Sunday 29 July 2018

Prue Batten's MICHAEL, Book Three of the Triptych Chronicle

A few days ago, Prue Batten released her latest book, Michael, the third in her fabulous Triptych Chronicle. I am a fan of Prue's writing and everything points to Michael being just as great as the previous books in the series. So without further ado, here is Prue to tell us a little about the book and some of the issues she has faced while writing and researching it.


Matthew, whose kind words featured on the cover of Guillaume, Book Two of The Triptych Chronicle, has invited me to post on his blog as I celebrate the launch of the finale to the twelfth century trilogy: Book Three - Michael.

Matthew has spoken in the past about the dilemma faced by fiction writers when research detail is thin on the ground. But he remained undeterred and seemed to have the same kind of excitement about the lack as myself.

It gives one scope and licence for the imagination…

The first issue for me was the setting for Michael. Much of actual twelfth century Constantinople was destroyed in two cataclysmic events – the Fourth Crusade and the Ottoman Conquest. I had to think hard and carefully about navigating the city. Fortunately, there’s clever online 3D modelling called It’s been a true godsend and has enabled me to walk the walk and talk the talk.

My novel is about twelfth century trade – about quality goods from the east and the covetousness that arises as western merchants fight to trade the best. I needed to find rare and highly valued commodities, the kind that would arouse deathly jealousies. In Michael, that became a silk called byssus, but there certainly wasn’t a surfeit of information. A snifter at most – the silk is rare and naturally golden, sourced from the sea and woven by a secret cadre of women through the centuries – true story. In fact, it is believed that the famous Blessed Veronica, imprinted with Christ’s face, is byssus. The silk’s value is undeniable, not least because of its enigmatic nature.

You see my problem.

Likewise, in trying to find a suitable convent outside Constantinople for one of my characters, I was concerned by Byzantine historian Judith Herrin’s prophetic words ‘many … are noted for a single reference and remain unidentified’. Once again, it seemed I was entering unchartered waters. I chose to once again make another fiction call, placing one of the ‘single reference’ nunneries, Xylinites, outside the city in a location of my choosing –west of the River Lycus that flows down into the city.

And then there was the Contarini family. They had a huge political, diplomatic and religious presence within Venice throughout its medieval and Renaissance history. Whilst there is evidence that they had dealings with Byzantium, there is no evidence of which of the many family members might have travelled there in 1195. Thus I ‘created’ a fictitious Contarini – Giacomo. It suited my plot to have Giacomo and Michael in the same room at the same time. It was one of Dorothy Dunnett’s greatest techniques and I enjoyed playing with the dice in such a way. But I do remember asking myself at one point, as another blank wall approached: ‘Are we having fun yet?’

In truth I loved every minute of writing this novel and its award-winning partners, Tobias and Guillaume. They were all hard-won stories but this one especially so, and I hope readers enjoy it as much as I enjoyed the journey.

Is this my final farewell perhaps to the twelfth century?

I’m not sure…

Michael is available at

Click on the following links to find out more about Prue and her writing.


No comments:

Post a Comment