This is part 3 of an ongoing series of posts about writing The Lords of Powder, my noir fantasy set mostly in 1978 Miami during the cocaine wars (Amazon link: https://amzn.to/3sHNmY0 ). Through a series of misadventures, our hero, Bradan, has become a smuggler in south Florida and the Caribbean earning the ire of both the police and criminal cartels.
Well before Miami, Bradan had quite a backstory as he’s nearly immortal and was once Merlin’s apprentice in Dark Ages Britain where he was born (his experience in King Arthur’s court is described in other books in my series, The Lords of the Summer Season – Amazon link: https://amzn.to/3gnBW9b and The Lords of Oblivion – Amazon link: https://amzn.to/3gnGZGJ ). Though he vividly remembers his long life over 15 centuries, he physically ages very slowly and only looks about 30 years old at the time The Lords of Powder is set in 1978.
Though most of the The Lords of Powder‘s action occurs in Miami, I also included flashbacks to other times in Bradan’s history. These flashbacks detail Bradan’s backstory and provide a counterpoint to the novel’s main sections, as well as echo themes that occur in the main story. Part 2 of this series of posts looked at Bradan’s time in Medieval Spain. However, two centuries earlier, Bradan was a monk in the monastery of Lindisfarne on the cold, raw north English coast. While there, he illustrated religious texts, lost in the piety and artistry of his creativity.
Bradan retreated to this remote religious site to escape from the tumult of Britain’s Dark Ages warfare, only to have his creative work interrupted in 793 CE by a brutal Viking raid that sacked the monastery and killed or captured the monks – though not Bradan, who puts up unexpectedly stout resistance to the raiders as he strives to save himself, his brother monks, and the precious illustrated manuscripts that he is laboring over just as the ax-wielding attackers appear in their longships.
Bradan tells his fellow monks. “Run! The men coming are not of God. And paintbrushes will not parry a spear.”
For a modern writer, efforts of eight-century monks at work in Europe’s scriptoriums are admirable. One contrasts their circumstances, presumably ill lit, facing temperature extremes, and subject to interruptions by Viking raids, with modern authors composing on computers or tablets while sitting in warm offices in ergonomic chairs.
A wonderful starting point to understand Middle Ages texts is Meetings with Remarkable Manuscripts by Christopher de Hamel. Further, there are many histories of the Vikings, but an interesting recent addition to this canon is Tom Shippey’s Laughing Shall I Die that delves into the mentality and attitudes of these marauders.
Future posts will describe other flashback scenes from The Lords of Powder.
(thanks to Axe 20 and Klimkin, both from Pixabay for the images!)