Guest Post: Unearthing the Colossus by: David Blixt, author of COLOSSUS: THE FOUR EMPERORS

Publisher: Sordelet Ink

Publication Date: April 7, 2013

Book Links:  Amazon / Barnes & Noble

Synopsis: Rome under Nero is a dangerous place. His cruel artistic whims border on madness, and any man who dares rise too high has his wings clipped, with fatal results.

For one family, Nero means either promotion or destruction. While his uncle Vespasian goes off to put down a rebellion in Judea, Titus Flavius Sabinus struggles to walk the perilous line between success and notoriety as he climbs Rome's ladder. When Nero is impaled on his own artistry, the whole world is thrown into chaos and Sabinus must navigate shifting allegiances and murderous alliances as his family tries to survive the year of the Four Emperors.

The second novel in the Colossus series.

Colossus series: Stone & Steel (1), The Four Emperors (2)

Author Bio: Author and playwright David Blixt's work is consistently described as "intricate," "taut," and "breathtaking." A writer of Historical Fiction, his novels span the early Roman Empire (the COLOSSUS series, his play EVE OF IDES) to early Renaissance Italy (the STAR-CROSS'D series, including THE MASTER OF VERONA, VOICE OF THE FALCONER, and FORTUNE'S FOOL) up through the Elizabethan era (his delightful espionage comedy HER MAJESTY'S WILL, starring Will Shakespeare and Kit Marlowe as inept spies). His novels combine a love of the theatre with a deep respect for the quirks and passions of history. As the Historical Novel Society said, "Be prepared to burn the midnight oil. It's well worth it." Living in Chicago with his wife and two children, David describes himself as "actor, author, father, husband. In reverse order." 

Guest Post: Unlike my other books, the COLOSSUS series wasn’t born from a line in Shakespeare. Rather, it came from geography. A very specific place, in fact.

I’m referring to a rather small church in Rome, just south of the Colosseum – the Basilica of San Clemente. I’ve talked about it in passing during this blog tour. I thought it was time to talk head on about this wonderful unknown Roman gem.

When I was 23, I embarked overseas on the modern equivalent of the Grand Tour – a semester-long trip hosted by Eastern Michigan University called the European Cultural History Tour. It started in Oxford, and went to a staggering list of cities over four months. For brevity’s sake, I’ll only list countries or islands – England, France, Norway, Sweden, Finland, Russia, Poland, Germany, the Czech Republic, Austria, Italy, Greece, Crete, Rhodes, Turkey, Egypt, and Israel. It was amazing, a whirlwind tour with professors in tow, lecturing on art in the Louvre, on politics on the Acropolis, on history in the Roman Forum.

One of the places our Art History professor Benita Goldman took us was San Clemente. We’d just been to the Colosseum that morning, and I remember waiting on a bench outside the church and wondering what was so important about this sleepy little basilica. Also wondering if I should eat my Snickers bar now, or wait until after.

Then the doors opened. Inside the doors, the mosaics are pretty incredible. And being the home of the Irish Dominicans in exile is historically neat. But that isn’t what makes Saint Clement’s amazing.

It’s the excavation. They’ve dug down, creating a tour through the history of Rome itself.

As a city that’s always building up upon itself, it’s often hard to see ancient Rome in anything but the famous edifices and the shapes of the streets. But San Clemente is Rome encapsulated. You start in an 17th century church, then descend into an early 12th century church, then to a 4th century church, a 3rd century Mithraeum (temple to the god Mithras), then finally to a 1st century Roman street and insula (apartment). You can hear the Tiber running just under your feet through the ancient sewer system.

I’ve been back there four more times, and will go back each time I’m in Rome. From the faded remains of frescoes on the walls to the shape of the worn cobblestones, it’s a fascinating view back in time. Only Pompeii, Delphi, and Ephesus have affected me more. It is such an experience to travel through time that way, to stand in the space where people lived 2000 years before, uninhabited since.

Naturally, when the time came to look for new matter to write upon, I thought about a novel tracing history through those layers. The trouble was, it was far more of an intellectual exercise – I don’t want to recreate Steven Saylor’s ROMA, tracing a family through time, exchanging geography for blood-lines. It’s interesting, but not exciting. I didn’t have a story.

As ever, when I am stymied, I turn to the research. I thought if I read up on each of these eras, I’d find a unifying theme, a thread to follow through the centuries, like Theseus through the Labyrinth.

What I forgot is how research affects me, sparks my imagination, takes me in wholly new directions.

The result of the research was that I never got past that 1st century street. It’s all too rich! When I started looking into the historical Saint Clement himself (the fourth pope), I became fascinated by what was going on when he was living there: the Judean War, the Great Fire, the Year of the Four Emperors, the fall of Jerusalem, the building of the Colosseum, Vesuvius, the rise of the gladiator as hero and the rise of Christianity in Rome.

Thus the Colossus series was born. Six novels, spanning 30 years of Roman history. It is truly astonishing how drastically the world changed in just that little space of time.

The Four Emperors is the second novel in the series, but could easily have been the first. The action mirrors the action of Stone & Steel, sharing only a couple of characters – leads in that novel, minor players here. Whereas S&S takes place in Judea, this novel concerns itself with Rome – the Rome of Nero, a wild and shame-filled place. And in this novel, there are almost no fictional characters. I may have invented a servant or two, a stray soldier here and there. But 99% of the people and events are historical. It is too rich an era to leave buried in Rome’s history.

So, like the excavators of Rome, I’m digging this story up to present it whole to you. It’s a little dirty, and sometimes shocking. But it will amaze you how familiar it all feels.


Post a Comment

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...