I’m terribly late.
I’m working around the clock to deliver the third chapter of AMARNA in time while keeping all the other pieces in motion.
And as it usually happens, another thing hits me from an unexpected direction: a good open call, with an easy submission window and for a well-respected publisher. There’s not much money in it, but it would look fine in my portfolio.
And it’s a call for stories about crusaders.
It would mean following in the steps of Harold Lamb and Robert E. Howard.
Am I sold?
Of course I’m sold.
So I started doing some preliminary research, and in so doing I stumbled on a book and a character that really really work for me on all levels.
Let me introduce you Jean de Joinville…
John, Lord of Joinville, was hereditary Seneschal of Champagne and head of a family already illustrious for its Crusaders. By blood and old family friendship he was closely united with the great house of Brienne, and could claim cousinship with its famous cadet, John, King of Jerusalem, father-in-law to two emperors, and himself an emperor.’ Born in 1225, Joinville was only twenty-three when he joined King Louis in the disastrous Seventh Crusade; and before he was thirty he was settled again on his estates, having escaped every conceivable peril by land and sea, to which nineteen out of every twenty men had succumbed.
And he wrote a book about it.
The book was translated in 1906 by Ethel Wedgwood, and the volume is currently found online, courtesy of the Internet Archive.
Oh, and that bit about belonging to “a family already illustrious for its Crusaders”… no kidding, his dad had taken part in the Crusade against the Albigensian, that bloodied the south of France for a generation.
From a quick overview of the text, it looks like Frankish knight Jean or John de Joinville was, while still very French and very courteous, a sort of Harry Flashman of the Seventh Crusade, down to the detail of being a ladies’ man – he apparently had a thing for Marguerite de Provence, his king’s wife, and she probably appreciated, considering she was the one that renounced to the city of Damietta in order to have Joiville released by the Saracens that had captured him and his forces.
And they had been captured because they had cold-headedly decided to surrender, ignoring the suggestion of one of their number they should rather die heroically in one final charge, and not give up their weapoins as cowards.
Cowards live longer.
While “a guest” of the Saracens, John had no compunction about claiming kinship with King Louis and with the Emperor Frederic II in order to get his life spared for ransom, and he even quoted Saladin back to them in a bit of Medieval social engineering.
He got back with his skin intact, if a bit worse for wear, and ended up marrying a good (and rich) noblewoman, and being asked to write a book about the life of Saint Louis, the king whose wife he had coveted… and in fact wrote a book about his adventures.
Now this is really a great find, a nice read and a source of abundant inspiration.
I won’t start this story before next month – but in the meanwhile I’ll read Joinville’s adventures before dinner, as both a form of research, and a balm for my weary spirit.