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!

Does Historical Fiction Include Fantasy?

The test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposed ideas in the mind at the same time, and still retain the ability to function.- F Scott Fitgerald.

Yeah, I’m a freakin’ genius.  I love historical fiction that is researched and full of interesting details. I also love fantasy (yes, I’m a sword and sorcery geek, sue me.) These two ideas come together, and often seem to clash. A good case in point is the sub-genre called “Arthurian fiction.”

From my earliest memories, the story of Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table have thrilled me.  But was Arthur an actual historical character? If so, what about Merlin, who was a magician, after all? This has led to a schism between those who love “Arthurian Fantasy” and a more factual, history-based approach. Two of my favorite current writers take opposite approaches to the same source material.

Jack Whyte, the author of The Camulod Chronicles painstakingly researches his

Was Arthur real? Jack Whyte’s carefully researched books are an amazing take on the story you think you know.

books and places them in a gritty, dark period between the fall of the Roman empire, and the beginnings of that bizarre mix of Celts and Saxons that created pre-Norman Britain. I love his stuff: dark, philosophical, as close to “realistic” as something lost in the fog of time could be. If you’re not reading him, you should be. Just saying.

Lavinia Collins, on the other hand, writes Arthurian fantasy full of magic, sex and a Celtic/feminist approach. Here’s the thing, though. It’s not like she doesn’t know her history. The background of the stories is well researched and true to the period. She just chooses

Was Arthur's sword created by magic? Makes a good story, doesn't it?
Was Arthur’s sword created by magic? Makes a good story, doesn’t it?

to use the known history of the time as the starting point to spin a great yarn. Does that mean it’s not “historical fiction?” She has written a wonderful blog post about that dilemma in fact. Click here to read it.

A case in point is where Excalibur came from. Jack says it was forged from the metal that came  from a meteorite, so it had unusual properties. According to Lavinia, it was forged by a woman blessed with magic in the caves under Avalon.

Is either “true?” Does it matter? I prefer to just enjoy them both. How about you?

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.