Mystery Thriller Week, a celebration of the genre and its authors and readers, is officially underway and runs through February 22. If you’ve done the math, yes, it’s 10 rather than the usual seven days. It’s a super-sized week for a super-sized genre. For more information about the event, pop over to mysterythrillerweek.com.
In conjunction with the event, I’ll be sharing Q&As with mystery and thriller authors throughout the week (and a half).
Today, I welcome Edwin Herbert, author of Mythos Christos.
About the book
Alexandria, Egypt / AD 391 – When the great temple of Serapis and its library annex are destroyed by the Christian mob, the Neoplatonist philosopher Hypatia becomes concerned the Great Library might suffer the same fate. She vows to save as much of the ancient knowledge as she can, especially certain telling documents concerning the origins of Christianity. But rather than merely hiding the heretical scrolls and codices in desert caves and hoping for the best, Hypatia contrives a far more ingenious plan. She sets up an elaborate sequence of burials, each of which is governed by actual ancient linguistic and geometrical riddles which must be solved to gain access. Only one steeped in Platonic mysticism would be capable of finding and unlocking the buried secrets.
Oxford, England / June, 2006 – American Rhodes scholar Lex Thomasson is sent to Alexandria to aid a mysterious Vatican group known only as “The Commission.” They require a specialist in ancient languages to solve a sequence of Greek Mystery puzzles in what soon becomes evident is Hypatia’s ancient treasure hunt. The Oxford paleographer demonstrates his unique talents by unlocking the secrets along the trail. It does not take long, however, for him to become suspicious of the Commission’s true motives, and the trail becomes a trial fraught with danger.
The scene alternates between the two time periods. In both, assassins lurk and fanatics abound. And all along, religious Faith and historical Truth struggle for supremacy.
What would you like readers to know about your book beyond what’s in the blurb?
I’d like to expand a little on the unexpected mathematical relationships among certain Greek gods. The ancient Greek number system made use of all 24 letters of their alphabet plus three further characters which were strictly numerical. This implied that every Greek word or name carried an equivalent numerical value by simply adding the value of each letter in the name, a method known as gematria—the key to most of the riddles in Mythos Christos. (For example, the sun god Abraxas held a value of 365, then considered a solar number for obvious reasons.)
The Greek mystics found significance in these numbers and often named or altered the spelling of their gods’ names to reflect these ‘magic’ numbers. Strangely, the values of Zeus, Apollo, and Hermes exhibit several curious relationships, which means their names must’ve been invented or altered only after gematria was originally put to use nearly 3,000 years ago.
Another startling revelation was how certain Gospel stories utilized gematria in ways that will astound the reader, but no spoilers here!
Do you start writing at the beginning of a story or to reach a future point you see in your imagination?
I usually begin at what I at first assume is the beginning of the tale, only later to find it ended up in the 2nd or 3rd chapter. For me, and I guess for most authors, a novel evolves over time and many redactions to something worthy of publication.
What are your protagonist’s best and worst qualities?
Though Hypatia of Alexandria is brilliant, brave, and devoted to truth, she is headstrong and perhaps too willing to impart her knowledge, despite the perils of doing so in that religiously dogmatic climate.
The young scholar Lex is my 21st century protagonist with a special genius for solving the most abstruse puzzles in ancient languages, yet at times he demonstrates a frustratingly naïve and unsuspecting nature, and that only deepens his troubles.
What’s the most surprising or unexpected thing that happened to your characters as you were writing the story?
Two high-ranking cardinals at the Vatican, whom I had initially meant to be devout believers in the Christian doctrine, eventually seemed to be satisfied with merely playing their clerical roles and did not take their faith as seriously as we might expect. I think my own cynical, skeptical nature began to bleed into their characters.
What’s the first book you can remember loving? What’s the last great book you read?
Harmful Intent, by Robin Cook, was the first thriller I remember having a hard time putting down. The last great book I read was In the Blink of an Eye: How Vision Sparked the Big Bang of Evolution, by Andrew Parker. It was more of a study than a read and entailed the latest science pertaining to the Cambrian Explosion. I’m a bit nerdy that way.
What’s the best writing advice you’ve heard or been given?
I was lucky enough to find a fantastic writing coach in my local writers group, Larry Bastian. He critiqued my work and gave me a huge amount of advice—active rather than passive tense, quit using high verbiage when standard will do, etc. So it’s not any one piece of advice, but the overall coaching this superb writer that helped me achieve a higher literary level.
What did you wish I’d asked, and why?
What made you want to write this controversial novel? Having studied both Greek mythology and the origins of Christianity for nearly twenty years, I found myself at a confluence of some fascinating information I felt should be spread far and wide, but in a more entertaining format more readers are willing to tackle—fiction. I realized that if I don’t write it, no one will.
How can readers find out more about you and your work?
See my links below!
More Mystery Thriller Week Q&As: