Thursday, August 11, 2005


"The most essential gift for a good writer is a built-in, shock-proof, shit detector. This is the writer's radar and all great writers have had it."
Ernest Hemingway 1899-1961 Interview in Paris Review (Spring 1958)

Just so you can see what I've been writing these past weeks, the kind of political intrigues and treasonous shenanigans I've been trying to unravel, I'll include a couple of exerpts of my novel "Shadow of the Lion". Here are the the three characters I am working with these days: Phokion, the military governor of Athens; Kassandros, Chiliarch of the Macedonian army; Polyperchon, the new Regent of Macedon. It will give you an idea of how a series of events and treachery snow-ball into an irrevocable political dilemma that will eventually sabotage Alexander the Great's dynasty.

From Chapter 39, Athens: September 319 BC. Polyperchon has sent an edict to the Athenians declaring that their democratic government will be restored and exiles reinstalled as citizens in return for the Greeks passing a resolution not to wage war and be loyal to the (Macedonian) kings. This has created a storm in the Council dividing the democrats who demand that the Macedonians remove their military garrison and the wealthy aristocrats who have become rich off the exiles and support the oligarchies. Phokion is coming from the Council house and has been jeered by the throng of citizens in the Agora.

He looked up from his reverie and found himself walking beside General Dercyllus. Neither man spoke, both were grim-faced. They were passing along the town walls beside the State Prison where Socrates had met his fate. Phokion recalled how once Demosthenes had warned him, "Phokion, the Athenians will kill you one day when they are in a rage." and he had retorted, "And you, Demosthenes, if they are for once in their senses."

His footsteps faltered, and he stopped to catch his breath. "I expect, if they have their way, I'll be served the same bitter cup as Socrates," he muttered to himself.

Dercyllus touched his arm reassuringly. Out of respect for you, Sir, I will stand by you whatever decision you make."

In the next scene, Kassandros wants the new garrison commander, Nikanor of Stageira, to try and bribe Phokion.

"Go to Phokion. I know you get on well with him. Win him over any way you can. Offer him gold, land anything he wants. Warn him not to deal with Polyperchon."

Nikanor shrugged and smiled. "You know Phokion always refuses bribes," he said. "He turned down a thousand talents from Alexander and gold from Menyllus too. And when that crippled rogue Harpalus absconded from Babylon with Alexander's royal treasury, Phokion refused him sanctuary in the city and wouldn't even accept his offer to help rebuild the Athenian fleet."

"If Alexander offered him a thousand talents, I will offer him more! Any man can be bought if the price suits him. We'll win over Phokion and convince the Athenians that Polyperchon means to rule the city himself. Then they'll declare him their enemy."

In Chapter Forty, at Pella the royal city of Macedon, Polyperchon the Regent has received the news that Phokion has refused to honour the demands of the edict, insisting he would find a peaceful solution. The Athenians are enraged, accusing their esteemed governor of siding with Kassandros. Riots have broken out in Athens and the city states are threatening to revolt.

"Those Athenians would sell their mothers if the price was right," Polyperchon exclaimed. "Look how they defamed Phiip and Alexander. Without the League of Corinth their country would have floundered long ago and the city states would still be at each other's throats."

He felt sick with the conviction that he had stirred up a tempest that could not be contained. How could he have deluded himself that peace would endure in Athens? He had issued them the edict with the goodwill of the kings, offered to restore the Athenians their democratic constitutions, defend their citizen's rights, giving them a chance to expel the oligarchs (he didn't care if they exectued them). He had done exactly what Alexander did when he had ordered the exiles to be re-established on their land (though that edict too, had resulted in civil unrest.) All that he asked was they they remain loyal to the Macedonian kings. He had not promised to remove the garrison, and now with Kassandros clearly taking command of it, how could he? The powerful aristocracy of Athens was rallying against him. He must intervene, somehow convince them to accept his policy.

More stabotage on the home-front: I had just finished my day's work today, saved everything on my document file, and went to resave on my back-up disc when suddenly, in the process of dragging the file over to copy into the floppy, it vanished into cyberspace. Shit! All that work would have to be retyped (fortunately I had printed out hard-copy, still it was a few hours work and perhaps the work from the last two days as well which I hadn't put on the floppy.)
I couldn't find the damn file anywhere. Lucky for me, I have a techie contact. I phoned him and he talked me through the process of searching for the lost file. It took quite awhile and I still couldn't locate it. But after I hung up the phone I was determined to try again. And voila! There is was hiding in My Computer "Web Files". Whew! I managed to transfer it back into its home in my Document file and all is well.

I'm down to the last part of Chapter Forty, which is the final chapter of Part IV of the novel. The "Interlude" chapter which I put at the end of each part is already written though it will likely need some revisions. But if I stay on target and keep at it, I should have Part IV finished by the weekend. Then I'm going away to the lake to celebrate!

"You write until you come to a place where you still have your juice and know what will happen next and you stop and try to live through until the next day when you hit it again."
Ernest Hemingway, Interview in "Paris Review" 1958

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