Friday, October 17, 2008

Synopsis of new ancient Egyptian suspense novel

My new archaeological thriller will be out in the UK soon in hardback and paperback. Here's a bit more about the story.

A modern archaeological thriller. An ancient, esoteric time bomb

What is the heaven-and-earth-shattering secret? The murder of an Egyptologist rings alarm bells with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. Before he knows it they co-opt his son, controversial British historian Anson Hunter, into an investigation that has stunning implications for US security.

Has a threat emerged from the ancient past? They take Anson to ‘The Centre for the Study of High Consequence Event Preparedness and Response’, a consortium studying how the nation can best prepare for and respond to a range of unexpected large-scale incidents or disasters.

The search catapults Anson, Kalila, a Coptic Egyptian girl, and an intelligence team into a race through the length of Egypt, yet soon their search attracts the attention of radical Islamists as well as the Egyptian authorities. Dark suspicions surface, suspicions that Anson’s father found evidence of a secret that will shake the foundations of every major world religion.

Soon, whichever way they turn, Anson and his team find themselves trapped in a labyrinth of intrigue and menace that becomes too hideously real.

What are The Smiting Texts? You’ve seen those scenes and texts carved on temple walls. They show a pharaoh grasping a clutch of foreigners by the hair in one hand, while in the other he holds an upraised mace. Poised in the ultimate iconography of menace, he is about to smash in the unfortunates’ heads.

Symbolism? Propaganda? Execration scenes and smiting texts were state weapons of war believed to have the power to reach out beyond temporal boundaries. Nobody doubted that enemies - present and future - would weaken or simply be flattened as if by a nuclear blast.

Anson Hunter’s special knowledge as an alternative Egyptologist, theorist and phenomenologist could be the key to stopping a catastrophe.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Ancient Egyptian dreaming - a passion since childhood

I am thinking a great deal about where it all began...

Something about ancient Egypt hit me as a child, as it does many thoughtful children, and little wonder, on reflection. Ancient Egypt is not only mysterious and incredibly 'other' to a child, but also, paradoxically, second nature.

Take a look at any young child's sketches and paintings. They're eerily Egyptian, capturing the visible essence of things. The human body is shown side-on in the Egyptian way, just as it appears in tomb paintings and carved on temple walls, the face turned sideways, with the eye, invariably larger than life, dominating the features, the shoulders turned to the front so that both arms are revealed and one foot placed ahead of the other.

Objects - tables, piles of food, animals, trees - float mysteriously in space with little regard for scale. Young people understand ancient Egyptian art and design perfectly. It's how they see the world - eternal, free of time.

A child's Egypt is enviable, I've come to believe. Only as a child can you truly enter the kingdom of Pharaoh, it seems. A child loves mummies, tombs, underworlds filled with fantastic creatures, temples shimmering in bright sunlight, pyramids terrifying in their size, smooth statues of pharaohs, queens and animal-headed gods.

Young people also have a sunny love of life, just as the Egyptians did, and yet both share a dark, hidden world of mystery and magic where animals can communicate and powerful forces outside of their control influence events. Children know a place that older people forget, a shadowy underworld of fearsome chimeras.

Young people love secrets and no civilisation was so steeped in secrets and mystery as ancient Egypt. From its hieroglyphs and hidden tombs to its mummies and spells for the afterlife.

When a small child goes to bed to its little death-sleep at night, doesn't it take its most treasured possessions with it on the journey, its toys and dolls, accompanying the child into an afterlife of dreams?

And what about the scale of Egypt, pyramids, stone pharaohs carved out of mountains, soaring temples... a place built, as if from a child's imagination, for giants.

With the average Egyptian dying in their twenties, a case can be made for saying that it was young people who built the wonders of Egypt.

Put a child in a sandpit and what will it build? A pyramid of sand.

And think of the scenes painted in Egyptian tombs, those painted passages that throw their lengths hundreds of metres into the cliffs, the decorated walls showing scenes of feasting, families fishing from skiffs on the Nile, flowers, fields and animals. They're not places of gloom like a modern graveyard. They're filled with scenes as bright and colourful as a child's nursery.

Ancient Egypt is a place of great wonders where anything seems possible. Little wonder then that so many young people fall in love with it for a lifetime...