Sunday, August 28, 2022

Publication Day

It's publication day!
The Judas Case is dedicated to three very important people - Margaret, Harriet and Beatrice:
They'll be delighted if you buy a copy:

Friday, August 26, 2022

The Judas Case - ebook now available

More Judas news!

Pleased to announce that the ebook edition of The Judas Case has just dropped.
It's available now on Amazon, and also from other ebook distributors.
The perfect choice for bank holiday weekend reading:
Well, what are you waiting for?

Wednesday, August 24, 2022

Jesus in Fiction - Man Of Nazareth & The Judas Case

I blogged about Anthony Burgess' MAN OF NAZARETH last month - here

So I'm delighted to announce that the latest podcast from The Burgess Foundation has just dropped.  Join me and foundation director Andrew Biswell as we discuss Burgess’ biblical fiction MAN OF NAZARETH and my debut novel THE JUDAS CASE (published 28 August).

You can get the podcast now from the usual sources:




and Youtube:

 THE JUDAS CASE paperback (ebook still to come) is available for purchase here:

And of course in all good bookshops.

Monday, August 22, 2022

Small Objects & Intimate Desires: Nicanor's Drinking Bowl

Early in the The Judas Case, Solomon is invited to dinner by his old friend Nicanor from Alexandria, and is intrigued by the silver cup from which the doctor drinks his wine:

The younger slave carried a tray with a ewer and a set of silver bowls, the grandest of which was set before Nico.  Engraved upon it was an image of a naked man taking his pleasure with a youth. They were both attached, in complicated ways, to an apparatus of ropes and slings.  My own bowl was unadorned. 

“A gift from a grateful client,” Nico said when he noticed my gaze.

The fictional cup could very well be mistaken for this one:

I’ll come back to this particular bowl in a moment, but first some background:

The ancient middle east was a society where material wealth was distributed so unevenly that it is difficult for us to understand its ramifications.  Almost all wealth was in the hands of about 2% of the population.  Practically everyone else – the vast majority illiterate rural peasants – was in a state of abject, persistent poverty, probably owning nothing but the cloth and sandals they stood up in and the food they would eat that day.  If they were lucky enough to have a trade, they might also own their tools. If there had been a good harvest they might retain enough grain to plant next year’s crop without having to sell their children to avoid starvation.  If you were one of the lucky 2% and either owned land, or followed a profession or traded in goods, you might accumulate or inherit surplus material possessions that you would feel to be ‘yours’.  Though the ever-present threat of theft, brigandage and the devastation of war might discourage you from projecting too much personal meaning onto an object other than as portable wealth that might hedge you against disaster (or bring you to the attention of robbers).

So writing characters in the ancient world presents a quite different challenge from that of novels set in the contemporary world of mass production, where domestic objects or material public wealth can more easily be used as a shorthand for social relations and as a way into a character’s interior life.  The fact that a twist in The Judas Case’s plot revolves around a linen robe – a garment of extreme luxury that gives Solomon a very specific clue about its wearer – is a deliberate exploitation of this reality.   I’ve been careful to portray Solomon and Zenobia (both with complicated backgrounds, both now just within a highly privileged minority that owns land and produces a valuable product) as just beginning to accumulate enough material wealth to feel a certain level of precarious security.  A wrap made from an expensive textile, an antelope-hair brush, a brooch with an image of the goddess Isis are notable ornaments, but they’re also small and light enough to be packed up in a hurry and carried to safety.  And I should admit at this point that it’s been authoritatively pointed out to me that Solomon’s preference for tunics of Egyptian cotton rather than hemp indicates a level of luxury that he and Zenobia have in other respects not yet attained. 

Nico’s drinking cup fits into this world of ancient signification too, and is notable because it, or its twin, exists in the archaeological record.  Go along to The British Museum in London and you can see it in Room 70.  It’s known as ‘The Warren Cup’ after a collector who owned it for a while, and it has attracted some controversy because of its subject matter and the suggestion (since refuted) that it may have been a modern fake.  It is dated to the early part of the 1st Century AD, and was found near Jerusalem at the beginning of the 20th Century.  It seemed to me to be just the sort of thing that Nico would use to serve a particularly good vintage either to a new lover or to honoured guests whom he could trust with his inner life. 

I should add that the historical cup was dug up in a village just outside of Jerusalem some distance from where I have located Nico’s house. The mystery of how the fictional cup came to this resting place – was it stolen by a disappointed conquest, or buried for safekeeping in turbulent times? – must await another Solomon Eliades mystery.     

Friday, August 19, 2022

The Fear Index - Fiction & AI

 The current urgency over the social economic and cultural impact of AI may be a good opportunity to review how AI has been portrayed in fic...