The paperback version of THE PROMISED WAR by New York Times bestselling novelist Thomas Greanias is on sale now, and it includes the first eight chapters of its sequel, THE 34TH DEGREE, which hits bookstores everywhere in hardcover on June 28.
To celebrate, bestselling adventure author James “The Devil Colony” Rollins interviewed Tom about THE PROMISED WAR, asking eight striking questions and eliciting eight surprising answers.
ROLLINS: THE PROMISED WAR depicts the ancient siege of Jericho as seen through the eyes of Sam Deker, a 21st-century demolitions specialist for the Israeli Defense Forces. Has he really been blown back to 1400BC? Or is he hallucinating under torture by his captors who want to break him into divulging Israel’s secret failsafe for Jerusalem?
GREANIAS: Well, that’s one of several mysteries Deker has to figure out in the novel, along with staying alive, if he is still alive. Especially as everything is reversed in the world of 1400BC: It’s the Israelites in effect who are the Palestinians of that era, and it’s their leader General Joshua Bin-Nun who has declared holy war and “death to every breathing thing” in their path. But it’s clear from the start that THE PROMISED WAR cuts across the ancient past, present day and apocalyptic future all at once.
ROLLINS: The love story between Deker and his beautiful enemy Rahab also breaches time and space. What inspired you?
GREANIAS: The Book of Joshua says that General Joshua Bin-Nun, after supernatural guidance from Yahweh, sent two mysterious “spies from Shittim” to spy out the Land of Canaan—the Promised Land for the Israelites—in advance of the Israelite invasion. Who were these guys? What were they? I was always fascinated by the fact that the two spies are never named. That’s a break from the tradition of the other historical books of the Hebrew Scriptures, as are the missing details behind the covert ops Bin-Nun employed. They seem to be spelled out, except they aren’t, really. More like dust kicked up into our eyes to hide what’s really going on behind the smokescreen. I was also fascinated by the central role of Rahab the hooker in what many academics consider “the greatest spy thriller in history” because of its seminal impact on human civilization. There’s far more to her than meets the eye. Then my research confirmed that the Book of Joshua was written to hide as many things from Israel’s enemies throughout the ages as it was to reveal them to insiders. I was hooked, and the hunt was on.
ROLLINS: THE PROMISED WAR is clearly not the Sunday School version of the ancient siege of Jericho. In playing with the fire of ancient history, modern politics and religious faith, how much pressure did you feel to make readers accept “This is as it was”?
GREANIAS: I discovered that Jews and Arabs, both clerics and scholars alike, agree that the Israelites conquered the Promised Land around 1400BC, reset our history of the ancient world and shaped the next 3,500 years into the 21st century—even if they differ on particulars and whether or not it’s been a good thing. The bigger divide I found during my research was between people of faith who believe in the miraculous intervention of God—Jews, Muslims and Christians—and secularists who tend to dismiss the supernatural out of hand. (Unless, of course, it involves Atlantis, global conspiracies and other trademarks of my previous novels. But the contradictions of our contemporary pop culture are an entirely different discussion.) Because Sam Deker’s remarkable journey plays out against the paradox of miracles as “extraordinarily ordinary, yet ordinarily extraordinary,” I’m pleased to see that both camps have embraced THE PROMISED WAR, or at least its paradox. And that’s what this novel is all about—paradox, those things our finite minds have the most trouble grasping.
ROLLINS: But you seem to explain away every miracle in the Book of Joshua in surprising, military-secular terms.
GREANIAS: The key here is General Joshua Bin-Nun, successor to Moses and general of the Israelite army. On the one hand, he trusted Yahweh to lead his people into the Promised Land. On the other hand, he left nothing to chance. Think of David who killed Goliath with a single stone from his slingshot. If he knew God was going to help him bring the giant down with his first shot, then why did he pack five stones going into battle? In the same vein, Bin-Nun may have had faith that Yahweh would part the waters of the Jordan and bring down the walls of Jericho with a perfectly timed earthquake. But it’s inconceivable that a great leader like Bin-Nun didn’t have contingencies or deploy them in startling and surprising ways like he does in The Promised War. Of course he had a back-up plan. The future of his people was on the line. What kind of general would he be if he didn’t? That early reviewers have found themselves in suspense and surprise as to how things play out to the very end, to me that’s the real miracle of the novel. But then again, the Bible says God often surprises us because “His ways are not our ways.” You see that in THE PROMISED WAR
ROLLINS: Sam Deker of the IDF is such a different character than Conrad Yeats in the Atlantis novels. Where did he come from?
GREANIAS: Born out of 3,000 years of conflict in the Near East, on the surface. In the Atlantis trilogy, Conrad Yeats is a rogue archaeologist who likes fun and adventure with the woman he cannot have—the beautiful Vatican linguist Serena Serghetti. In THE PROMISED WAR Sam Deker is a demolitions specialist responsible for the death of the woman he loved and lost forever. There’s not a single funny bone in his body. He’s all business now. But the two heroes are similar in that they both have identity issues: Conrad in terms of his possible Atlantean DNA, and Deker in terms of his Jewish identity and what sort of loyalty to Israel that may or may not demand from him. We live in a world—the U.S. especially—that is increasingly defined less by nationality or even
ethnicity and more by our passions. Loyalties are fraying everywhere, to our companies, churches, countries and international institutions. We have fewer examples to believe in than ever, and yet must have more faith than ever. Sam Deker personifies our conflict and gets put to the ultimate test with the fate of history—past, present and future—in the balance.
ROLLINS: The Book of Joshua counts the Israelite population at 2.5 million including 600,000 troops at the time of the invasion. THE PROMISED WAR counts the civilians at fewer than 40,000, including 8,000 troops. Why the huge gulf?
GREANIAS: The numbers are always tough here at this point in Israel’s history. On the one hand, you have counts as high as 600,000 troops and 2.5M civilians on the Israelite side. On the other hand, you look at that eight-acre mound of ancient Jericho and realize you could barely pack more than 5,000 tops behind the walls, with fewer than 2,000 troops. Hmmm. An army of 600,000 Israelites against 2,000 enemy troops. With those odds, who needs faith in Yahweh for a miracle? The Book of Joshua is different from the rest of the books in the Bible in that it was written contemporaneously during the campaigns for the Promised Land, and Joshua did not want to tip his hand to enemies. So he kept things close to the vest, grossly inflating population and troop counts—very common in that day—and keeping key strategies and intel out, starting with the names of his spies. In this way the Book of Joshua is similar to the Book of Revelation. Revelation points to 144,000 Jews—12,000 each from the Twelve Tribes of Israel—as a small but symbolic figure to represent the entire nation at the end of time. The Book of Joshua does the opposite, using a huge but symbolic number to magnify the presence of Yahweh with the nation. One of the things Deker struggles with in 1400BC is the reality of a smaller but overwhelmingly more brutal world than what he might have imagined. It’s blood-on-blood contact. No retreats. No mercy.
ROLLINS: That explains perhaps the ingenious use of airborne diseases to justify the Israelite slaughter of men, women, children and even animals?
GREANIAS: That’s one part of it. The oldest record of TB was recently unearthed from bones beneath Jericho. And some scholars believe the Israelites planted diseased bones in the Ark of the Covenant as a form of biological warfare against enemy troops who touched it. The other part, of course, is that I had to throw a bit of James Rollins into the mix.
ROLLINS: There are quite a few twists, many hitting in the last pages. THE PROMISED WAR comes across as a fully realized, stand-alone adventure. Will there be any sequels?
GREANIAS: The book stands alone in its own right. But unfortunately for Sam Deker—and fortunately, I hope, for readers—his journey through the looking glass has only just begun. The sequel, THE 34TH DEGREE, hits stores on June 28.
THE PROMISED WAR
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THE 34TH DEGREE
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