Thursday, August 29, 2013

The Buried Books of Herculaneum: Part 8

...approximately 400 scrolls had been opened and read, with approximately one in ten of those written in Latin as opposed to Greek. This fact, in agreement with popular ancient Roman culture, suggested that a still-buried Latin library probably existed within the house. If so, it is still there...

Part 7 of this series continues the story of the excavations of Herculaneum, as we seek to unravel the answer to the Novel Travelist mystery: Why was the Villa dei Papyri never fully excavated?

Here, at last, we conclude this story.

***SPOILER ALERT***

This true Buried Books of Herculaneum mystery is detailed in fiction in The Vesuvius Isotope. Inevitably, in presenting the answers to this Novel Travelist Mystery, I also give away some of the punch lines of the novel. Readers interested in The Vesuvius Isotope are encouraged to stop reading here until they have completed the novel. You may order your copy on Amazon (print or Kindle version,) BarnesandNoble.com (Nook version) or Kobo.com (Kobo version.) Or purchase a SIGNED copy at www.kristenelisephd.com.

And without further delay, please consider yourself forewarned that from this point forward, there are spoilers.

*****

Throughout the 1980s, 1990s, and the first decades of our new millennium, the Villa dei Papiri excavations have been reopened and halted again several times. There have been three predominant obstacles in the way.

The first is the constant flooding and poisonous gases of the ancient ruins, which lie several feet below sea level. It seems modern technology can extract thirty-three trapped miners from beneath several meters of pure rock, but has not entirely found a solution to these conundrums. I suspect that this issue is only secondary to the others below.
Villa dei Papiri, floor plan of Carlo Weber, ~1750

The second hurdle to completing the excavations is the location of the Villa dei Papiri, which is - quite mysteriously - now contested. The first map of the villa was generated in the 1700s by Carlo Weber. Weber’s contemporaries were amazed at its accuracy and detail, and the exact locations of each room within the villa were undisputed for two hundred years. Until today.

The most recent effort to excavate the Villa dei Papiri was initiated in the 1990s. Following the reliable maps of Karl Weber, an excavation crew bored into the belvedere, or pavilion, first described by Weber’s men in the 1700s. It was during this excavation that the crew discovered that Weber had only identified the uppermost story of the building. In fact, there were three levels to the sprawling villa.

Then the modern crew changed their minds. Weber’s original map of the villa was declared erroneous. The tunnels were filled back in, and the Villa dei Papiri has been inaccessible ever since.

Resina, Italy, provence of Ercolano
The third - and largest - obstacle is the modern town of Ercolano, which now sits directly on top of the ruins of Herculaneum. Ercolano happens to be Italian crime territory.

The town is the hub of camorra, the Naples Mafia. But unlike Sicilian Mafia which is largely centralized, camorra operates as a loosely tied network of families or clans. Because there is no centralization, the individual members of the camorra network – much like those of al Qaeda – are much more difficult to flush out and prosecute.

The landowners of Ercolano - mostly camorra bosses - repeatedly block the excavations of Herculaneum, demanding exorbitant sums of money for even a cursory, non-disruptive, dig.

The tension between camorra and the government has been increasing dramatically since 2010. That was when a new, massive eruption of Mount Vesuvius was predicted to occur within the next eight years. This eruption could destroy the ruins of Herculaneum and the Villa dei Papiri forever.

The situation is becoming desperate. Many of the buildings of Pompeii and Herculaneum, as well as many of the major historical sites of Naples, have begun to crumble. Some of this is attributable to natural wear-and-tear, and some not.

On February 15, 2013, a corruption probe into the most recent excavation of Herculaneum was announced. This had been the dig that revealed the second and third stories of the Villa dei Papiri, just before the maps of Karl Weber were declared erroneous and the excavation halted.

Two weeks later, arson destroyed a prominent Naples museum. Camorra was highly suspected. No charges were ever filed. For story and video, click here.

On March 18, 2013, Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera ran a report detailing the crumbling of more than 200 Naples churches.  For story and images, click here.

And so the rift continues between archeologists, the Italian government, and the ubiquitous camorra. But there is hope.  On February 16, 2013, just one day after the corruption probe was announced, restoration of some of the fragile sites of Pompeii was initiated.

With hope, we may one day be able to read the priceless Buried Books of Herculaneum.

"The Villa of the Papyri is unfinished business." - Judith Harris, Pompeii Awakened

This blog post explores a non-fictional theme or locale that is incorporated in The Vesuvius Isotope, a new novel by Kristen Elise. Buy The Vesuvius Isotope on Amazon.

When her Nobel laureate husband is murdered, biologist Katrina Stone can no longer ignore the secrecy that increasingly pervaded his behavior in recent weeks. Her search for answers leads to a two-thousand-year-old medical mystery and the esoteric life of one of history’s most enigmatic women. Following the trail forged by her late husband, Katrina must separate truth from legend as she chases medicine from ancient Italy and Egypt to a clandestine modern-day war. Her quest will reveal a legacy of greed and murder and resurrect an ancient plague, introducing it into the twenty-first century.

Kristen Elise, Ph.D. is a drug discovery biologist and the author of The Vesuvius Isotope. She lives in San Diego, California, with her husband, stepson, and three canine children. 





Tuesday, August 20, 2013

The Pirate Queen & Belleek Castle

Statue of Grace O'Malley, the Pirate Queen of Ireland
Did you know that Ireland had a Pirate Queen? I didn't. But goodness, she was a true pirate and a rebel during Queen Elizabeth's time (late 16th century). I've become so enamored, I've named a character in my Irish Jane Austen styled novel, after Grainne Ni Mhaille (Granuaile O'Malley, aka Grace O'Malley), the pirate queen, and the children tell numerous stories of her exploits.

For the full history of the Pirate Queen, I recommend wikipedia, or this man's far more humorous version filled with proper swear words and scenarios that even Ni Mhaille might find offensive, but still appreciate. Bad Ass of the Week.com - Great blog!

How did I learn about the Pirate Queen while in Ireland? I walked into her bedroom.

Belleek Castle in Ballina

Map of Ireland with Ballina dotted - Home to Belleek Castle and it's 1000 acres of woodlands
First, a quick game of connections:
    -We were staying with our Irish friends at their castle in County Mayo, Turin Castle 
Turin Castle

    -Turin is an old "de Burgh," aka, "de Burgo," aka "Bourke" castle. One of many that dots the western coast of Ireland. The Bourke's were a powerful merchant family.
    -Another Bourke castle is Rockfleet Castle, which was essentially stolen by the Pirate Queen.

Rockfleet Castle - Look similar?
How does a Pirate steal a castle? Pirates only steal things on the seas, right?

Here's the quick story:

By 1566 Gráinne Ní Mháille had married a second time, this time to Risdeárd an Iarainn Bourke, called "Iron Richard," an appropriate corruption of his Irish name as he is reputed to have always worn a coat of mail inherited from his Anglo-Norman ancestors. The nickname may also have come from the fact that he controlled the ironworks at Burrishoole, where his principal castle and residence were.

NOTE: The mother of my fictional Irish family is a Bourke and the family income is made by ironworks. Why bother making stuff up when the truth is far more interesting.

Back to the quick story:

Traditionally it is said that the Bourke marriage was motivated by Ní Mháille's desire to enlarge her holdings and her prestige. Bourke was owner of Rockfleet Castle, also called Carraigahowley Castle (Much cooler name!), which was strategically situated near Newport, as well as other lands like Burrishoole, with sheltered harbors in which a pirate ship could hide.

According to tradition they married under Brehon law 'for one year certain', and it is said that when the year was up Gráinne divorced Risdeárd and kept the castle. Brehon Law is another crazy Irish world, which amazingly still exists today in some really remote West Ireland towns. The Brehon Law basically lets you live together for a year as a trial marriage. (Personally, I think this is a great idea!)

Legend says that when the one year had passed, Gráinne Ní Mháille and her followers locked themselves in Rockfleet Castle and Gráinne called out a window to Bourke, "Richard Bourke, I dismiss you." Those words had the effect of ending the marriage, but since she was in possession of the castle she kept it. Rockfleet remained for centuries in the O'Mháille (O'Malley) family and is today open to the public.

Despite the divorce story, Ní Mháille and Bourke appear mentioned as husband and wife in English documents of the period, so appeared to remain married, at least allied, as far as the English were concerned. In her answers to the questions from Queen Elizabeth I (Yes, there were infamous Queen to Queen negotiations), Ní Mháille said she was Bourke's widow.

NOTE: There is now a Pirate Queen story my fictional Irish daughter (of marriageable age) tells to the family. He-he! Yes, demands for Brehon Law might be requested! She's a feisty daughter.

The Pirate Queen's Bedroom

In steps Belleek Castle and the owner, Paul Marshall Doran.

Belleek Castle - Bar - Made from real pirate ships!
We were honored to dine at Belleek Castle with the owner, his lovely wife, our friends and the castle accountant, which proved immensely educational on many fronts. (But that's a whole other post.)

FYI - Dinner at Belleek is pretty darn amazing; all around 5-star inventiveness, fresh greens from the castle gardens and gorgeous presentation.

Filet Mignon's skewered on a Spanish Sword and flambeed. Magnificient!
The dining room is a Spanish Galleon Ship (yep, a real one) which was my first introduction to Pirate architecture. 

This is the upper deck of the dining room. You can see the tables and chairs below on the lower deck of the ship.
Then the owner took us on a tour of this amazing pirate ship castle. We saw interior wooden panels with carvings of New World caricatures, like Native Americans, Merchants, Traders, etc, ancient treasure chests, canon balls, ship models, captain's quarters, and rum!

Belleek Castle - another bar - loaded with real ship pieces. 
 Then we got a private tour of the recently organized collection.

Belleek recently opened a museum inside the castle showcasing the family collection.
And there it was, Grace O'Malley's bedroom!
But it gets better. Not only did I get to meet Grace O'Malley (figuratively), feel the walls and smell the stories of 500 year old pirate ships, but then we got to play, yes PLAY, in the armory. 

Brenden (friend) and Wes (husband) handling 13th century swords.
Wes said afterward, "I knew I shouldn't be touching something so historical and precious, but I really wanted to touch it."

Then the owner gave them proper head gear and the battle began!
We decided that Wes chopped off Brendan's leg (see previous picture) and declared him the winner.
The owner demonstrated how to properly attack with two swords. 
Not only did we get to play with swords, but we learned how to properly handle them like a proper pirate. Not your standard night out, huh? (Yes, I'm gloating a bit here.)

So, in one night, I learned enough history and experienced a tantalizing dance of the senses that now allows me to spin fun (& fact) filled pirate tales by a fictional Irish fireside.

If you're on the west coast of Ireland, get thee to Belleek Castle!

Back at Turin Castle, our friends honored us with the Lord and Lady suite for the weekend, which is the entire top floor of the CASTLE, so yes, it's amazing. And surprise, surprise - on the bookshelf sat Pride and Prejudice and Sense and Sensibility by my favorite gal, Jane Austen.

Turin Castle - Lord and Lady Suite bookshelf of classics, including Austen.
But, surprise, surprise, the books weren't real. Instead the bookcase swung open, gothic style and revealed a secret passage!

Secret passage behind the bookcase!
Is the secret passage featured in my fictional book? Of course it is! Where does the passage lead? You'll have to stay at Turin Castle (You can rent it) to find out for yourself. Or read my book when it's done.

Bottom line - Get out into the world! As a writer, your imagination is a great place to create the world of your novel. But your novel will be so much better if it's inspired by the real world and the real history you are attempting to portray. 





Tuesday, August 13, 2013

High Tea at Highclere Castle (aka: Downton Abbey)

Miss Katie Neipris at Highclere Castel in England
Novel Travelist has been exploring the idea of a location, a house, a city, as an integral character in a story. What better lead character to examine than Downton Abbey herself, Highclere Castle.

We have a wonderful post today from Miss Katie Neipris, an American student who earned the rare opportunity to study at Oxford. During one of her weekend adventures, she enjoyed a stately high tea at Highclere Castle. I'll let her tell you all about it:

Last Summer I traveled out of the country for the first time to study at my dream school. Oxford and England were more magical than even my wildest expectations, and I spent a very happy five weeks traveling around the midlands. Every British book and movie that my Anglophilic mind consumed created high expectations and reality surpassed them. The first week at Oxford, I befriended a girl in my class who possessed a similar affinity (obsession) for and we bought our tickets to tour Highclere Castle. The volume of visitors is quite high so we had to buy them three weeks in advance, which seemed a terribly long wait (but was assuaged by three weeks' worth of delightful travels elsewhere). Finally, the magical day arrived, and we chattered happily on the train to Newbury. After a not-too-expensive taxi ride into the countryside (around £15, split in half) we reached a patch of green that appeared untouched by the twenty-first century, until we reached the rows of cars lined neatly on the grass. We continued down the path (the path that Branson drives on!) and there it was, Highclere Castle, looking exactly the same as it did in the show. No, better, if that's possible.

Photo by Katie
I think I stood there, open-mouthed, for about ten minutes before I realized that we could actually go in. Rachel and I half-ran up the gravel path (that crunched just like in the show) and hesitated before we crossed yet another portal to fantasy. Like Alice’s door in Christ Church or the doors of the Great Hall in the Harry Potter studio tour, the heavy Highclere doors welcomed us into another world entirely. The kindly ticket lady smiled at our dumbfounded expressions, which I’m sure she’s used to seeing, before directing us into the library.

This was the room I was most excited to see, and I remember the floaty feeling of walking into a truly magnificent library, draped in dark red and manly brown. Family photos of the Carnarvon family adorned the piano and the shelves, and a few more modern pieces of furniture replaced those on the show, but other than that the room was identical to its televised counterpart, and I kept expecting Hugh Bonneville to pop out.

We followed the downstairs circle of rooms, each one offering more excitement and surprises than the last. The music room contained a desk that was owned by Napoleon, and similarly unexpected treasures cropped up in every room: tokens of overseas travel, vases that adventurous ancestors carried back to England, and heirlooms that could easily deserve a place in the British Museum. Each room held more history than can be explained on the show, and I loved learning about how the mint-green walls were incorporated into the drawing room and how the men and women had their own sitting rooms. The smoking room is the sheer epitome of masculinity, and it’s basically the gradually-modernized equivalent of a man cave: dark wood, richly paneled walls, ornate billiards tables and games, furniture that makes you want to pull out a pipe and a brandy snifter. The adjacent pink room is just the opposite: delicate and feminine, though no less impressive. Each room bears a fascinating history, and some of these have been incorporated into plotlines. The dining room served as a makeshift hospital, and much of Season Two is based on the real World War I experiences of the castle’s inhabitants. If you want to learn more about this, I highly recommend Lady Almina and the Real Downton Abbey, which describes the history of the house and is written by the current Countess of Carnarvon.

Book written about the WWI days at Highclere Castle
I loved hearing the exclamations of surprise from our fellow visitors as we enjoyed this communal experience of learning about the secrets behind a story and a house that we’d all fallen in love with. The docents were incredibly knowledgeable and happily answered all questions, and their excitement mirrored our own. I asked one of them how much it costs to get married there and she told me that it’s around £15,000 “before champagne.” Then she leaned forward and whispered conspiratorially, “but the heir is nineteen!” and winked. I really love British people. (And yes, there really is a handsome 19 year old heir to Highclere.)


We continued around the house, excitedly pointing out sites where our favorite scenes had taken place: the dining hall where Mary and Matthew danced, the hallway where so many whispered conversations transpired, and, most importantly, the staircase. We walked upstairs and entered a narrow hallway (you could definitely tell which tourists were American by their clear unfamiliarity with tiny corridors) that took us around to the bedrooms that are used in the show, and I loved seeing how unchanged the house was from its filmed version. We walked down the hallway where they carried Mr. Pamuk before returning downstairs.



Lovely Cream Tea
We crossed the salon once more and entered the side "garden" (which is more like a park) where we enjoyed a lovely cream tea. Rachel and I were easily the youngest people there, but all of our fellow travelers were extremely kind and just as Downton-obsessed.

It sprinkled lightly as we wandered through the many gardens, follies, and sheep-dotted hills that surround the castle, and each path uncovered some new, beautiful facet of the Highclere estate.

There is nothing in the surrounding meadows to indicate that you are in the twenty-first century; it's so timeless and pastoral that it almost seems like it can't be real, as if it's a Keats creation rather than a real place. 


Sheep-dotted hillside
There really is a Secret Garden, and a Monk's Garden, and every shade of flower you can imagine. Highclere rests on over 1,000 acres of land, and we happily explored as much as was open to the public. 

We met people from all over the world bound by love of the same show, and chatted happily with Germans and Australians and Canadians as we all helped each other out taking pictures. 


One of the many follies
Eventually, we had to leave, but I know that it was not the last time I'll see Highclere. I can't recommend visiting here highly enough, and I can't wait to go back.

If you'd like to visit Highclere Castle and enjoy a tour and tea, here's the link for reservations.

Friday, August 9, 2013

Travel Quest - Museum Short Story

Wes McBride sketching at the Getty Villa in Malibu, CA

Every Saturday morning, Wes and I pick a location and go out to sketch and write. Last Saturday we went to the Getty Villa and while Wes sketched, I created the coolest museum game for writers!

I ran around the museum gardens and took random pictures of whatever caught my eye and a few other indoor pictures. I didn't photograph any paintings as that's typically a No-No at museums. Here's a collage of my pictures.



Random photos from the Getty Villa used to inspire a story
As Wes sketched, I sat next to him and toggled through the photos on my camera. As each photo popped up, I incorporated it into the story. 

This can be done at any museum around the world!

So here's the story, with a play-by-play of which picture inspired which section:



THE MERCHANT AND THE MUSE 

By Sara McBride

In the days of splendor, in a place long remembered, where day turned to night and endless ash fell, there once lived a man whose trade was to sell. A merchant of fine wools, he stood draped in his wares. His strong face and sharp eyes sat framed by graying curls, a reminder of his struggled youth, long passed. Now wealthy, a man of habitual income, but lost in search of new purpose. When his hair was dark in color and his skin smooth with bloom, he struggled from day to day, simply to eat, to live. Now life existed as a blur of days, a smear across the heavens, all needs being met and no needs being satisfied. He asked the gods, “What is my purpose?” The gods did not answer, or so he thought.
Everyday he passed the Stream of Muses on his way to market. A long set of colonnaded corridors leading out to the sea, the Bay of Naples, contained crowds of buyers and sellers, hawkers and shoppers. Until one day, as he walked along the shady Stream of Muses, a muse stepped into his path. Her hair was braided and set high, in a royal fashion.
Her scent danced with flowers and mint. She was all summer freshness, but for her eyes. Her eyes, the window to her heart, her desire, her source of inspiration to others, her eyes held sadness.  The wool merchant knew she had lost the most precious holding of a muse, her gift to inspire. Unsure how to help such a pitiful creature he dressed her in his draperies and took her toward the market.

   They came across a young boy bartering wine for other useful objects. The muse smelled the wine, observed its silky texture and gained a smile to her face. The merchant, upon seeing the muse so altered, offered the boy a cloak of moderate wool for a jug of his grape elixir. The deal was done. The merchant drank from the jug and patted his belly with pleasure as a demonstration
to the muse. She hesitantly took the jug and drank the smallest of sips. The merchant encouraged her to drink more, certain it would make her happy. In her effort to appease, she did drink more, but her face filled with a tortured gaze increased by each swallow. The merchant, seeing her displeasure, halted her and begged her to drink no more.


Farther down the road, they came upon a group of actors rehearsing a play. The merchant and the muse stopped to watch. The play developed up to the Deus Ex Machina, but the cloth used to conceal the machine of the Gods was threadbare and torn. The actors bemoaned their sad fate. At that moment, the muse stood and began to detach her body’s drapings, the drapings that the merchant had dressed her in. The merchant caught her before such unseemly revealings could occur, his eyes crinkling with laughter at her innocence. He pulled from his wares an enormous bolt of solid cloth and draped it around the God’s machinery. The actors cheered. A masked man revealed his whiskered face, ink long dried in his beard, and thanked the merchant with a gift of blank scrolls to be writ upon. They continued the play to the end, and the muse smiled joyfully at the hero triumphant. But when the play ended, sadness once again consumed her.

   The merchant sighed, but pushed on toward the market. They found themselves admiring the stroll of a peacock, whose neck was fastened round with a gold chain held by a portly young man. The peacock and the portly youth followed a mature, lean man of the military, holding a helmet under one arm. The helmet was ingeniously carved with wings that mechanically flapped with a strong wind and an eagle’s head perched above the brow. This identified the military man as a watcher from the mountain rims of Vesuvius.
Before the merchant could make an introduction, the muse approached the portly youth and pointed at his elegantly feathered bird. The youth being kind, and enjoying her attentions, bent down and plucked a long tail feather from his pet. The squawk surprised all. The military man turned to behold the scene. He struck his chest with his hand. He gasped. He declared the muse to be an angel and that she embodied the good omen he sought. He now knew that he must return to his family and no longer patrol the mountain rims. He handed his helmet to the merchant who inquired how long a journey he must partake? Upon hearing the great distance, the merchant gave the man a thick cloak to assist him on his travels. The muse smiled at the merchant’s unsolicited generosity.

   The merchant and the muse entered the market, but the muse would not let him stop. She continued to the waters edge and further down the road. She walked and walked, leading the merchant, their roles now reversed. Finally, after the wind had rubbed his face raw and his cart of wares felt numb in his hands, she stopped at the cross roads of Vesuvius and Naples. Then, unexpectedly, she reached into the cart, pulled out the helmet and placed it on the merchant’s head. She touched all the objects in the cart: the jug of wine, the blank scrolls, the peacock feather with a fine point for a quill, his last four cloaks, and the helmet upon his head. She smiled. She smiled so brightly her eyes filled with stars and night fell instantly. She vanished. The last remnants of daylight returned, Apollo ending his ride across the sky. But she was gone. The merchant looked in all directions, but she was not to be found.
The Iris made me think of Ink.
The sun glinted on something in the cart. The merchant reached for the object and discovered it to be a small glass bottle of solid black ink. It was the ink of a moonless night. He opened the bottle and out danced the scents of summer freshness, of flowers and mint. He corked the bottle and kissed it.
     
Wearing his eagle’s helmet, he turned away from the road home and journeyed forth onto new soil, up the path to the rim of Vesuvius. There he found a small encampment of Roman Eagle soldiers, four men. He offered them wine. He gave them each a new, much welcomed cloak of fine wool, and they embraced him into their simple ways. The merchant soon forgot he was ever a merchant. His new purpose consumed him.

The Stream of Muses continued to babble on. But one muse, the Muse of History, is not always there. Often she is visiting her old merchant friend atop Vesuvius as he records the histories told to him by the many soldiers who pass their military time at the rim. Now she is never without a smile, as the merchant has discovered perspective in his own life and by helping others do the same, he finds purpose.

THE END

So now I've written this fun little story. What do I do with it? I'm going to put it in my Jane Austen - Ireland book. The book stars two sisters who are competitive with each other. One evening, they are both trying to impress the same gentleman by telling stories, a fabulous Irish fireside tradition. The serious sister who loves history will tell this tale. On our next museum trip, I'll figure out the story told by the whimsical sister. 

Get thee to a museum - Inspiration awaits!



Thursday, August 1, 2013

The Buried Books of Herculaneum: Part 7

Vittorio Emanuele
King Big-Nose was placed back on the throne for a third time, at which time he traded some of the scrolls to Britain’s King George IV in exchange for a giraffe. The English again tried a chemical softening process to unwind them. Again, the scrolls were ruined. No more had been unearthed...


Part 6 of this series continues the story of the excavations of Herculaneum, as we seek to unravel the answer to the Novel Travelist mystery: Why was the Villa dei Papyri never fully excavated?

Here we continue this story. To read the story from the beginning, click "Novel Travelist Mystery: Buried Books" on the right hand side of this page. Then scroll down to the bottom and start with Part 1.

*****

By 1870, Naples was in shambles following a long succession of Ferdinand’s offspring, all of whom were as incompetent as he. The king that finally ended this legacy was Vittorio Emanuele, who brought about the Unification of Italy that has remained to this day. Emanuele was the first king of a united Italy in over a thousand years.

Under Emanuele, the technique of plaster casting of human bodies was developed, along with the plaster casting of root systems that permitted a complete reconstruction of Pompeii's agriculture-based economy.

Plaster cast of human body from Pompeii
Also under Emanuele, the church and state divided. The fledgling unified Italian state used every weapon imaginable to defeat the Catholic Church. The secularism of ancient Rome proved to be an invaluable one and sparked a new interest in the ruins of Pompeii. Emanuele and the architects running renewed excavations posed—literally with shovels in hand—for the recently developed medium of film. The perfectly preserved slice of ancient Rome that was Pompeii inspired an Italian nationalism never seen before.

This set the stage perfectly for a young journalist coming to power as Italian premier in 1927. Benito Mussolini exploited the nationalist fervor that was sweeping the nation and developed a cult that tightly associated Roman antiquity with Italian racial superiority. And according to Il Duce, the ruins of Pompeii held the archaeology to prove it.

Mussolini and Hitler
The ancient Eastern good luck symbol that was found repeatedly in the ruins was picked up by Mussolini’s German counterpart. Hitler’s hijacking of it as the symbol for his political party tarnished the swastika globally and forever.

By the end of World War II, Pompeii and Herculaneum had been excavated, bombed, and excavated some more. But the Villa dei Papiri remained mostly submerged. By that time, approximately 400 scrolls had been opened and read, with approximately one in ten of those written in Latin as opposed to Greek.  This fact, in agreement with popular ancient Roman culture, suggested that a still-buried Latin library probably existed within the house.

If so, it is still there.



To be continued in part 8, August 29...

Author's Note: Part 8 will conclude the Buried Books of Herculaneum Novel Travelist Mystery, a non-fictional theme explored in my new novel, The Vesuvius Isotope. WARNING! PART 8 WILL CONTAIN SPOILERS for the novel. Readers of this blog series who are interested in the novel are encouraged to pick up a copy and read it before August 1.


This blog post explores a non-fictional theme or locale that is incorporated in The Vesuvius Isotope, a new novel by Kristen Elise. Buy The Vesuvius Isotope on Amazon.

When her Nobel laureate husband is murdered, biologist Katrina Stone can no longer ignore the secrecy that increasingly pervaded his behavior in recent weeks. Her search for answers leads to a two-thousand-year-old medical mystery and the esoteric life of one of history’s most enigmatic women. Following the trail forged by her late husband, Katrina must separate truth from legend as she chases medicine from ancient Italy and Egypt to a clandestine modern-day war. Her quest will reveal a legacy of greed and murder and resurrect an ancient plague, introducing it into the twenty-first century.

Kristen Elise, Ph.D. is a drug discovery biologist and the author of The Vesuvius Isotope. She lives in San Diego, California, with her husband, stepson, and three canine children.