Showing posts with label the pharaoh's heart. Show all posts
Showing posts with label the pharaoh's heart. Show all posts

Thursday, July 28, 2022

Research to Schnitzel

 The truth is, I do a hideous amount of research. This is mainly because my plots are fairly wild, and I use historical facts, from events of worldwide importance to what kind of socks men were wearing that year to anchor my stories in reality.

Roulette Salon, Monte Carlo

     Am I methodical? Not in the least. Basically I have one text file, into which all my historical facts are thrown like a meat grinder to be turned into sausage later. Some of it's meat, some of it's spice. Would you like a glimpse at some of the ingredients? I thought you might. 

    Here's a small sampling of my notes (in no particular order) for my present project, 

The Strange Case of the Pharaoh's Heart:

Gould married Sinclair on May 1, 1922.

November 9, 1922 — Tomb opened

They were married in December 1922 Ali Famy

On March 14, 1923, they legally remarried— Rudolph Valentino, divorced in 1925.

cartouche by Terry Ward



the nearby tomb of King Seti II, with 

cluttered trestle tables and Thonet bentwood chairs pressed tight against the ancient relief


“Well, sir, if it isn’t too great a liberty, I am a neighbour of yours, for you’ll find my little bookshop at the corner of Church Street, and very happy to see you, I am sure. Maybe you collect yourself, sir. Here’s British Birds, and Catullus, and The Holy War—a bargain, every one of them."


There was a sensational shooting affair at Leeds Tuesday sequel to the death Miss Helen Mary Nind, the music teacher, wha found poisoned in a Leeds hotel during the week-end. 


Dr. Scott's results in the examination of the brown marks upon the walls of the tomb are interesting - his examination proves them to be of the nature of mould from infection of some kind.


Arthur Mace never returned to the tomb. He contracted pleurisy which led to pneumonia. He nursed his health assiduoudly, but died in 1928.



1922 BUGATTI TYPE 23 TORPEDO SPORT Top Speed:

London taxi, 1920s
62 mph

-



Beginning in February 1924, she accompanied Valentino on a trip abroad that was profiled in 26 installments published Movie Weekly over the course of six months`


State - How much fuel you've got. Mother requests, "Say your state". Responded to in the form of hours and minutes of fuel onboard til you "splash". You respond"State one plus two zero to splash" = 1 hours and 20 minutes of flying time remaining.

Flying in the 1920s was also an uncomfortable experience for passengers because it was loud and cold, as planes were made of uninsulated sheets of metal that shook loudly in the wind.

Junker interior

The average journey time by train between Paris Gare de Lyon and Meiringen is 6 hours and 53 minutes, with around 20 trains per day.


              ********


The pictures are, of course, research as well, and I download a LOT of them. These I treat with so little method that I usually have to wind up seeking them out again on the internet when I need to consult them. It may seem like chaos, but that's an accurate reflection of my mind. In the end, it's schnitzel.

Friday, June 24, 2022

Golden State Gabfest

Up for more talk about 
The Strange Case of the Dutch Painter, as well as a peek at my nearly-completed next next Holmes epic, 
The Strange Case of the Pharaoh's Heart, and even a whisper of what's to come after that?

Then tune into:
for all the lowdown.


 

Wednesday, May 11, 2022

King Tut: Fact or Fiction?

       Historical fiction thrives in the space between fact and rumor. I'll give you an example from the next Sherlock Holmes novel I'n working on, The Strange Case of the Pharaoh's Heart. There were a number of deaths attributed in the years after Tutankhamun's tomb was opened which were attributed by believers (of whom Conan Doyle was a prominent and vocal member) to "the curse of King Tut."

Hugh Evelyn White
     One of the more violent deaths, in 1924, was that of Hugh Evelyn White, a scholar
and translator of ancient Greek, and a popular lecturer at the University of Leeds. He was also an Egyptologist, and among the first to visit the newly opened tomb in 1923. 

     His story is quite a gruesome one, and it can be found all over the internet: he wrote a suicide note in his own blood on the wall of his office, blaming the curse for his action, then hung himself above his desk. A terrible realization of the curse.

     Except it didn't happen that way. If you take the trouble to read the newspaper obituaries from the time, you find that he stepped out of his house, hailed a taxi, and asked to be taken to the house of a physician, Dr. Maxwell Telling. He would never arrive there.

     The driver heard the gun blast (how could he not?) and turned to see White falling forward. He sped to the nearest hospital, but White was pronounced dead an hour later.

     He had left a suicide note. Though not in blood, and not mentioning King Tut, it was certainly problematic. Here's how it read:

“I knew there was a curse on me, though I have leave to take those manuscripts to Cairo. The monks told me the curse would work all the same, Now it has done so.”

No one knew what papers he referred to, or who the monks were.

     But here's the rest of the story: White was about to appear at the inquest for another suicide, one Mary Helen Ninds, a music teacher, who was desperately in love with Mr. White, and had threatened in a letter to take her own life if he did not return her affections. He had written her back, threatening to go to the police if she threatened suicide again.

     Did he feel guilt over the girl's death? Had there been a love affair, or even any relationship at all between the two? Could she have been carrying his child? We can only speculate, and speculation becomes fertile field for a historical novelist. We can let our imaginations run away, stitching together fact with whole cloth.

     And where did the story of the bloody suicide note and the hanging surface from? Again we can speculate. First, one must realize that Lord Carnarvon, who paid for the expedition, had sold exclusive rights to coverage of the excavation to the London Times--which meant that every other paper in the world was boxed out of the biggest story in the world, and when journalists don't have a story they will sometimes... make up a story. The whole "curse of King Tut" story was catnip to them, and anything and anyone involved tended to get twisted, exaggerated, aggrandized.

     Now how prevalent this wild story might have been at the time is also impossible to say. When I say that you can find the story all over the internet, we all know that the internet loves nothing better than a good story and will spread it like Nutella on a spoon. Ubiquity on the net has nothing to do with authenticity.

     But it does have everything to do with fiction. Seeing the kind of wild rumors that were floating around at the time points the way for one's own wild rumors to plant in the story--as long as they are labeled as rumors, not as fact. We have to play fair with the reader.

     And the truth is, there are always wild rumors and wild surmises associated with any historical event. Misinformation is not a modern invention. And while we should do our best to separate fact from rumor, our characters are under no such edict. Let them mix it up.

     (Don't forget the monks and the papers.)


 



Page settings Search Description Options Custom Robot Tags

Tuesday, March 15, 2022

King Tut and the Bugatti

 And then again, some facts in historical mystery are simply a matter of grinding it out. For instance, when you need a car to get your heroes from Luxor to Cairo as quickly as possible. The train simply won't do. This happens in The Strange Case of the Pharaoh's Heart.

First of all, you should realize that without the car, Tutankhamun might never have been discovered. Lord Carnarvon, the sponsor of the dig, was mad for cars early on. The faster the better.

And in 1903, he had the dubious distinction of being in the world's first car crash. A

Lord Carnrvon

bad crash, with a crushed skull and a broken jaw, and lacerated lungs, which left him prone to severe lung infections. Doctors recommended he spend his winters in a dry climate--say, Egypt? He fell in love with the place, fell in love with Egyptology, and finally decided to get into the tomb-digging business. He hired a fellow named Howard Carter, and the rest as they say, is history.

But back to my problem. Where to get a car? Our heroes came to Luxor aboard a dahabeah (another whole story). Well, it's true, I could make up any car owned by anybody. I wouldn't even have to name the kind of car. But historical fiction is made up of these thousand details which anchor our stories in reality, and create a bond of trust between writer and reader.

So I decided to make the car Lord Carnarvon's car, left garaged in a tomb (which is where they did keep them) when he went to Cairo and died. So what kind of car would Lord Carnarvon have driven?

This was actually easy to uncover, since Carnarvon was so well known for his love of cars (and horses and yachts). Of course, I could have gone with a Ford, since he had provided one for the dig, but I, wanted a fast car. Before the end of his life, Carnarvon was into Bugattis (although he had just purchased a Bentley, which he never got the chance to take home.)

Bugatti. That's just brimming with sexy. (Although to tell you the truth, I know zero about cars and couldn't tell a Bugatti from a VW Bug.) A Bugatti would do.

But now I needed a Bugatti made before 1923, when Carnarvon died,

And I needed a four-seater, which could carry five in a pinch.

And fast. Faster than a train, which I already knew made the trip from Luxor to Cairo in about ten hours.

Which is about how long it took me to find my Bugatti. (And I get down on my knees and praise the internet every day.) I looked at a lot of Bugattis. Most were two-seaters. Some, for racing purposes held only one. I found a few that might be four-seaters, but I couldn't be sure from the pictures. And while the specs told me what horsepower they were and how many cylinders they had, not a single one mentioned the number of seats.

So as the sun was rising, I found it. The 1923 Bugatti Type 23 Torpedo. Lots of pictures, including one of the back seat.


Sold. That is, if I could just find out--yes! Top speed 62mph. And since my driver is a professional racer, I'm going to posit that she can make it to Cairo in under seven hours.

Now I just have to decide whether it gets them all the way there or breaks down in the desert. Which would mean I'd have to get under the hood of the thing. 
Um... I'm thinking they make it.

Friday, March 11, 2022

King Tut: Fact or Fiction?

 

       Historical fiction thrives in the space between fact and rumor. I'll give you an example from the next Sherlock Holmes novel I'n working on, The Strange Case of the Pharaoh's Heart. There were a number of deaths attributed in the years after Tutankhamun's tomb was opened which were attributed by believers (of whom Conan Doyle was a prominent and vocal member) to "the curse of King Tut."

Hugh Evelyn White
     One of the more violent deaths, in 1924, was that of Hugh Evelyn White, a scholar
and translator of ancient Greek, and a popular lecturer at the University of Leeds. He was also an Egyptologist, and among the first to visit the newly opened tomb in 1923. 

     His story is quite a gruesome one, and it can be found all over the internet: he wrote a suicide note in his own blood on the wall of his office, blaming the curse for his action, then hanged himself. A terrible realization of the curse.

     Except it didn't happen that way. If you take the trouble to read the newspaper obituaries from the time, you find that he stepped out of his house, hailed a taxi, and asked to be taken to the house of a physician, Dr. Maxwell Telling. He would never arrive there.

     The driver heard the gun blast (how could he not?) and turned to see White falling forward. He sped to the nearest hospital, but White was pronounced dead an hour later.

     He had left a suicide note. Though not in blood, and not mentioning King Tut, it was certainly problematic. Here's how it read:

“I knew there was a curse on me, though I have leave to take those manuscripts to Cairo. The monks told me the curse would work all the same, Now it has done so.”

No one knew what papers he referred to, or who the monks were.

     But here's the rest of the story: White was about to appear at the inquest for another suicide, one Mary Helen Ninds, a music teacher, who was desperately in love with Mr. White, and had threatened in a letter to take her own life if he did not return her affections. He had written her back, threatening to go to the police if she threatened suicide again.

     Did he feel guilt over the girl's death? Had there been a love affair, or even any relationship at all between the two? Could she have been carrying his child? We can only speculate, and speculation becomes fertile field for a historical novelist. We can let our imaginations run away, stitching together fact with whole cloth.

     And where did the story of the bloody suicide note and the hanging surface from? Again we can speculate. First, one must realize that Lord Carnarvon, who paid for the expedition, had sold exclusive rights to coverage of the excavation to the London Times--which meant that every other paper in the world was boxed out of the biggest story in the world, and when journalists don't have a story they will sometimes... make up a story. The whole "curse of King Tut" story was catnip to them, and anything and anyone involved tended to get twisted, exaggerated, aggrandized.

     Now how prevalent this wild story might have been at the time is also impossible to say. When I say that you can find the story all over the internet, we all know that the internet loves nothing better than a good story and will spread it like Nutella on a spoon. Ubiquity on the net has nothing to do with authenticity.

     But it does have everything to do with fiction. Seeing the kind of wild rumors that were floating around at the time points the way for one's own wild rumors to plant in the story--as long as they are labeled as rumors, not as fact. We have to play fair with the reader.

     And the truth is, there are always wild rumors and wild surmises associated with any historical event. Misinformation is not a modern invention. And while we should do our best to separate fact from rumor, our characters are under no such edict. Let them mix it up.

     (Don't forget the monks and the papers.)



Friday, February 11, 2022

Reflections on Reflections

 There comes a time in every draft of a novel when things start to click together, to reflect each other. For instance, did you know that King Tut photographer Harry Burton preferred sunlight for his pictures? Which meant he had to use a complicated setup of mirrors and reflectors to bring the sun INTO the tomb. (I didn't know this, and had to rewrite that whole section.)



But then I realized that must have been the exact method used by Geoffrey Hodson, 50 pages earlier, to create the illusion of dancing fairies!

Research always shows you the way.

Tuesday, April 06, 2021

Moriarty's Ghost

 "I am not a fanciful person, but I give you my word that I seemed to hear Moriarty’s voice screaming at me out of the abyss." 


In all the annals of Sherlock Holmes, there is only one recorded instance of him personally taking another life...Moriarty, mano a mano, at the Reichenbach Falls. This is well l known.

What isn't known is how Holmes felt about causing that death?  (I know, the unfeeling Mr. Holmes. Hogwash.) Certainly it was self-defense. But certainly it was premeditated. And he watched the man plunge to his death. Never to face justice. How did that make him feel?

I think it shocked him to his core. I think he felt insupportable guilt and shame. So much that he could not face his beloved London for three whole years. What else could explain his decision to abandon his beloved London to the predations of the criminal underworld? Fear for his life? Please. Does that sound like Sherlock Holmes, who had always faced danger head on? And with the trials of Moriarty's confederates ongoing? Would he not be needed as a material witness?

No; Holmes was undergoing a crisis of the soul. Where did he go? The first name he mentions is Florence; no doubt he continued on to Rome. Then he treks to Lhasa, to meet with the Dalai Lama. From there he goes on to Mecca, no easy task for a city forbidden to unbelievers. If he followed in the path of Sir Richard Burton. he must have spoken at least passable Arabic. Then he pays "a short but interesting visit to the Khalifa at Khartoum." This would have been Abdullahi ibn Muhammad, the Sudanese ruler who had taken up the mantle of Mahdi, the Islamic messiah, upon the death of the original Mahdi, Muhammad Ahnad.

Can there be any doubt that Holmes was seeking solace in a variety of what were (to him) a series of exotic religions? 

As for his "several months "studying coal-tar derivatives" in Montpellier, I think Holmes was withholding the truth, that he in fact had unfinished business in Montpellier with a French cousin. (For more about this cousin and the reason he mentions coal-tar derivatives, you'll have to wait for my next novel, The Strange Case of the Dutch Painter.)

But none of these ploys offer the peace he seeks, and he finally decides, as he counsels Watson, that "work is the best antidote for sorrow." and turns his face toward home. Yet he has not given up on his spiritual quest entirely. What book does he drop in front of Watson? The Origins of Tree Worship-- seeking answers in his native British Druidism? This, for a man who'd espoused his admiration for the writings of William Winwoode Reade, an avowed atheist, was quite a journey.

But would he have been able to reveal himself to Watson, if not for his accidental meeting with his associate that morning at Park Lane? Perhaps not--not because his affection for Watson had lessened, but because of Watson's role as his public chronicler. He no longer wants the public's eye upon him. He forbids Watson from publishing any new reports, and lays this injunction upon him for a full ten years before he relents.

Did Holmes ever come to terms with the death of Moriarty? In The Strange Case of Eliza Doolittle, I introduce a pet raven to Holmes's retirement--a raven named Moriarty.


But you'll have to wait for my third book (in the works now) The Strange Case of the Pharaoh's Heart, to see whether Holmes at last comes to terms with the blood of Moriarty on his hands. 

Until then.


Wednesday, March 17, 2021

Not Spirits in the Ordinary Sense

 "It is neither decent nor safe to take from their resting places the bodies of old kings. The Egyptians knew much more about the occult than we do today. This must have been a peculiar element of an Egyptian curse.

The ancient Egyptians were very anxious to guard the tombs of their Kings, there is reason to believe that they placed elementals on guard, and such may have caused Lord Carnarvon’s death.

An evil elemental may have caused Lord Carnarvon’s fatal illness. One does not know what elementals existed in those days, nor what the form might be. 

These elementals are not spirits in the ordinary sense, in that they have no souls. 

An elemental is a built-up, artificial thing, an imbued force which may be brought into being by spirit means or by nature."


                     –Sir Arthur Conan Doyle on the strange death of Lord Carnarvon