As many of you know, I e-published a work of historical fiction, Inca, last summer on Amazon.com and Smashwords.com. It’s been a wonderful experience so far, and I’m pleased to announce in the next few days I will be publishing my second novel. I’m just waiting for the ISBN number to come through, and then there will be a short delay while Amazon processes the file. I expect I’ll be blogging quite a bit in the next couple of weeks as everything comes online.
When I was fourteen years old I watched a movie called Zulu starring a young Michael Caine in his first major role. The film is an African Western –if that’s a thing– loosely based on the true story of the Battle of Rorke’s Drift, a minor siege that saw a hundred and fifty British soldiers defend a mission station against four thousand Zulu warriors for a day and a night. The redcoats won eleven Victoria Crosses for their heroism, but I came away from the experience with a lingering question, “What would make a man get up out of the tall grass and run against a fortress over and over again, armed only with a spear less than four feet long?” The redcoats fought for their lives and only survived thanks to breech-loading rifles and makeshift barricades shoulder-high. What were the Zulu fighting for?
Being a bookish sort, I went to my library in search of answers. Everything I read left me wanting to learn more. The Anglo-Zulu War was not a straight parallel to the Apache or Sioux wars made famous by American westerns: The Zulu were an iron age pastoral society with a strong monarchy, a thriving economy, and a culture that celebrated service to the State. The assault on Rorke’s Drift was fought exclusively by men in their late thirties and early forties who had missed an earlier battle where their sons and nephews had won a victory that made the Little Big Horn look like a church picnic. The older generation defied the orders of their King and crossed into British territory to attack Rorke’s Drift so as not to go home ashamed at their lack of accomplishment. They threw their lives against the British fortifications because it was better to die than have their children think less of them. The tragedy of that, the stubborn pride involved, humbles me.
The Zulu Kingdom went on to hold off a quarter of the globe for six aching months, and their final defeat saw their whole world collapse into an anarchy of ashes and dust for the hubris of wanting to live free in their own land under their own laws.
Much more so than the Ashante or the Xhosa or the Pashtuns or any other people ground under the Victorian heel in the later half of the 1800s, the Zulu have echoed through history for more than a century for their proud, doomed struggle. It frustrated me as a fan of historical fiction that nothing has ever written from their own perspective: Every story I found was written from the British perspective, and the Zulu were rarely more than a mass of humanity seen over a set of iron gun sights. They deserve better than that, and I began writing a story at seventeen that I’ve been tinkering with ever since. I hope it does them justice.
Zulu is the story of four young people: Mbeki and Ingonyama, the sons of a blacksmith; the exiled Matabele prince Inyati, and Nandhi, the daughter of a Northern baron. They grow up in a kingdom on the cusp of a golden age. Their lives are far from perfect, but they make friends and enemies at the Royal Court that draw them into the great events of a people with a culture and history as rich and deep as anything medieval Europe can boast of. The abrupt collision of their civilization with an aggressive foreign power armed with the fruits of the Industrial Revolution becomes their highest glory and their deepest tragedy.
If Inca was my attempt to follow in the footsteps of Gary Jennings’ Aztec, Zulu is unabashedly my homage to the early works of Wilbur Smith: There are love triangles, power struggles, boxing matches, elephant hunting, brush fires, and battles. While most of the main characters are fictional, the incredible events they find themselves caught up in really happened.
I’m excited to share that story with you. Best regards and happy reading!
EDIT: As of September 30th, I’ve decided to stop publishing on Smashwords and focus on Amazon.