Thursday, September 27, 2012

The Templar and Thomas Aquinas

 The Templar and the True Cross
In my latest historical mystery, The Templar and the True Cross, my protagonist, Sir Jean-Marc de Montpellier, is a Templar Knight. Traditionally these monastic knights were imbued with many honourable qualities; a Templar was brave, skilled in battle and was devoted to God. Sir Jean-Marc is all of these, plus the fact that he is very intelligent. Growing up in Paris he attended the Sorbonne and studied under Gerard d’ Auberville who studied under the great philosopher and theologian Thomas Aquinas.

Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274) studied and later taught at the universities of Paris, Cologne and Naples. Thomas was a Italian Dominican friar who wrote a great deal and was the man who perfected faith through reason.

When Sir Jean-Marc goes to see his former master at the University, the old professor has the Templar recall his past lessons.

    “My boy, you recall the work of my old friend and master, Thomas Aquinas, and his definition of philosophical discipline.”
    “It all starts with logic,” Jean-Marc responded.
    “Exactly. Logic, as you surely recall, is the mental constructions we place on our experience.... What do you remember of Summa Theologica?”
    Sir Jean-Marc thought a moment. “Thomas Aquinas states that in acts of will man strives for the highest end, which are free acts insofar as man has in himself the knowledge of their end and therein the principle of action. Whether the act be good or evil depends on the end. Human acts are good if they promote the purpose of God and His honour.”

Thomas Aquinas wrote on a wide variety of subjects from the nature of God to just war, and from creation to sex. He was canonized a saint in 1323, less than fifty years after his death, and nine years after my story takes place.

Saint Thomas is one of 33 Doctors of the Church and is the patron of universities and students. His writings have survived to this day and continue to influence modern thought. 

Monday, September 24, 2012

King Philip IV and the Templars

In my latest historical mystery, The Templar and the True Cross, my protagonist, Sir Jean-Marc de Montpellier, is purely fictitious. There are, however, several true characters in the story, such as Philip IV, King of France. Also known as Philip le Bel, he appears frequently in my story, along with his daughter and his three sons.

Philip and Jean-Marc have a history, but their current relationship is a bit turbulent. After all, Philip IV is known for disbanding the Templars (Jean-Marc’s order) and having its leaders burned at the stake. Now the King wants Jean-Marc to discover who has stolen the True Cross of Christ, Christendom’s most holy relic.

It is always a challenge to put an historical person into a work of fiction. For myself, it is important to get the character right, so historians don’t balk and say, ‘That person would never do that!’ or ‘That person would never say that!”

It would have been ideal to have found actual quotes from Philip IV, but such was not the case. All a writer can do is research the character, and as best he may, give the character some... well, character.

It was easier to portray Philip’s physical nature; he wasn’t called le Bel for nothing. He was a handsome king, as well as strong-willed, resolute and commanding; you know, kingly.

I believe readers will be happy with the way King Philip was portrayed in The Templar and the True Cross, for as he says in the book; “Stet pro ratione voluntas—let my will stand as a reason!”     

The Templar and the True Cross

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Bernard de Clairvaux

When I was researching the Templar Knights for my historical mystery, The Templar and the True Cross, I came across the name Bernard de Clairvaux. He was born in 1091, in his fa­ther’s cast­le at Les Fon­taines (near Di­jon), Bur­gun­dy. Bernard entered a Cistercian monastery in 1113. On the first page of my book, I quote Bernard de Clairvaux:

It seems that a new knighthood has recently
appeared on earth . . .
. . . a new kind of knighthood and one unknown
to the ages gone by. It ceaselessly wages a twofold
war both against flesh and blood and against a
spiritual army of evil in the heavens.

He is truly a fearless knight . . . for his soul is
protected by the armour of faith just as his body is
protected by the amour of steel. He is thus doubly
armed and need fear neither demons nor men. Not
that he fears death–no, he desires it.

Gladly and faithfully he stands for Christ . . . 

– Bernard de Clairvaux, c. 1135
De Laude Novae Militae
In Praise of the New Knighthood

So impressed was I with this passage, that I modeled my hero, Sir Jean-Marc de Montpellier after what Bernard had written about the Templar knights.

I do not have room here to list all the accomplishments of Bernard de Clairvaux. What I will say is that he rose to em­i­nence in Church po­li­tics, and be­came em­broiled in the pa­pal schis­ms of the 12th Cen­tu­ry. He was well known in Rome, and found­ed 163 mon­as­ter­ies through­out Eur­ope. He died in 1153. The Ca­tho­lic En­cy­clo­pe­dia car­ries a large ar­ti­cle on him.

Bernard was a man of ex­cep­tion­al pi­e­ty and spir­it­u­al vi­tal­i­ty. Martin Luther 400 years lat­er, called him, “the best monk that ever lived, whom I ad­mire be­yond all the rest put to­ge­ther.”
The Templar and the True Cross

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Mysteries on Kindle

The Templar and the True Cross is the third historical mystery that I published on Kindle. The first was The Canadian Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, originally published as an ebook with a Canadian ebook publisher in London, Ontario, then with The Battered Silicon Dispatch Box, a small publisher in Ontario. The second book I had published with Kindle was another Sherlock Holmes mystery entitled, Cold-Hearted Murder.
No work is done in  a vacuum or can be brought to completion solely by one person. Even the solitary work of writing must eventually bring in other people. I cannot imagine one person doing everything on their own.

I would like to take the opportunity to thank two people who supported me in my work. The first is Aimee Parent who has proof read and edited practically all my work. My association with Aimee goes back over a dozen years, and I have always enjoyed working with her.

The second person I would like to thank is Greg Maxwell. Greg is a good friend of my sons, Tom and Ryan, and graduated in Communications from the University of Windsor. Greg has just finished working on the movie, The Birder, that was shot in and around Windsor. I worked with Greg in the design of the aforementioned three books, and I think he did a great job.  

Stephen Gaspar on Kindle

Friday, September 21, 2012

Alternate 'Templar' Cover

This is only one of the concepts we were considering for the cover for The Templar and the True Cross.
The graphic is a cropped picture of famous 19th century painting by the French artist, Francois-Marius Granet. The painting title, The Initiation of Jaques DeMolay, depicts his initiation into the Knights Templar in 1265 (about 50 years before my novel takes place).
The painting's owner, the Baroness Beatrice Laurence de la Peine, had the painting in her family for years. Her ancestors were very active during the Crusades and the lifetime of Jacque DeMolay, the thirteenth century knight and martyred hero.
The Templar and the True Cross

Thursday, September 20, 2012

The Templar and the True Cross

Cover by Greg Maxwell

As I posted previously, The Templar and the True Cross is my latest historical mystery. It is the story of a Templar knight, Sir Jean-Marc de Montpellier who escaped the fate of his Templar brothers, the last of whom were burned at the stake by the French king, Philip IV in 1314. Sir Jean-Marc is recalled to France by the very king who extinguished the Templar order.
The Templar and the True Cross is a detective story, really. This story is of course fiction, though the time and place have been depicted as accurately as I possibly could. Though my main character, Sir Jean-Marc de Montpellier was a work of my imagination, the order to which he belonged, the Knights Templar actually existed and met their end as portrayed. 
    The lore of the Templars is a bone of contention to historians. Some have chosen to portray them as one way or another. I have chosen to portray one particular Templar knight with all the chivalry and honour a Knight Templar might possess.
    King Philip of France, his three sons, the king’s daughter Isabella, Guillaume de Nogaret, Pierre Dubois, and Marie de Brabant are featured in the story and were all true characters from history. I have endeavoured to give them some persona though perhaps not their true character.
    Some sources state that Pierre Dubois and Guillaume de Nogaret were dead by the time this story takes place, but I chose to put them in the story anyway.                                                                         
  The time and circumstances regarding the death of King Philip IV are similar to the way I portrayed them. After Philip IV’s death, all three of his sons would take their turn as the king of France. Louis would remain king from 1314 until the time of his death two years later when the crown was passed to his brother Philip V who reigned to his death in 1322, whereas his youngest brother Charles IV was king until his death in 1328 bringing an end to the Capetian dynasty.
    Their sister, Isabella was indeed Queen of England who plotted against her husband, King Edward II, and forced him to abdicate in 1327, whereas their son, Edward III became king and brought about the Hundred Years’ War between England and France
    The True Cross of Christ and the other Holy Relics mentioned are true objects, though the incident of the theft of the Cross was not.
    Many of the Parisian landmarks are of course real; the palace, Notre Dame, Sainte-Chapelle, the Sorbonne, and St. Denis Basilica were depicted as accurately as possible.

Monday, September 17, 2012

New Templar Book!

The Templar and the True Cross

I am very happy and excited to announce that my latest book has just been published on Kindle! The Templar and the True Cross is a historical mystery set in France in the middle ages.

In 1314 Philip IV, King of France, suspects the theft of the True Cross of Christ, the most sacred relic in all Christendom, is part of a secret plot to usurp his throne. Now Philip IV must turn to the one man who has more reason for revenge against the king than anyone on earth.

Sir Jean-Marc de Montpellier, the last Templar knight, who escaped being burned at the stake when the king of France terminated the Order of Knights Templar, returns to France after a seven year exile to aid the very man who once sought his death. Now on his return to France there are others who seek the knight’s death.
Who might have stolen the True Cross?                                           
Could it be:
       One of the king’s three sons?
        The king’s daughter, who is now Queen of England?
        Was it a secret faction of the Church?
        And what has the Guild of Carpenters to do with it?
 In The Templar and the True Cross Sir Jean-Marc encounters a plethora of suspects and suspicious characters as he tracks down the True Cross of Christ and the nefarious intrigue behind it all.

Book cover design by Greg Maxwell