Welcome, my name is Len Camarda, author of Prey of the Falcon, The Seventh Treasure and some short stories you will see in my “Other Works.” My novels do delve into history, include some historical fiction and often take you to new and exotic lands.
Prey of the Falcon ventures into the heart of the Middle East; touching on its past, examining its present and speculating about its future is an ambitious task, and one not taken lightly. In my novel, The Seventh Treasure, which took place entirely in Spain, I often referred to the magic, majesty and mystery of that country, with each region offering its own unique character and history, certainly shaped by its almost eight hundred year occupation by Muslim invaders from Arabia and North Africa (Moors).
The Middle East and the multitude of countries that fall under that heading even more aptly fit the magic, majesty and mystery description. Civilizations that go back thousands of years, none more impressive than ancient Egypt, the precursor of the great Greek and Roman empires to follow. The many desert kingdoms and tribal dynasties occupying these lands for millennia were ultimately and haphazardly transformed following World War I by British and French bureaucrats into the countries we know today. But the magic and majesty of these lands cannot be denied.
Hollywood has taken us back to those times with cinematic spectaculars and even now, stories of that ancient era are seen on Broadway and in animated features that seem never to lose their popularity. We are enthralled with that magical history and the mysteries that surround it.
One of my reference materials that found a place in Prey of the Falcon is Tales of the Arabian Nights, or One Thousand and One Nights, as these works are referred to in earlier versions. Originally, many of these tales were set in India, which is believed to be the source of its origins, in the eighth or ninth century, or earlier. Stories were passed on by word of mouth, with Persian and Arab contributions added over the years. The storytelling traditions of these lands embellished the tales as they were passed on to one another, and as their popularity grew, the tales began to be organized. Over the next five centuries a number of manuscripts were created in several languages and a variety of versions, soon becoming a piece of classic Arab literature.
Ultimately European translations followed, first in French (Antoine Galland, 1701, 1704-1717), and the best known English translation by Sir Richard Burton was published in sixteen volumes in the late 1800’s. The tales of Shahrazad, and how she beguiled a king with a labyrinth of stories within stories, were the original basis of One Thousand and One Nights. Over the centuries, the exploits of Sindbad the Sailor, Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves and Aladdin and the Magic Lamp followed, and today, it is perhaps the most widely read piece of literature after the Bible, despite having no authors, only translators.
I mention this to illustrate the concept of the magic, majesty and mystery of these lands and how many of us grew up, enthralled with stories of boys on flying carpets, genies granting three wishes, magical palaces and beguiling, young heroes and heroines. The children of today are experiencing the same delight thanks to a major entertainment and cinema studio dominating the landscape with animated features, live action movies and transitions to blockbuster Broadway plays that run for years. This, in the midst of the turmoil and uncertainty that color this region and its future.
In between how stories from The Tales of the Arabian Nights delighted the children all over the world, highlighted by the movies of the 1950’s, and now, once more in the 21st century, are two important developments that serve as background for today’s environment. The first is the birth of Israel (1948), partitioned out of British-controlled Palestine and vividly chronicled in Exodus, the spectacular Leon Uris novel depicting Israel’s struggle to survive against overwhelming odds. A giant movie by Otto Preminger in 1960 brought the newspaper reports to many more millions all over the world. The magical stories we grew up with took on a new perspective as the formation of Israel gave birth to perpetual conflict and terror endemic in this region today.
The second most influential media event was the 1962 David Lean majestic epic, Lawrence of Arabia, the story of T.E. Lawrence, who unites warring Arab tribes into a guerilla army that defeats the mighty Ottoman Empire that ruled these desert factions. While this event preceded the formation of Israel by thirty years, this history was brought to life for all to witness in the David Lean movie. The Middle East, as we know it today; Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Iran, Oman, the United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, Qatar, on and on, was born at the end of World War I, following the victorious campaign led by Lawrence. And then came the oil and things changed again.
So, growing up in this fairy tale environment—beguiling tales of magic, majesty and mystery—is followed by the harsh reality of where we are today, much of it the consequences of the Iranian revolution, exacerbated by the tragedy of 9/11 and all that has followed. My own travels to this area, specifically, Egypt, Israel, Morocco, Tunisia, Turkey, Oman, Jordan, the Emirates, still gives me hope, despite the schizophrenic politics and policies of these desert kingdoms. The main perpetrator in Prey of the Falcon, Assad al-Amin, wants something better for this region, a fair and equitable—and safe— environment for these people, especially its women. There is no magic lamp and he just goes about it in a heinous way.