Sunday, March 16, 2008

Murder's Immortal Mask

In April, the paperback edition of "The Templar" will be published along with "Murder's Immortal Mask" in hardback. The latter takes us back to 4th Century Rome and the court of Constantine. The root cause of the plot is hideous murder.

When I was composing the novel I recalled two salient facts in the history of murder. The first was an essay by Freud in the 19th Century, he argued that human beings are killers. He was following Hobbes who believed that our society is red in tooth and claw. I am not saying I fully accept that but Freud posted a very simple test, he claims we all kill each other in our thoughts whilst only some of us put that into action. I found it a chilling concept. It certainly influenced me. Do we all carry the mark of Cain in us? Is it in our DNA and yet, at the same time, we also have a deep repulsion for murder, for assassins, for anyone who takes human life.

My second consideration was serial killers. Naturally these figure prominently in the history and analysis of modern crime. They tend to be regarded as a recent development, to be found in a certain gender and age group but, of course, we only know about serial killers because of computers and the considerable advances in the collection and analysis of data. Yet, surely, serial killers must have operated at various times and different places in history. For them it must have been easier to hide their bloody handywork in a society bereft of our technology.

Moreover, more opportunities existed for such deviants to channel their murderous energy. One example are the "Ecorcheurs", bands of mercenaries who terrorised Normandy after Henry V's victory at Agincourt. According to one historian, their occupation of France, 1420 – 1430s, was worse than the Nazis between 1940-1944. Warfare was not their only 'disguise'. In mediaeval England certain people could travel the length and breadth of the kingdom. Surely, amongst the lambs there must have been prowling wolves? "Murder's Immortal Mask" explores the possibility of such a killer in Imperial Rome and the dramatic hunt which ensues to bring him to justice.

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At March 17, 2008 at 7:17 PM , Blogger Ignazio Alessandro said...

I love all stories setted in byzantine period, after the roman empire falling, a period of ten centuries unfairly neglected by the history books. The end of the "pax romana" brought several changes in all the civilized world, and the decline of the roman and classic culture. In this context Byzantium consider himself as "a New Rome", and appears as the continuer of that tradition.
As for the rest, I think that in everyone of us sleep a murderer, ready to strike.

At April 9, 2008 at 3:51 PM , Blogger Gail said...

I recently came upon the story of Sawney Beane and family, who were serial killers and cannibals in the Glasgow area under James (soon to be James I of England). The Newgate Calendar says they were responsible for "thousands" of murders, which is probably at least more than two when the hyperbole is removed.

At April 18, 2008 at 5:17 PM , Blogger Sophia said...

I must admit, it has crossed my mind before that there must have been serial killers in the past and that it is not just a modern evil.
It seems strange thinking of it happening in say, Medieval times but then why should it just be a thing of today?
That kind of mental sickness must be something that can occur in the human psyche regardless of the era.
Although it is not SO far in the past, the Jack the Ripper case is a case in point.


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