The Flight of the Sorceress

The Flight of the Sorceress
Front and Back Covers

Wednesday, December 8, 2010



Jonah Raskin, author of Natives, Newcomers, Exiles, Fugitives posted the following comment about my new historical novel, The Flight of the Sorceress on Goodreads:

 “As readers know, the historical past often comes more alive in fiction than in history books. A new novel by Barry Willdorf, Flight of the Sorceress, positively makes the past sizzle. That’s because the author has written a kind of fictional parable for our strange and terrible times that often seem mind-boggling. Are we at the end of history? Or at the start of a brave new world? Flight of the Sorceress takes the reader into the past to illuminate the present and answer the big questions about humanity and the future. The novel also takes the reader on an adventure and into a beautifully told story that has characters with whom one can actually empathize, and dramatic scenes that make the heart beat.”

It is a fitting introduction to my Q&A on the novel. Each of the questions raised here has been posed to me over the course of the novel’s creation and publication. I hope readers will find the Q&A both informative and provocative, and I invite questions, comments and debate ---Barry S. Willdorf.

Q:        What on earth got you interested in the Fifth Century A.D.?

A.        A lot happened in the western world during the first fifteen years of the Fifth Century. In 410 A.D. alone, the Romans abandoned Britannia. Rome itself was sacked by the Visigoths and the library at Alexandria was burned. The next year was the first giant purge trial held by the Roman Catholic Church. There was a conclave in Carthage during which approximately 470 bishops were thrown out of the church and the Donatist faction, representing nearly half of all Christians were declared heretics. St. Augustine was behind that purge. In its time, it was as big as the Great Schism between the Roman and Greek churches seven hundred years later. It was the beginning of the Dark Ages.

Q.        Do you have a background in history?

A:        I was a history major in college. I studied Modern History, Economics and Politics at the University of Manchester, in England in 1964-5.

Q.        How did you choose Aquae Sulis, (Bath) as the setting to begin The Flight of the Sorceress?

A.        In 1990, I visited Bath and while I was there read in some of the literature the assertion that within three generations (a period of sixty or seventy years) the population went from knowing how to operate a Roman bath, to not even knowing what it was. The Roman baths there became completely overgrown and were not even rediscovered until the Eighteenth Century. The English spend a lot of historical energy on their conquest by Rome and have amassed a great deal of historical evidence right up to about 410 A.D. Then, overnight, the historical data virtually stops. You get to nearly a dead end. That’s when the Roman legions abandoned Britain, and with them the government record-keepers. Ever since, I have been obsessed with the reasons and how quickly a civilization can plunge from educated to the Dark Ages. The abrupt scarcity, if not the complete absence of records seemed like a good place to start extrapolating a work of historical fiction.

 More to come in later posts!

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