Wednesday 14 August 2019

Join #HistoricalFiction author, Joan Fallon, as she shares her inspiration behind her fabulous book — The Apothecary (City of Dreams Book 1) #History #Spain

The Apothecary
 (City of Dreams Book 1)
An Author’s Inspiration
By Joan Fallon

I have lived in Málaga, on and off, for more than thirty years now, and love the city, which seems to get more interesting and more beautiful every year. In the al-Andalus trilogy I had written at length about Moorish Spain, and Córdoba in particular, so last year I felt that it was now time to discover what it must have been like to have lived in Málaga almost a thousand years ago, when it too was ruled by the Moors.

The alcazaba in Malaga.

In my new historical series ‘The City of Dreams’ I try to make sense of some very turbulent times. Under the Omayyads, Moorish Spain had been a stable, peaceful and united country, famed for its learning, culture and wealth. But all that was because of one man, Abd al-Rahman III. When he died in 961 AD his son al-Hakim carried on his work, until an attack of apoplexy cut short his reign. He left his only son, an eleven-year-old boy, to succeed him. His son was no warrior and untrained in statesmanship, so he soon fell under the complete control of his ministers. Although nobody realised it at the time, that was the beginning of the end for the Omayyad dynasty, and in 1009 AD the country became embroiled in a civil war which lasted until 1013, by which time Córdoba had been razed to the ground, its universities and libraries destroyed and its citizens killed or exiled. The Golden Age of Moorish Spain was over and al-Andalus had split into a number of warring princedoms, which were referred to as 'taifas.' Málaga was one of those taifas, but with a difference; the Hammudite prince who ruled the taifa had decided to claim the title of caliph for himself. A move which was to cause problems for him and his successors, none of whom lived more than a few years after coming to the throne.

The City of Dreams trilogy opens in 1035 AD, some twenty years after the family escaped from Córdoba. In the first novel, ‘The Apothecary,’ Makoud who was just a young lad in the previous series, is now a middle-aged man. Born and bred in a city, he finds country life too restrictive for him and decides to bring his family to Málaga, to make a new life for them all. At first everything goes well. Makoud opens his own apothecary shop and his sons find work. But when the caliph dies in strange circumstances and rumours suggest that he has been poisoned, Makoud becomes worried that he may have been the one who inadvertently sold the poison to the assassin. His eldest son, a soldier, decides to investigate the caliph's death and soon finds himself caught up in a web of intrigue, lies and murder. When he ends up in the dungeons of the alcazaba under sentence of death, his family is horrified and know the only way to save him is to find the perpetrator of these crimes.

As I mentioned earlier, this was an uncertain  and turbulent time for everyone. You only have to look at the following maps to see how the political borders changed dramatically as a few of the more warlike rulers made their taifas stronger and more powerful, in particular Abbad I of Seville, who had his eyes on the rich and strategically placed port of Málaga.

Map of al-Andalus 1037AD/

Map of Seville in 1066 AD showing how it has swallowed up so many of its neighbours in a space of thirty years. And below that a map showing that by 1080 most of al-Andalus has been divided between the powerful taifas of  Badajoz, Seville, Toledo and Zaragoza. Only Málaga, Granada and and Álmeria managed to hold out for a few more years.

In this short extract from ‘The Apothecary’ Makoud’s son, Umar starts on an investigation that will eventually lead to his arrest.

The khalifa was dead. Umar felt strangely sad for this man whom he hardly knew and had only seen on a couple of occasions. He remembered how impressed he’d been the first time he’d seen him, such a proud, noble man; everything about him said he’d been born to rule. Umar had felt privileged to serve him. He was a man who deserved a warrior’s death, not to die in such a horrible way. Rumours had spread through the alcazaba like wildfire. They said that on his death bed he cried out in terror at phantoms only he could see, and writhed in pain as the sickness worked its way through his emaciated body. It was said the physicians still had no idea what had caused his death; they’d been able to do nothing to help him. Now it was too late. According to the gossip they stood around his bedside and had no explanation for such a rapid decline in a man still in his prime. The grand vizier had put out an announcement that Khalifa Yahya I had died from an injury sustained in the battle of Qarmuña, but the rumour that Yahya had been poisoned persisted.

Weeks ago, when his father had told Umar about the customer who had repeatedly bought wormwood from him, he hadn’t given it much thought, but now that the khalifa was dead he couldn’t get this information out of his mind. So were the rumours true? Had the khalifa been assassinated? Had that man who’d gone to Baba’s shop poisoned him? Was he the murderer? And if so, what should Umar do? Should he speak to his commander about it? But if he did that, then he’d have to tell him that it was his father who’d sold the wormwood to the man, and then his commander might think that Makoud was complicit in the murder. It was too risky. No, first he needed to find out more about this man and try to track him down. But how? The obvious place to start was at home; both his father and his brother had seen him. Maybe they knew more about him than they’d told him. What had made them suspicious in the first place? Was it something he’d said? More importantly, had they seen him again? Maybe he lived close by. Yes, it made sense to start by talking to his father again.

The Apothecary
 (City of Dreams Book 1)
By Joan Fallon

In the first novel in a new historical series set in Moorish Spain, Joan Fallon sets the action in the busy medieval port of Málaga. Following on from the successful al-Andalus series, we meet up again with the younger members of the family who had escaped from the besieged city of Córdoba.

Makoud, now a middle-aged apothecary, has come to Málaga with his family to work. Shortly after they arrive they hear of the sudden death of the caliph, Yahya I and rumours that he was poisoned. Makoud is worried that the poison used by the assassins was bought from his shop. His son, Umar, now a soldier in the caliph’s army, decides to investigate but he underestimates the power of the people behind the assassination, and instead he finds himself accused of murder and locked in the dungeons. His father, family and friends pool all their resources to try to help him but the closer they get to the truth, the greater the danger they are all in.

Pick up your copy of
The Apothecary

Joan Fallon

Joan Fallon was born in Dumfries, Scotland but spent most of her adult life in England. Teacher, management trainer and business woman, she moved to Spain at the beginning of the new millennium and became a writer. Her first published work was a social history, 'Daughters of Spain', inspired by the women she met in her adopted home. Her subsequent books too have grown out of her experiences living and working in Spain. She is especially interested in Spanish history and has set her novels in periods as distinct as the Golden Age of the Moorish conquest and the Spanish Civil War. She is a member of the Society of Authors and the Alliance of Independent Authors.

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Take Care,
Mary Anne xxx