“Professional novelists may quail at having an investment banker on their turf, but Hyland, drawing on experience as chairman emeritus of the American Academy at Rome, sets his thriller in the passageway to Nero’s Golden Palace . Archeologists beware.”
These are images and additional materials from the book as well as the occasional news item. Check back soon as I’ll be adding new material from time to time.
I was recently on The Jordan Rich Show at CBS Boston. You can listen to it here: Jordan Rich Show.
I was interviewed on the show “This Old Book” for WHDD. You can listen to the podcast of the interview by clicking here: WHDD
Some years ago, I was invited to meet at six in the morning on a hot summer day in Rome to watch while an archaeological team from the American Academy in Rome re-opened an excavation in the Roman Forum on the Palatine Hill. The first chapter came to me in this way, watching the team at work moving rocks, sifting the findings, while at the same moment imagining a catastrophic release of a deadly virus killing two of the archaeologists. In this “imagining” I polished off the head of the American Academy team whom I had known for years. I told him about his fate later, which he laughed about good naturedly. With this, the story was off and running. I had no idea exactly where the story was going but I knew the characters would help me find the way. And they did.
Do you draw from personal experiences and/or current events?
I’ve personally known all the characters in The Moses Virus, with their good points and their weaknesses and ambiguities. For a while I wrote myself in as the hero, and even called him by my name. Quickly, however, he rebelled, and I gave him a new name, Tom Stewart, since he didn’t really want to be me. He was considerably happier and eventually so was I.
The ghastly virus in the book comes right off the front pages of the major newspapers (The New York Times: Debate Persists on Deadly Flu Made Airborne, cover page, December 27, 2011) with the running controversy about the motives of the scientists in resurrecting the world’s most devastating killer—somewhere between 50 and 100 million people killed by the Spanish flu of 1918-19. Is there any government which wouldn’t want to have its own supply?
Also, we—the world of seven billion people—are headed for potential disaster in that the food supply is drastically falling behind the growth in population. Why? Many reasons: corruption, inefficiency, among others. The solution? Some would propose bio-engineered seeds boosting the output of crops, and others would curb population growth. Still others would cure corruption. Which would you pick and at what risk? Certain major companies see the profit opportunities.
My writing routine
About three in the morning, I wake up with a fabulous idea connected to my book. I toss and turn, and the idea keeps returning, changing sometimes, but persistently wanting some attention. I get up. I jot down the main points and go back to sleep. Later, when I get up, I take the notes from my dreaming state and work them into the story. Some of the ideas are too wild to use; others, however, join the story and enrich it. I never know in advance.
Writing is not my full time job?
Investment banking is my main job, mergers and acquisitions in media and education. Both areas are in major transition and face major needs to change if they are to remain viable. Challenging. I’ve also been Chairman of the American Academy in Rome, which gives the Rome Prize to Americans in many arts and scholarly fields, and it is where some of the action in The Moses Virus takes place; I’m Co-Chair of the Board of Teachers College, Columbia University, the oldest and largest of the nation’s schools of education (perhaps the setting of the next book—which depends Tom Stewart and some other events); and a couple of other not for profit organizations. Travelling is a passion: Egypt, for example, fascinates me. Luxor and the supreme achievements of ancient Egypt, or Rome, or Paris, of Istanbul, and so on. I’ve been to 57 countries—as many as Heinz has varieties.
Some of my favorite authors
I worked on an oil tanker for Sunoco one summer in college and after the modest work assignment was done each day, legitimately hid from more work duties. On the deck near the bow, another college student and I read all the rest of the day. I loved many of the classics: Dickens, Fielding, Jane Austen, the Brontes. I moved to more current authors, Michael Crichten, discovered science fiction via Isaac Azimov, Philip Dick, Robert Heinlein and on to the surrealist writing of Heller (Yossarrian—“He had decided to live forever, or die in the attempt”) and Vonnegut.
What I’m reading
I enjoy the story telling and page turning skills of Stephen King, Tom Clancy, John Grisham and Dan Brown. And I need to add that I’m a movie fiend, ranging from James Bond (both Sean Connery and Daniel Craig), action and adventure (Jason Bourne), certain comedies, science fiction (“Gravity”—wow, what an experience), twisted mysteries (Alfred Hitchcock). And certain television—Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert, as well as a few series, such as The Newsroom, the amazingly cynical “House of Cards” with Kevin Spacey.
May I quote from the last page of The Moses Virus? Alex is talking to Tom.
“Mr. Forensic Archaeologist, tell me exactly what was in Crystal’s small leather case when she drove away from Kronberg Castle.”
Tom said, “I have no bloody idea. And, perhaps it’s better that neither of us know. Furthermore, it will be some time before I join in an excavation in the Roman Forum again.”
“Fine by me,” Alex said.
And that is the way things stood for quite a while. But in exactly one year and three months, Tom would have the exact answer to Alex’s question.”
That’s all I can say, except that we are not done with Crystal, Alex and Tom.
Who would I cast for the movie?
Clive Owen as Tom Stewart. Owen (Children of Man, The International) if he can handle an America accent is the closest I can get to Cary Grant both of whom have the good lucks, intelligence and sense of humor to be the main character; and Eva Green, (Bond’s love in Casino Royale), who is strikingly good looking, and totally self possessed would be a perfect Alex Cellini.