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.
I’m always fascinated by (and somewhat jealous of) people who can draw upon their family histories as the jumping-off place for historical fiction. That’s because I know embarrassingly little about my own roots. I mean, I had ancestors, I just don’t know anything beyond the fact I must have had great grandparents. That being said, I have definitely considered doing some research using an online census and some of the other resources over on the Genealogy Bank website. There is so much that I would like to learn about my ancestors and I have a lot of questions about my family tree so it would be absolutely fascinating to learn a little bit more about my roots. Deborah Lincoln, on the other hand, has used family history to write her tale of Missouri before the US Civil War, “Agnes Canon’s War.”
Deborah Lincoln has lived on the Central Oregon Coast for ten years. S. She and her husband have three grown sons. She was awarded first place in the 2013 Chanticleer Laramie Awards (best in category) and was a 2015 finalist for a Willa Award in historical fiction presented by Women Writing the West.
So tell us what the book’s about?
Agnes Canon’s War is the fictionalized story of my great great-grandparents’ experiences during the Civil War in Missouri. Agnes Canon is 28 and a spinster when she leaves her home in Pennsylvania in the spring of 1852 to join a group of cousins who traveled to frontier Holt County in northwest Missouri. There she meets and marries Jabez Robinson, a doctor who was born in Maine and had traveled to the California gold fields and the army posts of the Southwest during the Mexican-American War. In the decade before the Civil War actually breaks out, both Kansas and Missouri are a battleground of politics and acts of violence, and Agnes and Jabez are in the thick of it. This is the story of two people who watch their family, their town, everything that keeps a society civil, crumble into a chaos they are powerless to stop.
What is it about this time period that intrigued you enough to write the book?
I had access to the basic facts of my ancestors’ lives, which were compiled by a cousin in the 1970s. The characters were so exceptional, the events so
extraordinary, that I didn’t want the story to die out. Agnes seemed to me to stand out from other nineteenth-century women, in that she chose to turn her back on her family home in Pennsylvania and venture into the unknown. She left behind six siblings, none of whom ever married or bore children, so her marriage and children were the only links to the next generation.
Jabez, too, was a fascinating and even romantic character: though he was born and raised in Maine, he held secessionist views during the Civil War and suffered from them. He was an adventurer, too, traveling to California and the Southwest in the 1840s, becoming a doctor in the face of all sorts of challenges, marrying his first love after a ten-year separation only to lose her within two months of the wedding. The “plot” was tailor-made for a novel, and though I left out lots of events and made up others, I hope I did them justice.
Without setting off the spoiler alert, what’s your favorite scene?
Several of my favorite scenes would give away too much. So I’ll choose an early one: a scene set in Cincinnati where Agnes and Jabez meet for the first time, an accidental encounter at a marketplace along the riverfront. I like it for the sense of being suspended between civilization and frontier, for the colorful characters and the bustle and excitement of an exuberant young town. It mirrors Agnes’s hope for and optimism in her future.
Writing is often said to be a lonely business, and the writing part surely is. You can’t have a group of people hanging around while you’re hunting and pecking your way to brilliance. What I do know, though, is that my writing has vastly improved since I got out of my cave once in a while.
Then on Wednesday night I attended a new group–Author, Author, at the Wheaton library. I was invited by my friend and colleague Jerilyn Willin. It was focused on how to actually sell more books.
What do writers groups do for me?
They get me out of the house. I run my company from home, and cabin fever is a very real and dangerous thing. In order to prevent turning into Jack Nicholson from the Shining, I need to get out among human beings.
I get to read other people’s work, including things I would never voluntarily read. I’ve probably read more poetry in the last year than in the previous 30. Romance novels? Superhero fan fiction? Really awful drivel that should never be inflicted on innocent human beings? Really good work from people who are hiding their lights under giant bushels? Yup, yup, yup and yup.
I’m learning how to proof and edit, and see my own mistakes reflected in glorious, painful technicolor in my critiques of others.
I get feedback from people who aren’t related to me or have a vested interest in soothing my ego.The Count of the Sahara benefited greatly from the feedback of strangers or at least people who don’t live with me. Next week they’ll get the first peek at my new novel, The Horns of Hattin.
This is not a charitable thought, but here it is: I am pretty good. I know this because I see what else is out there. My work is better than a lot of people’s (which is good to know) and not nearly as good as some (which is humbling, but also really good to know.)
I learn I am not alone in trying to sell my work…. making money from a book is WAY harder than actually writing it,and takes more work. I need to learn all I can. Yes, Erik and the BookFolks do a nice job, but ultimately authors sell their work.
There are other people out there (some crazier, some saner) who understand what it is to be a writer.
Even if you don’t go often, meeting other writers, getting feedback and lending an empathetic ear are important to the author’s journey.
Besides, when you drink in a group, you’re social. When you drink alone it’s just kinda sad.
So what is it about ancient Rome that has people all a flutter? It seems like the new hot topic in Historical Fiction is the Roman Empire. I will bet a quarter of the indie writers I connect with are writing about that particular period in time. And it’s not just fiction. My buddy Cameron Reilly’s “Life of Caesar” podcast is insanely popular and a lot of fun.
Oh, and those aren’t typos, he’s British. The language is English, deal with it……
Hi Alex. In a nutshell, what’s the new book about?
Carbo (the hero of the series) and his loved ones leave Rome for the sleepy Italian countryside, desperate to recover from their recent traumas. But a chance encounter with locally notorious masked bandits leads to a devastating outcome. Carbo has to fight his own demons and an evil conspiracy to save himself and his friends, and avenge his loss.
Bandits of Rome, the sequel to the number one bestselling novel Watchmen of Rome, follows Carbo as he plunges from happiness to despair, from the Italian countryside to the lead mines of Sicily. Will Carbo ever find the peace he craves?
Good cliffhanger question. So what is it about Ancient Rome that is so intriguing? Seems like a lot of British writers are focusing on it- it’s becoming the new “Arthuriana.”
I’ve always had an interest in Ancient Rome, which has grown deeper the more I have found out. They were a civilisation of huge contrasts. They had mighty
armies, a huge Empire, philosophy, art and architecture. They also had terrible cruelty and awful poverty. I am fascinated by the ordinary people of the Roman Empire who had to survive in the shadows of the magnificent buildings. My hero, Carbo, is a traumatised war veteran, trying to find peace, and consistently failing. He has to overcome his own inner demons, as well as his prejudices, to fight for what is important.
A completely unfair question to ask an author; what’s your favorite scene in the book?
One favourite scene is too spoiler-heavy to describe but is full of emotion, especially if you have read the first book, Watchmen of Rome. Another favourite part involves Carbo being sent to the lead mines as a slave, and I try to describe the horror of the existence of a Roman mine slave.
There is nothing like the feeling of holding a hard copy of your book in your hand for the first time. This is especially true in the case of my first novel, The Count of the Sahara.
I have published a number of books (you can see the whole list here) but until now, something’s been missing. I always felt in my heart that to be a “real writer” you had to have a novel published. And not just published, but published by someone who wasn’t you.
Thanks to the folks at The Book Folks, the dream has come true. My first novel, published by someone with a purely commercial interest in the works, and available to everyone is now out for the world to gaze in awe… and to take shots at.
Anyone who has ever been published knows that holding your book in your hand for the first time is an emotional experience, one that Kindle books–much as I love reading them–can’t match.
Today, I am a real author. Now to see if the world thinks my baby is ugly….
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
Sometimes we read history to learn deep lessons about mankind and where we’re going as a people. Sometimes you just want hacking and cleaving and plenty of good old fashioned smiting. That’s where Seamus O’Griffin (and if that’s not one of the coolest writer names ever, I don’t know what is) and his Gallowglass series comes in.
It’s been a while since I just devoured a series like this. It’s the Medieval version of a beach read; lots of swords hacking, Saracens attacking and mysterious beautiful women. I was thrilled when he agreed to be interviewed for this little blog of mine.
So, what’s the Gallowglass series about?
The Gallowglass series follows the life and times of Ronan Mac Alasdair from a hot-headed, imprudent young man on the island of Islay to a hard bitten, professional soldier of Ireland and the isles; a Galloglass (yes you can look up what it means by clicking here, and yes, it is spelled both ways). The first three books in the series cover his early days as a Templar, his rise within the Order and his part in the siege and fall of Acre in 1291. The next books in the series will cover his return to the Isles and his rise as a Galloglass.
We share a fascination with the Crusades and swords and all kinds of “guy stuff.” Where’d that come from?
I have always been fascinated with the Middle Ages. I read a novel as a kid, I don’t remember its title, about the Siege of Malta, and I have been hooked ever since. Likewise, I had read about galloglasses and their dominance as professional soldiers throughout Ireland and the Scottish Isles for roughly four hundred years and thought that there was definitely a story there, one that few people had written about.
Without spoilers, what’s your favorite scene?
I don’t necessarily have one particular scene in the first three books that stands out as my favorite but I can tell you that I thoroughly enjoyed writing The Fall of Acre from beginning to end.
I’m actually envious of the way you sustained the battle scene for basically a whole book, and since it’s called The Fall of Acre it’s not exactly a spoiler, is it? Where can readers find you?
When the characters in your book say something despicable, stupid or “politically incorrect,” does that mean that the author is a racist, an idiot or a bad human being? This has been the topic of conversation, some of it fairly heated, at my writer’s group lately.
Historical fiction is particularly susceptible to this kind of discussion, because the characters must necessarily reflect the ethics and flavor of the time. My novel, The Count of the Sahara, takes place in the 1920s. This was a long time ago, and many attitudes have changed. Things that people said and believed then may seem outdated, wrong or even awful to us today. Don’t believe me? Get your Great-Grandma drunk and bring up the topic of race…. try not to be too scandalized by what comes out of her mouth–remember she’s old.
One of the few disagreements with Erik, my editor at TheBookFolks.com (a thousand blessings on his house and camels) was over just such a scene. Willy, a naive 19 year old German-American kid from Milwaukee walks up to the front desk and in his mind tries to place the ethnicity of the desk clerk. In the original draft, he looks at the slicked back hair and prominent nose and thinks he “must be a Jew or a Hungarian or something.” The points I was making were a) in the cities of early 20th Century America, racial identity was just part of the landscape so this was the way Willy would think and b) the big dummy wasn’t anti-Semitic, just curious about where the desk clerk was from and probably couldn’t tell the difference between a Jew and a Hungarian. It wasn’t a judgment, it was an observation. It also wasn’t a hill I was prepared to die on. Did I mention I lost that argument?
We had a similar dust-up at the Naperville Writers Group over the use of the “N” word in someone’s writing. Does the use of a certain hot-button word in your fiction condone it? One of my fellow writers actually made a great distinction: if it’s inside quotation marks, or the narrator is clearly identified as a specific character, you can get away with it. If the narrator is “third person omniscient,” then that narrator is basically you. If your character says something hurtful or insensitive, that’s one thing. If “you” do, perhaps you should reconsider.
Maybe I’m a liberal wimp, but I actually cringe a little when one of my characters says something I disagree with. It’s not being a slave to “political correctness,” I consider it common courtesy. Do I want to unintentionally cause offense to someone? I stop and think twice before writing something that I think might be hurtful to a reader, even if that’s not my intention.
Probably, though, I’ll write it anyway because that is what the character would do in that time and place. I’m not a 19 year old, big city, immigrant kid, and I don’t think like one. When I’m writing that character though, he’s not me either.
Maybe all fiction should contain a disclaimer: “Warning, opinions of the characters are not necessarily those of the management.”
Or maybe readers can just lighten the hell up a bit. Both work for me.