Monday, July 13, 2015

PUYB Virtual Book Club Chats with David S. Arthur, author of 'Shaytan: A Journey Into Evil'

David S. Arthur is an American novelist with a taste for international adventure and ancient history. THE KINGDOM OF KEFTIU: A MYSTERY OF THE ANCIENT WORLD was David’s first book to feature English historical sleuth, Richard Quizzenbury and his feisty wife, Emily. It is an archaeological adventure set in the Greek islands. His new novel, SHAYTAN–A JOURNEY INTO EVIL, continues the Quizzenbury Adventure series. Before focusing on fiction writing, David enjoyed a long and rewarding career as a writer, producer, and director of hundreds of film and digital video presentations, theatrical performances, concerts, and large scale audience events. David currently lives in Santa Fe, New Mexico.
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About the Book:

India – 1947. In the heart of the jungle, death stalks the night. The authorities claim it is a man-eating leopard. The natives believe it is something far more terrifying—a creature that by day wears the skin of a man, but when craving human flesh becomes the demon…SHAYTAN! While on expedition to
India, historical sleuth Richard Quizzenbury and his wife, Emily, suddenly find themselves on the hunt for a killer.
For his action-packed new thriller, SHAYTAN–A JOURNEY INTO EVIL, Santa Fe novelist David S. Arthur combines adventure, mysticism, and history to transport his readers into a world in which time marches to the pulse of the cosmos; where the spiritual and the supernatural merge and reality shares equal footing with illusion. 
Fans of SHAYTAN–A JOURNEY INTO EVIL are already expressing excitement and fascination for the new book, among them Tom Wright, prominent American film and television director (NCIS, Supernatural, Castle). “Man you really get into it! The cobra scene scared the @#$% out of me. This is Spielberg on steroids.”
Seeking relief from the devastation of post-war Britain, Richard and Emily Quizzenbury embark on a tour of India.  They plan to initially spend a week in Bombay with Richard’s old Oxford chum, Victor Bloodworth, after which they will satisfy their appetite for adventure by exploring historical sites throughout the Indian subcontinent.
On their first night in Bombay, Victor informs the Quizzenburys that he has been asked to undertake the hunt for a man-eating leopard that has been terrorizing the inhabitants in a remote
area of the Indian Central Provinces. Victor is the illegitimate son of a wealthy Englishman, now deceased, who was by trade a legendary big game hunter. While Victor has long since rejected his father’s brutal profession, he is himself a skilled hunter and reveals his intent to help the people who are being threatened by the leopard. Although the villagers of the region believe the man-eater is a demon that they call Shaytan, Victor is convinced the leopard is actually being forced to prey on humans due to injury or old age. He wants to capture the animal alive and relocate it to a zoo for scientific study.

Quite unexpectedly, Victor invites the Quizzenburys to accompany him on the hunt, explaining that his uncle and spiritual mentor, Ashok Kahn of the Forest Guard, will join them as an expert Shikari guide. The Quizzenburys reluctantly agree, hoping Victor will be able to capture the beast as quickly as he anticipates, so they can be free to pursue their travels. However, the hunt for the leopard soon escalates into a terrifying struggle for survival during which many innocent lives are lost, as the hunters – and the Quizzenburys – become the hunted.

Shaytan is far more than just a jungle adventure,” Arthur insists. “It is about the ageless conflict between good and evil, the ruthless march of empires, the rise of the world’s great religions, the discovery of the New World, the laying of this century’s geo-political foundations, and the establishment of hostilities that are today’s headlines. And India was the epicenter of it all.”

According to Arthur, for Richard Quizzenbury – who is never without his books – the expedition becomes a quest for truth, which is his passion – the truth about history and religion and science – the truth behind our darkest nature as a species and our most primal fears and beliefs.

“For Victor it is far more personal,” Arthur explains. “Victor is half English, half Indian – with a Hindu background. He is haunted by the memory of his mother’s murder when he was a child, his father’s apathy toward him growing up, his bi-racial heritage and his uncertainty about his faith. His Uncle Ashok’s presence brings these conflicts to the fore.  Through their daily prayers and rituals invoking the ancient gods to guide and assist them, Victor’s search for personal redemption transcends the hunt; plunging him into the arcane realm of Vedic (Hindu) mysticism, in which the Hindu deities play a deciding hand in his life or death battle  against the beast.
As a writer, Arthur enjoys peeling back the layers of history, digging up the past, searching for answers to ancient riddles. “My intention is to entertain by taking my readers to exotic places they may never go and revealing things they might never know. In short, I write for the thrill of discovery, and I want my readers to share that experience.”

For More Information

  • Shaytan: A Journey Into Evil is available at Amazon.
  • Pick up your copy at Barnes & Noble.
  • Discuss this book at PUYB Virtual Book Club at Goodreads.

Thanks for joining us at the book club, David.  Can we begin by having you tell us what interested you about the adventure/thriller genres to write about it?

David: Actually I consider my books to be in the broader category of historical adventure.  From there the story leads me where it wants to go and the characters tell me what they need for me to know.  With Shaytan I had a jungle adventure story in mind that somehow turned into the history of the world, from the stone age to the atomic age...our religions, our myths and superstitions, our wars, our triumphs and tragedies…the full spectrum of our best and worst.  I would have to say, if I have one theme, it is the nature of mankind.

Truth be told, human nature is an appalling contradiction. On the one hand, we can be absolutely savage and unimaginably cruel, most often in the name of ideologies and tyrants. On the other hand, the story of humanity is a tale of remarkable invention.  From the earliest Stone Age cultures, we find astonishing evidence of mankind’s desire, indeed our compulsion, to create. To make things with our hands, to reshape reality with our minds, to learn how to communicate, to proclaim with words and by deeds: I am here. I have meaning.

The wall of a cave, a slab of rock, or a scrap of tree bark for a canvas; a clay tablet or a sheet of parchment on which to write; huge blocks of stone precisely cut and meticulously assembled on the roof of the Andes. Monuments in the desert, palaces in the jungle; these acts of daring creation speak far more about us than any tedious theories of science, philosophy, anthropology or theology.

Knowing this, how do we reconcile who we are as a species in terms of what we have done and what our potential truly is?

Shaytan: A Journey into Evil is part of the Quizzenbury Adventure series.  Can you tell us what this series is all about?

David: Yes, I'm writing a series of books featuring Richard Quizzenbury, an English scholar of antiquities and our guide par excellence into the mysteries of the past. 
Shaytan is actually the second in this series of historical adventures.  It is 1947. While on expedition in India, Richard and Emily Quizzenbury unexpectedly find themselves on the hunt for a killer. The authorities claim it is a man-eating leopard. The natives believe it is something far more terrifying—a creature that by day wears the skin of a man, but when craving human flesh becomes the demon… SHAYTAN!

The Quizzenburys are the guests of Victor Bloodworth, an old Oxford schoolmate of Richard's and an expert marksman who lives in Bombay. Victor has been commissioned by the Indian government to hunt the leopard and on a lark he invites the Quizzenburys to go along for an experience they'll never forget.   The Quizzenburys reluctantly agree, and suddenly they are plunged into an alien world in which time marches to the pulse of the cosmos—where the spiritual and the supernatural merge and reality shares equal footing with illusion.  Much to everyone’s horror, the hunt for the leopard soon becomes a battle for survival – during which many innocent lives are lost – and the hunters become the hunted.

The Kingdom of Keftiu is the first in the Quizzenbury series. The year is 1935.  A chance encounter in Cairo leads Richard Quizzenbury in search of an ancient mystery.   
Through a shady dealer of rare antiques, our protagonist is shown several intriguing artifacts pilfered from the tomb of an Egyptian Princess. The first is a golden ring of Minoan origin. The second is a map that purports to lead to the Isles of Keftiu. The other two items are ancient papyri, which seem to connect the plagues of Egypt with the legend of Atlantis. 

In league with renowned Greek professor of archaeology Nicholas Adrianos, Quizzenbury sets off on an adventure that takes us from the souk in Cairo, to the tomb of the Princess Shani, to the island of Thera in the Aegean Sea. What they are looking for is a lost world.  What they discover are the exquisite vestiges of a Bronze Age civilization and the story of an ancient empire swept away at the height of its glory by a volcanic eruption.  In time they will learn that this cataclysm may well be the source of every disaster myth ever written, from Noah and Gilgamesh to the events of the Exodus and Plato’s legendary Atlantis.

What exactly is Shaytan?

David: Shaytan is an Arabic word for demon, a reference to Iblis in the Quran; the fallen angel who refused to bow before Adam when the Lord commanded him to do so. Shaytan is Satan.

Can you tell us about your main character, Richard Quizzenbury?

David: Rather than tell you, let’s let him introduce himself (from my new book):   
“My name is Quizzenbury.  I am English born and Oxford educated having attended the Queen’s College there on scholarship and graduating with a combined degree in Classical Archaeology and Ancient History.  I am a writer by trade and a devout believer that the pursuit of knowledge – to wit the truth – is not for the spineless.  In the words of Dionysius the Great, the 14th Coptic Pope of Alexandria, truth is to be prized and reverenced above all things else. If I have any other maxim by which to abide, I suppose it must be the one emblazoned on our Oxford coat of arms.  Dominus – Illuminatio – Mea.  May God enlighten me – if he is listening. Otherwise I shall do so on my own.  By way of avocation I fancy myself a fairly adept amateur archaeologist and classical historian, which is how I spend most of my days, digging up the past.”

What other supporting characters are in the book that you would like to tell us about?

David: Richard’s lovely bride, Emily, is a few years his younger.  She is a spirited imp blessed with a strong will and a somewhat spontaneous temperament. She is petite and elfin cute, with a shock of close-cropped sandy blonde hair, bright green eyes, and a quick toothy smile. She is also suitably well-schooled, having earned higher degrees from Birmingham University in both chemistry and archaeology, with a specialty in Bronze Age ceramics—which is why and how Richard met her – on expedition, before the war, on the Island of Santorini in the Aegean Sea.

Also Victor Bloodworth, Richard’s chum from Oxford.  Victor is the illegitimate scion of a wealthy Englishman, Sir Nigel Bloodworth, now deceased—a legendary big game hunter or, as they say in India, Mir-Shikari—master of the hunt. Victor did not follow in his father’s footsteps, eschewing the practice of slaughtering big game animals for a living and opting instead for a lucrative career in the Asian gem trade. He is nevertheless an expert huntsman like his father.

Victor’s mother (an Indian) was tragically murdered by an angry mob during an outbreak of riots brought on by the coronation of King George V in New Delhi, simultaneously proclaiming him King of the British Realm and Emperor of India. At the time, Sir Nigel was away on safari in Africa, but his mansion and many others in one of the upper crust bastions of Bombay were burned to the ground. His mistress (Victor’s mother) died in the fire. Victor, age nine, miraculously survived through the wiles and quick action of his maternal uncle, Ashok Kahn, who somehow spirited him away during the rampage. Victor was cared for by his uncle until age thirteen, when he was sent to school in England. Ashok Kahn will accompany Victor on the hunt as the second gun, shikari guide and official representative of the Forest Guard.

They say all books of fiction have at least one pivotal point where the reader just can’t put the book down.  What’s one of the pivotal points in Shaytan: A Journey Into Evil?

David:  Ideally, I hope to capture my reader’s interest on page one:
Journal of Richard Quizzenbury
New Year’s Day 1948
The Isle of Wight
No man ever steps in the same river twice, for it is not the same river and he is not the same man.
~Heraclitus, c. 500 BCE
1947 shall be a year to remember. I have looked upon the sands of Sinai, sailed the seas of Sinbad, braved the wilds of India, plumbed the depths of Vedic wisdom, defied death, confronted life, and left many a strange river trod in my wake.
Most assuredly, I am not the same man.
Beyond that I would have to say the first night in Bombay, when Victor invites the Quizzenburys to accompany him on the hunt for the man-eater – from that moment on the characters are plunged deeper and deeper into the heart of India and its vast and complex religious beliefs and supernatural legends and a harrowing death defying contest between man and beast.

What’s next for you, David?

David:  I have many projects in the works; two screenplays with period settings – the 1960s – a crime story and a coming of age in America sci-fi pic. Also the screen adaptations of my first two Quizzenbury books are in the works and the third of this series, a paranormal Quizzenbury escapade.  It is a sequel to Shaytan – set in a Scottish castle with decidedly British gentry overtones and Shakespearean connections.

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