Sunday, December 28, 2008

"The Lost Temple"

Tom Harper was born in 1977 and grew up in West Germany, Belgium, and America before returning to England to study history at Lincoln College, Oxford. His conclusion to the short story “Death by the Invisible Hand” was published in The Economist in 1997, and his novels have been translated into twelve languages.

He applied the Page 69 Test to his latest novel, The Lost Temple, and reported the following:
Moving very slowly, Muir lit another cigarette. Each sound seemed unnaturally loud in the hot afternoon air – the click of the case, the flare of phosphorous, the crack as Muir snapped the spent matchstick in two. A shadow passed across his face: a hawk hovering in the sky.

‘All right.’ He took a deep drag and his mouth curled in something like pleasure. ‘I’ll tell you what I can.’

‘You’d better hope it’s enough.’

Muir took a bundle of photographs from his shirt pocket and passed one to Grant.

‘It looks like our tablet.’

‘It was found by the Americans in the dying days of the war, at a scientific facility they’d captured in Oranienburg. Germany.’

This is a crucial early scene, where all four protagonists finally come together and start to learn what they’re looking for. Muir is the abrasive British Secret Service agent directing the search for a clay tablet inscribed with prehistoric writing; the other half of the conversation here is Sam Grant, the disgraced adventurer whom Muir has just sprung from a Palestinian prison to help hunt down the tablet. The clues they find in this scene set them properly on the trail towards one of the greatest treasures of antiquity.

The scene takes place in the atmospherically-named Valley of the Dead [author's photo, right; click to enlarge] on the eastern tip of Crete: a deep red-rock gorge riddled with caves where people have been buried since ancient times. The moment I heard the name I knew I had to include it in the book. It also kept my editor sweet: he went there on vacation twenty years ago and is nuts about the place.

The detail of the photographs having been found at a German research facility was inspired by Joseph Kanon’s The Good German, which I’d read around this time and which deals with scientific papers discovered in post-war Germany. Lost Temple is my unashamed homage to Indiana Jones, so obviously it had to have Nazis in it.
Read an excerpt from The Lost Temple and view the trailer at Tom Harper's website.

Visit the complete list of books in the Page 69 Test Series.

--Marshal Zeringue