Pub day for The Singer From Memphis

Pub day means you can now buy the book in stores.  As opposed to the Australian meaning of pub, a place where you go to drink beer.  Though as it happens, the Egyptians in The Singer From Memphis are totally into their beer. Nico can't get a decent cup of wine anywhere.  But he still has to solve murders and uncover hidden treasures in the trackless wastes of the desert.

Pub day is a weird thing for an author.  We don't fly from store to store selling the books personally.  We didn't print the books ourselves; we didn't ship them to their shelves.  All those highly important things are done by other wonderful people.

So what does an author do on pub day?  Well, he writes the next book.

Death On Delos is finished in first draft.  I've even written the author note that so many people like to read.  It will be Book 7 of the Athenian Mysteries.  The Singer From Memphis is Book Six ... and that's really quite remarkable.

I hope you enjoy reading Nico & Diotima's adventures as much as I like writing them.



Starred recommendation for The Singer From Memphis

Here is the Publishers Weekly review for The Singer From Memphis.  It is a starred review!

The astonishing thing is, the Athenian Mysteries have now earned six starred reviews in a row. 

If you would like to see what happens when a classical Greek PI finds himself in ancient Egypt in the company of a budding history writer named Herodotus, then this might be the book for you.

"Corby’s trademark blend of humor, fascinating historical detail, and accessible presentation of the politics of the time has never been better."

 The Singer from Memphis

Gary Corby. Soho Crime
ISBN 978-1-61695-668-4

Early in Corby’s exceptional sixth novel set in ancient Greece (after 2015’s Deus Ex Machina ), Pericles, the most powerful man in Athens, asks Nicolaos, “the only private agent” in the city-state, to accompany the historian Herodotus on a trip to Egypt.

Ostensibly, Nicolaos will serve as a bodyguard, but his real mission is to aid Egyptians rebelling against Persian rule.  The rebels’ leader, Inaros, who claims to be descended from the last pharaoh, has asked for a “man of cunning and resource” to help take the city of Memphis, the last stronghold controlled by the enemy.

Pericles shares his suspicions with Nicolaos that Herodotus may be a spy in the employ
of the Persians. Later, pirates almost scuttle the journey to Egypt, and Nicolaos nearly loses his client to a master Spartan assassin. Eventually, Nicolaos must solve a murder, but this is more spy thriller than whodunit.

Corby’s trademark blend of humor, fascinating historical detail, and accessible presentation of the politics of the time has never been better.

Janet Reid, FinePrint Literary. (May)

Napoleonic era journal discovered in Tasmania, of all places

Here's a great example of how the most unexpected things can turn up in the unlikliest places.

John Squire was a British army engineer who was involved at the siege of Badajoz in the Peninsular War.  Like all the best army officers of the time, he was a gentleman scholar. He personally knew Wellington, traveled all over the place, and kept a fascinating journal.

Which has turned up in a second hand bookstore in Hobart, Tasmania; about as far from Badajoz as you can get and still be on the same planet.  My family and I were there just last year. I must have walked within twenty meters of that journal and never knew.


A key fact

I'm not sure that anyone really knows where the key and lock were invented. Obviously people have been barring doors from the inside since time immemorial (and is probably the reason why to this day, house doors open inwards).  In a world with house slaves you don't need keys and locks very much: the house slave who watches the door (the janitor, in Latin) identifies the visitor and lifts the bar.

The earliest mention of keys that I know of is from Homer, the Odyssey, book 21.  Odysseus after one or two adventures has made his way home to discover an annoying number of men trying to marry his wife.  Penelope goes to collect her husband's weapons (this will not end well for the suitors).

[Penelope] descended the tall staircase of her chamber, and took the well-bent key in her strong hand, a goodly key of bronze, whereon was a handle of ivory.

Here we have a key, at the time of the Trojan War.  Given the likely dating on Homer, the year is at least 600BC and probably well before.  I want to point out the description of the key as "well-bent", and "bronze".  Because in the late 1800s an art collector named Edward Warren, who seriously knew his antiquities, came across this:

credit: Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

You can find this interesting item at the excellent Museum of Fine Arts in Boston.  It is exactly like the description from Homer.  The words inscribed in the bronze identify it as the key for the Temple of Artemis at Lusoi, in Akadia. The difference is, this key is dated to the 5th century BC, which is when Nico & Diotima lived. So this is a key as my heroes would have seen them. 

The key fits through a slot in the door, and you then turn it to lift the bar on the other side. 

You can forget about carrying ancient keys in your pocket. This thing is more than forty centimeters long. That's about sixteen inches.



Stadium gigs of the ancient world

It's usually thought that the first stadium gig was the Beatles at the Shea Stadium.

But actually, stadium gigs go back much, much further than that.

The first stadium gig was almost certainly held during the ancient Games at Olympia -- a stadium gig if ever there was one -- at the world's first stadium -- though the musician is not known.

There were all sorts of side contests at the ancient Olympics.  Some of them were definitely music contests.   A few decades after the time of Nico & Diotima for example there was a trumpet blowing contest (and a documented winner).  But there were certainly music contests at the Olympics long before.

The format was probably something like the battle of the bands events you see these days.  It seems inevitable that the winner would have been invited to play at the closing ceremony. 

The earliest stadium gig for which I can find the musician's name is the music contests held at the Pythian Games. The Pythian Games were played at the stadium above Delphi, beginning in 586BC.

The travel writer Pausanias had this to say:

According to the tradition the oldest contest, for which they first offered prizes, was singing a hymn for the god ... in the third year of the 48th olympiad, in which Glaukias of Kroton won (586 BC) ... they added a contest for singing accompanied by a flute and for playing the flute.  As victors were proclaimed: Melanpous of Kephalai in the kithara-singing, Echembrotos of Arkadia in singing accompanied by a flute and Sakadas of Argos in playing the flute. This Sakadas won two more victories at the next two Pythian games.

Thus the ancient Greeks invented the stadium gig, even if we don't know the date or the first muso to get the gig.