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A Templar cryptogram has confounded scholars for centuries.
Is it a ticking cipher bomb just hours away from detonating a global war?
Rookie State Department lawyer Jaqueline Quartermane was never much good at puzzles. But now, assigned to investigate a ritual murder of an American in Ethiopia, she and a shady stolen-art hunter must solve the world's oldest palindrome—the infamous SATOR Square—to thwart a religious conspiracy that reaches back to the Age of Discovery and an arcane monastic order of Portuguese sea explorers.
Separated by half a millennium, two espionage plots dovetail in this breakneck thriller, driven by history's most elusive mystery....
... the shocking secret that Christopher Columbus took to the grave.
"If you love Steve Berry, Dan Brown or Umberto Eco, you may have a new author favorite in Glen Craney." -- BESTTHRILLERS.COM
"An exciting journey across time, with more twists and turns than a strawberry Twizzler." -- QUARTERDECK MAGAZINE
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A graduate of Indiana University School of Law and Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism, Glen Craney practiced trial law before joining the Washington, D.C. press corps to write about national politics and the Iran-contra trial for Congressional Quarterly magazine. In 1996, the Academy of Motion Pictures, Arts and Sciences awarded him the Nicholl Fellowship prize for best new screenwriting. His debut historical novel, The Fire and the Light, was named Best New Fiction by the National Indie Excellence Awards. He is a three-time Finalist/Honorable Mention winner of Foreword Magazine’s Book-of-the-Year, a Chaucer Award winner, and a Military Writers Society of America Gold Medalist. His books have taken readers to Occitania during the Albigensian Crusade, the Scotland of Robert Bruce, Portugal during the Age of Discovery, the trenches of France during World War I, the battlefields of the American Civil War, and the American Hoovervilles of the Great Depression. He has served as president of the Southern California Chapter of the Historical Novel Society.
In Desperate Measures, Audrey learns of Paul’s duplicity when human cloning experiments go awry.
Forbidden Lore beckons Arianna and Ethan into a haunted cemetery where they are confronted by a gathering of witches with evil intent.
Adrian must challenge his father to marry Rina or suffer the fate of star-crossed lovers in Forever Lost.
In The Hourglass, Flair makes a covenant with the Devil to keep Brice alive.
Aaron reflects upon his childhood as a military brat in Sail with Me.
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Nick and Julia O’Connor’s dream trip to Venice collapses when a haunting voice reaches out to Nick from Tintoretto’s Paradise, a monumental depiction of Heaven. Convinced his delusions are the result of a concussion, Julia insists her husband see a doctor, though Nick is adamant the voice was real.
Blacking out in the museum, Nick flashes back to a life as a 16th century Venetian peasant swordsman. He recalls precisely who the voice belongs to: Isabella Scalfini, a married aristocrat he was tasked to seduce but with whom he instead found true love. A love stolen from them hundreds of years prior.
She implores Nick to liberate her from a powerful order of religious vigilantes who judge and sentence souls to the canvas for eternity. Releasing Isabella also means unleashing thousands of other imprisoned souls, all of which the order claims are evil.
As infatuation with a possible hallucination clouds his commitment to a present-day wife, Nick’s past self takes over. Wracked with guilt, he can no longer allow Isabella to remain tormented, despite the consequences. He must right an age-old wrong – destroy the painting and free his soul mate. But the order will eradicate anyone who threatens their ethereal prison and their control over Venice.
Violence, a rape scene, a torture scene.
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I survived a plane crash.
Well, it was more like a plane fender-bender, but still. I’ve traveled a great bit (forty countries, forty U.S. States, five continents) and have had some incredible trips, but this crash wasn’t even the culmination of the worst trip of my life.
I was returning from a business trip to New Delhi, on which I contracted dysentery. I had a connecting flight in Newark before finally returning to my home in Los Angeles and while we were on the tarmac waiting to take off, another plane hit us! Thankfully we weren’t in the air and nobody was hurt, but the damage was severe enough that both planes were grounded.
Six hours later, we finally took off in new planes. Still ill, I returned home to find my girlfriend at the time had broken up with me and rats had moved into my apartment. Not the greatest of trips, but it makes for a cool story!
I hitchhiked to Romania.
While doing a semester abroad in the city of Pécs in southern Hungary, I had been living on a budget of three dollars, which was actually enough for three meals, beers, and cigarettes.
Another American student and I learned we could stretch our dollar even further in Romania, where vodka and cigarettes were even cheaper. So, along with a Hungarian friend, the three of us decided to hitchhike to Romania.
After multiple rides, including being dropped off in the middle of nowhere and sleeping in the back of a nightclub, we finally made it to within a few miles of the border. The only problem? Nobody wanted to take these obviously American kids across. Finally, we were picked up by the cops, who, it turned out, just wanted to see U.S. passports. We ended up taking the bus back and spending much more than we ever expected to save, but it sure was a great adventure.
I’ve been in three movies.
At one point in my writing career, I was a screenwriter in Los Angeles. Being involved in the movies, you meet a lot of people and I was invited to be an extra on multiple occasions. I opted for three, all fantastic experiences. These were Point Doom, starring Ice-T (with whom I had a scene), Richard Grieco and Angie Everhart; Varsity Blues, with James Van Der Beek, Jon Voight, and a then-unknown Paul Walker; and Collateral, starring Tom Cruise and Jamie Foxx.
I was a club dancer in Collateral in a major action scene. Tom Cruise shoots five people and the place goes berserk. Prior to the shooting, Tom Cruise needed to navigate the dancers. Due to the intricacies of the scene, director Michael Mann needed to shoot it about ten times. And each time Tom had to bump into me as he traversed the dance floor. (BTW, he’s a super nice guy and bought everybody (at least a hundred people) dinner.)
I used to work for the Japanese government.
Prior to following my dream as a writer, I was an International Relations major with minors in Japanese and Political Science, on track to take the foreign service exam. My first job out of college was with the Japan External Trade Organization, a branch of the Japanese government’s version of the U.S. Department of Commerce. This was in New York (where I’m from). My job was to help American businesses from seventeen states in doing business with Japan.
I dabbled as an artist and musician.
As an artist, my medium was a mixed media collage. Specifically, I worked with money—actual money—creating images with U.S. currency. As a musician, I play guitar and sing. I’ve been in two bands and played live about fifty times.
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To learn more about The Prisoner of Paradise or to find purchase locations, visit the author's Website
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In addition to being a novelist, Rob Samborn is a screenwriter, entrepreneur, and avid traveler. He’s been to forty countries, lived in five of them, and studied nine languages. As a restless spirit who can’t remember the last time he was bored, Rob is on a quest to explore the intricacies of our world and try his hand at a multitude of crafts; he’s also an accomplished artist and musician, as well as a budding furniture maker. A native New Yorker who lived in Los Angeles for twenty years, he now makes his home in Denver with his wife, daughter, and dog.
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Excessive foul language, gruesome injury, and battle detail
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MJ Porter is the author of many historical novels set predominantly in Seventh to Eleventh-Century England, and in Viking Age Denmark. Raised in the shadow of a building that was believed to house the bones of long-dead Kings of Mercia, meant that the author's writing destiny was set. MJ Porter has also written two twentieth-century mysteries.
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Whispered by the wise and the learned. Talked of in hushed tones around luminous firesides. Engraved by awestruck scribes in the scriptoria of the chronicles. Against all the odds, great King Alfred defeated a vastly superior Danish army outside Chippenham. This victory, the sages prophesied, would guarantee peace throughout the land. Or so they thought.
Two years later, Rigr the Bastard, vengeful and seeking to claim his birthright, was defeated in the wilds of East Anglia. His blood-smeared berserker warriors vanquished; no quarter asked for - no quarter given.
Now, a further two years later, the Vikings return. Noble Prince Sven instigates a seaborne invasion, fueled partly by blind rage when he discovers that his brother, Prince Erik, has sworn fealty to the Anglo-Saxon king. His own brother: a traitor and a fool.
Erik’s love, Lady Gwyneth, attempts to stop the invasion before it starts by uniting the two estranged brothers, but her scheming only succeeds in making matters worse. Indeed, her interference guarantees the death of thousands of warriors in the freezing, tumultuous North Sea.
So when the horns of Sven’s monumental fleet of warships are heard off the fogbound coast of Britannia, King Alfred - outnumbered, outshipped, and weary of the fray - must rouse his jaded Saxon warriors and lead them to sea to repel his most formidable enemy yet. A host motivated by the spilled blood of the fallen, the spirit of black vengeance, and the delights of a warrior’s reward in Valhalla is the most fearsome opponent of all.
Alfred. Sven. Erik. Gwyneth. Amidst the ferrous reverberation of a battle royale - one or all must die, and the fate of a nation hangs in the balance one final time.
Listen to the Preface HERE
1513. A secret Twelfth Night wedding is about to take place on Saint Michael’s Mount, at the furthermost point of Tudor Cornwall. Far from the glittering Christmas court at Greenwich. Heads will surely roll if Henry VIII discovers the deception!
But there is an unexpected twist to the tale when uninvited guests appear at the Castle. The King is hellbent on a so-called holy war with France, against the advice of his Lord Treasurer, Thomas Howard. Putting him at odds with his normally affable Scottish brother-in-law, James IV of Scotland.
On the other hand, the King’s almoner, Thomas Wolsey, (who has become a thorn in Thomas’s side) is very much in favour of the war as he contentedly watches his star rising at the Tudor court.
Across the Narrow Sea, Louis XII of France is trying to renew the ‘Auld Alliance’ with Scotland. Tristan and Nicolas remain at loggerheads over pretty Ysabeau, the flirtatious young wife of their ageing neighbour. Valentine is still making mischief as she sees fit, particularly for Tristan.
Cecily is perfectly content in her beloved Zennor Castle in Cornwall. But none of them know what Dame Fortune has in store for them. Will she allow them to follow their own paths...or does she have other ideas? Laughter and tears galore! All this and much more in further adventures at The House of the Red Duke…
Rome. The jewel of the civilized world is no longer what it was. Strength has failed the Senate. Her legions are in disarray, and the Empire has fallen into Lucius Domitius Ahenobarbus Nero’s hands. His reign begins under a cloud of scrutiny, for he is the depraved Emperor Caligula’s nephew. Nero is determined to overcome that stigma and carve a name of his own. One worthy of Rome’s illustrious history.
Politics and treachery threaten to end Nero’s reign before it begins, forcing him to turn to unexpected sources for friendship and help. Many of the Praetorian Guard have watched over Nero since he was a small child, and it is in Traian that the young Emperor places his trust, despite the inherent threat of reducing his mother’s influence. Traian is the father he never had and the one man who does not judge him.
When Traian secretly marries the hostage Vena, it sets in motion a collision of values as Traian comes to odds with his former charge. The whirlwind that follows will shake the very foundations of the greatest Empire the world has ever known, and survival is far from guaranteed.
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The ancient historians Tacitus, Suetonius, and Cassius Dio, are responsible for the historical accounts of Nero’s reign that have survived to this day. It is important to note that none of the works were written during Nero’s lifetime. Emperor Nero died in AD 68. Suetonius was born in AD 70, Tacitus in AD 56, and Cassius Dio in AD 155. Their partiality to the facts is suspect, relying on hearsay. It is important to remember history is written by the victors and is not always accurate.
To understand Emperor Nero’s mindset or genetic predisposition, as some may claim, we must immerse ourselves into the political arena of the Roman Empire, where the wrong choice could result in ruin or death.
Emperor Tiberius’s heir, the future Emperor Caligula, spent most of his youth on the Isle of Capri. He witnessed first-hand continuous plotting, paranoia, assassination attempts, and sexual deviancy while trying to stay alive as his uncle silenced his opponents, including Caligula’s mother and brothers.
When Emperor Caligula came to the throne, he ordered his sisters to return to the Imperial Court, which included Agrippina, mother of Emperor Nero. After recovering from an illness that changed Caligula’s personality, Agrippina and her sister plotted against their brother, but the attempt failed. Agrippina was exiled to the Pontine Islands while her son was sent to Calabria to live with his paternal aunt.
Upon the death of Emperor Caligula, Claudius became Emperor. He recalled Agrippina and Nero to the Imperial Court. The mother and son reunion greatly impacted the young Nero. He observed the power struggle between his mother and Messalina, the wife of Claudius, as their ambitions clashed, each wanting the throne for their son.
Agrippina’s obsession never faltered. She survived the assassin’s hand, manipulated powerful men, including her Uncle Claudius, whom she eventually married. Once Nero was named heir to Caesar’s throne, Claudius died unexpectedly after eating poisonous mushrooms. Shortly thereafter, Claudius’s son, Britannicus, died after suffering a seizure. Nero’s rule was now secure.
Imagine a four-year-old child being torn from his mother and sent away to a holding 350 miles south of Rome. What thoughts must have run through young Nero’s mind when he found himself alone, surrounded by strangers who probably kept their distance, fearing reprisal from Caligula?
During that formative year, Nero lived among the slaves, playing with the children, helping in the fields, crying himself to sleep, lonely and afraid.
In all probability, the slaves pitied the child, ignored by his relatives, and treated him as one of their own.
Nero’s adjustment to his new station in life unraveled with his return to the Imperial Court. For a second time, the child’s stability was uprooted. Instinctively, he clung to his mother, not knowing his part in a dangerous game being played.
Did Agrippina instil fear into his impressible mind, telling her son only she could save him, causing his dependency?
The Imperial Court
Nero’s education befitted his rank. He loved the arts and enjoyed writing poetry, playing instruments, and singing songs. Wearing costumes while acting in Grecian plays endeared him to his tutors, and the people admired his athletic prowess.
However, during this time, Nero lost his innocence, learning the machinations of government, and the lengths to keep power, greed overshadowing equality, the privileged few ignoring the rule of law.
Did he suspect his mother’s part in the demise of Messalina? Who had alerted Claudius about his wife’s licentious affairs? Did Agrippina manage to lace the mushrooms with poison after the food had been tasted? What part did she play in Britannicus’s death, if any?
Nero watched the events play out silently while absorbing the seeds of power. This aphrodisiac would evolve, becoming insatiable, following a familiar path as his uncles before him.
The first five years of Emperor Nero’s reign showed a young man caring for his people. He lowered taxes and gave more authority to the Senate. He created programs for the Arts and made changes to the slave laws. Later in his reign, he provided Fire Relief when most of Rome lay in ruins.
Unfortunately for Agrippina, her son grew up, and with maturity came annoyance at her meddling. His mother was an adept politician with excellent ruling skills. When she refused to pass the torch, friction followed.
There were many arguments between mother and son as Nero spread his wings. But Agrippina met her match with Nero’s current wife, Poppaea. This power struggle could only have one outcome, and Agrippina would not be victorious.
Did Nero arrange for the execution of his mother? In all probability, Poppaea was involved from the beginning. Agrippina survived many assassination attempts, but her days were numbered. When she did not drown after her boat sank, soldiers were sent to finish the job. She either died by her own hand or by a guard’s sword.
This unfortunate decision plagued Nero for the rest of his life. Rumors spread that Agrippina’s ghost haunted the emperor’s dreams. His sanity remained in question.
Poppaea felt threatened by Nero’s former wife, Octavia, who he divorced after charging her with adultery. But Poppaea would not rest until she had Octavia’s head on a platter. Once exiled, Nero ordered his guards to execute the daughter of Claudius and bring Poppaea her head.
And gossipmongers repeated bone-chilling tales of Octavia’s ghost joining Agrippina’s apparition in Nero’s bed-chamber, causing him to cower beneath a pillow.
The people blamed their emperor for the Great Fire, accusing him of setting the flame freeing land to build his Golden House. Did Poppaea suggest that her husband accuse the Christian sect of starting the fire? A perfect ploy to keep the emperor in the people’s good graces. And the idea worked. Culpability shifted, condemning the followers of Christ to death.
Kicking a pregnant wife to death
Although Nero had violent outbursts, there were no witnesses to the alleged attack on his pregnant wife, Poppaea. In all probability, she died in childbirth.
Death of Britannicus
Modern historians have disputed the ancient text that Nero had poisoned his stepbrother, threatening his succession. Scientists have also challenged this claim. It has been argued that since Britannicus suffered from epilepsy, the condition caused his death by obstructing his airway.
Nero fiddled while Rome burned
Fiddles did not appear until the Middle Ages. Furthermore, Nero was away at his villa in Antium (modern-day Anzio) when the fire started at a merchant’s stall near the Circus Maximus. When word reached the emperor, he rushed back to Rome, fighting the blaze and providing temporary housing for the displaced citizens.
People are a product of their environment. The mores of the first century are very different from the twenty-first century. Although the brutality of the time cannot be condoned, the reality of the times explains why.
Nero was not born a monster, yet the genetic predisposition argument says otherwise, especially since similar traits were evident with his uncles, Tiberius and Caligula.
Nero had been in love with a slave whom he wanted to marry, wishing to live out their days in Greece before Agrippina sent her away. Without his love’s wise counsel, Nero followed his mother’s advice, choosing power and wealth no matter the cost.
He had been sensitive to the plight of the poor and the treatment of slaves. Even at his death, the citizens of Rome loved their Emperor they had compared to Adonis. Perhaps, Nero was not completely lost?
Somewhere the good-natured boy turned into a suspicious man after realizing the dangers of wearing Caesar’s crown. Self-survival meant eradicating one’s enemies. That was the world Nero lived in. Should he have attempted to change the system? Would he have stayed in power if he had tried?
I mourn for the ruler that might have been.
Traian Aelius Protacius