Scott Oden Interview
December 22, 2010
the author of The Lion of Cairo
Scott Oden's adventure novel Lion of Cairo is about an assassin with a haunted weapon who is sent to Cairo on an unusual mission - not to kill but to protect a young caliph. Annis, who contributed our review of the novel, was eager to ask him a few questions.
The Lion of Cairo seems like quite a change of pace from your earlier historical adventures set in antiquity. What inspired the move to classic sword and sorcery?
I've always wanted to try my hand at classic sword and sorcery; some of my very earliest efforts aped the themes and tone found in Robert E. Howard's prose - barbarian adventurers beset by grim sorceries, in a land influenced by history. With The Lion of Cairo, I thought it would be cool to mix the aesthetic of a straight historical novel with elements of pulp-style sorcery. My editor loved it, and hopefully readers will find it equally interesting.
Did adding magic to the historical swashbuckler mix require a major shift in mind-set for you as an author?
Not so much, no. One thing that's always bothered me about the bulk of the historical fiction I've read is that it fails to tap into the sense of wonder and mysticism a character from, say, the eleventh century would likely possess. With such an emphasis placed on historical accuracy - from veracity of dating to what a Crusader would wear - superstition and a belief in sorcery tends to fall by the wayside. Is it real? Is the protagonist’s knife possessed? Do the dead truly speak to the villainous necromancer? I don’t know, but my characters believe it’s real and that’s enough for me.
Influences as diverse as the original pulp-fiction stories and more modern media like film and gaming can be seen in your novel. What was the genesis for Assad and his demon-haunted salawar?
Assad owes much to two men: Afghanistan's national hero, Ahmad Shah Massoud, and the actor who portrayed him in the tele-pic "The Road to 9/11," Mido Hamada. They provided much of his look, style, and a few of his deeds - for instance, during the Soviet-Afghan war Ahmad Shah Massoud was said to have journeyed to the high Afghan Mountains, where he fought and triumphed over a djinni. I borrowed that for Assad. As for his salawar, it's the bastard cousin of Tolkien's One Ring and Moorcock's Stormbringer . . . a weapon of great power that comes with an inherent price. Its use doesn't make Assad a peerless killer, but it does add to his mystique.
Review of The Lion of Cairo by Scott Oden
See listing for The Lion of Cairo at Powell's Books
See listing for The Lion of Cairo at Amazon.com
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