Welcome to another exciting Always Trust In Books extract piece. Today’s extract is being posted as part of a blog tour for The Age of Olympus hosted by Titan Books. I am eternally grateful to Philippa at Titan Books for including me in all of these blog tours. It is much appreciated. First I will share few details about the book. Then on to the extract piece. Finally I will share my own personal review of the book followed by a full bio for Gavin Scott. There is also a blog tour poster at the bottom for more information on all the other exciting blog stops on the tour, be sure to check those out.
The Age Of Olympus was sent to me Titan Books in exchange for an honest review.
Release Date: 28/04/17
Publisher: Titan Books
Format: Paperback, 352pp
Genre: Historical/Thriller Fiction
Summed up in a word: Immersive
First Impressions: After about 30 pages I was worried that this book might not be for me. I was concerned that there might be overly strong political themes that I would not be able to appreciate that much. But then soon after that the thriller/mystery element of The Age of Olympus kicked in and I was away. So glad I picked it up for many reasons, but most of all because of the main adversary Kretzmer. I will go into that more in my review. High stakes thrills, ancient mysteries and rich history as well brilliant mythological stories are what Gavin Scott has brought to us via The Age of Olympus.
Book Synopsis: Duncan Forrester has travelled to Greece, intent on recovering the ancient Cretan stone he discovered during the war, while part of an SOE mission to kidnap a German commander. But during a visit to Athens he witnesses the poisoning of a Greek poet, who it appears may have not been the intended target.
The man Forrester believes to have been marked for death is a general, who has been approached to lead ELAS, the military arm of the Greek communists. With Greece on the brink of civil war, and more attempts made on the general’s life – not to mention an enemy from his own past on his heels – Forrester knows that the country’s future depends on the fate of one man…
(Official Titan Books Synopsis)
They walked through the warm evening air along Kifissia Street, which ran from Syntagma Square alongside the Old Royal Palace, its grounds now known as the National Garden. The topiary bushes and winding paths, Forrester knew, concealed the hastily buried bodies of the victims of the failed communist uprising in 1944, but he did not mention this to Sophie, determined not to disturb her pleasure in exchanging the cold austerity of Scandinavia for the balm of the Mediterranean.
Opposite the gardens were the pompous, wedding-cake buildings of the Egyptian Legation, the French Embassy, the Greek Foreign Office and the Ministry of War, but the edifice to which they were headed, Skaramangar House, residence of His Beatitude the Orthodox Archbishop and Regent of Greece, surpassed them all in opulent vulgarity.
“You’ll recognise it quite easily,” Lancaster had told them when he gave them directions.
“It’s built in a style I call ‘Hollywood Balkan’.” Forrester placed the name then: before he became a press attaché, Osbert Lancaster had published several very funny books about, of all things, architectural history, inventing names for pompous styles and skewering them in spare, elegant cartoons.
“Make sure you look out for the debased Byzantine capitals,” he had advised as they parted. Sophie looked at Forrester, puzzled.
“Debased?” she said. “Doesn’t that mean—”
“I think in this case it’s a technical term,” said Forrester. “But we are in Athens. You never can tell.” The Archbishop’s door opened and a liveried footman ushered them into a vast and crowded room. As he took their names they stopped, astonished at the spectacle before them.
Massive oak beams rested on squat pillars (topped, as promised, by the gilded shapes of the debased Byzantine capitals) from which hung baroquely ecclesiastical candelabra illuminating a sea of guests resplendent in dinner jackets, heavily braided uniforms and elegant evening gowns. Waiters glided around the room offering spanakopita, saganaki and tiropitas. A huge log roared in a fireplace so immense it reminded Forrester of Xanadu in Citizen Kane, which he and Barbara had seen the night before he parachuted into Sardinia.
My Review – An immersive and thrilling piece of historical fiction that is brimming with rich history and mythological themes.
I have not read the first instalment in this series, so I am unsure about the connections between the two novels. I will be reviewing this as a standalone piece. The Age of Olympus is set just after WW2 in a politically fragile Greece. Greece is on the verge of a civil war and it is a prominent theme in this book. I was concerned that I may not be able to appreciate the book as I don’t really have that much to do with politics but though it is a plot point, the thriller/historical fiction elements shine through so much stronger.
Dr Duncan Forrester is on a trip to Greece to retrieve a historic find that he stumbled upon during a mission in the second world war. His trip has been commissioned by the Empire Council for Archaeology and the object in question is a stone that may allow historians to translate an ancient language. Forrester is a smart, worldly gentleman who has been damaged by the war. He is paranoid, investigative and has great combative skill due to his time in the Special Operations Executive.
During a reception in Greece, a Greek poet named Jason Michaelaides is poisoned. There are individuals at the gathering that have important influences on the upcoming civil war. Forrester believes the death was meant for someone else. Forrester spots an assailant fleeing the scene and sets out to confront him. Forrester catches up to the man, who has a metal prosthetic mask that covers half of his face, and nearly dies as the man in the mask outsmarts him and disappears into the night. After dealing with the local police, Forrester and his partner Sophie are asked to continue their trip to Crete to recover the stone.
Upon arrival at the island, Forrester witnesses the man in the mask setting of towards the stone himself and a race begins. At the burial site of the stone, Forrester’s adversary reveals his true identity. A man from his past, Hans Kretzmer, who has a score to settle. Taking off with the stone, a pursuit across Crete begins. There are many more plot developments I could outline here, there is so much plot packed into such a small novel. The Age of Olympus is historical fiction at its centre, with plenty of thriller and mythological elements running through it. The first half is a thrilling cat and mouse chase across Greece. The second half is more of a mystery novel with a ‘whodunit’ style attempted murder.
The novel is filled with the rich history of Greece as well as it’s mythology. Gavin Scott takes the time to describe the beautiful settings and include many different languages in the dialogue to make the book a much more immersive experience. I really enjoyed Gavin Scott’s writing and it really kept the plot rolling even in the slightly more repetitive areas of the book. Gavin Scott is adept at crafting thrilling story elements too, the dynamic between the two main characters was both brilliant and enthralling. As I mentioned before, the political themes in this book are influential but overall they just add context to the characters actions, instead of altering the whole tone of the book, which in my own opinion was a great choice. Scott’s understanding and appreciation of the culture, history and context is engrossing. His use of many different languages over the course of the book added just a little extra touch of depth and detail.
The plot itself was interesting and developed drastically over the course of the book. Forrester is at heart an academic but he can defend himself if needed, which in this case is a lot. There are two distinct storylines included in the novel, both with their own merits. If I had to choose, I would say I preferred the story sections concerning Kretzmer and the stone over the ‘whodunit’ section in the second act. I preferred the first act as it was filled with high stakes thrills and meaningful interactions. The second half of the book, though an interesting mystery, seemed over-crowded and not as intriguing. I found that the characters and their relationships were the most appealing aspect of TAOO.
I liked Duncan Forrester, I thought he was a solid main character. Driven, heroic and passionate. A true gentleman. I don’t think he has as much charisma or depth as he probably needed but he does okay. I thought his and Sophie’s soppy but charming relationship added a much needed lighthearted dimension to the story. The charisma role is left to Yanni who is a Cretan villager who Forrester knows from the war. I really liked his character but he was sparsely used which was a great shame. For me the star of the show was the main villain. Oberleutnant Hans Kretzmer was a purely brilliant foe and I take my hat off to Gavin Scott. It is rare that I root for the baddy, but Kretzmer has a meaningful and horrendous reason for trying to ruin Forrester. I felt his course of action was justified and I wanted him to find some form of restitution.
Overall, The Age of Olympus really surprised me. I thought the plot was nicely broken up and developed well. I loved the writing, the rich history and mythology that made me smile. Finally I felt the characters really kept my attention and made the book very enjoyable. I have given The Age of Olympus 4/5 stars because though I may not have gotten on with it to begin with, I am so glad I stuck with it and had a great time with the novel.
About Gavin Scott: Gavin Scott is a novelist, broadcaster and writer of the Emmy-winning mini-series “Mists of Avalon”, Dreamworks’ “Small Soldiers”, Working Title’s “The Borrowers” and Sci Fi’s “Legends of Earthsea” He produced and directed more than two hundred documentaries and short films for BBC and the commercial TV in the UK before moving to the United States, where his first assignment was with George Lucas, developing and scripting “The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles”.
His screenplay “The Last Summer”, a thriller about how World War One began is being produced by Aristos Films, to be directed by Downton Abbey’s Philip John.
He wrote and directed the New Zealand film “Battle of Treasure Island”, starring Randy Quaid, for Limelight Films.
“Absolutely Anything”, the script he wrote with Terry Jones starring Simon Pegg and Kate Beckinsale, with Eddie Izzard, Rob Riggle and Joanna Lumley and the voices of Robin Williams and most of the Python team, will be released in the US this year by Lionsgate.
Archetype Productions and Lucas Foster (“Mr and Mrs Smith”) are set to produce Gavin’s World War Two supernatural adventure “Lost Squad”, a combination of “The Matrix” and “Where Eagles Dare”, inspired by the graphic novels of Chris Kirby.
For Germany’s Gruppe 5 productions he will be show-running a ten part series about Dona Gracia Nasi, a 16th century female Schindler who negotiated with Popes, Sultans and Emperors, set up a continent-wide escape route, set up a colony on the coast of what had been ancient Israel and saved thousands of Jews from the Inquisition.
He created and executive produced “The Secret Adventures of Jules Verne” a 22 part sci-fi adventure series set in the nineteenth century about, which was broadcast around the world.
He has appeared on Spike TV ‘s “Deadliest Warrior” as an expert on the Arab Revolt and also featured in Ridley Scott’s “Prophets of Science Fiction” series, and in British documentaries about Jules Verne and Harry Potter.
Gavin’s 8 hour adaptation of “War and Peace” for Lux Vida SPA, starred Malcolm McDowell and Clement Poesy and was directed by Robert Dornhelm (“Into the West”, “The Ten Commandments”).
For Castle Rock he scripted “Brooke”, the saga of a young 19th century Englishman who set up a dynasty of white rajahs in Sarawak, and “First American”, the story of revolutionary war hero Daniel Boone, who rose above personal tragedy to save America’s western settlements during the Revolutionary War.
Born in Hull, Yorkshire, Gavin emigrated with his family to New Zealand in 1961. At 17 he spent a year as a volunteer teacher in the jungles of Borneo, working with the children of head-hunters, after which he studied history and political science at Victoria University of Wellington and journalism at the Wellington Polytechnic. He returned to Britain overland across Asia in 1973, traveling through Sri Lanka, Kashmir, Afghanistan and Iran, and worked for Shelter, the British housing charity, before joining the Times Educational Supplement, from which base he also wrote features for the London Times.
After five years as a reporter and program anchor for BBC Radio Gavin began in 1980 making films for BBC Television’s Newsnight, covering literary as well as political subjects: among his interviewees, J.B. Priestley, Christopher Isherwood, Iris Murdoch and John Fowles. He then made documentaries on science and culture for series such as Horizon and Man Alive before joining Channel Four News, for which he made films until 1990.
It was during this time that he started writing novels, including “Hot Pursuit” (about a Russian satellite that crashed in New Zealand) and “A Flight of Lies” (about the hunt for the bones of Peking Man). His novel “Small Soldiers” was a bestseller for Grosset and Dunlap, and he has recently written a Dickensian historical novel set in the nineteenth century, “The Adventures of Toby Wey” and “The Age of Treachery” for Titan Books.
For even more details, head to Gavin’s website here.