William Doonan

I write books and stories.

Raiders of the Lost Tombs

with 9 comments

Greetings, Friends!

Today my good friend and fellow author John Daniel has some wisdom to share, and a couple of choice recommendations about some archaeology novels you won’t want to miss!  I’ll turn it over to John:

JMDauthorphoto.2photo by Clark Lohr

I’m presently reading American Caliphate, a spellbinding novel by William Doonan, published in 2012 by Oak Tree Press. It’s an archaeological novel about a “dig” (archaeologists prefer the term “excavation”) on the north coast of Peru, the ancient home of the Moche Indians, who built adobe pyramids. These pyramids, and one pyramid in particular, are of particular interest to a team of North American academic archaeologists, but in this high-stakes adventure novel there are other parties equally interested in what might be found inside a certain tomb. The CIA, for example. The Vatican. A strong-minded old Muslim woman in Lima. And whoever it was that shot and nearly killed Ben and Jila, a pair of romantically involved archaeologists, the last time they poked around the Santiago de Paz pyramids.

American Caliphate has a cast of intelligent, risk-taking characters driven by academic jealousy, political intrigue, religious rivalry, love and lust, outright greed, and insatiable nosiness about the ancient past. The plot is full of danger and discovery. And what these archaeologists discover may confirm rumors that Muslims fleeing the Inquisition in Spain and Portugal brought Islam to the New World.

I won’t give away the ending of American Caliphate for two reasons: I haven’t read the ending yet, and I don’t give away endings. I’ll tell you this much, though: if you haven’t read William Doonan’s American Caliphate yet, you’re in for a treat.

 

Another archaeological adventure novel I highly admire is Barry Unsworth’s Land of Marvels, which is set in Mesopotamia in 1914, during the twilight of the Ottoman empire, on the verge of the First World War. Here again, we have an excavation by an academic archaeologist, John Somerville, and his team. They feel they’re about to uncover a treasure of history from the Assyrian empire, but they know their work is being threatened by the advancing construction of a German railroad that will connect European capitals to Baghdad. What Somerville doesn’t know is that there are other forces equally covetous of the same patch of desert real estate. There’s a Swiss couple of Christian zealots who join the excavation’s encampment; their goal is to establish a Christian theme park on the supposed site of the Garden of Eden. There’s a dashing American adventurer who poses as an archaeologist but who is really more interested in seducing Somerville’s wife, and even more interested in helping American and/or British oil companies discover and develop oil fields in the same territory. Somerville is further “helped” by an Arab messenger whose concept of the truth is defined by whatever will profit himself the most.

In Land of Marvels, practically nobody is who he or she pretends to be. This is another novel about duplicitous diplomacy, greed, religious rivalry, love and lust, and the conflict between the lessons of the past and the economic opportunities of the future.

Land of Marvels is also a ripping good story. Again, I won’t give away the ending, but I guarantee you a breath-taking surprise.

 

Now. Have you read The Egyptologist, by Arthur Phillips? Oh boy. Talk about characters who aren’t who they seem to be or claim to be. This is a thrilling, hilarious, frightening tour de force, a delightful puzzle, an outrageous tale of archaeological obsession, greed, love, deception, and madness.

Not up to the task of summarizing the plot of The Egyptologist. I’ll cheat and quote the back-cover copy from the Norton paperback edition:

…a witty, inventive, brilliantly constructed novel about an Egyptologist obsessed with finding the tomb of an apocryphal king. This darkly comic labyrinth of a story opens on the desert plains of Egypt in 1922, then winds its way from the slums of Australia to the ballrooms of Boston by way of Oxford, the battlefields of the First World War, and a royal court in turmoil. Exploring issues of class, greed, ambition, and the very human hunger for eternal life, The Egyptologist is a triumph of narrative bravado.

 

I see I’m running out of time and space here, so I’ll be brief with my plug for my favorite tomb-robbing novel. Yes, I wrote it. I don’t claim it’s the best of the four, but it is my favorite because I dug through the past to find it, and then I watered it and watched it grow. Then I published it on Kindle, so you can read it.

 

geronimoskull_cover

 

On the night of June 8, 1918, five officers in the U.S. Army, all of them recent Yale graduates and members of the secret society Skull and Bones, sneaked into the Apache graveyard at Fort Sill Oklahoma, opened the tomb of Geronimo the Terrible, and stole his skull. Whatever happened to that skull, and whatever happened to the ringleader of that moonless, midnight raid? This legendary crime and its consequences are central to John M. Daniel’s novel Geronimo’s Skull, which takes place over twenty-five years in the early twentieth century, from the Saint Louis World’s Fair in 1904 to the stock market crash in 1929. It tells the story of Fergus Powers, and his development from a boy of nine, fascinated by energy and machinery, to a young man in his thirties, poised to take charge of a failing company and turn it into the largest manufacturer of oil drilling equipment in the world. Geronimo’s Skull is romantic and fantastic, full of love and war, friendship and family, magic, danger, and moral quandary. Fergus Powers, the leader of the grave-robbers, is the novel’s guilty hero, hounded for the balance of the book by the Indian warrior’s ghost.

Kindle link: http://www.amazon.com/Geronimos-Skull-John-M-Daniel-ebook/dp/B004IWRCB6

John M. Daniel’s new book is called Hooperman: A Bookstore Mystery. For info: http://www.danielpublishing.com/jmd/hooperman.html

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Written by williamdoonan

December 3, 2013 at 12:00 pm

9 Responses

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  1. Love hearing from John. And archeology novel recommendations is a new dimension–excellent information!

    Madeline

    mmgornell

    December 3, 2013 at 3:53 pm

  2. Thanks, John, for giving us some interesting info on books about — grave robbers? OK, raiders of tombs. And thanks to you, William, for hosting this blog.

    Jim Callan

    December 3, 2013 at 5:33 pm

  3. Terrific recommendations, and thank you! I’ve read American Caliphate and loved it, but none of the others. I’m on my way to order them right now.

    Marja McGraw

    December 3, 2013 at 6:03 pm

  4. I’ve read American Caliphate and The Egyptologist. Geronimo’s Skull sounds like another natural for my ever-growing TBR list.

    J. R. Lindermuth

    December 3, 2013 at 11:25 pm

    • I think you’ll enjoy it, John. I did a lot of historical research for this one.

      johnmdaniel

      December 4, 2013 at 1:47 am

  5. I’ve never gotten into archeology — yet. Nor grave robbers. But it sounds so fascinating that I’ve got to broaden my reading horizons. Thanks for an interesting blog!

    eobser

    December 4, 2013 at 7:55 pm

  6. I read American Caliphate too and enjoyed it very much. I also liked the National Treasures movies. I’ll have to check out your other recommendations.

    Sally Carpenter

    December 5, 2013 at 8:27 pm


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