, author of “The Sword Brothers” series

Order now from Amazon in Kindle or paperback .

You can also buy directly from the Publisher

 

Finding the Right Voice for Historical Characters

When I was writing The Count of the Sahara, the hard part was taking facts that were well known, but making the characters more than just a regurgitation of what was already known and their own writing. How do you make the dialogue real, and the people involved come alive?

The cover of The Count of the Sahara available now on Kindle
The cover of The Count of the Sahara available now on Kindle

As I explain in this interview on Lavinia Colins blog, I had one of those aha moments writers love to blab on and on about. You can read the interview here,  but basically the desert scenes between Alonzo Pond and Byron de Prorok came alive when I found the analogy: It was “Amadeus in the Desert.” Read the article and find out why.

I remember standing in the archives at the Logan Museum of Anthropology when I had the epiphany.  The Logan’s exhibit on this expedition is opening soon, and if you’re in the area check it out. Meanwhile,  you can read the article on Lavinia’s site.

Full disclosure, Lavinia is a fellow writer for our publisher, TheBookFolks and a very good writer of Arthurian fantasy.

The Count of the Sahara is Available Now on Kindle

“… a brilliant novel, great historical fiction. I couldn’t put it down.” Angela Best

“A cleverly woven heart-warming story. Warning, it can make you giggle!” Chris Dangerfield

My first novel, The Count of the Sahara is now available on Kindle.

In 1925, “Count” Byron de Prorok was the most famous archaeologist in the world. By the summer of 1926, his marriage, his career and his reputation lay in ruins. “The Count of the Sahara” is the exciting account of his meteoric rise and fall.

The cover of The Count of the Sahara
The cover of The Count of the Sahara

This sweeping novel tells the tale of De Prorok’s rise and fall through the eyes of Willy Braun, a 19 year old German-American desperate to flee his life in Milwaukee. When Willy uses his only real talent, his technical skills, to save a lecturer from disaster at the hands of an incompetent assistant, he meets Count Byron De Prorok, a glamorous lecturer and world famous archaeologist. De Prorok is everything Willy isn’t; glamorous, handsome, a brilliant speaker and, most of all, rich. The Count needs a projectionist and assistant for the rest of his tour, Willy wants out of Milwaukee for good. This may be his ticket out, but can he trust his future to someone who may not be all he claims?

As Willy and the Count tour snowy Midwestern cities in the winter of 1926, weaving tales of his adventures and basking in his fame, the story flashes back to the Franco-American Sahara Expedition of 1925. Unearthing the ancient tomb of Tin Hinan, the fabled Mother Queen of the Tuareg nation, cemented the Count’s already flourishing reputation, but warring local tribes, bad weather and personality clashes make the truth more stirring—and very different from–the tales he tells on the lecture circuit.

What starts as a simple job offer is complicated when a robbery attempt reveals the Count may be hiding stolen jewels from Tin Hanan’s tomb. Caught up in a web of deceit, bootleggers and Pinkerton detectives, de Prorok could be the young man’s ticket to a new life, or another crushing disappointment in a life too full of them.

This fact-based novel contains adventure, lively characters and sly humor seldom found in historical fiction.

 

“Great characters brought to life in full color. A real page turner.” Ernie Fisher

Please remember that in the new world of online publishing, reviews matter. If you enjoy the book, tell your friends and kindly leave an Amazon review. If you didn’t……well, feedback is a gift and all that.

Available on Kindle, Now  and in paperback from Amazon and TheBookFolks.com September 15, 2015

 

Logan Museum Celebrates Byron (and Alonzo’s) Expedition

I just found out today that the Logan Museum of Anthropology in  Beloit, Wi, is opening a new exhibit about the Franco-American Expedition of the Sahara of 1925. Why does this matter? Because it’s the setting for my novel, “The Count of the Sahara.”

The Exhibit, entitled, “Blue Veils and Black Mountains- Alonzo Pond’s 1925 Expedition to Southern Algeria,”  opens the week of August 17 and runs through October.

It’s no surprise that the exhibition focuses on Alonzo Pond, rather than Byron de Prorok…. one of the major scenes of my book takes place at Beloit College, and the news isn’t good for The Count.

There’s a good chance I’ll be asked to deliver a lecture up there based on my research. Given how the book wouldn’t have had a chance if not for them letting me rummage around in their archives, I’m thrilled. More details to come!

Byron de Prorok and Why I Dig History

Byron de Prorok, brilliant speaker, social climber and pathological liar, and the main character in my new novel, coming out in August, 2015.
Byron de Prorok, brilliant speaker, social climber and pathological liar, and the main character in my new novel, coming out in August, 2015.

Friends often wonder why I’m a history freak, and why my favorite stories are based in real times and places (albeit long ago and far away). The fact is, that real people are at least as interesting, maybe moreso, than anyone you could invent. Case in point is the main character in my  novel, “The Count of the Sahara.”  (Note, the title has changed just a week prior to publication!)

Here’s part of what Wikipedia had to say about Byron de Prorok:

During the later 1920s and early 1930s, Prorok undertook a series of expeditions in Africa of dubious scientific value, pursuing ancient legends and eventually came to believe he had found evidence that proved Atlantis lay in North Africa, the true location of the fabled Biblical land of Ophir and what he supposed were the ruins of an ancient temple where Alexander the Great “became a god”. In addition to these tremendous ‘discoveries’ he also claimed to be a member of the Order of the Holy Sepulchre,  the Royal Archaeological Institute and The Royal Geographical Society.

His numerous critics say that this “count” Byron de Prorok was neither a real count nor an archaeologist, was expelled from The Royal Geographical Society (allegedly in 1932), who had “a vivid imagination” and “was given to gross exaggeration”. He was, however, an active member of the Adventurers Club of New York.

How do you not find this guy fascinating? I mean, how many archaeologists have their own IMDB page? In fact, two of them, one under his birth name.

The story tells of his most famous expedition in 1925, which was splashed all over the front pages of the New York Times, as well as his fall from grace the following winter in the snows of the Midwest. There’s bootleg hooch, stolen gems and Pinkertons, as well as warlike Tuaregs, desert heat and camels.

From time to time I’ll post other tidbits about Byron and other folks I find fascinating. Meanwhile, let me know if you’d like a review copy of “The Count of the Sahara”, coming soon from TheBookFolks.com.