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From the Author
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The roots of this novel are complex: they lie with my interests:
My previous novels had been largely reflections on aspects of my own life and commentary on social structures today. Even Infinite Blue Heaven – A King and A Queen was thus, because I had actually already married into the social structure of Kyrgysztan – the real-life geographical location for the novel.
My own family’s roots, uncovered gradually over ten years of concerted research had led me to one Guillaume – a Chevalier (Knight) in 13th Century Languedoc, France. He was my earliest ancestor. Simultaneously, I was pursuing a theological interest in the Cathars; first though reading a number of books my Henry Lincoln, and later an interest in Monségur and the Rennes-le-Château, near where the lost treasure of the Cathars is said to be hidden. The Cathars were an ancient sect who came to prominence and were ruthlessly persecuted by the Catholics in the 1300s, mainly in and around the Languedoc Region of France. Their beliefs were gradually imported from the Mediterranean via the Balkans and possibly originated in Paulian beliefs in post-Roman Istanbul (ancient Constantinople). They believed that the Christian god was really Rex Mundi, or ‘God of Earth’ and that he was an illusion created by dark forces, while the real God remains hidden somewhere outside Earth. I quite possibly sympathise with the Cathars because my later ancestors probably escaped the Catholic persecution of Huguenots when they came to England in the 1500s.
These two areas of interest came together for me when I discovered that one of my ancestors, a Knight in Nevers, Burgundy during the 1200s, was cast out by the Catholic Church and prosecuted for some unknown violation. It resulted in him having to pay the church an annual tithe of a man’s weight in wheat. What his misdemeanour was, I cannot say, but he was certainly very wealthy and his daughter married well, so it must have been a personal crime against the Church. Was he a heretic, or even a Cathar, even though officially they had all been killed in Monségur 200 years before? I may never know but it started a train of thought which led to me deciding to write a book about heresy in France, and the political implications for a country that was being slowly formed from part of the Frankish Empire.
A year before I started this work, I read both The Da Vinci Code and Angels and Demons by Dan Brown. These books were certainly an influence on me, and Dan Brown’s masterful handling of the subject matter was an inspiration. Like him I have been fascinated for many years by the rumour or myth that Mary went to France and that Jesus had a descendant. Like him and many others, I speculate that the Cathars did in fact smuggle a great treasure out of Monségur castle, under the noses of the Royalist besiegers. I also speculate on what that treasure might be and how it might affect our lives if it were discovered in the modern age.
Around the same time I was starting this work, my interest in the paranormal was focused around reincarnation and lycanthropy (werewolves and vampires). I have always loved old Hammer Horror films and particularly the work of Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing. I have also always been interested in luck, and the constant battle between good and evil, light and dark, and yin and yang; who isn’t? My own luck seems to run in phases of waves; periods of days or even weeks of good luck, followed by periods of very bad luck. I mused that some people have luck so bad that it kills them, whereas others seem to lead a charmed life. I decided that my main character, as well as being physically imperfect, must have some kind of rare interaction with luck and the forces of good and evil.
From there, I developed the idea that luck might have something to do with the effect of the battle between good and evil: that in fact both Satan and God might both have one hand on the tiller of luck. At this point, while researching werewolf history – and in particular its origins in the Balkans which is coincidental with Cathar origins, I stumbled upon the Wikipedia article about Peter Stumpp. Backtracking I found the main article about ‘werewolf’ and discovered that werewolves – shape-shifters and shape-changers, were not always messengers of evil. Sometimes they could be benevolent. This was a revelation to me. I wanted to write about it. So one of the main themes of the book is the discovery in some characters of deep, powerful – even Biblical forces at work.
You can see how the various strands of a plot for my book were coming together: imperfect man with intense interest in history discovers in himself a connection with deep, dark and powerful ancient forces. So I started writing. But there, as usual, things took a different turn. Very often, when you write, as soon as a character starts to solidify in your mind, they start to orchestrate their own affairs. My main character simply wouldn’t do what I expected and he became quickly rebellious. Then I stumbled into a scene in Highgate Cemetery which really forged the soul of the book. As a result I had to rethink where I was going, and luck suddenly became a much more prominent them than I had anticipated. There were some strange synchronicities with my own life as I wrote: if the character was experiencing bad luck, I too would seem to experience uncannily bad luck. I began to believe I was on to something. I became quite excited; my book really was going to have some relevancy as well as being a good ‘yarn’. Relevancy is something I strive for. Like J. R. R. Tolkien, I don’t like allegory very much, but I like my stories to have some applicability for the reader; something they can identify with and interact with by consideration.
My main character’s involvement with MI6 came about purely by accident: I wanted to write a book about a character whose whole lifespan I could document if I wished. That meant setting the book in the 1980s. From here, it was obvious he would serve actively in World War II and since he had to be intelligent, he would find his way into of the secret departments of Whitehall. His placement in the Balkans was then easy to arrange, as was his meeting of the mysterious Rose who later becomes his wife. The story opens with their marriage in trouble, which adds poignancy to the already heart-rending start. Much of the material originally set in Sofia was felt unnecessary by some readers so were removed from the Second Edition. However if you wish, you can purchase the Extended Edition which includes this content – almost 15,000 words.
Another feature I wanted to have was deeper characterisation. I don’t denigrate what J. K. Rowling has done for fiction’s popularity with Harry Potter but I wanted to write something more than a mere fantasy. I endeavoured to achieve this. Some of my characters are world-weary but all have the tell-tale footprints of life all over them. My novel is a fantasy for adults. Yet another theme is Witchcraft. I have long been interested in the influence of Gurdjieff and Mdm. Blavatsky on modern western ideas. I also make frequent references to the Malleus Maleficarum – the witch-hunter’s bible and wicca – particularly Gardnerian wicca. You will also find references to some cult films such Eye of the Devil.
The final theme I wanted to get into my novel, was the gothic. The themes of blood, death, eroticism, sex and transcendence are all things that I desire in a good novel. My influences are Kate Bush, The Mission, Lord Byron, John Keats (The Eve of St. Agnes is a particularly favourite poem of mine) and to some extent Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings. Sex and death are the themes that everyone seems attracted to. As a consequence, I couldn’t resist a climax to my novel that took place in one of the world’s greatest Gothic masterpieces. But you will have to read the novel to find out where …