When I published The Memoirs of Saint John-part one, back in 2010, I didn’t know Syria would end up becoming a bloody battlefield and playing such a central role on the world stage. At the time I was simply writing a novel about an archaeological discovery–a discovery consisting of a previously-unknown text written by Christ’s disciple John. It seemed to me that Syria would be an interesting, maybe even an intriguing, place to have the papyrus manuscript be discovered. So that’s the way I wrote the story.
Since then, of course, Syria has become a sarcophagus of appalling atrocities carried out by terrorist armies, while tensions between the US and Russia have heated up to almost unprecedented levels. All of these elements are there in the new novel.
In book one, the papyrus antiquity had just been discovered–by a Bedouin tribesman who stumbles upon it while wandering through a remote part of Syria near the border with Iraq–and a team of scholars had been assembled to evaluate the find. The team consists of archaeologists as well as biblical scholars, and plans are made to embark for Syria to conduct a dig at the site for purpose of determining if anything else may lie in the ground.
In this latest installment, the team members actually enter Syria and head out to the remote spot in the desert. But it’s a dangerous undertaking clearly, with ISIS terrorists taking over parts of the country. The group is headed by veteran British archaeologist Arthur MacBride, a man both witty and wise and an acknowledged expert in his field. Accompanying him are Sylvia Oneska and Enders Thenatakios, a couple in the midst of a heated affair; David LaSalle, a Catholic priest and university professor; and Martin Kleesman, a biblical scholar, who in the course of the story falls in love with a beautiful Syrian woman named Nasira. Upon landing in the embattled nation, they are joined by a group of students from Damascus University as well as their professor, Dr. Hector Malouf. Additionally along the way we find encounters with a Russian intelligence agent, a shoot-out in the city of Palmyra, as well as a grand tour of Damascus’ Old City, which I had a chance to walk through when visiting Syria last year.
Featured also is a “story within the story” consisting of Kleesman’s and LaSalle’s English translation of John’s text, in essence the disciple’s “memoir,” which he wrote down late in his life. The memoir tells of the years after the crucifixion, and a central backdrop in this section of the book is a massive outbreak of violence against Jews–an actual historical event which took place in the city of Alexandria in 38 A.D.
You can click here to read a full synopsis plus comments by the author. The Kindle edition can be purchased here, and the Nook edition here–both available for just $3.99. You can also go to Smashwords and choose from multiple formats for download–again just $3.99.
The Memoirs of Saint John will ultimately be a series of five novels. The first two, The Memoirs of Saint John: No Greater Love and The Memoirs of Saint John: When the Sandstone Crumbles, have now been published. The remaining three books will be:
The Memoirs of Saint John: The Ludicrous Cruelties of the Noonday Exhibition
The Memoirs of Saint John: The War Against the Jews
The Memoirs of Saint John: Patmos
Another word or two about the plot and the characters. After spending several days in Damascus, the archaeological team sets out for the desert, where they begin their dig, in the course of which they do indeed make a rather staggering discovery. It is an artifact they find buried in the ground, but I won’t say more than that as it would be kind of a plot spoiler.
Besides the main characters named above, an additional character in the story is Cateline, a blind, 14-year-old ward of an orphanage in France who experiences psychic visions. Cateline has the ability to perceive what is going on in the world–not with her eyes, but in her dreams. That’s her picture you see on the book cover staring up at the eagle.
Other characters are Dr. Riad Najjar, head of the Syrian Department of Antiquities, Sahar Karimi, wife of a Hezbollah military commander, and Adam Chambliss, an American journalist living in Beirut. Additional characters in the ‘story within the story’ are Mary Magdalene, Apollos, and Flaccus, the Roman-appointed governor of Egypt at the time of the Alexandrian riots. In the course of writing this book, I began developing a growing awareness that time, at least strictly speaking, is not linear, and that in a number of respects, the past, the present, and the future are all very much intertwined.
I hope, if you read the book, you will find it entertaining, enriching, as well as thought-provoking.