Making Jerusalem into a Storyworld…writes Alan Gold

October 24, 2013 by Alan Gold
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How do you tell the 3000 year history of Jerusalem, through the interconnected lives of two families traced through the millenia?

Alan Gold

Alan Gold

In the old days – 10 years ago – before the global explosion of the internet, interactive television, digital books, long-form television, Kindles, Apps and all the other devices which are making the book into an historic curio, it would have been difficult. But today, with the digital world eating away at the traditional worlds of publishing,  free-to-air television, movies and much more, writing such a story is less of a challenge than half a generation ago.

In June, 2012, I’d just returned from researching a book and spending two months in Indonesia, when I received a phone call from Harold Finger, head of the UIA. He told me that I should write a book about a town in the northern Galilee I’d never heard of, called Peki’in. That village – now almost exclusively Druze – has a Jewish history going back to the time of the Temple of King Herod, and possibly even to the first Temple of King Solomon. I listened to what he had to say, and between the two of us, in one phone call, we created a storyline which encompassed the entirety of the Jewish relationship with the Holy Land since the time of King David.

But I warned Harold that it was more…much more…than a book. At that stage, I didn’t know what, but every creative fibre in my being told me that this was more than a novel….I knew that this was going to be a trilogy – each 1000 years becoming the subject of a new book – but until I brought in somebody with media experience, I couldn’t envisage what else it could become.

And so, within a month, the dream team was created. Harold as the business partner and producer, myself as the creative writer and historian, and a friend who lectures at AFTRS and is an expert in different media platforms, Mike Jones.

The great advantage of bringing Mike on board, apart from his creative excellence and knowledge of film, television and the interactive spaces, is that being non-Jewish, he could hold both of us Zionists to account, and not make the book into a hagiography of ancient and modern Israel, because such a book would be of less interest to a global reading audience, at which we wanted to aim.

It was Mike who came up with the idea of making our book about Peki’in into a storyworld. That’s a relatively new way of creating a narrative, using different forms, perhaps different characters and time sequences and especially different media. So our simple story on Peki’in could be told as a movie or tv series, an interactive non-fiction work on the internet, interactive graphic novels, internet games, a locative App for smart phones and much much more.

Peki'in

Peki’in

What Mike and I did was to write the characters and the plotlines, and then a synopsis, which we took to one of the world’s most prestigious publishing houses, Simon & Schuster, who immediately saw the potential, and bought the idea without seeing a word written (of course, it does help to know that Mike had won an AWGIE for a script, and I’ve written and published 16 novels throughout the world and translated into numerous languages)

So what’s the Heritage Trilogy about? Well, the first book, published in November 2013, is called Bloodline, and it begins in 1000BCE with the building of Solomon’s Temple. It takes us to the time of the Roman expulsion from Judea. The second book, Stateless, takes us from the Christian era in Jerusalem to the time of the Crusades; it comes out in November 2014; and the third book (provisionally entitled Birthright) takes the story from the Crusades, through the Reformation and the Enlightenment, to the birth of modern Israel. Each story has an ancient historical element, and a modern thriller front story. The ancient story moves forward in time throughout the three books, and the modern story moves backwards through the books, until they meet in Book 3.

The stories deal with two families who begin their relationship in the Temple of Solomon, one who is of the priestly Zadok family and the other from the family of a tax gatherer….these two families, often unknowingly, intersect throughout history as they change their occupations, countries and relationships. So we see glimpses into the life of Jews in ancient Israel, Babylon, the Roman world, early Islam, the pogroms of Europe and the emancipation. In the front story, we travel back in time over the three books, from today to the creation of modern Israel, to the fin de siecle in Paris.

Harold Finger

Harold Finger

We find these two families in the modern story when a young militant Palestinian terrorist called Bilal, encouraged by an evil Imam, is wounded in a violent act at the Western Wall of Herod’s Temple, and is repaired by Yael, a young brilliant Israeli surgeon. And yes, they have identical DNA, so her quest is to find out how she is related to somebody like Bilal. To complicate matters, we also see how a coterie of fanatical Neturei Karta anti-Zionists infiltrate Shin Bet.

The storyworld concept isn’t particularly new, but now that the Internet has thrown up so many incredible platforms, of use in computer and hand-held devices, and now that people are tending to download tv from the States and read books on Kindles, the age of the Storyworld has arrived. And I think that we’re one of the first novels to be published throughout the world, that fully takes advantage of it.

For instance, we’ve introduced QR codes into our book in certain points, so that if a reader is interested in finding out more of the history of what we’ve written, he or she simply hold’s their free App, the QR reader, over the page and a video of an actress (playing the part of an anonymous historian) will suddenly appear on the phone or tablet, telling the reader the full background to that passage in the book. Smart, eh!

And yes, although I can’t tell you more at this stage, we’re in the process of negotiating with certain producers in key parts of the world about making our books into a long-form television series.

Alan Gold, Mike Jones and Harold Finger are the Heritage Trio…

Their book, Bloodline, is published this month by Simon & Schuster. RRP $29.95.

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