The perfect Christmas gift

If you enjoy ancient murder mysteries, that is.  "This will have the wealth of historical mystery buffs jumping up and down for joy."

Here's a lovely review of The Marathon Conspiracy that appeared a few issues back in Suspense Magazine, which is well worth subscribing to.

“The Marathon Conspiracy” By Gary Corby 

Corby has most definitely brought to readers three amazing tales they will not soon forget. And now comes a fourth historical mystery set in Greece that, yet again, is so well-written you will feel as if you are truly part of the Ancient World. 

The elections are about to be held in the city of Athens and the city’s (wise) statesman, Pericles, asks his inquiry agent, Nicolaos, to look into a matter that could undermine all of the political elections. It seems that a skeleton has been found at a girls’ school located not too far from Athens. 

Nico is the super sleuth, to say the least; a sleuth who has just taken time off to wed his investigating partner, Diotima. Of course, Pericles and the case put that happy occasion on hold. Especially when the remains just happen to be those of Hippias. This was the massive traitor to the Greeks and, in the Battle of Marathon, was killed and left behind in Persia. The veterans of that battle are beyond angry. They have always claimed they were the men who thwarted the traitor, and they need to gain favor and political power, not stones to the head. And if this is not enough trouble, one of the girls who found the bones is dead, and the other has gone missing. 

Shocking surprises arrive to the Athenian world, as they wonder why and how the traitor is ‘back.’ There is no obvious reason behind the bones finding their home in Athens, and Nico and Pericles must solve the mystery as fast as possible before Athens becomes a bed of power hungry, angry, willing-to-do-anything tyrants. 

This will have the wealth of historical mystery buffs jumping up and down for joy. As with Corby’s other works, the tale is full of humor, suspense-filled plots, subplots, and characters that are unforgettable. It is no overstatement to say that Corby most definitely knows his history backwards and forwards, providing stories that are beyond exciting. 

Reviewed by Mary Lignor, Professional Librarian and Co-Owner of The Write Companion

Don't let the bedbugs bite!

In addition to deep and profound philosophy, classical Athens also scores in a slightly more prosaic subject:  the earliest documented mention of bedbugs comes from them.  It's in a play called The Clouds, written by Aristophanes.

In it, no less than Socrates is instructing a young man named Strepsiades.  Socrates asks his student what deep thoughts he is thinking.  Strespiades replies, "Whether there'll be anything left of me after the bedbugs have finished chewing."

Yep. it's Hades and Persephone

The archaeologists have uncovered the rest of the mosaic.  And there, sure enough, is Persephone.

Which means the guy carrying her off is Hades.  Which means you can't use this picture to predict who's inside.  It's a stock image, like putting Jesus on the cross over a modern tomb.

Of course, this one's a particularly exquisite stock image!  The intriguingly round damage in the centre is a bit of a bummer, but even so this mosaic will be gracing art history textbooks for the next century or so.

The press release on this mentioned the same thing I did in my last post: the style of this picture is very similar to one at the royal Macedonian burial ground at Vergina.  That other tomb is believed to be Philip II's, the father of Alexander.

Let me take a moment to talk about why the guy on the chariot could be called either Hades or Pluto.  In the original Greek religion he was Hades.  His underworld realm of the dead came to be known by the name of its ruler, but that wasn't originally the case.

By the time of Nicolaos and Diotima, the dead go to Hades, which is ruled by Hades.  This is kind of confusing.  In my books therefore I usually distinguish by calling the place Hades, and its ruler Lord Hades, which isn't technically correct but means you have some idea of which Hades is meant when my characters are talking.

Real classical Greeks had the same problem, so sometimes referred to the god Hades by his epithet Plouton.  The Romans picked that up and changed it to Pluto.

So technically I could call him Pluto in my books, but if I did, too many readers would imagine a lovable puppy dog, which isn't quite the reaction I want when discussing the feared Lord of the Dead.

More on that tomb in Amphipolis

A while back I wrote about the increasingly famous dig at Amphipolis, and explained why Alexander the Great is not in there.

The plot thickened slightly a few hours ago, when the Greek Ministry of culture released pictures of a terrific mosaic.

Here's the mosaic (I've taken all these from the press release):

Yes, the centre is damaged.  But the rest of the image is remarkably clear.

The guy on the left is Hermes.  He's got the staff in his left hand (it's called a caduceus).  He's got the wacky hat.  The hat is because Hermes travels a lot.  He wears the wide-brimmed affair to keep the sun off.

He won't need it where he's going on this trip though, because Hermes is leading someone to the afterworld.

In addition to being Messenger of the Gods, Hermes also leads dead people to Hades.  In that guise he's known as Hermes Chthonios.  If you're an H.P. Lovecraft fan then you'll be familiar with that last word.  It simply means "underground".

Weirdly, the guy on the chariot is probably Lord Hades himself.  It might seem odd that Hades needs a guide to get home, but this is a standard motif.  He's sometimes depicted on a chariot racing home with a very reluctant Persephone in tow.

The extremely erudite and in this case well-informed PhDiva has suggested the guy on the chariot might be Philip II, who was the father of Alexander.

Don't get excited.  This isn't the tomb of Alexander's father, unless there's something hideously wrong with the identification of another tomb at a place called Vergina.

Personally I think the jury will be out for some time on the identification of the driver.  If it's Hades, then it really doesn't say much about who's inside.

What is very interesting is that the picture looks much like another one at Pella, which was the capital of Macedonia in the time of Philip and Alexander.  The Pella mosaic shows an Abduction of Helen by Theseus.

If you told me the same artist did both, I wouldn't argue.  More likely it was a standard style of the times.  But it makes identical dating and the link to Pella very strong.

It also raises the probability that the tomb holds someone  closely associated with Alexander.  But that's just a guess.  Who it is remains a mystery.

Ancient Sausages

The classical and ancient Greeks had sausages.  Just thought I'd mention that piece of trivia.

How do we know this?  Because one of the main characters in The Knights by Aristophanes is a sausage seller who plies his trade in the agora.

However the earliest known mention of sausage is in the Odyssey, believe it or not.  At one point our heroes make sausages from pork stomach filled with blood and fat.  This is described as a tasty meal that the warriors can't wait to tuck into.

Personally, I'd run away screaming.  I am not keen on blood sausage.

Toilet seats of the ancient world

An ancient Roman toilet seat has been discovered along Hadrian's Wall. Just to prove a good design lasts forever...

I found this courtesy of a BBC article.

The Tomb of Alexander the Great

There's been a lot of news recently about a major tomb discovery in Macedonia.  In fact that tomb's been known of for years, but excavation is underway; the tomb has turned out to be massive and ornate, and it's just the right dating to be immediately post-Alexander the Great.  This has almost inevitably caused people to announce that we've discovered the tomb of Alexander.

So could this be Alexander's grave?

No, not a hope in Hades.

After Alexander died, his Generals fought each other in a super-war for control of the empire.   They were called the Successor Wars, and they weren't much fun.  If you think Texas Chainsaw Massacre Meets Gladiator with a cast of tens of thousands then you wouldn't be far off.  Throughout this brutal affair, whoever had possession of Alexander's dead body got extra victory points.

The major biographer of Alexander from the ancient world was a guy called Arrian.  Arrian -- and every other ancient writer on the subject for that matter -- says that Ptolemy hijacked the body of Alexander while it was on its way elsewhere.  (Yes, I know this is macabre.)

Ptolemy installed the body in Memphis, the capital of Egypt, while a temple and tomb was prepared in the newly-built city of Alexandria.  (Alexandria was, of course, founded by Alexander.)  Ptolemy's son, also called Ptolemy, oversaw the final installation of the corpse during the next generation.

Thus in the second century BC, Alexander is definitely in Alexandria, in a lovely temple in the middle of the city.

Cut to the birth of the Roman Empire.  The history of Dio Cassius says that after Augustus conquered Marc Antony and Cleopatra in Egypt, he was taken to see the tomb of Alexander.  The sarcophagus was opened and Augustus gazed upon Alexander's face.

Augustus, future first emperor of Rome, then got it into his head to kiss a 300 year old corpse.  (Yes, this is kind of creepy.)  Dio Cassius reports that in the process Augustus accidentally broke Alexander's nose.

It's possible that some time in the intervening years someone moved Alexander to Macedon, but if so, then who was Augustus pashing in 30BC?   Furthermore, checking out Alexander's corpse became something of a de rigeur tourist attraction for high ranking Romans.  Strabo and Caligula are both stated to have seen him, still in Alexandria.  The tomb was eventually closed to tourists in the third century AD by Septimus Severus, who apparently had some sense of propiety.

Thus it's impossible that any grave in Macedonia could possibly hold Alexander.  I'm thinking someone digging deep in Alexandria will eventually find it.


...mixes fact and fiction into a fine froth of a meal

The San Jose Mercury News has printed a mini-review of The Marathon Conspiracy, along with three other good books.  I particularly liked the reviewers fun phrase "...mixes fact and fiction into a fine froth of a meal."

Here's the complete set of reviews.  I think I'll be reading those other books.

500,000 hits

This blog has passed half a million hits.

When I started it, I thought one or two, or perhaps as many as five people might be interested in odd facts about the ancient world.  It turns out there are slightly more of us than I thought.

Thanks for reading!

The Historical Novel Society has reviewed The Marathon Conspiracy.  You can see the full review on their site here.

But if you'd like the summary version, here is how a publicist condensed it!

“The author’s knowledge of ancient Greece is superb…a really well-told story. Highly recommended.”

A cup Pericles drank from has been discovered

Here's something totally amazing.  A drinking cup has been discovered that probably was used by Pericles, and there's some actual evidence to back up that remarkable claim.  The find is reported in an article from the Greek edition of the International New York Times.  (Many thanks to Irene Hahn for pointing it out to me!)

Yes, we're talking about the Pericles, the greatest statesman of the classical world, from two thousand four hundred years ago.  Here's the cup:

On the left hand side you'll see some letters inscribed.  The article states they are five names.  (I can't read them from that angle, and this is the only picture I could find.)

One of those names is Pericles.  Another is Ariphron.  Now Pericles was a relatively common name back then, but it just so happens that our Pericles had a brother named Ariphron, and Ariphron was an unusual name.  The odds are then that the cup is referring to the Pericles.

As you probably know, it was standard practice at parties in those days to pass around a cup that everyone sipped from.  (And indeed I made use of that little fact in The Ionia Sanction).   It was perfectly reasonable for the happy party goers to commemorate a lovely evening by scratching their names into the cup from which they'd all drunk.  That's what has happened here.

Another possibility is that Pericles, his brother, and three friends were hanging out at a tavern, and the tavern owner later wrote in the names of his famous guests.  I think that less likely though because if the dating on the cup is accurate, then the tavern owner would have to be psychic to know that young Pericles was destined for great things.

On the evidence as stated then, you're looking at a cup that was held and drunk from by Pericles.

Let me run through some questions that I guess people will ask...

Is it for real?  That was the first question I asked myself.  I guess it could be a fake, but if so, carbon dating will expose it pretty quickly.  Likewise, if someone took a genuine ancient cup and scratched in the names, then micro-analysis will show it up for sure.   So I'm assuming it's for real.

Could this be a coincidence?    Yes, but if so then the people who found this thing are the world's unluckiest archaeologists.  I doubt there were so many pairs of men named Pericles and Ariphron that this could be a coincidence.

Could we get Pericles's DNA from this?  No, not a hope in Hades.  The cup presumably was used lots of times after Pericles touched it; I like to think that they washed it between uses; and it's been lying in a grave for a couple of thousand years.

Is that Pericles's handwriting?  Only if he can't spell his own name.  The news report says Pericles was misspelt, and whoever made the error corrected it.  Either that, or Pericles was monumentally drunk.  By the same logic, Ariphron could probably spell his own brother's name.  The author then is one of the other three men.

Whose grave did it come from?  The report says it was a pauper's grave, so definitely not Pericles.  Since it was among grave goods, the deceased must have valued the cup highly.  It may be one of the other three guests kept the cup and later fell on hard times.  Or perhaps the cup was eventually thrown out with the trash and a poor man picked it up?

Gary interviewed for Sisters In Crime, St Louis.

A few days ago I was interviewed for the St Louis chapter of Sisters In Crime, and here is the result.  (I'll just add in passing that skype is a wonderful thing.)

If you haven't comes across the Sisters In Crime before, they're an organization of crime writers who, when it began, were all of a female persuasion.  Since then they've added some brothers, or honorary sisters...I'm not quite sure how that works.  But in any case they are a lovely group of people with a terrific name.

Public service announcement: how to kill someone by anal impalement

A few years ago I achieved minor internet infamy by writing about how to kill someone by anal impalement.  It was an ancient form of execution used by the Hittites and Persians.

Soho Press have picked up the original post as part of their own blog.  So if you missed it the first time, then here is the step-by-step guide.

The Page 69 Test!

The Page 69 Test.  What does page 69 tell us about The Marathon Conspiracy?

I can't imagine why Marshal picked the number 69, but this is a test where an author compares whatever happens on page 69 to the rest of the book.  Enjoy.

Writers Read, and Campaign for the American Reader

Marshal Zeringue is an indefatigable promoter of books and reading across a number of web sites.  I think by now he must have interviewed or recommended hundreds of authors.  Many hundreds!

He asked me what I'd been reading recently.  My replies are at Writers Read and Campaign for the American Reader.

Thanks Marshal!

So now I'm listed in a book of quotations

Here’s an odd thing.  I am now listed in a book of quotations.

It Was a Dark and Stormy Tweet: Five Hundred 1st Lines in 140 Characters or Less is a compilation of opening lines of various novels.  

The opening line of The Pericles Commission is included. She’s also used it as one of three samples in her book description.  (along with John Scalzi and John Miller; I am in good company).

What's the line?  Well, if you read this blog, then you've already seen it once or twice.  The first line of my first book was

"A dead man fell from the sky, landing at my feet with a thud."

When I created the blog, I was stuck for a title.  I used the opening phrase, intending to change it later.  I did change it later.  But people said that they preferred the dead man, so I put him back.  And that's why this blog has such a funny name.

Soho International Crime Club! Plus, that duel in hot air balloons.

If you're a fan of mysteries, thrillers and crime, then let me advert you, as the Duke of Wellington would say, to the Soho International Crime Club.  It's a subscription system where they feed you a mystery a month.   It's an even better deal if you're fond of global death, because a lot of the books are set in exotic locales, such as (ahem) classical Greece.

While on the subject of global death, I previously wrote about the most unusual duel in history, which took place in Paris, France, in 1808.  If you missed it, Soho has reproduced the article for their own web site.  Hop on over if you'd like to read about blunderbusses and hot air balloons.

Rockstar Egyptian Women

Stephanie Thornton writes historical novels about women in tough leadership jobs.  Like, for example, being Pharaoh of Egypt, or Empress of the Byzantine Empire.  Her first release was The Secret History: A Novel of Empress Theodora.

Her most recent book is Daughter of the Gods: A Novel of Ancient Egypt.  It's about Hatshepsut, the first woman ruler of Egypt.

As it happens we both also run blogs.  So we've decided to swap jobs for a day.  Stephanie's writing a post for my blog, and I'm writing a post for hers.

Here is Stephanie on women rulers.

The number of women in history who ruled without a husband by their side or as a placeholder for a younger son can fit on one side of a wooden measuring ruler. (I know because I have one…)

Women in ancient Egypt—both queens and commoners—enjoyed more gender equality than many of their historical counterparts. They could own and manage property, divorce their husbands, and work as priestesses and even physicians. They could leave their houses to shop in the market, attend festivals to the gods, and hunt ducks in the Nile’s marshes. And lo and behold, they also ruled Egypt several times throughout the country’s history.

Nitokerty. Hatshepsut. (Possibly Nefertiti as Smenkhare.) Cleopatra.

(Let’s ignore for a moment that Cleopatra lost Egypt once and for all to the Romans. I’d have a few choice words for the nefarious queen if I ever came face to face with her.)

Granted, these women were only tolerated because there was no royal male available to keep the throne warm, but it was only due to Egypt’s relative equality between the sexes that a female pharaoh was seen as a viable alternative. Sadly, for whatever reason, the Egyptians attempted to erase the success of these women’s reigns from the historical record.

Nitokerty faded with time.

Hatshepsut’s monuments depicting her as pharaoh were destroyed.

We still don’t know if Nefertiti ruled after her husband Akhenaten died.

Cleopatra was reviled as a harlot.

The moral of the story? Egyptian women had more freedoms and opportunities than the majority of women in the ancient world, but they still faced an uphill battle to find level footing with men when it came to wearing the Double Crown. Fortunately, some of them proved more than equal to the task and modern scholars are now dusting off their stories so we can appreciate their accomplishments.

With the exception of Cleopatra, of course. J

About the Author: Stephanie Thornton is a writer and history teacher who has been obsessed with infamous women from ancient history since she was twelve. She lives with her husband and daughter in Alaska, where she is at work on her next novel. Visit her website at

Win an ARC of The Marathon Conspiracy, at Quirky Bookworm

Jessica Howard, also known as Quirky Bookworm, is giving away an ARC of The Marathon Conspiracy.

Just head on over to Quirky Bookworm and enter a comment to be in the running.  Competition ends 4th June 2014.

ARC is publisher speak for advance reader copy.  It's a version of the book printed before we've got all the bugs out.  Publishers do a small print run of these so that some lucky readers can see early copies.  After the book's released, the ARCs become something of a curiousity item.

Gary interviewed by Sheri Cobb South

I recently did an interview with reader (and writer) Sheri Cobb South, and, here it is.

I particularly liked Sheri's question about where to visit in Greece, Turkey or the Aegean, if you want to see the locations from the books.  I hadn't quite thought of it before as a tour map.

Gary's "best of" blog posts, appearing at Soho Press

A lot's been happening in the last few weeks.  The Marathon Conspiracy released, it's received a pile of very happy reviews, and I've returned from a trip to the US.

While in the US I was treated to the wonderful hospitality of my publisher, Soho Press.  In return I gave them some Vegemite.  This may seem a cruel exchange.

Here is me in the background, with Abby Koski, who is Publicist Extraordinaire at Soho, and Paul Oliver, Director of Marketing.

Abby snaffled the Vegemite afterwards, and she's still talking to me, so either she hasn't eaten it yet, or she actually likes the stuff.

As it happens, Soho runs their own, very active blog, which is rather unusual for a publisher.  It's not just book promotion; they run a series on how to write a publishable book (from Tim Hallinan) and all sorts of interesting stuff about publishing and language, such as Rachel Kowel's piece on translation.

So we agreed to put a "best of" collection from my blog on Soho's site.  I have 500+ blog posts written, I was amazed to discover when I checked.  Some of them have proven popular, often the ones I least expected.

Soho decided to kick it off with my article on the P.I.E family of languages.

Sacred Games at Abbey's Bookshop

This is the sign outside Abbey's Bookshop today.  

Abbey's is the über-wonderful bookstore, opposite the Queen Victoria Building in Sydney.  Exit the QVB on the non-George Street side, cross the road, and there you are.

Gary on Facebook

I now have an author page on Facebook.

 The web site / blog you're reading now remains my loved home on the net.  The new venture is so people who love facebook can see the same articles and news as appears on this web site. It seems there are lots of people who prefer to see stuff on FB.

 If you're a facebook person and so inclined, do please hop over there to like it. The location is

Signed first editions of The Marathon Conspiracy at The Mysterious Bookshop

The lovely people at The Mysterious Bookshop are offering signed, first editions of The Marathon Conspiracy.  Which I'll mention in passing is getting some awesome reviews.

I was in their store last week signing the books.  I confess I don't know how many I signed, but it was a tidy pile.

If you'd like a signed first edition, click on through to visit The Mysterious Bookshop!

Book bag FAIL: that was a close call.

I am returned from a fan convention in Washington, a trip to my dear publisher Soho in New York, and a stock signing at the ever-friendly Mysterious Bookshop.  Many wonderful and exciting things happened in the last two weeks, but here I'll mention something that happened at the very end.  

I acquired a few books while I traveled, as you might imagine.  Here is the state of my book bag when I picked it off the carousel at Sydney airport.

If that last little piece of fabric had failed, all the books would have been scattered across three airports and two continents.

Herodotus, inventor of the Author Event

The Marathon Conspiracy releases today!  It's the fourth in the continuing adventures of Nico and Diotima, as they struggle to keep ancient Athens safe from enemies both domestic and foreign.

Their story continues apace.  The fifth book is written and going into production.  I begin work on the sixth after I return from a fan con and a trip to NY.

I thought this would be a good moment to stop and reflect on the world's first author event.

There was a lad named Herodotus, who lived at the same time as Nico and Diotima.  In fact, he was almost exactly the same age as our heroes.  Herodotus wrote a book that we call The Histories, because it was the world's first book guessed it...history.  While he was at it, he also pretty much invented the field of anthropology.

Then, when he was finished writing, he invented the Author Event.

Herodotus needed to promote his work, you see.  This is an ancient problem.

At the following Olympics, in 440BC, Herodotus walked into the Temple of Zeus, and started reading.  He started on page 1 (scroll 1) and kept reading right through to the end.  Which probably took days.

The Greeks were amazed.  They forgot about the Olympics and crowded into the temple to hear Herodotus read his book.  Authors would kill for that sort of attention these days.

And that was how Herodotus became the famous author that he is.  His book was an instant best seller.  (Alright, it was the only book on the shelves.)  But still, Herodotus had invented the Author Event.

Gary in Washington DC and New York

I'll be in Washington DC and then New York, first week of May 2014.  If you're in either place, and would like to say hello, then I would love to meet you.

Here's the schedule:

I'll be attending the Malice Domestic fan con in Washington DC.  It's on at the Hyatt, and here's the program info.

If you're attending Malice, then on Friday at 2.30 pm there'll be a coffee hour which I'll be hosting.  Do come and say hi!

I'll be part of a panel on the Saturday morning at 9am, on the subject of (what else but...) historical mysteries.

If you're not attending Malice but you're a reader and just want to meet for a chat, then please let me know and we'll work something out.  I'll be in Washington the entire day of Thursday before the con starts, and I should in theory have spare time in and around the con schedule.

On Monday May 5 through Wednesday May 7 I'll be in New York.

I'll be signing books at Mysterious Bookshop on the Tuesday afternoon at 2pm.  I'd love to see you there.

Otherwise, if you're in New York and would like to say hi, email me and we'll see if we can work out times.

Growing up in classical Greece

These days we think of becoming an adult as a gradual process, but to the Greeks it was an instantaneous event.  Though it worked differently for boys and girls.

In the case of a well-born Athenian girl, she would go to a girls' school at the Sanctuary of Brauron, a year or two before marriageable age.  Less privileged girls would get their education at home.

Either way, at the end of their time the girls would perform a ceremony in which they dedicated their toys to the goddess Artemis.  From that instant they became marriageable adults.

 Proud fathers would commission a statue of their girl to commemorate the occasion.  This was like the graduation photos that families take these days, only back in classical Athens the graduation photo was done  in solid marble.

The great majority of statues of girls from the ancient world come from that sanctuary.  The surviving statues are very beautiful and lifelike, so that we have an astonishingly good idea what the girl children of classical Athens looked like.

On the morning of that ceremonial day, the girl was still a girl.  By nightfall, she was a young lady.  This instant graduation system might seem tough on the girls, but oddly the boys had the exact opposite problem.

Every male went into the army at the age of eighteen and returned to civilian life at twenty.  This two year compulsory service system was still in use across Europe only a few decades ago.  As soon as he reached eighteen the Athenian man could vote in the assembly, but...he didn’t obtain his legal majority until his father had passed away.  It was possible for even a forty year old man to still be a legal child.

This had the odd effect that many young women who were legal adults were married to men older than themselves who were legal children!

Gary talks to Sydney Jones

Sydney Jones writes an intriguing mystery series set in Vienna of the early 1900s, starring lawyer and PI Karl Werthen.  Historic Vienna is a terrific locale for this sort of thing.

Like me -- in fact, like pretty much every historical mystery author -- Sydney is interested in not only his time and place, but every time and place.  To which end he interviews other historical authors on his blog, among whom are a few friends of mine.  I have now joined their number.

Sydney interviewed me for his blog.  You can see the conversation here!

Coffee cups: a tool for writers

As you probably know, authors tend to drink coffee.  Here is a present I received from my daughter, Catriona.  Four coffee cups like this:

I was slightly nonplussed when I opened the box.  Yes, they are very lovely coffee cups.  They are also rather black.

Until you add hot coffee.  Then the black disappears to reveal the picture hidden beneath...

It's a Pericles Commission coffee cup!  I now have a cup for each cover.  Note the coffee within.  My devious daughters and wife took the high-res bitmaps used for the covers to have these made.

Here is The Ionia Sanction cooling down.  It reverts to black.

The entire family!  Apparently I have to write more books if I want more coffee cups.

And the latest release, complete with cappuccino:

Starred review in Publishers Weekly for The Marathon Conspiracy

The Marathon Conspiracy, fourth book in the series, has just received its first review, and it's a delight.  This just in from Publishers Weekly...

The future of democracy itself is on the line in Corby’s outstanding fourth historical set in ancient Greece (after 2013’s Sacred Games).

On the eve of elections in Athens, the city’s wise man, Pericles, enlists his inquiry agent, Nicolaos, to deal with a matter that could undermine the elections. In a cave outside Athens, two schoolgirls have discovered a skeleton that may belong to the tyrant Hippias, who defected to the Persians after his ouster, a move that led to the Battle of Marathon.

With the remains are notes, apparently written by the dictator, which may identify still-living traitors who worked with him even after his defection. One of the schoolgirls was killed shortly afterward, and the other has vanished. The multiple puzzles prove a formidable challenge for Nicolaos and his feisty fiancée, Diotima.

Everything works in this installment—the detective business, the action sequences, the plot twists, and the further development of the series lead.

Agent: Janet Reid, FinePrint Literary. (May)
Reviewed on: 03/03/2014 
Release date: 04/29/2014

Beer through a straw

The earliest beer dates back to at least 3,000 B.C.   That's a minimum, because a pot of that age was found in the Middle East that, on analysis, was found to contain barley beer.

The Greeks were not into beer, not even slightly.  Beer was for barbarians.  The Greeks were however aware of a rather odd custom of early beer swillers.  There’s a fragment of a poem from the archaic poet Archilochos that includes the line:

“…as a Thracian or a Phrygian sucks his barley beer through a tube…”  

Yes, beer was originally drunk through a straw.  To make it more fun it was drunk from pots or, if you went to a party, from a communal vat.

So the process was, you arrived at the party, your host handed you a long straw, and then you all sat or stood around talking while you drank from the same pool of beer.

This image from the British Museum has Mesopotamian beer drinkers hanging out together, in the upper middle:

There's technically no reason why you couldn't try this at your next party!

Audio edition of The Ionia Sanction on sale at Downpour

Downpour is the online consumer division of Blackstone Audio, who sell audio books to libraries.

Right now Downpour is selling the audio edition of The Ionia Sanction on their special deals page.

And in passing, I'm in good company in that sale.  I never thought I’d see the day when my name was on the same page as Isaac Asimov, Conan Doyle and Patrick O’Brian. 

I'm literally aghast

Merriam-Webster, who should know better, has decided that literally means the exact opposite of literally.  Google has followed suit.   They've decided that since most of the internet world has no clue how to use literally, that they might as well give up and give it the wrong definition.  

This will inevitably raise the age-old question whether dictionaries should describe the language as it's used, or the language as it should be used.  

But, if you're going to take the rubbish written on the internet as the definition of English, then it's only a small matter of time before school dictionaries tell u that u means you.  Looking forward to that, r we?