Internationally acclaimed lawyer-turned author Steve Berry has an undying passion for history and played with it in his latest novel "The King's Deception", the eighth in the Cotton Malone adventure series. He said he realised the topic would be "controversial" but couldn't resist it as he "loves things from the past".
The suspense, the drama and the thrills in "The King's Deception" hinge on the identity of Queen Elizabeth I, portrayed as an impostor.
"I knew the topic would be controversial, but it's also quite interesting. We know little to nothing about Elizabeth I. What we do know is contradictory. The reality is that no one knows for sure what happened 400 years ago. And that makes for a great thriller," Berry told IANS in an email interview from Florida.
The lawyer with a flair for writing has authored a dozen novels, including "The Amber Room ", "The Alexandria Link", "The Paris Vendetta", "The Emperor's Tomb", "The Jefferson Key" and "The Columbus Affair". His work has been translated into 40 languages and is sold in 51 countries.
What inspired him to weave history in the novel, especially the facts and legends surrounding the identity of Queen Elizabeth I?
"The Bisley Boy legend intrigued me from the first moment I heard it. I love things from the past, lost things, forgotten things, that the reader may know little to nothing about. I especially like it when those things are still relevant today," he explained.
"And, trust me, if Elizabeth I was an impostor there would be chaos today. Everything in Northern Ireland would change."
The Bisley Boy legend, which claims that Elizabeth had died at the age of 10 while staying at Berkeley Castle in Gloucestershire and a lookalike boy from the nearby village of Bisley was put in her place, is the key factor in the novel.
"I used both primary and secondary written sources, most of them quite old," he said on his source of information on the Bisley's Boy legend.
The thrill in "The King's Deception" has been a result of 18 months of research.
"Six months of preliminary research before writing, then 12 additional months while writing. I used 300-400 sources. I try hard to get the details right," said the author, who regularly features in the top echelon of The New York Times, USA Today, and Indie bestseller lists.
Such intensive research work entails travelling. "Two trips were made to England," Berry said.
Readers and reviewers have responded positively to "The King's Deception", which creates mystery with history, the author said.
"They seem to love it. People are, by and large, fascinated by their own history. Nearly all of the e-mails and reviews have been positive. Of course, there are always a crop of Negative Nellies who don't seem to understand that the book is a novel. It's not real," he said.
What next? Will his next also have a dose of history?
"Cotton Malone will return for another adventure in 'The Lincoln Myth', which gives you a taste as to what the story is about," Berry said.