01 June 2009
I was invited by Fulham Library to talk about the research and the writing of NEFERTITI and TUTANKHAMUN, last week; the event was very well organized, with a good turnout, and many interesting, stimulating questions. I talked about what made me write the book, and the twists and turns of the research work, in particular the discovery that in the 18th dynasty there was something approximating a national police force in every city.
Rahotep belongs to this force, but of course he frequently finds himself at odds with its key power players, and with its ethos. In book 3, which I'm researching now, that adversarial relationship becomes even more confrontational, because the times have darkened, and corruption is now reaching deep into the heart of the force. How will Rahotep defend himself from this? Or will he himself ultimately be compromised too?
In this context, it's interesting to read about David Pilling, the so-called "Robocop" of the Soho area, famous for his determination to track down drug dealers; he once chased a dealer down flights of stairs and through a pedestrian underpass on his motorbike. He was found dead at his home in unexplained circumstances in April this year.
18 May 2009
I'm working on the third book in the trilogy; it picks up with Rahotep three years after the death of TUTANKHAMUN. AY is dying, HOREMHEB has his eye on ultimate power, and only ANKHESENAMUN stands in his way.
A letter, in the form of an inscribed clay tablet, still exists, which was sent by the Egyptian Queen to the King of the Hittites - the Egyptian empire's arch enemy. In it, the Queen asks him to send her one of his sons to marry, and to share Egypt's throne, and so bring the two great empires into a peaceful alignment. This was a revolutionary thing to do - certainly no Egyptian King or Queen had ever made such an offer. But Ankhesenamun's situation - as a childless widow, and the last of her dynastic line - was perilous. It is known that the Hittite King sent his son, but that he and his party were assassinated on the journey back to Egypt.
That's historically fascinating; but I'm also exploring what's happened to Rahotep's world in these years; his family are growing up, his father has died, and the corruption that has festered on the edges of the society has now reached the very heart of the state and its bureaucracies, with kidnappings and vicious murderers commonplace on the streets of Thebes. His boss NEBAMUN has become implacably hostile to the Seeker of Mysteries, and Rahotep is struggling to find his way forward as the world around him changes, becoming ever more unstable and perilous.
02 April 2009
Tutankhamun was published last Friday 27th March, and on the same day there was a half-page review in the Daily Express, which was very good. What a relief! Rahotep is being compared with C J Sansom's Shardlake, which is fine by me, as I love the writing in those books.
There is new excitement in the Egyptological world about the latest CT scans on the famous and beautiful 3300 year old bust of Nefertiti: minutely detailed scans (computer tomography is the technical term, I learn) have revealed the original limestone carving which lies beneath the layers of stucco. This in turn has revealed small but significant changes which the artist made to the great Queen's appearance. So in essence we now can see two faces. The report remarks on how the inner, hidden face had less depth in the corners of the eyelids, some creases around the mouth and cheeks, less prominent cheekbones and a slight bump on the ridge of the nose. Could this be the first example of Ancient Egyptian airbrushing?
Tess Gerritsen has given me a wonderful endorsement for TUTANKHAMUN, and passed the book along to her friend Dr Bob Brier, a very eminent Egyptologist with specific interests in the 18th Dynasty and in Tutankhamun. I'll be fascinated to hear what he thinks of the novel.