The Idea for “A Man at Arms”
Readers ask me sometimes if there’s any individual character among all those I’ve written with whom I identify most.
It’s the solitary mercenary of the ancient world, Telamon of Arcadia, who appears in the fourth century BCE in Tides of War, re-appears unchanged sixty years later in The Virtues of War, and even makes a cameo in The Profession (still unchanged) twenty years into our contemporary future.
For years friends have asked me, “When are you going to do a book just about Telamon?”
I’ve wanted to. I can’t tell you how many outlines I’ve started or concepts I’ve scratched onto yellow foolscap pads.
But I never could find the right story or the proper time period.
How could I bring this dark, haunted, indeed doomed character out of the shadows and into a possible resolution to his fate?
Then one day, about three years ago, I began thinking about another character–a nine-year-old mute girl, in the first century CE, tasked with delivering a certain letter to a certain beleaguered community.
I thought, “This is the story. It’s not about just him. It’s about him and her.”
Remember, a couple of months back, we did a series of posts in this space whose theme was
Get to “I love you?”
The idea of “Get to I Love You” is to take two characters who are as far apart as possible at the start of story … then structure the narrative in such a way that, by the end, they have come together.
The two characters don’t have to be lovers.
They can be a father and a daughter.
A child and a wild animal.
A cop and a gangster.
The dynamic can happen even within a single character.
This new book is called A Man at Arms. It comes out in March 2021.
What made it work as a story, what gave me the confidence to write it, is this idea of
Get to “I love you.”
How could I crack open the skull of Telamon, the one-man killing machine whose philosophy is essentially to believe in nothing?
The answer (unless I’m crazy) was to set across from him an innocent child who believes in everything … and make the man and the girl, somehow, come together in the end.