Big Head Press

L. Neil Smith's
Number 656, February 5, 2012

"It's always been a police just never noticed."

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Notice: Sword of Damascus
by Richard Blake
Published by Hodder & Stoughton
Paperback Edition: 16th February 2012 432pp, £7.99
Kindle Version £6.99
ISBN: 978-1444709681

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Special to L. Neil Smith's The Libertarian Enterprise

Richard Blake's novel The Sword of Damascus, has now been published in paperback by Hodder & Stoughton. His earlier novels have been translated into Spanish, Italian, Greek, Hungarian, Slovak and Complex Chinese. This is the fourth in his series of critically-acclaimed and internationally best-selling historical thrillers.

Set in 687 AD, Sword of Damascus takes place against the life or death struggle of the Byzantine Empire against the first and greatest expansion of Islam. Expelled, after nearly a thousand years, from Syria, Egypt and increasingly from North Africa, the formerly dominant power of the Mediterranean world has been pushed further and further back—even to the very walls of its capital, Constantinople.

Everyone knows that Europe owes two debts to Greece—for the victories at Marathon and Salamis that turned back the Persians. But who now remembers our third debt—to the supposedly decadent Byzantines? For they do save themselves from utter defeat, and they buy time for the rest of Europe. Almost at the last moment, they come up with Greek Fire, a mysterious liquid—or is it a gas?—that turns back the Islamic advance and restores Byzantine control of the seas.

Yes, without this "miracle weapon," Constantinople would have fallen in the 7th century, rather than the 15th, and the new barbarian kingdoms of Europe would have gone down one by one before the unstoppable cry of Allah al akbar! But for Greek Fire, Edward Gibbon's famous surmise would have become the truth:

"...the Arabian fleet might have sailed without a naval combat into the mouth of the Thames. Perhaps the interpretation of the Koran would now be taught in the schools of Oxford, and her pulpits might demonstrate to a circumcised people the sanctity and truth of the revelation of Mahomet."

But what importance has all this to old Aelric, who writes his memoirs and waits patiently for death in the remote wastes of northern England? Little does he expect a double siege of his monastery, a kidnapping, a near-fatal chase through the Mediterranean, and a confrontation at the end of this that will settle the future of mankind. Will age have robbed Aelric of his charm, his intelligence, his resourcefulness, or of his talent for cold and homicidal duplicity?

Comments on Richard Blake's Earlier Novels

'Vivid characters, devious plotting and buckets of gore are enhanced by his unfamiliar choice of period. Nasty, fun and educational.' Daily Telegraph

'He knows how to deliver a fast-paced story and his grasp of the period is impressively detailed' Mail on Sunday

'A rollicking and raunchy read... Anyone who enjoys their history with large dollops of action, sex, intrigue and, above all, fun will absolutely love this novel.' Historical Novels Review

'Fascinating to read, very well written, an intriguing plot and I enjoyed it very much.' Derek Jacobi, star of I Claudius and Gladiator

Read Chapter One

For review copies, contact Eleni Lawrence at Hodder & Stoughton.

Richard Blake is available for interview.

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