For those of you who haven’t read it, it’s a pretty ambitious first book. It alternates between the imaginary story of Willie Braun, a young German-American teenager who becomes the driver and assistant for a charismatic archaeologist on a tour of the US Midwest in 1926. Then it flashes back a year to an ill-fated, well-documented expedition to the Algerian Sahara. We see how the tale de Prorok is spinning doesn’t quiiiiiite match the reality.
In the 6 years since publication, a lot’s happened. I’ve written 2 business books, The Long-Distance Leader and The Long-Distance Teammate. I’ve also written 3 more novels ( Acre’s Bastard and Acre’s Orphans, as well as Johnny Lycan and the Anubis Disk) and the sequel to Johnny Lycan is almost finished. You can see them all on my Amazon Author Page.
Whenever I beat myself up for not being faster, I allow myself to think about putting out 6 books in 6 years. I’m not James Patterson, but not bad for a 60-year-old with a day job.
Byron has given me the chance to speak and be interviewed dozens of times on the subject of this fascinating character. My favorite moment was when I heard last year from his Grand-daughter, thanking me for telling his story (as warts-and-all as it is.)
This book began my career (or whatever this is) as a novelist and I’m not stopping anytime soon.
If you want a SIGNED copy of the paperback, please drop me a line. You can get one for $15 plus shipping (if you’re outside the US it ain’t cheap) and you can pay me by Paypal or Zelle. The same is true if you want signed copies of any book, but today is about giving Byron his due.
Thank you for joining me on this journey. I ain’t done yet.
When you reach my age, the passing of people you’ve known becomes a part of life. In fact, Facebook is good for only two things: knowing your life turned out better than your ex’s and learning when people from your past die.
Most people know Harry Anderson from the sitcom Night Court, but I met him back in 1982, when he was excited because he was going to be a regular on a “new show that might last a season or two,” that went on to be Cheers.
I was working my first time ( in the US illegally, under the table, and underage) at the Comedy Underground in Seattle, Wa. Back in the day you usually had to share a “condo” with the other acts if you weren’t local. That meant poor Harry, the headliner, had to share an apartment with a young act he knew from San Francisco, and some weird ginger kid from Vancouver. That would be me.
In that week, not only did I discover what a kind, humble and hard-working act he was (for someone who was already a big star in the stand-up world and about to break out) but I learned some valuable lessons that stayed with me my entire professional life, in and out of show business.
Treat the staff like gold. On Keith Tomasek’s “The Inadequate Life” podcast, I was asked why everyone remembers me as such a nice guy and so easy to work with. (I’ll post the link when it airs, I promise) Looking back, I never really thought there was another way to be. But working with Harry, I remember he told me flat out, “Treat the staff like gold. They will make or break your week, and you want them to remember you.” He did just that, and I never forgot that advice.
Old fashioned southern manners aren’t just a Southern thing. Harry treated everyone he met in the club as “sir” or “ma’am” until instructed otherwise (and he was always instructed otherwise- people loved him.) He also always told me to call waitresses “darlin’ ” –a habit it’s taken me years to break, but not all advice is evergreen. He always read a person’s nametag and called them by name, something I do to this day and wrote it into the character of Byron de Prorok in The Count of the Sahara. The point was to be polite but not obsequious and people would treat you the same way- and boy did they.
Always work a hustle. Harry grew up on the streets of New Orleans, and his entire magic act was a take on the street hustlers and con men he knew. He never (to my knowledge) used his powers for evil, but I also saw fewer men work so hard. Most comics on the road do the promotion necessary, but you can still work a full schedule at a comedy club and have 20 hours a day to kill. Harry spent every day in Seattle visiting magic stores. He designed magic tricks, and he’d pop in to get the stores to buy his latest invention, or his newsletter, or just to know he was in town and drum up an audience. I tagged along as he rose early every day with a printed list of every magic and joke shop in the area. I gawked and basked in reflected glory as he got treated like royalty everywhere magicians gathered, and was one of the most respected people in his craft. He’d been poor and had no intention of ever being that way again so he hustled his skinny butt off. He was a good role model in that regard.
It doesn’t hurt to be nice to the opening act. Harry was a pleasure to hang out with- and he didn’t have to be. He could have objected to being cooped up in an apartment with two young idiots, but he seemed to enjoy the big brother role (although there was a hysterical practical joke on the other comic I’ll remember to this day and take to my grave.) He treated us as peers. We’d write jokes (he actually did 2 of the jokes we wrote that week on Saturday Night Live a couple of weeks later and I bragged about it for years) and laugh. There may have been alcohol involved.
I’d be lying if I didn’t admit I stole the hat thing from him. At various times in my comedy career, I’ve worn suspenders and arm garters, totally inspired by Harry’s style. I always talk like a bit more of a hick than I really am, because you could sneak up on the suckers. I also noticed that his trademark hat made him instantly recognizable, and even years later people would talk about “the magician with the big hat” and I knew who they meant. Plus it was cool.
It was only a week. While we crossed paths once more after that and he was kind enough to sort of remember me, he made as big an impression on my comedy career and what came after as almost anyone from that time.
He passed today, and like so many people he probably has no idea of the impact he had on this kid he shared an apartment with and helped clean up the peppermint Schnapps puke. God love him.
If you’ve read The Count of the Sahara, you know my fascination with real-life characters who behave in ways so crazy you’d think someone was making it up. So when I found Rebecca Rosenberg’s book, “The Secret Life of Mrs. London” I was intrigued. I mean, the wife of the world’s best-selling novelist (Jack London) having an affair with Harry Freakin’ Houdini? And it really happened? I had to learn more.
BTW the title of this post was originally “A Harry Houdini/Jack London Love Triangle With Rebecca Rosenburg,” but I realized that probably read wrong and would probably upset Mr. Rosenberg. Punctuation and grammar matter, people.
So Rebecca, what’s your deal?
I live on our lavender farm in Sonoma, California, which Jack London named Valley of the Moon, and wrote his books. My first book was Lavender Fields of America, a non-fiction coffee table book. Recently, our farm was destroyed in the Sonoma/Santa Rosa fires, but we are rebuilding and replanting as we speak! I am fascinated with remarkable people who lived before us and their improbably, fantastical stories. That’s why I write biographic historical fiction.
Oh my gosh. I have nothing clever to say to that except I’m so sorry. Tell us about your book…
The novel starts in San Francisco, 1915, just as America teeters on the brink of world war. Charmian and her husband, famed novelist Jack London, struggle under the strains of marital discord, brought on by infidelity, a lost baby, their dream home destroyed by fire. (There’s a creepy coincidence don’t you think?) Charmian longs to be viewed as an equal partner who put her own career on hold to support her husband. But Jack doesn’t see it that way. Until, Charmian is pulled from the audience at a magic show of the beguiling escape artist, Harry Houdini, a man enmeshed in his own troubled marriage. And suddenly, charmed by the attention Houdini pays her, entranced by his sexual magnetism, and drawn into his mysterious undercover world, Charmian’s eyes open to a world of possibilities that could be her escape
I share your fascination with this period of time. What makes it so intriguing?
I wanted to write about Jack London, the most popular, highest paid author of the early 1900’s, who wrote 50 novels in 20 years with the help of his muse, editor and typist, Charmian London. The couple was as unconventional, free-loving, and bohemian as they were adventurous, building a ketch and sailing around the world in 1907, encountering the Lepers of Molokai, cannibals and headhunters. They created a utopic 1400 acre Beauty Ranch in Glen Ellen, California, complete with pig palace, one-hundred thousand tree eucalyptus grove, prize winning Shire horses. All the while entertaining guests as diverse as Socialist cronies, Mother Jones, Upton Sinclair, Clarence Darrow, to famed botanist, Luther Burbank, to Ed Morell, the prisoner who inspired The Star Gazer.
But, when I discovered the little known fact that Charmian had an affair with Houdini, I knew the story had to begin there. Houdini was the most famous magician of his era, but his mystery only starts there. Houdini traveled Europe performing for the Tzar of Russia and the German Chancellor, and reportedly spied for our government.
Nothing could hold Houdini- no safe, no jail cell, no chains or locks… yet he wrote Charmian:
“I now understand how kings give up their kingdom for a woman. I love you.” Houdini wrote her passionate letters until the end of his life.
What was your favorite scene to write?
It was fascinating to depict Houdini’s iconic illusions and escapes, and include the Londons in them. But perhaps, I love how the novel starts with Jack and Charmian boxing! They loved to box, and it is symbolic of their relationship and how it binds them, yet tears them apart.
Where can people learn more?
I would really appreciate readers to review the novel on Goodreads!
Subscribe to my monthly newsletter and get a chance to win a signed paperback copy of Acre’s Bastard. Each month you’ll receive links to interviews with great authors, news about upcoming events and previews of my work in progress, Acre’s Orphans. Look in the bottom left of the page for the sign-up sheet. No spam, just once a month updates and a chance to learn about great new Historical Fiction from around the world. Everyone who signs up before January 1 enters to win!
I will be part of a lot of book events in the next few weeks, and would love it if people would come meet me (and even buy a couple of books if you are so inclined.) I will have plenty of paperback copies of both Acres and The Count of the Sahara.
Here is what is happening over the next little bit:
October 15 Hometown Reads and Centuries and Sleuths presents #readlocalshoplocal I am proud to be hosting this gathering of Hometown Reads authors at Centuries and Sleuths in River Forest, IL. We will read and share our books with pretty much everyone who pops in. If you enjoy meeting and discovering new writers, this is the event for you. If we need to bribe you, there will be snacks.
I will also be sharing plenty of tips for aspiring writers about selling eBooks. As a writer, it can be all too tempting to think that once your eBook is written, then the hard work is done. However, selling copies of your eBook is an entirely different process these days. So, if you have always wanted to learn about some of the best digital e-commerce platforms for eBook authors then this is the event for you. Similarly, if you would like to learn more about some of the latest digital e-commerce software, you can find some useful resources over on the FastSpring website here: https://fastspring.com/solutions/selling-digital-products/.
Please stop by and say hello. I love meeting readers (even those who do not buy my book, although I may steal a lock of hair for a voodoo doll, you will not even miss it)
Readers of historical fiction tend to gravitate to certain periods. There are huge clumps of writers and readers fascinated by The US Civil War, World War 2, and One of the hottest trends the last little on both TV, the movies, and novels has been the Tudor period. Cable TV is littered with torn bodices. I will confess somewhat ashamedly, I have somehow missed the boat. If sheer numbers are any indication, there are a lot of people out there who find that time more fascinating than I do.
Enter Samantha Wilcoxson, and her Plantagenet Embers trilogy. The latest installment, Queen of Martyrs is now out.
Samantha, you and I are both members of the Historical Novel Society (join us on Facebook here). What else should we know?
I’m the author of the Plantagenet Embers Trilogy. An incurable bibliophile and sufferer of wanderlust, I live in Michigan with my husband and three teenagers.
Three teenagers? That explains your obsession with family blood-letting and intrigue. What’s Queen of Martyrs about?
Queen of Martyrs is biographical fiction that transports the reader into the life of Mary Tudor. The story begins with her receiving the news of Margaret Pole’s execution in 1541 and follows her through the rest of her life as she struggles as a bastardized princess who finally becomes queen. My objective was to humanize the woman that many people today dismiss as ‘Bloody Mary’. There is so much more to her character, and many of the ‘facts’ people believe about her are no more than myths. My research made it shockingly easy to find sympathy for Queen Mary I.
As England’s first queen regnant, Mary faced many challenges, which she was, quite frankly, unprepared for. She failed to realize how great the outcry would be against her choice of Prince Philip of Spain as a husband. She did not recognize the great religious changes that were taking place throughout the world and that could not be ignored or reversed. Mary was a devout, caring woman, but she was no politician. In this intimate portrayal of her, readers are invited to enter her world, share her heartbreaks and victories, and gain understanding of this complex sixteenth century woman.
I confess I’ve kind of missed the whole Plantagenet/Tudor thing. What’s your fascination with this period?
Some readers might be surprised to discover that the Tudor era is not my first love. It was the Wars of the Roses that captivated my attention, but I was looking for a new angle that had not already been written about. That was how I began with Elizabeth of York in Plantagenet Princess, Tudor Queen. I had not planned a trilogy, but the story of the York remnant unfolded in front of me, ending with Reginald Pole at Mary’s side in Queen of Martyrs.
The fifteenth and early sixteenth centuries are interesting not only due to political upheaval, but the impact of religious changes that forced people throughout Europe to evolve in their thinking and way of life. The heavy influence of faith on daily life is difficult to wrap the modern mind around, but that is just what I appreciate about studying the medieval and reformation eras.
Without giving away the good bits, what’s your favorite scene in the book?
One of my favorite scenes in Queen of Martyrs takes place during the reign of Edward VI. This was a turbulent time for Mary as she watched the country she loved falling into heresy. At that point, she had no reason to believe that she would become queen. She was her brother’s legal heir, but he was much younger. In this scene, Mary has the opportunity to escape England with the help of Holy Roman Emperor Charles V. This is when Mary decides that she must remain in England and do what she must to save her brother and all Englishmen, though she may be forced to pay the ultimate price.
It is a great misconception that Mary’s attempt at counter-reformation was based on bitterness or a need for revenge. Mary truly believed that she was doing what was necessary to ensure that her people enjoyed eternal life in heaven, and I think this scene gives readers a poignant view of Mary’s true motivations.
Where can people learn more about your work?
The best place to find me is on my blog. I also invite everyone to follow me on Twitter, Facebook, Goodreads, and Instagram. Besides bookish news, I share a wide variety of history articles and images of historic places that I visit. I love to share my tendency toward bibliophilia and wanderlust with friends!
My books are available in paperback and on Kindle on Amazon. They are also free with Kindle Unlimited!
Whenever I’m speaking to people about writing historical fiction, the question of “How much of it needs to be exactly true?” arises. For a long time I hemmed and hawed and couldn’t really define it. At long last I have an answer. Does it pass the “North by Northwest” test?
Allow me to digress a bit and I promise I’ll get to the point. One of the major points of contention in my marriage to the Duchess is Alfred Hitchcock’s movie, North by Northwest. (Not for nothing, but after 25 years if this is the biggest bone we have to pick with each other we’re doing just fine.) My bride loves that movie. After all, it’s got peak Cary Grant, a stylish Eva Marie Saint, and amazing visuals, including a rousing finale on the top of Mount Rushmore. What’s not to love?
Plenty. I don’t care for that movie and the reason is simple. There are two scenes that ruin the whole experience. First, there’s no cool Frank Lloyd Wright house on the top of Mount Rushmore. Secondly, crop-dusters make really inefficient murder weapons. Actually, the crop-duster is mainly the reason I don’t enjoy that film: I remember thinking, “oh come on,” when that scene came on and Grant was pursued through the Indiana cornfield by the airplane. By the time I got to the mid-century modern house placed on top of a national monument, which I know darned well doesn’t exist, I had detached emotionally from the movie and didn’t believe any of it. The spell was broken.
Still with me? For historical fiction to work, we have to stay in the moment. We have to believe that the story is taking place in the time, place, and with the characters the author has established. All authors manipulate events to make a good story. Often this doesn’t matter. In Acre’s Bastard, I have Lucca watch events from the top of a hill where he couldn’t possibly have been, but I made it work and unless you’ve been to Hattin, and seen the Horns, you wouldn’t know, and it’s not a critical detail. No harm no foul. On the other hand, I had to make sure that the famous characters did what we know they did, and acted believably or I’d have lost readers along the way. I couldn’t just have Lucca bump into Richard the Lionheart 7 years before he got there.
All historical novelists face this dilemma. Does your character say or do something that isn’t true to that time period? If so, your readers (and HF fans tend to be smarter than most, if I may be so bold) will say “oh come on,” and you’re dead in the water.
So here’s my guide to how true to the facts your book needs to be. Does it make the reader say, “Oh come on?” If so, you’ll lose credibility and your story won’t ring true.
In Count of the Sahara, the excursions and characters are well documented- heck, one of them is still alive. I had to be as accurate as possible. With Acre’s Bastard, the general facts of the time are known, but the characters are mostly fictional and there’s plenty of room for imagination.
Trust me, I pushed the boundaries but it’s not like I had a crop-duster chase Lucca all the way back to the city walls, or had Byron de Prorok snap a selfie (which the arrogant SOB would have, if he could have.)
I hope you read my stories and enjoy them. If so, let me (and Amazon!) know.
As much as historical novelists like to talk about the “reality” of their characters and times, I suspect there’s one area in which we don’t do the job we should–when it comes to the role booze plays in great events. It stands to reason that if rebellions start in Taverns (and there’s enough proof of that from almost every corner of the world) the key players weren’t exactly sober during those discussions. As a comedian friend of mine (I think it was Boyd Banks, but memory fades) used to say, “without booze and bad judgement, most of us wouldn’t be here.” That leads us to Morgan Wade, and his novel “Bottle and Glass.”
After all, if you’re going to write about displaced soldiers, you’d better catch them in their natural habitat–the bars and taverns of Upper Canada in this case. The story also has an interesting development as a stage play, which is very cool.
Here’s the Morgan Wade story…
Morgan Wade’s debut novel, The Last Stoic, edited by Helen Humphreys, was released in June, 2011 by Hidden Brook Publishing and it made the 2012 ReLit Awards long list. His short stories and poems have been published in Canadian literary journals and anthologies including The New Quarterly and The Nashwaak Review.
He adapted his second novel, Bottle and Glass, into an immersive, site-specific play that, in conjunction with Theatre Kingston, had a sold-out run during the 2016 Kingston WritersFest. Audience members pursue the story through the streets and pubs of Kingston, drinking along with the characters and experiencing the city’s history like never before. The production is set to be expanded and re-staged for a three week run in the summer of 2017. When not writing, Morgan earns his keep as a software engineer. When not busy writing or programming, he plays soccer or spends time with friends and family in beautiful Kingston, Ontario, Canada. Editor’s note: Kingston Ontario contains a federal prison, Queen’s University and the Royal Military College. It’s safe to say that while it’s beautiful, but has its share of bad-ass bars and poor decisions influenced by booze.
In a nutshell, what’s the story of Bottle and Glass?
Bottle and Glass is a story of survival and escape told from the barstools of
two dozen boisterous Kingston taverns at the close of the War of 1812. The story focuses on Jeremy and Merit, two young fishermen from Porthleven, Cornwall pressed into service aboard a Royal Navy frigate. They are forced to leave their native England for Canada and eventually Kingston, where they are stationed as Royal Marines. They spend much of the novel attempting to escape and return home, but by the end, having attained their freedom, they are resolved to stay and make a new life.
Inns and taverns figured prominently in Upper Canada’s frontier life. In 1812, when Kingston had a population of 2250 plus 1500 soldiers, it could boast 78 taverns. Many of these, including “Old King’s Head” and “Mother Cook’s,” are mentioned in the newspapers and correspondence of the time. This novel is structured so that each chapter takes the title of a historic Kingston tavern and each tavern is featured in the chapter in some significant way. The novel’s title is taken from the infamous watering hole, “Violin, Bottle, and Glass.”
I notice a rise in Canadians writing about the Loyalist era. What is it about that time period that fascinates you?
Kingston, Ontario, is a city rich with history, especially relative to many other cities in a country as young as Canada. When my wife and I moved here in 2001 we were struck by the historic architecture, national monuments, and wealth of other historical artifacts (e.g. Kingston is the final resting place of our first Prime Minister). It was on a visit to Fort Henry, now a world heritage site, that I realized I wanted to write a historical fiction novel based on the Kingston of 200 years ago. Standing behind the old rifle loopholes or in the underground escape tunnels, I imagined what it must have been like for a young, raw recruit, thousands of miles from home, stuck in this cold, damp, forbidding place. I wanted to explore what a young man would have felt and experienced and to walk a mile in his shoes. It would be a way of delving deeply into the stories all around us just waiting to be discovered.
I’d originally wanted to set my novel within the Fort. I liked the idea of all the main characters in the book saying something like “it’s fine, don’t worry, they’ll never attack Fort Henry,” and then three quarters through the story the American forces would stage a huge attack. It would be a big shock and I thought it would be interesting to see how the characters would deal with that. But, as I dug deeper into the research, I realized that Fort Henry was never once attacked in its entire history, so that ended that. Nevertheless, I’d done a good deal of research by this time. In my research I was struck by how prevalent drinking was in this rough frontier town two hundred years ago. I’d loved the names of all the old taverns I’d come across. So, I decided to set the story in the town instead, winding itself in and out of the many, many inns and taverns of 1814 Kingston.
Do you have a favorite (or favourite, I’m still a Canuck at heart) scene?
There is a scene early on in the book that takes place at a so-called “work bee”. I think many people have this conception of an old-fashioned work bee as a standard, sedate affair in which friends and family and neighbours come together to clear some land or erect a barn. I did, at least. I imagine fifty or more Mennonites coming together to put a structure up in one day. These early tenant farmers in Upper Canada were living on the margins and barely eking out an existence from some formidable countryside. It was a boon, if not a necessity, to get the help of neighbours and friends and to, one day, return the favour. But, in my research, I discovered that the work bees didn’t always go so smoothly. Often there was chaos and idleness. It was an all day affair usually with a lot of drinking involved as a reward for hard work. I would like to think that even the younger workers among the group would join in with this craze, provided that they had an ID, (or fake ID that can be found on something like this fake id website) so they could drink alcohol legally with the rest of the group. As the day went on, the “work bee” sometimes devolved into brawls as drunkenness increased and tempers frayed.
In Bottle and Glass, some of the main characters decide to host a work bee. When men arrive from the Kingston taverns Badgley’s and Metcalf’s, Beach’s and Brown’s, thirsty and having nothing better to do, the work bee which had started out so well takes a turn. What happens has serious repercussions for the rest of the novel. I like how the bucolic scene of the work bee curdles over the span of the chapter and I hope that the reader feels, as the scene unfolds, the growing sense of menace from the interlopers and the increasing desperation of the hosts. It turns the romantic idea of the work bee on its head!
I admit to being conflicted about westerns. One man’s heroism is another man’s racism, sometimes what’s seen as exciting is really borderline pathological and probably criminal behavior. Still, there are few environments more ripe for a good adventure story. And romance too, I suppose, although the lack of running water, overabundance of vermin, and the constant smell of horse sweat probably makes stories like that better on paper than in reality.
Either way, that brings us to this week’s featured author, DB Woodling. While she writes in a number of genres, her latest book, Shannon’s Land, is about a plucky (but then what heroine worth her salt isn’t plucky?) Irish immigrant alone in Missouri.
Okay, lady. What’s Shannon’s deal?
Abandoned by her abusive husband in Missouri’s wild frontier, Shannon — an Irish emigrant — must learn to fend for herself and quickly. While she’s accustomed to rattlesnakes and the threat of both Indian and coyote attacks, she’s unprepared for Jack Marsh, a psychotic banker with a decade-old grudge.
Hungry, frightened, and concerned for her infant son, Shannon seeks assistance from the townsfolk. Because her father absconded with a great deal of their money some years before, they extend only harsh words and pent-up condemnation. Discovering Jack (a villain so evil his gun belt’s just an accessory) now owns the deed to her land, Shannon is ready to accept defeat . . . until she encounters a mysterious stranger offering friendship and a risky proposition. I’m currently writing the sequel, Shannon’s Revenge.
So historical fiction hasn’t been a thing for you til now. What is it about this story?
After relocating to a rural 1870 farmhouse, well, I wouldn’t say I became possessed — nothing nearly that dramatic — but I did feel an overwhelming urgency to write this desperate and lovely young woman’s story.
I know authors hate answering this one, but it’s my blog darn it. What’s your favorite scene in the book?
There are a few; decidedly foremost is when Shannon meets Luke Richards, a tormented range boss running from devastating loss, a misguided frontier philosophy, and the U.S. Army’s retribution. He’s a complicated guy, suddenly confronted by a woman who has long ago grown tired of wild, angry men. The sexual tension is palpable.
Love me some palpable tension. Where can people learn more about you, Shannon’s Land, and your other books?
Shannon’s Land is available in several digital formats as well as paperback:
Okay, full disclosure. I love pirate stories. Like a little kid, I dig all sailing stories, although I get violently seasick and wouldn’t last two days on a real sailing ship. Doesn’t mean they’re not fun to read, which brings us to this week’s interview with Harry Nicholson, about his newest book, The Black Caravel.
So, Harry. What’s your deal?
I live in Eskdale, near Whitby, in North Yorkshire. My first career was in
the British merchant navy as radio officer on cargo ships sailing the huge triangle between Europe, India and the USA. A second career followed in television studios. I now spend time on art, poetry, storytelling, and the teaching of meditation.
I believe the word is eclectic. At any rate, what’s the story about?
‘The Black Caravel’ is my second historical novel. It is double stranded, but intertwined. It centres on a farming family in the North of England at the time of the Pilgrimage of Grace, the year 1536, when the North rose in rebellion against Henry VIII’s seizure of the abbeys and monasteries. The head of this large family, Tom Fleck, is married to an illegal immigrant, a Jewish woman; a dangerous situation in 16th century England.
We meet his daughter, a blind girl with her dog, on the Durham shore. At home, her mother has a letter from London. Husband, wife and blind daughter must journey to London through the chaos of rebellion. Meanwhile their two eldest sons are crew of a venerable and worn out trading ship, at risk of wreck and the violence of pirates.
It’s funny, I don’t care about the Tudors at all, but love me some pirates. These are the “Barbary” (Moorish) kind. What’s the draw for you?
I’m attracted to this period of history. It is just prior to the recording in English parish registers of the events in the lives of ordinary people. Unless individuals were noble or notorious we have no means of knowing of their existence. I try to bring life, at least a fictional life, to lost generations who are the ancestors of many today.
I try to honour ordinary people, their landscape and the wild creatures that live in it; so perhaps my style has a touch of the poetic and heartfelt.
It’s an unfair question, but what’s your favorite (or favourite, I’m bilingual) scene in the book?
I most enjoyed writing of the ancient merchant ship drifting lost, through dense fog, and the response of her crew when the fog suddenly lifted to unveil the danger they faced.
Where can people find The Black Caravel?
‘The Black Caravel’ is listed on Amazon in paperback and for Kindle.
One of the most intriguing novels I’ve read in a while is Gary Lindberg’s “Ollie’s Cloud.” It’s a big (and a bit messy) sprawling book that takes on Islamic Messiahs, American Revivalism, and even the birth of the Mormons, as seen through the eyes of a young Anglo-Persian man. If that sounds like an ambitious undertaking, well I agree. I had to reach out and ask him exactly what he was thinking.
So what’s the Gary Lindberg story?
I traveled around the world to research The Shekinah Legacy. As a writer and film producer/director, I won over one hundred major national and international awards, and was the co-writer and producer of the Paramount Pictures feature film That Was Then, This Is Now starring Emilio Estevez and Morgan Freeman.
As an author, I’m fascinated by the power of belief, and how strong beliefs are often indistinguishable from facts in the mind of the believer, possessing the power to shape behavior and sometimes wreak havoc. I’ve published four consecutive #1 bestselling novels and lives in Minnesota with his wife, Gloria, and his Jack Russell terrier Joey.
Not for nothing, but Gary is also the founder and CEO of Calumet Editions. a publisher of quality fiction and non-fiction.
So, this book is about a lot of things, but what’s the basic story?
This is the story of the spiritual journey of two nineteenth-century Persian boys who both want to grow up to be great mullahs (Islamic clergy). Best friends since birth, Jalal and Alí become separated when Alí, who is only half Persian, is kidnapped by his English mother and brought to London for rearing by his as a
proper English Christian gentleman. Left behind, Jalal becomes a follower of a young prophet who has established a new religion in his native Persia.
In England, Alí is christened “Ollie” by his mother and grows up as the scion of a wealthy newspaper family. But after suffering a string of great tragedies he comes to despise God and dedicate himself to the persecution all men of the cloth—Christian and Muslim—who perpetrate the “lies” of religion. In Persia, Jalal becomes a leader in the new religious movement and helps recruit hundreds of thousands of new adherents, which causes the Persian leadership and Islamic clergy to launch fierce persecutions; the authorities eventually kill over 200,000 followers of the cause.
After many years, Ollie makes his way back to Persia, finding himself on the side of the Persian army in an epic battle between the Persian army, 10,000 strong, and a comparative handful of the new religion’s adherents led by his previous best friend Jalal.
Those are a lot of big themes. What is it about that time period (The mid- 19th Century) that’s so interesting?
In doing some personal research on religion I came cross the fascinating and adventurous account of the birth of a new religion in Persia in 1844. The details were stunning though not well-known to the general public. I was taken with how the story of the prophet-founder of this new religion, which is now recognized as a new world religion, echoed the same storyline of previous founders of religions such as Moses, Jesus, and Mohammad. I decided right then to write a novel inspired by this account, and chose one of the religion’s primary leaders on which to base the character of Jalal. The character Alí is wholly made up, as I felt there needed to be a more westernized character to attract the interest of western audiences.
I was caught up in how Ali/Ollie whipsaws between angry atheism and a need for faith… any faith. What’s your favorite scene in the book?
Perhaps my favorite scene is the story’s pivot point that takes place early in the book just prior to Alí leaving Persia for London. Prior to this scene we have learned that Alí is the son of the mayor of Bushruyih, who had purchased a slave girl—actually the captured daughter of an English missionary—and married her. This girl is Alí’s mother. In this scene, Ali’s mother, encouraged by a travelling Englishman, kidnaps Alí from the harem and escapes across the desert to a port where they board a ship bound for London. I like this scene because it is not only very dramatic, but such a turning point in the story. Everyone’s life changes because of the action of Alís mother, and on the following pages we get to see the surprising consequences.
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