As you know, I’m a big fan of historical fiction. Today, I have the honor of hosting a fellow author. Mr. Davé has written a “pre-historic” novel set in the Bronze Age. Our fascinating interview follows:
1. Give us a short synopsis of your book.
Samasin, a Babylonian youth, was falsely implicated in a murder. He fled to the distant land of ‘Meluhha’, Indus Valley Civilization, in search of Siwa Saqra whose name had dropped from the dying man’s lips. There he met a beautiful damsel named Velli and fell in her love, but was dismayed to find that she was devoted to another Mesopotamian. Finally when Sam found Siwa, he learnt of the mystery behind the murder. Circumstances led them to Babylon where they discovered the truth behind the trade between Mesopotamia and Meluhha.
2. How were you inspired to write this story?
After retirement in 2008, when I mulled over writing a novel, I found that there was hardly any fiction based on the ancient Indus Valley Civilization. I strongly felt that the innovative and the adventurous spirit of our Bronze Age ancestors called for many more stories which could be narrated to the world.
Having worked as a marketing engineer throughout my career, I viewed it as a ‘niche market’ of users who enjoyed reading about ancient civilizations in the form of fiction.
3. How did you come up with the setting?
Doing industrial market research, I had travelled frequently through the length and breadth of India. I enjoyed visiting nearby archaeological sites whenever it was possible, and had visited several Indus Valley sites like Lothal, Dholavira and Kalibangan.
I found that four millenniums ago, my ancestors built houses in rows cutting at right angles, and had devised underground drainage in all their settlements. They harvested rain water and built granaries whose solid structures stand firmly even today. Readers who are not familiar with South Asia might see a set of comparable images on this link to spot the sad irony (http://policyforindia.blogspot.in/2013/02/indus-valley-civilization-in-2013.html)
A setting such as this naturally appeals to an Indian trained as an engineer. So the moment I decided to write a novel, I knew where I would plot it.
4. How did you research your story before you began writing your book?
I did about 5 months of desk as well as field research before I started writing the novel. I read books and extensively used the Internet to know various aspects of Indus Valley and Mesopotamian cultures. I studied the Adivasi tribes of India, as most of them still live in jungles and are the closest reflection of what the people of Indus Valley would have been. I also visited several Indus Valley sites and museums to get a feel of the bygone era.
More research continued as I structured the plot. It was in the form of seeking answers to the doubts which arose as I wrote. Website Harappa.com facilitated contact with authorities on Indus Valley and Mesopotamian cultures, viz., Dr(s) Asko Parpola, Jane McIntosh, Richard Meadow, Rita Wright and Shereen Ratnagar who patiently addressed all my queries.
To be fair to them, I confess that I did not accept all their advice. Despite the fact that my suggestion about the possibility of human trafficking was dismissed, I included it in the narrative to make it spicy.
5. Tell us about the characters in your book.
Two of my characters evolved from well-known artefacts of the Indus Valley Civilization. Siwa Saqra, the Merchant of Meluhha, grew out of a figurine of a bearded man named ‘Priest King’ by the archaeologists. Velli, the leading lady, developed from a bronze statuette of a young woman.
Readers familiar with the ‘Dancing Girl figurine of Indus Valley’ might recollect an image of a confident young woman. In Pakistan and India, most women – especially those living in rural areas – are still subservient to men. It’s incredible to imagine that women looking as feminist as the one represented by the statuette existed on the same land 4,000 years ago.
6. Who designed your book cover?
Discussing about the book cover with Neelkant Choudhary, artist of old Madhubani style of painting in India, I highlighted my objective. It was to attract readers who enjoyed imagining that they were witnessing the happenings of a bygone era. I showed him photos of several artefacts depicting the people from Indus Valley and Mesopotamian cultures.
Neelkant took his time reading the manuscript, did a bit of his own research, and came up with a cover which depicted two important women characters in the novel – Meluhhan Velli on the right and Mesopotamian Ann on the left.
The first cover carried a brown background depicting dark clouds which portended a storm. Then one reviewer commented, “The gloomy cover design needs a facelift.” I appreciated his point and promptly modified the background to that of a bright day.
7. Who is your publisher? Can you tell us about your publishing experience?
I self-published ‘Trade winds to Meluhha’ as an e-Book on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Smashwords, and several other book sites in January, 2012. I expected that the lion’s share of my sales would be generated from India due to its connection with the ancient Indus Valley. To my utter surprise, the book has been receiving a warmer response from USA, UK, Canada and Australia.
8. What advice can you offer other authors?
Other authors reading your Blog are likely to give me a tip or two on how I could further improve ‘Trade winds to Meluhha’ J So let me just recount an experience.
I had created as many as 24 named characters while in total ignorance of the ‘Point-of-View’ aspect in fiction. That statement should be enough to make your author friends click their tongue. In fact, the Publishers Weekly commented: “The novel’s epic scale and focus on ancient Mesopotamia are immersive. However, an ever-growing cast causes confusion.”
It took me a year to cut out less important scenes and condense my ‘epic’ by one-third, reduce the named characters to 14, and rewrite each scene from the ‘Point-of-View’ angle. The improvement in the average rating indicates that the value of the novel has risen for the readers.
9. Are you working on other projects?
No, Ms. Hawkins, I prefer not to write another novel when my first is not yet discovered by most potential readers. In the absence a traditional publisher’s support, it takes longer to create awareness about what you have to offer. So currently I devote my time to request bloggers for honest reviews, write informative guest blogs, give author interviews, and participate constructively in forum discussions.
10. What is your favorite quote?
I like Emerson’s famous quote, attached with a little appendix of my own: “Success is one percent inspiration, ninety-nine percent perspiration, (and a wee bit of help from the Almighty).”
Many years ago, I saw a cartoon which showed a profusely sweating man pulling a loaded cart up a steep slope. He had almost reached the top when a bump in his way made it even more difficult for him to keep going. That was when a giant finger broke through the clouds and gently nudged the cart to the top of the hill.
Harvey Alexander Logan (1867 – June 17, 1904) had a rough beginning, and things never really improved for him. He was born in Tama County, Iowa, and his mother died in 1876. Logan’s three brothers went to Missouri, but he ended up in Texas breaking horses. He met George “Flat Nose” Curry there, and took his last name, as did his brothers. All of the Curry boys were heavy drinkers, and Kid loved to spend his paychecks on booze and prostitutes. After Kid became famous, prostitutes claimed that their babies were his, and these children came to be known as “Curry Kids.” Rumor has it that he fathered 85 kids, but in reality, he probably fathered less than five.
In 1883, Kid rode on a cattle drive to Pueblo, Colorado, got involved in a saloon brawl, and fled to Wyoming. His brothers went to Montana and established a ranch there. Kid got in a fight with a neighbor, Landusky, and ended up killing the man. He hooked up with outlaw and train robber “Black Jack” Ketchum, and started riding with his gang. In 1896, Landusky’s brother came after him to claim the bounty, but Kid and two of his brothers confronted him. One of his brothers was killed in the shootout.
Kid and his brothers went to work on a ranch near Sand Gulch, Colorado. While there, they established their own gang. They robbed a bank in Belle Fourche, South Dakota, but a posse chased after them, and Kid was captured, along with his brother and another member of their gang. The men were held in the Deadwood, South Dakota jail briefly before they attacked the jailer and escaped. They went back to Montana and held up two post offices.
Kid started riding with the Wild Bunch gang under Butch Cassidy. He acquired the nickname, “the fastest gun in the West.” (The Sundance Kid, as portrayed in the movies, was not a gunman, and that character was actually based on Kid Curry.) On June 2, 1899, the gang held up the Union Pacific Railroad near Wilcox, Wyoming and escaped. The Pinkerton agents were on their trail, but the gang escaped to their hideout, the Hole-in-the-Wall. Curry went to Utah, and then Alma, New Mexico. After robbing another train, members of the gang were captured and killed. Kid, Butch Cassidy, and other members escaped and went to San Antonio.
In February 1900, Kid’s only surviving brother was killed. Kid went on a vendetta shooting spree through Arizona and Utah before returning to Montana to reconnect with the Wild Bunch gang. They robbed a Great Northern train in Wyoming. In 1901, many members were captured in Tennessee. Kid returned to Montana, and killed a rancher who he held responsible for one of his brothers’ deaths. In 1902, Kid went to Knoxville, Tennessee, where he was captured. He was convicted of robbery and sentenced to 20 years of hard labor, but on June 27, 1903, he escaped prison. A year later, on Jun 7, 1904, Kid was tracked down by a posse to Parachute, Colorado. A member of the posse shot him, and to avoid capture, Kid shot himself in the head.
Rumors spread that Kid Curry was not actually killed in Parachute, and that it was another gang member. Supposedly, Kid escaped to South America with Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. Charlie Siringo, one of the Pinkerton’s, resigned after believing that they had killed the wrong man. Curry is buried in Linwood Cemetery in Glenwood Springs, Colorado. (Doc Holliday is also buried there.) Kid Curry’s sad life never had a happy ending. If the rumors are false, he died as violently as he lived.
My Kickstarter Campaign, which I titled “Gettysburg Campaign,” has been completed. The reason for the campaign was so that I could create a book trailer for my Civil War novels, A Beautiful Glittering Lie and A Beckoning Hellfire. Both books are part of the Renegade Series. We traveled to Gettysburg over the 4th of July weekend, which was the 150th anniversary of the battle. While there, we videotaped the battles and took a bunch of still shots. Then we created the book trailer. It looks awesome! I was backed by the following list of people. I couldn’t have accomplished this momentous feat without you!
Special thanks to:
William Witt, Jim Sheehan, Stanley F. Kubiak, Debbie Ochsner, Adam Tarantino, Rich Sanchez, Jesse Hawkins, Leon Higley, Jane Shenks, Jeremy Ryan, Deb Tufts, Alan Simon, Robert Lathrop, and Christoph Wolf. I would also like to thank Buzzbomb Studios for creating the book trailer, Wayne Henry Sound Studios for recording my original song, “Gray is the Rose,” and Donna Wolf for her magnificent violin performance on the track.
Stay tuned! I will post the book trailer video to my site next week!
One of the most colorful characters to come out of the Old West was Buffalo Bill. He acquired his nickname after the Civil War, when he was hired to provide meat for the Kansas Pacific Railroad workers. Reportedly, Cody shot 4,280 bison in 18 months.
William Frederick Cody (February 26, 1846 – January 10, 1917) was born near La Claire, Iowa, but his family soon migrated to Canada. In 1853, they moved to Fort Leavenworth, Kansas Territory. When Cody’s father stood up at Rively’s store to give an anti-slavery speech, he was stabbed twice, and would have died had it not been for Rively, who jumped in and saved his life. Pro-slavers continuously threatened to kill Cody’s father, and in 1857, he died of complications acquired from his wounds.
Cody, now 11, took odd jobs to help support his family. He worked as a wagon train courier, and claimed to have been a “Fifty’Niner” in Colorado. When the Civil War broke out, he joined Johnston’s Army as an unofficial scout in Utah Territory to quash a rumored rebellion by the Mormons in Salt Lake City. According to Cody’s memoirs, this was where he first started his career as an Indian fighter. At age 14, he became a rider for the Pony Express. In 1863, he enlisted with the 7th Kansas Cavalry as a teamster, and served as a Private in Company H until his discharge in 1865.
In 1866, Cody married. The couple had four children, but three of them died in Rochester, New York. Cody began working as an Indian scout for the U.S. Army, and served as a scout for the highly publicized Grand Duke Alexei Alexandrovich of Russia’s royal hunt. Cody was awarded the Medal of Honor in 1872 for serving as a civilian scout, but in 1917, the rules were changed, and his award was revoked. (It was reinstated in 1989).
In December, 1872, Cody and his friend, Texas Jack Oromoundo, traveled to Chicago to perform their debut, The Scouts of the Prairie. “Wild Bill” Hickok appeared with them the following year. The troupe toured for ten years. Cody claimed that he had once scalped a Cheyenne warrior, which was part of his act. He also claimed that he had been a trapper, a bullwhacker, a stagecoach driver, and a wagon master, but no documentation exists, and historians believe he might have fabricated these claims to gain publicity. Regardless, Cody’s colorful reputation grew. In 1883, he founded “Buffalo Bill’s Wild West” near North Platte, Nebraska. The circus-like show toured annually, and Cody met many dignitaries and heads of state. In 1893, he changed the name of his show to “Buffalo Bill’s Wild West and Congress of Rough Riders of the World.” Sitting Bull, Calamity Jane, and Annie Oakley appeared in the touring show, as did many diplomats from foreign countries. His show performed in such places as Madison Square Garden in New York City and the ancient Roman amphitheatre in Verona, Italy.
In 1887, Cody performed a show for Queen Victoria, and in 1889, he met Pope Leo XIII. He wasn’t allowed into the Chicago World’s Fair of 1893, so he set up outside the fairgrounds and made a killing anyway. Between 1887 and 1906, Cody’s Wild West show toured Europe eight times. His shows gave Europe an authentic American experience, and insight into the fading American Western frontier.
Cody was instrumental in founding a town named after him, and in 1895, Cody, Wyoming, near the east entrance of Yellowstone National Park, was founded. He established a ranch and hotel, and used his influence to persuade Congress to build a dam on the Shoshone River. Upon its completion in 1910, it was the largest dam in the world.
In 1917, Cody died in Denver at his sister’s home. He was eulogized by George V, Kaiser Wilhelm II and President Woodrow Wilson. Cody is buried on Lookout Mountain in Golden, Colorado. At one point, Buffalo Bill was the most famous man in the world. He supported Native American Indian rights and women’s rights, and pushed for the end of hide-hunting and the start of hunting seasons. He was an activist, a conservationist, a humanitarian, and a remarkable performer. He saw his Wild West change drastically over the course of his lifetime, but left a significant historical impact on the world, and changed their perception of the Wild West forever.
As a matter of coincidence, two interesting characters of the Old West were nicknamed “Texas Jack.” They might have even crossed paths during the Civil War. Both were from Virginia, and both fought under General J.E.B. Stuart.
Texas Jack Vermillion
When John Wilson Vermillion (1842–1911) was asked why he was called “Texas Jack,” he said, “Because I’m from Virginia.” Jack was born in Russell County. He served in the Civil War, and fought for the Confederacy under J.E.B. Stuart. In 1865, he married an Indiana girl. They moved to Missouri, where he accepted a position as a territorial marshal. His wife, young son, and daughter all died in a diphtheria epidemic while Jack was away.
Jack floated around the country, first to Dodge City, Kansas in the late 1870’s, and then to Tombstone, Arizona. He became friends with Wyatt Earp and Doc Holliday. On March 21, 1882, he participated in the Vendetta Posse that chased after members of the Cowboys following the death of Frank Stilwell.
In 1882, he was back in Dodge City, where he killed a card cheat. Between 1883 and 1889, he acquired the nickname “Shoot-Your-Eye-Out Jack” Vermillion. In 1888, he joined the Soapy Smith gang in Denver, Colorado. He was involved in a train depot shootout in Pocatello, Idaho in August, 1889. Around 1890, Jack returned to Virginia, remarried, and had another son and daughter.
There is confusion as to how Jack died. One source says he drowned in a lake near Chicago, but another says he died peacefully in his sleep. Family history records indicate that he killed a man in a shootout in 1890, and that he lived until 1911.
Texas Jack Omohoudro
John Baker Omohoudro (July 26, 1846 – June 28, 1880) had a completely different, but just as fascinating, story. He was also born in Virginia (near Palmyra). In his early teens, he traveled to Texas and became a cowboy. When the Civil War broke out, he was unable to join the Confederate Army because he was too young, so he enlisted as a courier and scout. Ironically, in 1864, he also enlisted under J.E.B. Stuart, and served as a courier and scout.
After the war, Jack returned to Texas and resumed his life as a cowboy. He participated in the Chisholm Trail cattle drive, among others. It was during one of these drives that he acquired the nickname “Texas Jack.” He adopted a five-year-old boy whose parents had been killed by Indians, and named him Texas Jack Jr.
In 1869, Jack moved to Cottonwood Springs, Nebraska. It was there that he met William F. “Buffalo Bill” Cody. The two participated in buffalo hunts and Indian skirmishes. They also acted as guides, and in 1872, Jack led a highly publicized royal hunt for the Grand Duke Alexei Alexandrovich of Russia. In December, 1872, Cody and Jack went to Chicago, where they premiered their show The Scouts of the Prairie. This was the very first Wild West show, and Jack was the first person to demonstrate roping techniques on the American Stage. During the 1873-74 season, Jack and Cody invited their friend, James Butler “Wild Bill” Hickok, to join them in a stage presentation titled The Scouts of the Plains.
When he wasn’t performing, Jack spent his time hunting on the Great Plains, and guided hunting parties for political figures and European nobility. In August, 1873, he married one of his co-stars, Giuseppina Morlacchi, from Italy. In 1877, he headed his own acting troupe in St. Louis. He also wrote articles for eastern newspapers and popular magazines, describing his adventures as a hunter and scout. His legend grew and was popularized in dime novels. In 1900, Jack was featured in a fictional series about the Confederacy, which was published in the Saturday Evening Post. Jack died of pneumonia in 1880. He is buried at Evergreen Cemetery in Leadville, Colorado.
His son, Texas Jack Jr., carried on his father’s legacy by appearing in Wild West shows around the world. In 1980, the Texas Jack Association was established to promote and preserve his memory, and in 1994, he was inducted into the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum in the Hall of Great Western Performers.
(Ned Buntline, Buffalo Bill Cody, Giuseppina Morlacchi, Texas Jack Omohundro)
Although he never fought in the Civil War, John Henry “Doc” Holliday was a product of that war. His father fought for the Confederacy. His cousin by marriage was Margaret Mitchell, who wrote “Gone with the Wind.”
Doc was born on August 14, 1851 in Griffin, Georgia. The family moved to Valdosta, Georgia in 1864. In 1866, when Doc was 15, his mother died of tuberculosis. He became fluent in Latin, Greek, and French, and obtained a degree in dentistry in Philadelphia. He didn’t practice dentistry for long, though. He was diagnosed with tuberculosis, and only given a few months to live.
Thinking that a dryer climate would slow his deteriorating condition, Doc moved to Dallas in 1873 and took up gambling because it was more profitable. From there, he moved to Denver. Hearing about the discovery of gold, he traveled to Cheyenne, and then to Deadwood. By 1877, Doc had become accomplished with a gun. He met Wyatt Earp in Texas, along with “Big Nose” Kate, who became his lifelong companion. In 1878, he defended Earp in a saloon fight, which took place in Dodge City, Kansas.
In 1880, Doc travelled to Tombstone, Arizona to meet up with the Earp’s. It wasn’t long before trouble found him. Wyatt had been dealing with problems caused by the “Cowboys,” and the situation escalated. In October 1881, the conflict exploded in what became known as the Gunfight at the OK Corral. The situation in Tombstone grew worse. Virgil Earp was seriously wounded, and Morgan Earp was killed. The Earp’s left town, but later, the body of Frank Stilwell, who was one of the Cowboys, was discovered near the railroad tracks, riddled with buckshot. The Earp’s returned to Tombstone to meet up with Texas Jack Vermillion. From there, the posse rode out on what became known as the Earp Vendetta Ride, and killed other members of the Cowboys, including “Indian Charlie” Cruz and “Curly Bill” Brocius. Because there was a warrant out for Doc in the killing of Stilwell, he decided to return to Colorado.
Doc was arrested for murder in Denver on May 15, 1882 under an Arizona warrant. Wyatt asked his friend, Bat Masterson, who was Chief of Police in Trinidad, Colorado, to get Doc released. Masterson convinced Colorado’s Governor Pitkin to refuse Arizona’s extradition. Doc was released in Pueblo two weeks later. He and Wyatt briefly met up in June 1882 in Gunnison. On July 14, one of the notorious Cowboys, Johnny Ringo, was found dead. His death appeared to be a suicide, but controversy surrounds it. Speculation arose that Wyatt and Doc returned to Arizona to do Johnny Ringo in, but it has never been proven.
After traveling to Salida, Doc went to Leadville for a short time. His health was rapidly deteriorating, worsened by severe alcohol and laudanum use. Told that the hot springs would improve his condition, he went to Glenwood Springs. The sulfuric fumes did just the opposite, however, and it wasn’t long before his health failed. He spent his last few days in the Hotel Glenwood. His final words reflected the irony of his situation, because he always thought he would be the victim of an assassin’s bullet. Looking down at his bootless feet, he said, “Damn, this is funny.” He died on November 8, 1887. He was 36 years old.
Doc was buried in Linwood Cemetery, on a mountaintop overlooking Glenwood Springs. Speculation exists as to whether he is actually buried there, since the ground might have been frozen. He was either buried in an unmarked grave to prevent grave robbers from desecrating the corpse, or in Potter’s Field, which was a section of the cemetery set aside for blacks and paupers. He was penniless at the time of his death, so this is a possibility. The records showing exactly where his body was located within the cemetery were lost.
According to research, he only killed three people in his lifetime. However, it is possible that he never actually killed anyone. He was involved in several altercations, and let his reputation grow as a murderer. Virgil Earp told a reporter from the Arizona Daily Star in March 1882, that “There was something very peculiar about Doc. He was gentlemanly, a good dentist, a friendly man, and yet outside of us boys I don’t think he had a friend in the Territory. Tales were told that he had murdered men in different parts of the country; that he had robbed and committed all manner of crimes, and yet when persons were asked how they knew it, they could only admit that it was hearsay, and that nothing of the kind could really be traced up to Doc’s account.” The violence experienced during the Civil War was carried on through the settling of the Wild West, and Doc Holliday was one result of that time.
At the top of a red shale mountain sits Linwood Cemetery. The town of Glenwood Springs lies serenely below. The cemetery, which is now known as Pioneer Cemetery, is the oldest graveyard in town. The earliest headstone inscription is dated 1875, and the most recent is dated 1967. The cemetery plays host to several Civil War veterans. Most fought for the Union, and most have unmarked graves. Linwood Cemetery’s most famous resident, however, is none other than Doc Holliday.
Legend has it that John Henry Holliday came to Glenwood Springs because he heard the hot springs would relieve his tuberculosis. However, they only aggravated his symptoms. He died in November 1887. Some say he was buried in the basement of a house at the base of the mountain, because the rocky, 3/4 mile trail leading up to the grave was too muddy for a horse to climb with a hearse. Others say he is buried in Potters Field, which is a section in the cemetery designated for paupers. I’ve been told that no one knows exactly where he’s buried, because the townsfolk were afraid the grave would be robbed by souvenir hunters. Doc Holliday’s father fought for the Confederacy during the Civil War.
Another famous resident interred in Linwood Cemetery is Kid Curry. He was a member of Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid’s Wild Bunch, and was supposedly one of the wildest in the bunch.
Like most old cemeteries, Linwood Cemetery will hold a Ghost Walk every weekend in October. The event is sponsored by the Glenwood Springs Chamber of Commerce and the Frontier Historical Society. For more info, please visit:
Another very interesting, old cemetery lies in the heart of Boulder, Colorado. Known as Columbia (Pioneer) Cemetery, the cemetery is located at 9th and Pleasant Streets, and includes the graves of over 230 Civil War veterans. Both Confederate and Union veterans are buried there. The oldest grave dates back to 1870.
The cemetery received a state historic fund grant in March, and is using the money to stabilize and repair markers. According to the Boulder Daily Camera, “This year marks the ninth time History Colorado has awarded a State Historical Fund grant to the cemetery since 1994, providing more than $623,600 to conservation efforts there, according to organization spokeswoman Shannon Haltiwanger. History Colorado launched the grant program in 1992.”
Mr. Jack R. Box has established the cemetery works website, which lists all of the Civil War Veterans by name. Some of these veterans came from Georgia, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, and Kentucky. By clicking on the soldier’s surname, a picture of their headstone pops up. For more information, please check out: