In The Da Vinci Code, Dan Brown speculates that the Holy Grail lies buried in the filled in crypt of Rosslyn Chapel near Edinburgh. This mysterious church was built by the Sinclairs in the first half of the fifteenth century, by which time the clan was well established in Caithness, where it still holds the Earldom. Caithness, then remote and inaccessible, would have provided a much better hiding place for the Grail than Rosslyn, especially after the Sinclairs began to build a series of heavily fortified castles round the Caithness coast. So did Dan Brown have the right family but the wrong hiding place?
The Glorious Twelfth opens as archaeologist Ben Harris finds a Celtic stone and evidence of a medieval shipwreck on the Noster estate of Sir Ranald Sinclair. Careless talk by Ben at a conference in Paris sparks off a robbery at Sir Ranald’s mausoleum, uncovering a treasure that has been hidden for centuries. The robbery follows the opening day of the grouse season, hence the title of the book. The chief villain, grail fanatic Russian Boris Zadarnov, also abducts Sir Ranald’s wayward daughter, Fran, who is already in love with Ben. American oilman Al Regan, a neighbour of Sir Ranald, leads a rescue party to Paris where Fran is freed and most of the treasure recovered, but the thieves escape with a ruby encrusted chalice.
For a series of misdemeanours, Ben is sacked from his university job. He finds consolation in the arms of Fran and moves north to continue treasure hunting, making the discovery of his life near one of the ancient Sinclair castles. Has he found the greatest archaeological prize in Christendom, the Holy Grail? Will he be able to protect it from the malevolent attention of the Russians?
The genre is mystery/suspense with a streak of romance running all the way through. The action takes place mainly in Caithness with forays to Edinburgh, France, Italy, Egypt and Poland.
Alan, what do you love about this book?
The Glorious Twelfth is set in my native Caithness where I was brought up and went to school. The most northerly Scottish mainland county has a particular atmosphere. It lies beyond the Highlands, the people a mix of Viking and Gael, the land littered with the stones of its prehistory, the geography dominated by the rugged cave infested cliffs of old red sandstone, the sky vast and the sea always brooding. It is a unique place and I hope that comes over. So the thing I love most about The Glorious Twelfth is that Caithness is the main character, providing an interesting and exciting stage for the cast to strut on.
Can you share something unique with readers they won’t find anyplace else about this book?
Readers might be interested in a bit more detail about the genesis of The Glorious Twelfth. Before I started writing I read The Holy Blood and the Holy Grail, an intriguing book full of conspiracy theories that seem to have been at least partly the inspiration for Dan Brown’s , The Da Vinci Code. The most controversial aspect of the book is its reference to a ‘bloodline of Christ’ descending from a child that Mary Magdalene allegedly bore. Many famous European families were suggested as belonging to this line, including the Sinclairs, originally from Normandy and the Stuart dynasty. In addition, it is documented that the Sinclairs were early leaders of the Templar movement and builders of the mysterious Rosslyn Chapel near Edinburgh, fictional final resting place of the Holy Grail in The Da Vinci Code. However the Sinclairs also established themselves as Earls of Orkney, then Caithness in medieval times and became the dominant family, a position they still occupy today. The premise of The Glorious Twelfth is that the Sinclairs had much better hiding places for the Holy Grail in Caithness among the many castles and mausoleums they built. The story opens with an archaeologist on a summer dig in Caithness, starting to find clues…
Tell us one new thing you learned or were surprised to learn during your research
The thing that surprised me most was how all three books that I’ve written have their roots in the same medieval pot of history. They are contemporary stories that descend from medieval kings, aristocrats and saints.
What’s your best promotion tip?
I wish I had one but then again, it all depends what your objectives are. Why are you writing? It quickly dawns on the ebook writer that his/her work is being flung into a vast market populated by other scribblers, most of whom are screaming for attention. Many give their work away free, using all the communication methods facilitated by social networking and the internet. It’s a market that is vastly over served, so in competitive terms it’s difficult to evolve effective robust business models. I’ve read most of the advice around. The most logical but least practical is to develop relationships with loads of people who will then want to buy your book.
That advice reflects the reality that we are all involved in what I have coined ‘digital hand selling,’ where almost every sale requires an action on the part of the writer. In that scenario sales are proportional to promotional input. I’ve heard some say that 50% of a writer’s time should be spent on promotion. Saner counsel recommends one day a week. In a disturbing parallel with vanity publishing, many organisations will take money to promote your book, so we have vanity promotion as well. It remains to be seen whether paying someone to shout louder about your book will be cost effective. I’m not going down that road.
In the end you need to decide why you are writing but if you really do need to make a living go someplace else! I get tremendous satisfaction from researching, writing and knowing that my work is appreciated by many. At the same time writing has allowed me to develop the artistic side of my character, long supressed in the rigour of my former scientific life and the exigencies of management roles. For me, writing is a lifestyle choice, it’s what I do when I’m not fishing or…..
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About the Author:
Alan Calder is a Scottish born writer who divides his time between Yorkshire and his native Caithness. He is married to Jennifer and has two daughters and four grandchildren. He has BSc and PhD degrees in chemistry from the University of Aberdeen.
Writing novels and poetry follows a successful career in research and marketing with ICI/Zeneca. He also held several offices in the Royal Society of Chemistry including being President of the Industrial Division and served on a number of government committees. He chaired the Chemicals Sector of the UK Foresight project in the early 1990s and was made a CBE in 1996 for services to the chemical industry.
While working with ICI the family enjoyed a secondment to Paris and travelled extensively in France, developing a particular affection for the Vaucluse area of the southern Rhone valley and its wine villages. Many family holidays have been spent in that area and countless bottles of red wine imported. This led to our interest in vineyard walks and each year a group visits a European wine area for that purpose. Last year it was Tuscany (for the second time) and this year we’re planning Sicily; we seem to have exhausted France. On the other hand, France features in all my books and my third novel is set there.
Alan is a keen fisherman. He caught his first salmon as a boy on the Wick River in Caithness, a stream which he still fishes when there is water. Otherwise he fishes stocked rainbows in Yorkshire or salmon in the Thurso River, also in Caithness.
Without great forethought it turns out that all his novels gravitate to the suspense/mystery genre and while contemporary, have their roots firmly planted in history. His first book, The Stuart Agenda, published in 2011 describes a conspiracy to get a Stuart back on the throne of an independent Scotland.
Also by Alan Calder, The Stuart Agenda published by Willowmoon