As I explained in the last installment of this, part of the drama surrounding the development of the Moses Legacy took place while I was on holiday in Israel in 2010.  In parallel with these discussions, the line editing and proof-reading of No Way Out was proceeding smoothly, complete with debates about whether a number between 200 and 300 could be described as ‘hundreds”.

Just to recap, my publishers liked the Doomsday Labyrinth but detected a small problem that it was too “boysy” and needed less physics and more archaeology – as well as a strong female lead.  At the same time, Diane (my agent) was still lobbying for the Moses book, pointing out that it already had a strong female lead as well as a generous helping of archaeology – they find the tablets of stone with the Ten Commandments for God’s sake!

At the same time, HarperCollins were officially committed to making the third book under the contract another Alex Sedaka book. Indeed they got me to send them the first two chapters so that they could include them as a sneak preview at the end of No Way Out.

I wrote a revised synopsis of Doomsday, fulfilling the “feminization” requirement <Wry Grin> and for her part, Kate (my editor) agreed to reconsider a shortened synopsis for the Moses book.  The idea was that if  I could reduce it to a one-page synopsis, then it would not be too complicated. (I know that sounds patronizing to the reader, but we live in the real-world – and writing is a business.)

Kate read it again, but was still not convinced.  She made it clear that it was not the idea of a story about Moses in principle that she objected to.  She just felt that the particular story that I had come up with didn’t work. She suggested a few idea to get the creative juices going such as finding that the Ten Commandments are different to what it says in the Bible or some Big secret surrounding Moses – something more shocking than the theory that he may have been an Egyptian prince.  She even suggested an alternative story in which the remnants of Noah’s Ark are discovered. Nevertheless, she agreed to present both the Doomsday Labyrinth and the Moses book, to the editorial committee.

With hindsight, Kate was almost certainly right about the Moses book needing a stronger twist.  The theory that Moses really was an Egyptian prince (and not just brought up as one) has been around since the time of Sigmund Freud.  Finding his bones and DNA to prove it, might be interesting in a nerdy sort of way, but it wouldn’t exactly be shocking.  And it is certainly not the sort of thing that people might kill to suppress.  However I wasn’t sure quite sure how to come up with something that was sufficiently surprising and yet at the same time credible.  I wrote back a couple of days later with an idea, but it was still undeveloped and not exactly earth-shaking:

I have been thinking of some ideas to make the MOSES TABLET bigger.  It STARTS with the discovery of the ten commandments in proto-semitic script.  This enables them to translate the script and thus gain access to other documents, leading them on a trail that leads them to the discovery of the BONES of MOSES in Petra, Jordan.  Remember that in the Old Testament, Moses wasn’t allowed to cross the River Jordan into Canaan?  Finding the bones of Moses (with a provable proto-semitic inscription on the coffin or tomb) would be a HUGE archeological find.  But certain interests would be opposed to it.
I would also make other changes, such as clandestine digging in Sinai in a military area that could lead to some tense moments in the story.
The story would then have:
– An exciting BEGINNING (finding the tablets with the ten commandments)
– An exciting MIDDLE (chases, clandestine digging, people trying to kill them)…       and
-An exciting END (finding the tomb of Moses and a final shootout).
I am sure that this would work.
The good thing about this story is that I could hit the ground running because of my existing knowledge of the Old Testament.

This was the best I could do for the time being.  I thought that as I was on holiday in Israel and both my agent and editor were at the London Book Fair, it would be enough at least to keep their minds open to the Moses idea, while I struggled to come up with a story that would be powerful as well as clever.  (Clever doesn’t cut it – I should have learned at primary school that no one loves a smart-ass.

However, on the 21st of April, 2010, Diane (my agent) sent me an eMail that sent me reeling.  It said:

On another note, we had a frank discussion about the conspiracy thrillers and she is reluctant to enter into a separate contract.  This is because she would like to see how NO WAY OUT performs.  If they can’t get the supermarkets on board for NO WAY OUT, they would not be interested in commissioning a third Alex Sedaka title, and instead would like to cut losses and have one of the conspiracy thrillers as the third title in our existing contract.  I can see the sense in this – if we’ve failed to get the supermarkets on board with Alex Sedaka twice, I can’t see how we are going to get them on board with a third novel and agree that we should cut our losses.

This was very different to their earlier reassurances that they wanted the third Alex Sedaka book.  The eMail went on to reassure me that:

If they did a third Alex Sedaka, they would want to do this in May next year.  There would be a slot for a conspiracy thriller in February / March.  Either gives you plenty of time to deliver so I can see that it is sensible to wait and see how we get on with NO WAY OUT in June before deciding on a way forward.

However there was no getting away from the fact that they were no longer committed to a third Alex Sedaka book, that they might want to make the conspiracy thriller the third book in the contract – depending on how well the second Alex Sedaka book did – and there was still no indication of which conspiracy thriller they wanted me to write.  Furthermore I remained less than enthusiastic about the Doomsday Labyrinth as a full-length book – although it would work fine as a screenplay.

Finally there was the small matter of the August deadline for submission of the third manuscript.  How was I going to meet it, if I had to wait until the publication of the second Alex Sedaka book in June before I even knew which manuscript I was going to write?


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