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1 posts categorized "Thursday Bonus"

03/18/2010

Thursday Bonus Guest, Roger Hudson

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This week's special Thursday bonus guest is Roger Hudson. Roger was supposed to be my first Thursday Bonus guest last week, but I am an idiot. I know I keep it hidden most of the time, but occasionally it sneaks out, usually in front of a large number of people so really it amazes me that the entire world hasn't figured me out by now. Anyway, After embarrassing myself last week, and a nice inquiring email from Roger, I'm prepared to admit my idiocy and finally welcome Roger to KdBlog. 

So, I formally welcome Roger Hudson, the first Thursday Bonus Guest at KdBlog. Welcome Roger and thank you for your patience.

THE MAGIC OF HISTORICAL RESEARCH

 

It’s strange how a novel comes together, especially a historical mystery novel set in a period when there is relatively little hard information available. Death Comes by Amphora, the first novel in my Lysanias and Sindron trilogy, is set in Ancient Athens in 461BC, which is some years before the serious historians started recording events.

The event that attracted me to the period was the assassination of Ephialtes, the politician who brought in the radical democratic reforms - or rather it was the lack of information about him. Well, I soon found out that’s because very little is known about him. He is reputed to have been killed by an assassin ‘under cover of darkness’ so that left me fairly free to speculate. But I needed a fictional murder as well and that came from two fragments: A fragment of pottery with a painting of a merchant ship and a military galley and a photograph in a book of a giant earthenware vessel with many handles and cracks where the broken pieces had been stuck together. A vase painting of a funeral procession, with wailing mourners and body on a cart, completed the bundle. I deduced that the vessel must have been used for carrying water on long sea voyages slung in a rope or leather harness strung through the handles. So what if such a vessel had fallen on someone and killed them? Where might that have happened? Who would they be? And away it went. And hence the title Death Comes by Amphora (even if the Greeks may have had a name other than amphora for such giant containers as opposed to smaller ones).

The need to have a hero who was a newcomer to the city of Athens and would see it through innocent eyes brought another use for the merchant ship as my young hero and his slave Sindron (he would need someone mature to advise him) travelled from a distant colony at the summons of the now dead uncle, crushed in his own shipyard by the falling amphora.

 In one history book I read that the Temple of Hephaistos (whose ruins still stand in the Agora in Athens) was actually started at this time but then delayed for some reason and not completed till considerably later. Bingo! Hephaistos, the heavenly smith, was obviously the workers’ god. The long war against Persia had clearly reached a truce, the troops had returned including lower class guys feeling they had played an important role as rowers in the navy and wanting some reward for their part in helping defeat the Persians, and they could well be the force that had enabled Ephialtes to get his reforms through the Assembly (their parliament).  And uniting this reform movement was a cult of Hephaistos, the god to whom the worker-rowers credited their victory in the war. OK, that’s my invention. No historian has suggested such a cult. But it fits the bits of evidence, it tallies with the sort of thing that happened in subsequent history with such power shifts, it ‘works’ and it fleshes out one side in the struggle that must have gone on in the transfer of power away from the wealthy aristocrats to the poorer classes that resulted in the Golden Age of Athens.  I went with it anyway and it helped make an exciting story.  I went even further and deduced from a very naturalistic sculpted bas-relief of smiths at work that the rise of the lower classes had given artists an interest in manual labour. The sculpture proceeded to leap the centuries and find its way into a dramatic scene in the novel. Ancient artefacts do have their uses!

Amphora Front Cover A4 

Roger Hudson is the author of Death Comes by Amphora visit him at www.rogerhudson.me.uk