I’m excited to announce that Son of Zeus, the first in my upcoming trilogy about Heracles, will be launched as an e-book on 19th April. It’ll be available from Amazon, as usual. A paperback version will follow later, and as this is being produced and distributed by my publisher, Canelo, it will hopefully be available from local bookshops in the UK. As it’s almost ten years since the launch of King of Ithaca in hardback (Friday 6th June 2008), I think it will be a nice way to round of my first decade as a published author.
Despite being a Greek hero, most people nowadays know Heracles by his Roman name – Hercules. He is widely thought of as the greatest of all mythological heroes, but what do we really know about him? I mean, the real Heracles – the one the Greeks knew and adored. If I had to describe him in one word, it would be “excessive”. He had superhuman strength that none could defeat, whether monster, mortal or god. He was so invincible in battle that when he died it was not by the hand of a more powerful enemy, but by the treachery of a woman. For the most part, he used his gifts to benefit humanity and the gods, which is why he is remembered in such a positive light. In his twelve labours, he famously defeated several monsters that were terrorising mankind. In the Gigantomachy, he helped the Olympians rout the Giants – anarchic offspring of Gaia – and establish divine rule. And, ultimately, he became a god.
However, like all the best heroes, he certainly wasn’t an all-round good guy. His excesses had their flipside. He was a renowned womaniser and a glutton, and he went mad on at least two occasions, with terrible consequences. He was also a hero of great contrasts. He fought for the gods, but he also battled against them when it suited his temperament. Despite being regarded as the most manly of men, he had to dress as a woman and perform female chores for three years. And for someone whom no man or woman could tame, he served as a slave to both King Eurystheus and Queen Omphale.
The Greeks didn’t seem too concerned about his many faults, though. They took the view that a man of such great power would naturally have some equally great faults. Nevertheless, I think the ancient Heracles would be a bit too much for most modern readers, who’d probably think of him as arrogant, obnoxious and the absolute opposite of today’s “modern man”. The nearest comparison I can think of would be a cross between the Terminator and Harvey Weinstein.
With that in mind, I’ve tried to tone Heracles down in my books and give him a few more vulnerabilities. He still has divine heritage and superhuman strength, but he suffers more for his mistakes and is far from invincible. He has his pride, but he has his regrets, too. He is an out and out ass-kicker, but he’s not the unstoppable machine of Greek mythology. I hope you’ll enjoy my take on him.
I watched Disney’s Aladdin in the West End yesterday as a birthday treat (I’m 50 today). It’s great fun, especially the “Friend Like Me” song. The actor playing Genie is a genius, and the set for the Cave of Wonders was incredible. Afterwards, we had a bite to eat with one of my old housemates, Tom Sandars. He was the very first person I spoke to at university and we’ve been good mates over the 24 years since. Now he reads the Shipping Forecast on BBC Radio 4, among other things. An all-round great guy!
Looking back over the last half-century, I’ve had plenty of blessings. Lots of bad things have happened, too, but they’ve just made me appreciate the good things more. I’ve done a lot of stuff, been a lot of places and met a lot of fascinating people. Most of all, I thank God for my wonderful wife and children – not least because they bought me a Lego Millennium Falcon for my birthday, which I can’t wait to build!