Of all the larger-than-life character portraits that have entered popular memory from the 1884-5 British Nile campaign – the future Lord Kitchener, a desert spy, disguised as an Arab and carrying a cyanide tablet in case of capture; the wiry and imperturbable General Wolseley, sticking to his plans against the odds; the extraordinary Colonel Fred Burnaby, greatest adventurer of his age, wearing a deerstalker and blasting away at the dervishes with his shotgun – none are more impressive for me than James Deer, known to his people as Sak Arakentiake ...
two Victorian campaign medals shown here were among my most prized artefacts while
I was writing Pharaoh, and appear as
illustrations in several editions of the novel. My 19th century
protagonist is a Royal Engineers officer in the 1884 campaign to relieve
General Gordon in Khartoum, and I was thrilled to discover a medal named to an
actual R.E. sapper who took part in the campaign. These two medals were awarded
to all British soldiers and sailors who saw active service in Egypt and Sudan
from 1882 to 1889, and were dated accordingly ...
This week I'm guest-editing 'The Afterword' for the National Post, one of Canada's national papers with a circulation of nearly a million. Here's my first post:
most recent novel, Pharaoh, is really
a novel within a novel, a modern-day archaeological adventure also set in the
late 19th century during the doomed British attempt to relieve
General Gordon in Khartoum. I’ve always been fascinated by British colonial
history, party because of my own family background – in this case, an ancestor
who was a Royal Engineers officer and chair of the ‘Gordon Relics Committee’,
responsible for safeguarding Gordon’s collection of ethnographic and
archaeological materials after his death. During my research I immersed myself
in first-hand accounts and artefacts ...