Pondicherry: the Indian French Riviera

The checkered history of a fascinating town The Romans knew about Pondicherry as far back as 100 CE. They called it Poduke. Its name is believed to have derived from that.  Travel companies like to refer to it as the Indian French Riviera because of its obvious French influence. The locals call it Pondi. It […]

The Silk Road of the Sea

Valerius’ journey: Ends of the Earth Many people have heard of the Silk Road, mainly because of Marco Polo. But few are familiar with the ancient maritime silk route that linked the East and West at the same time. The people who pioneered this sea trade were originally from the desert – the Nabatean Arabs. […]

Stigmatics: Saints or charlatans?

The first recorded stigmatic Saint Francis of Assisi

The story behind the stigmata The first recorded stigmatic was Saint Francis of Assisi, who received the stigmata – the wounds of Christ – on his hands and feet during a religious ecstasy in 1224. But most stigmatics throughout history have been women. In the fourteenth century, Catherine of Siena, a mystic and laywoman, is […]

Josseran’s Journey: Silk Road

In the steps of Marco Polo The Silk Road, as it is called, was an intricate network of trade routes linking Asia and the western world. It came into being with the expansion of the Han Empire into Central Asia around 100 BC, with the Parthian Empire forming a land bridge to the Roman Empire […]

What was the real story behind the French princess in Braveheart?

Isabella of France

And how did she come to rule England? Gorgeous. Defiant. Looks great in a skirt. But enough about Mel Gibson. Let’s talk about Sophie Marceau’s character, the French princess, Isabella. In the film she has an affair with Mel and has his child, breaking the royal English line. It is a tale of adventure, romance […]

Nature or nurture? The story of Charles Sobhraj

And trying to make sense of the senseless Back in the 70’s and barely out of school, I went on a backpacking adventure across the Asian hippie trail. It was exciting, but it was also dangerous. There was no internet, no mobile phones. If you disappeared, no one would know about it for weeks. And […]

Why Kali isn’t as terrifying as she looks

And what’s her connection to the Rolling Stones? Icons and statues make her appear utterly terrifying. She is red-eyed with rage, and her tongue lolls manically out of her mouth. She holds a sword in one of her many hands, a severed head in another. Around her neck she wears a garland of skulls. She looks […]

Valerius’s Journey: Ends of the Earth

The world beyond the Roman Empire The journey made by Valerius from far western China to Rome was around 25,000km and took him almost two years. Researching this journey made Ends of the Earth the most challenging novel I’ve ever written. The Roman Empire and the events of 53 to 44 BC are well documented. […]

The inspiration behind Stands with a Fist in Dances with Wolves

Cynthia Ann Parker and her daughter, Topʉsana (Prairie Flower), in 1861

One of the greatest and saddest love stories of the Wild West She was christened Cynthia Ann Parker, but she would have told you her name was Naduah, which translates as Keeps Warm With Us. Author and screenwriter Michael Blake said that his character Stands with a Fist was based upon Cynthia. She was born […]

Napoleon and the Rosetta Stone

Napoleon in Ancient Egypt

Finding the Rosetta Stone During the Napoleonic campaign in Egypt in 1799, French soldiers were strengthening the defences of a fort at Rosetta, now Rashid, in the Nile Delta. They uncovered an unusual stone with strange markings that had been used as part of the fortifications. Their officer, Pierre-François Bouchard, ordered the men to stop work. […]