This Christmas, relax by the fire with a historical adventure that will transport you back to the Middle Ages and a time of battle, adventure and danger. Join my Templar hero William de Mandeville as he searches for the True Cross, the most holy relic of the Knights Templar, stolen by the Saracens!
See him team up with a Syrian mercenary Pathros and an English urchin Nicholas as they travel across the known world to find the lost treasure. They will encounter corrupt and murderous clerics, barbaric crusaders, a sadistic sultan and the beautiful Orraca – who will fall in love with William but….how that love will be tested!
In the United States, it’s available as an e-book or paperback via Amazon – click HERE.
It’s also stocked by Abe Books in the US – click HERE.
In the United Kingdom, Waterstones is retailing the book for £2.99 – click HERE for more details.
This week sees the official launch of Quest for the True Cross – my Templar adventure, which you can download HERE. I’ve been asked certain questions over and over – and in case you can’t get hold of me this week, here are some quotable answers.
Absolutely not! From day one, when I started work on this two years ago, I wanted to ground a story about the Templars in the medieval period. There is mystery, adventure and suspense – but all seen through the eyes of 12th century Templars, Moors, kings, bishops and Saracens.
Tell us about the main character?
Sir William de Mandeville is based on a real person – the son of the first Earl of Essex who did indeed end up in a coffin suspended above the ground in an apple tree as I describe. William is forced to return from the crusades in the Holy Land and in modern terms is suffering from something like post traumatic stress. This being the Middle Ages though, he thinks he possessed by a demon. Finding his father hanging in a tree doesn’t improve his mental state and propels him on a quest. This is the key theme of the book – William’s struggle to win back his family honour and hold on to his sanity.
He’s an important character. A Syrian Christian whose family has fallen victim to the invasion of the Seljuk Turks. Pathros’ father is imprisoned in a dungeon never to be seen again. He leaves Saracen-controlled Aleppo to make a life for himself among the crusaders in Jerusalem. But even though he is taken in by the Templars as a ‘turcopole’ – an auxiliary – his background precludes him ever becoming a full knight. Pathros is stuck between two worlds: he’s rejected by the Saracen east because he’s not a Muslim and he’s rejected by the crusader west because he’s a Syrian and his version of Christianity is viewed as heretical.
You say this book will disappoint those on the far right who have tried to appropriate the Templars for themselves?
Oh yes. If Norwegian mass killer Anders Breivik thinks killing children at a summer camp bears any resemblance to the Knights Templar then he’s as deluded as most sane people think he is. The Templars were not sociopathic, murderous loners – they were very much a part of medieval society operating at its highest echelons. They were bankers, farmers, politicians, monks and warriors.
So how do you depict the Middle Ages?
I show all the political dirt, the intriguing, the violence and the massive upheavals that shook people and destroyed their lives. William lived in a world where Constantinople was still the greatest city and trade was conducted between Cairo, Cordoba, Paris and London. It was a much more globalised place than we sometimes imagine. Christian western Europe was establishing its ascendancy over the Islamic south and the Byzantine east. The balance of power was about to be hugely altered.
Is it full of battle action?
From the start, you’ll get plenty of war! But it’s the last hundred pages and the taking of Al-Usbuna that will have you on the edge of your seat. William fights alongside the great heroes of Portuguese history – Dom Afonso Henriques, Geraldo Geraldes Sem Pavor, Gualdim Pais, Hugo Martins, Martin Moniz and Pedro Pitoes. I don’t portray them all sympathetically and I might upset some readers with my depictions of these characters. But it’s a warts and all read and neither side – Christian or Muslim – comes out of it unblemished.
His father was the Earl of Essex but died in gruesome circumstances after rebelling against King Stephen
William’s older brother becomes the new earl and soon reveals a cruel streak
William returns home from the crusades in the Holy Land after a spell of madness and challenges his brother’s tyranny, rescuing a poor boy who is about to be mutilated for theft
Back in the Holy Land, the True Cross – the most sacred Templar relic – has been stolen by the Saracens. It is now in the city of Al-Usbunna
Crusader and Templar armies mass to take Al-Usbunna from Muslim control and William joins them to try and retrieve the True Cross. He hopes by doing so, he can restore his family honour disgraced in different ways by his father and brother
William also hopes to conquer his own growing insanity, caused by the terrible carnage he had seen on crusade in the Holy Land
I won’t spoil the conclusion – buy Quest for the True Cross to find out what happens!
Arn Magnusson – our heroic knight – hails from West Gothia and is hopelessly in love with Cecilia. Needless to say they are torn apart from each other and Arn’s quest is not just to be a great knight but also to be reunited with Cecilia.
I have one small sartorial quibble about Arn and that is the cross emblazoned on his white mantle. To me, it more closely resembles the later cross used by the Order of Christ in Portugal after 1314 – over 150 years after Arn would have been alive. The Order of Christ was what the Templars became in Portugal after they were dissolved. The Templar cross was simpler.
Key facts about Arn:
He is part of the Swedish Folkung aristocratic dynasty, a family originating from Östergötland in the south of the country
Arn grows up in a Cistercian monastery. This order of monks were very closely related to the Templars, so much so that the Templars have sometimes been referred to as their military wing. The biggest spiritual influence on the knights was a Cistercian abbot in France called Bernard of Clairvaux who led a very severe and self-punishing existence
Arn has to become a Templar as penance for having premarital relations. It is true that some knights had committed crimes and sought to redeem themselves in the order by fighting for Christ in the Holy Land
Arn meets Saladin, the great Saracen leader, but is then instrumental in defeating him at the Battle of Montgisard. Unfortunately, Saladin would later inflict an even worse defeat on the crusaders and Templars at the Battle of Hattin
Arn making friends with Saladin may seem far fetched but the Templars were later accused of being on way too cordial terms with the Muslim enemy, something used against them at their trials from 1307 onwards
The movie about Arn is based on a trilogy of novels by Jan Guillou, an author and journalist who also writes spy fiction