After Kate’s negative reaction to my original book proposals for the Moses Legacy and Phaistos Disk, in which she had suggested a few alternatives, I wrote to Diane, the same day, expressing my strong feelings on the subject:

Sorry for this long reply, but I have a lot to say.

 

Firstly, I am a bit disappointed that they didn’t go for the MOSES TABLET, especially after I put so much work into it – including after I submitted the draft (it is 106 short chapters)…

 

Furthermore, even if Dan Brown’s books centre around a simple premise, they expand into something more complicated – otherwise they wouldn’t run 500+ pages.  The MOSES TABLET could also be reduced to a sound bite summary – “Was Moses really an Egyptian prince?” – but like the Dan Brown books it expands into something more detailed in the telling.

 

Regarding the story suggestions, some of the ideas are more appealing than others:

 

1) The Turin Shroud is interesting, but it seems more like a scientific question and I can’t think of a way to get a story out of it.  But I’ll do some internet research and see if any ideas leap out at me.

 

2) The illuminati has been done before, by Dan Brown (Angels and Demons).

 

3) Secret Societies – Did you send them the PHAISTOS DISK?  Or only the MOSES TABLET and MARKED?  The reason I ask is that the PHAISTOS DISK is about secret societies ruling the world.

 

4) Noah’s Ark is a fascinating story.  (There is also an old Summarian Legend, which some say is the origin of the story.)  I could have a go at coming up with a story along those lines.  But it would need a modern tie-in, like people trying to gain access to a sensitive area in Turkey.  A former US astronaut was actually arrested in the Mount Arrarat region a few years ago and accused of espionage whilst searching for Noah’s Ark.  I’m not sure why Noah’s Ark is commercial but Moses isn’t – they’re both Old Testament Biblical figures and both are surely recognizable.

 

5) I don’t know much about the Mayan calender, but 2012 is the Olympic year and I see a possibility of a tie-in there.  However, given that I believe in rational explanations, I would have to make it a case of human beings trying to cash in on the legend either for gain or political terrorism.  (The latter is more topical and plausible.)

 

6) Stigmata.  It’s been done and I don’t really know how to spin a story out of it – at least not with a logical explanation.  (Well maybe a publicity stunt for a bogus medical breakthrough being pushed by a latterday snake-oil company.  But there’s plenty of that already, in the form if people offering Viagra over the internet.)

 

In conclusion then, the only ideas of those above that really inspire me at the moment are Secret Societies and 2012.  I will trawl the internet for more info on these and their other suggestions and try to come up with a story.  But I stand by my view that “Was Moses an Egyptian Prince?” is just as recognizable as “Was Noah’s Ark Real.”

 

However, not wanting to be stubborn, I decided to do a bit of online research and in the process I came across something that intrigued me.  So less than a quarter of an hour after sending Diane the above message, I wrote to her excitedly about my discovery:

I’ve just been looking up some things on the internet.  The next sunspot cycle is due to peak in 2012 – and is expected to be 30-50% stronger than the last peak.  If this were to coincide with a reversal of earth’s polarity (a real phenomenon every few tens of thousands of years) that could expose the earth to lethal radiation.

I don’t know if this one slipped under Diane’s radar, given my plaintiff appeals to her as a shoulder to cry on in my earlier – and somewhat longer missive – but she focussed on the long eMail when she wrote back two days later (26/02/10) with warm words that combined comfort with practicality.

At the time when I sent the eMail about the sunspot cycle, I didn’t yet have any clear story in my mind (even I take more than fifteen minutes;-).  However, during the course of a train journey, on the 26th of February, I got my head down and cobbled together a story centering around the Mayan calender and the belief that the world is coming to an end in 2012.  I typed it up and sent it to Diane that same evening, together with a sigh of relief that I had suddenly become highly enthusiastic about an idea that I been rather cool about only the day before.

Copyright (c) 2011 David Kessler


Physicist Dennis Mason dies suddenly at the site of a huge industrial project in Guatamala  The project involves drilling a hole through the earth’s crust and mantle down to the core, so as to extract pure iron for industrial use as well as thermal energy which can be converted to electricity and distributed throughout north and south America.

 

But the project is being built on sacred Mayan land, very close to an ancient Mayan temple and is opposed by the local people, especially central American Indians.  Indeed an old local, western educated,  Indian leader (calling himself “Itzamna” after a Mayan god), who is leading the resistance, has warned them that there is curse on those who defile the sacred ground.

 

Dennis Mason was the chief physicist of the project, as well as a shareholder in it.  Indeed the project was his baby.  He was the one who first calculated the feasibility of the project, selecting the location based on the thickness and composition of the earth’s crust and mantle at that point.  It was his calculations, and reputation as an elder statesman of physics that prompted governments and big business to back the project.

 

But now there is a vacuum in the personnel hierarchy, and David Sedaka – Mason’s star pupil – is called in to act as interim chief physicist, by project head Charles Sherry, until a permanent replacement can be found.

 

Meanwhile, the toxicology report from the post-mortem examination shows that Mason had traces of a rare snake poison in his body.  A follow-up examination of his body reveals no snake bites, but a tiny pinprick wound in his neck, which could be from a poison dart from a blow-pipe.  When eye-witness reports from frightened witnesses, confirm that Itzamna was seen running away from the scene – and even leaning over his body according to one witness – the self-styled “holy man” comes under intense suspicion and is arrested by local police.

 

In jail, Itzamna asks to see David Sedaka.  At first David is reluctant to meet him, but he eventually agrees and Itzamna tries to explain why 2012 will be the year of destruction based on old Mayan legends, but adds that it is not inevitable.  “The Gods do not destroy.  It is man who is the destroyer.”  David is on the verge of walking away from Itzamna’s “New Age bilge” as he calls it, when Itzamna admits that he went to meet Mason, but it was by pre-arrangement and at Mason’s instigation.  He says he went there, but found Mason dying.  Mason told him “you were right” and then died.  David is sceptical.  He asks how Mason could have even contacted him to arrange the meeting, given that Itzamna eschews modern technology.  Itzamna replied that Mason got a young local girl (K’in ich) to bring him the message.

 

David goes asking around in the local villages for K’in ich-il, but gets an angry response.  He is rescued/arrested by the local police chief who tells him that the girl is missing and that there is a lot of local resentment blaming the Americans.  He advises him to stay away from the villages.  He also tells David, that Itzamna probably knew the girl was missing and was simply cashing in on that to give himself a false alibi.

 

However, shortly after that K’in’s body is found.  The local Indians want to bury her quickly, but David persuades a local doctor to perform an autopsy.  The doctor says she has been tortured.  David asks if it could be the work of some sort of sadistic killer but the doctor shakes his head and says: “I have seen this kind of torture before.  This is not the random torture of a sadist.  This is the carefully controlled torture of some one who is seeking information.”

 

At Mason’s quarters – where David is staying – he asks the maid if Mason was troubled by anything, as Itzamna implied.  The maid says no, but that after his death, the house was ransacked.  David asks if anything was missing after that.  She says only his  laptop computer.  David logs on to Mason’s webmail and with some considerable effort, cracks his password.  He finds a file attached to a blank eMail. The file contains revised calculations showing that the drilling into earth’s iron core will cause a reversal of earth’s magnetic polarity preceded by a massive drop in earth’s magnetic field for a few years that will admit solar radiation.  Worse still, this will coincide with the peak of the next sunspot cycle in 2012, which is predicted to be 50% higher than the previous peak.  This will at minimum destroy telecommunications, plunging the planet into chaos.  At worst it will admit harmful solar radiation that will cause cancer and sickness and wholesale death and destruction.

 

David takes this information to Charles Sherry who tries to brush him off, telling him that we know too little about the causes of geomagnetic reversal (which occurs every few thousand years) to say what causes it or when.  He points out that the last one occurred in the time of homo erectus without destroying humanity or animal life.  But David says that this time it will coincide with an intense sunspot peak.  Sherry is still dismissive and then David realizes that Mason must have already told him.  David accuses Sherry of killing Mason. Sherry calls in his hatchet man to take “take this guy out the back.”

 

David runs and is now in danger from Sherry’s henchmen.  He is chased through a network of subterranean tunnels (part of the project).  He realizes that he is going deeper into the tunnels and his only chance is to sabotage the project and force an evacuation.  He gets to the control centre, where he is able to detonate the final blast that will break through to the earth’s core.  But he knows that if this is done before the bore hole has been lined with insulating material, the iron will melt the surrounding rock, cool off, solidify and seal the hole, making it impossible to re-open (because solid iron is harder to drill through than rock.

 

He is cornered by Sherry (the others are afraid to approach).  They fight it out.  Although David is younger, Sherry is crazed with anger and nearly wins.  But David manages to set off the explosion, causing the iron to start pouring up through the bore hole and causing violent local earth tremors.  As the fight continues, David is nearly pushed into the hole, but at the last minute, he turns the tables and send Sherry plummeting into the hole.  At the same time the iron is rising up and cooling off.  When Sherry hits the molten iron it cools even further, starts to solidify and the upward flow gradually slows down.  But the building is now in danger of collapsing and they have to evacuate.  They get out just in time.  But as a symbolic sign, the local Mayan temple survives the cataclysm and the locals converge there.

 

It was pure Hollywood and the climax was more than a little influenced (albeit subconsciously) by Total Recall.  (Maybe I was secretly thinking about a blockbuster movie already.)  Note also how I even smuggled in David Sedaka, the physicist son of lawyer Alex Sedaka, to create a kind of connection between the novels.

At the same time, we were still working on the edits of the second Alex Sedaka book (then called Accused) as well as talking back and forth about the third, which at that stage HarperCollins still wanted.

This latter was also turning into a big problem, because Kate thought that the story was too complicated.  Given that it had to fill 400-500 pages, I didn’t see things that way, but the trouble is that it is very hard to write an intelligible synopsis of such a long story in only a couple of pages. (My working outlines usually run to 10-20 pages!)  In this case, it was clear from Kate’s reaction that I had not summarized the story very clearly.

However, back to the main story.  The following day (i.e. 27/02/10) I revised the Mayan story – provisionally titled The Doomsday Labyrinth – and sent it to Diane, who in turn forwarded it to Kate.  I also suggested publishing it under the name Maurice Palmer.  This was a pun on Michael Caine, whose real name was Maurice Micklewhite and who played a character called “Harry Palmer” in three films based on Len Deighton cold war thrillers.

On the 4th of March, we got word back from Kate that she liked the Doomsday Labyrinth and was especially pleased with the title.  However it had to be looked at by others at HarperCollins (including Caroline, who heads the Avon list).   What the Avon team wanted was for me to introduce a strong female element, to play down the physics element and to play up the archaeology element.  The pragmatic solution, which I put to Diane to pass on to Kate, was to introduce a female archaeologist to work alongside (and sometimes against) the physicist.

This led to a revised synopsis on April the 6th, after a trip to Israel.  But at the same time, Diane and I were still pushing for the Moses book to be the second in the series – and that female archaeologist was going to surface again… albeit in a somewhat different form…

 

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