History of Crusading Order was Inspiration for Mystery at the Thirteen Sycamores
Joe Rudé and I have been asked many times about the reasons we wrote this action-thriller novel, Mystery at the Thirteen Sycamores. It didn't really begin as a novel at all. More than twenty years ago as professors at Emory University and after ten years of careful research, we intended to write a factual history book about the historic and ancient Crusading Order of Saint John of Jerusalem that still exists in several different branches.
It originated because of the call for a crusade by Pope Urban II in a sermon given by him in 1095. He urged military support for the Eastern Roman Byzantine Empire and its Emperor, Alexious I, against the invading Muslim Turks in Anatolia and to protect Christian pilgrims to Jerusalem and the Holy Shrines in the Holy Land. Byzantium was the last vestige of the surviving eastern half of the ancient Roman Empire whose western half had fallen completely into various monarchies by the eighth century.
The Eastern and Western branches of the Christian religion had split in the East-West Schism of 1054. And after the sermon of Pope Urban II, hundreds of thousands of people, aristocrats, and knights with their kinsmen took a public vow of crusade. Upon receiving plenary indulgences from the Western Roman Church for forgiveness of their sins and to gain glory and honor, they marched eastward. Jerusalem had fallen to the Muslims and the crusades’ intent was to liberate the city and the Holy Land from Muslim domination.
After the capture of Jerusalem on July 15, 1099, the first Crusading Military Order of Chivalry, the Hospitaller Order of Saint John of Jerusalem was founded, and soon after, the other two Crusading Orders were founded. They were the Knights Templar and then the Teutonic Order. Over the centuries many books have been written about these Orders, but we wanted to trace the history of the present existing branches of the Order of Saint John into some coherent understanding that the average person could understand. Each of these branches today claim to be the only true descendant of the original, but we found that they all had their own story that was convincing.
In the tradition of Sir Walter Scott and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and the fact that most history books are so boring and I wanted it to come alive and personal, I suggested to Joe that we create a mystery thriller novel in which a series of sequels could spur the reader to investigate, on their own, the interesting story of these Orders, chivalry and their relationship to the modern exciting and dangerous world in which we all live.
Joe and I have traveled the world over, and the experiences and the many different people and organizations that we have met in our adventures have been inserted into the story and personalities of the characters we created for our book. The basic facts and places in the book are real and the characters are based upon real people and events in our lives. There is, of course, some latitudes in order to create an action thriller, but the reader could probably find persons in their own lives who resemble the characters that populate our story. The places, history and events that are described are based in reality—that which has happened or could happen!