The Darkness That Could Be Felt:
Treasure of the Raven King Book One
by Wayne Dawson
Women are disappearing off the streets of Vienna in 1684 and Captain Mathis Zieglar vows to find out why. Defying orders to break off his investigation, he discovers they are being trafficked into the Muslim slave market. His only hope of ransoming them from a life of abuse is to find the treasure of the Raven King. The treasure is a secret code lodged inside an ancient text that will rock the Ottoman and Holy Roman Empires to their foundations.
Putting the Story Into History
by C. Wayne Dawson
Why do I write historical fiction? It happened after I was introduced to James Michener.
Michener’s historical fiction told me so much about Alaska and Hawaii! The smells and sounds of the past leapt off the page and embraced me.
That wasn’t always the case with the students when I taught college history. Little did I imagine that a textbook I read in graduate school, The Past is a Foreign Country, would describe their experience.
History was as alien to them as the city of Ulan Bator, Mongolia. And the only past that mattered was limited to the last ten years. I had to convince them that delving into history and other cultures would do for them what it had for me when I read Michener. An exciting universe would open up.
How could I do that? History turns as dry as dust when you read a textbook. Nations come and go. Hunting and gathering societies progressed to agriculture and city-building, etc.
“Yawn. Anything else you wanted to tell us, Professor Dawson?”
Yes, there was. I had to find a way to put the story back into history.
Like Michener, I turned to the past. I told them about the adventures of Themistocles, fifth century BCE general of Athens. His life was one crisis after another. As a young soldier, he fought on the Plains of Marathon against the Persians. Outnumbered two to one, the Athenian army not only sent the Persians packing, but cut 6,400 of them down in the process. It was Greece’s finest hour.
But Themistocle’s adventures were just beginning. Although born poor, the Athenians recognized Themistocles’ talent and promoted him to general. He soon warned the Athenians the Persians would come back in greater numbers to avenge their loss at Marathon.
But Athens wouldn’t buy it. When silver was discovered just outside the city, Themistocles wanted to use the wealth to prepare for the inevitable Persian invasion. But the citizens preferred to use the silver to bankroll the good life.
So, Themistocles told the big lie. He convinced Athens their local neighbors were about to invade. That persuaded Athens to invest in a new navy. When Persia returned in overwhelming numbers, they ran into an unexpectedly formidable fleet.
But Themistocles had another lie up his sleeve. He had an Athenian pretend to defect to the Persians. Acting on Themistocles’ instruction, the turncoat told the Persian emperor the Athenian navy was napping unprepared inside the nearby Bay of Salamis. If the Persians would strike, they would crush Athens.
The reality was that the Athenians were ready to ambush the Persians when they sailed into Salamis. The Greek’s victory excelled that of Marathon. Themistocles’ deceptions won the day!
My students enjoyed the story and discussing its implications. What did Themistocles’ success say about the morality of lying? But they agreed that, as in Michener’s books, history had given them a great story.
I encountered the same issue in writing my historical novel, The Darkness That Could Be Felt. The hero, Mathis Zieglar, is basically an honest person. But he must deceive in order to carry out his profession of military interrogator. And when the church authorities demand the truth from him, he must decide if that is more important than the lives of innocent women who will remain enslaved if he speaks honestly.
Dilemmas like this permeate The Darkness That Could Be Felt. I believe you will read it and discover what it means for an author to put the story into history.
About the Author:
C. Wayne Dawson writes for The Williamson County Sun, and has written for History Magazine, Focus On Georgetown, and SAFVIC Law Enforcement Newsletter. He also founded Central Texas Authors, a group that helps authors promote and market their books through media and collaborative efforts.
C. Wayne Dawson was a Professor of History for ten years and created the Chautauqua program at Mt. San Antonio College. There, he invited scholars, government officials and activists from clashing perspectives to engage one another in a rational, but passionate public forum.
The discussions took on the burning issues of the day: Immigration, Islam, and Democracy, Israel or Palestine, The Patriot Act, and Human Trafficking. Attendance ranged from 200-350 people, including students, faculty and the general public. These events attracted representatives from the press, several radio stations, and Telemundo television.
In 2009, the students of Phi Theta Kappa Honor Society honored him with the Glaux Mentor Teacher of Year Award for his efforts in bringing the Chautuaqua program to Mt. SAC.
In the fall of 2012, he delivered six lectures at Sun City’s Senior University on “Muslims and Christians, the Struggle for Europe, 1453-1697.”
He recently completed writing his historically based novel, Vienna’s Last Jihad and begun his second, Treasure of the Raven King.