'He was a traitor, a rabble-leader, a rebel, a liar and a pretender to the throne. We have tried to forget him here.'
My new novel, The Liars' Gospel, will be published by Penguin at the end of August 2012. Visceral and bloody, it's an exploration of the life of the most famous man in history, through the truth about his times.
Set in Roman-occupied Judea, a people under occupation struggle for freedom. Four voices tell their stories. A woman mourns her dead son, an itinerant preacher who wandered Judea healing the sick. A traitor remembers the friend he betrayed, and how in the end the act was necessary. In Jerusalem, the High Priest makes compromises and sacrifices to maintain an uneasy peace with the brutal Pilate. And in Galillee, a rebel gathers his forces to lash out against the occupying power and drive them from the land.
There are massacres and riots. There are liaisons and betrayals. The people of Judea will not accept the Roman occupation. Rome will not rest until she crushes their resistance. When neither side will submit or give up, total war between two of the greatest powers of ancient history can be the only result.
In amongst all this, a man Yehoshua travelled from place to place, predicting the end of days. But the different recollections of him cannot all be true: someone, perhaps many people, must have lied.
This novel's been nearly 20 years in the thinking, researching and writing: it's involved studies of ancient languages and consultation with academics, as well as a peeling-back of what we think we know about the period and the people to find out, as far as it's possible to find out, what the truth of the time was. I'm looking forward to the many conversations I hope I'll have around it - it's a fascinating period and so much richer than we're often led to believe.