This page is for the print edition of Exodus (2013) in order to provide the hyperlinks for the research.
With my ARKANE thrillers, I want to keep as much anchored in the truth as possible but then extend it into the fictional realm to give you a story that is (almost) believable.
Research is my addiction, and with this book, I was keen to investigate the awesome history and speculation about the Ark of the Covenant, as well as tie it to political events that could erupt at any moment in the Middle East. Here are some of the interesting facts behind the fiction. As ever, any mistakes are my own.
Israel, the Falasha and Middle Eastern politics
* In 2011, non-Muslims were banned from the Temple Mount and the ban is still in force as of November 2012 because of the threat of violence.
* Extreme right wing Jewish groups exist who aim to build the Third Temple on the site, for example, http://www.templemountfaithful.org/.
* The Falasha, also called Beta-Israel, are a group of Ethiopian Jews who were given right of return in 1977.
There are around 100,000 in Israel but it is reported that they are treated like second-class citizens and experience racism. As a minority group they have little political power. This article, http://bit.ly/YKkZYA, reports their desperate plight, with at least 30 cases of depressed and unemployed Falasha men killing their families and then themselves in murder-suicides. One man says, “Not a day goes by without someone treating me like a cockroach because of the color of my skin.”
I wanted to have a ‘home-grown’ terrorist in Avi Kabede, and using the plight of the Falasha as a motive has at least some ring of truth to it.
* Yasser Arafat’s body has recently been exhumed to check for polonium poisoning (November 2012)
Moses and Akhenaten
That Moses was an Egyptian seems to be well established by the academic sources, and the research on the early monotheism of Akhenaten certainly fits with the story of Exodus and also the design of the Ark. Here’s some further reading:
* Moses and Akhenaten: The secret history of Egypt at the time of the Exodus – Ahmed Osman
* Myths and legends of ancient Egypt – Joyce Tyldesley
The possible locations of the Ark of the Covenant
For an overview of the rumored locations of the Ark, you can read this: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ark_of_the_covenant#Rumoured_current_locations
For more detail, here are some of the books I read and recommend:
* The Lost Ark of the Covenant – Tudor Parfitt. This fantastic book covers the journey of the author into Africa to investigate the Lemba and also Aksum in Ethiopia.
* The Quest for the Ark of the Covenant – Stuart Munro-Hay
* Lost Secrets of the Sacred Ark by Laurence Gardner. The science of mono-atomic gold, high-spin, super-conductors and quantum physics is definitely beyond me so I include a mere mention of it here.
The fragments were controversially removed from the Monastery of St Catherine and are now kept in the British Library in London, with some pieces at other museums. You can read more and watch a video here: http://joannapenn.com/codex-sinaiticus-palimpsest/
John Soane Museum
The John Soane Museum in London is a treasure trove of classical sculpture and all kinds of strange objects, including the sarcophagus of Seti I. Soane did build an Ark of the Masonic Covenant for the Grand Lodge, and it (supposedly) burned down in the fire of 1863.
Sir Charles Warren and the Palestine Exploration Fund
Both Charles Warren and the PEF were real but I invented the side trip to Jordan in the unofficial records as well as embellishing the way in which Warren got the top job of Police Commissioner.
The United Grand Lodge of England in London is a real place and you can visit, as I did one cloudy afternoon. The description of the Lodge is mostly true, but I didn’t enter the room on the left of the altar. The coat of arms does have the Ark of the Covenant on it but they don’t (officially) claim to have it.
The George Washington Masonic Memorial, Washington DC, is also a real place and I was stunned to find that they have a replica Ark, complete with a mural of the destroyed Temple on the wall. http://gwmemorial.org/
Freud Museum, Hampstead
The descriptions of Freud’s office and antiquities collection at the house, now a museum, is all written from a visit I made. You can read more and see some photos here: http://joannapenn.com/freud-museum/
* Moses and Monotheism – Sigmund Freud. The theories on Moses as an Egyptian, his murder in the desert of Sinai and the collective guilt for this act
* Freud and Moses: the long journey home – Emanuel Rice. Freud called himself ‘the godless Jew,’ but did he return to his faith in his final book?
I travelled to Abu Simbel on a trip around Egypt, and I always wanted it to be the location of the climactic scene for this book. When I found a painting of it on Sigmund Freud’s wall, I knew his obsession with Egypt and Moses would add another dimension to the story.
More information and pictures here: http://joannapenn.com/abu-simbel/
Why is the book called Exodus?
A few of my first readers questioned the title for the book, since the Exodus is seen as the journey out of Egypt to Israel by the early Jews. Perhaps it should have been called Covenant or even Pharaoh, after Akhenaten. But for me, the biblical book of Exodus contains the themes that run through this book – Egypt and the establishment of monotheism, the building of the Ark, God appearing to Moses on Sinai, even the night journey through the desert that Morgan and Khal undertake echoes the Exodus.
The detailed descriptions of the protective garments in Exodus 28 are also part of the reason for the Ark being considered to be made out of some kind of radioactive substance, and dangerous to touch, which partially explains the ending. I think authors have an emotional connection to their titles, and this one means a lot to me, as I have been fascinated with the Exodus since my degree in Theology at Oxford, when I studied ancient Israel. I hope you enjoyed the book!