Jonathan Donald is currently writing historical fiction. A first novel, “Sour Mash” is now with a publisher. A second novel “The Great Belzoni” is a work in progress.
“SOUR MASH” - THE LONG TIME AGO ADVENTURES OF AN AMERICAN
How a plain country man who was a trifle slew-footed and burdened with a peculiar nick-name made his way down the Mississippi from Missouri to New Orleans in the years after the Civil War. He was honest, good natured and an incurable optimist yet through errors of judgment, or the unkindness of others, and sometimes just bad luck, he was caught up in hair-raising adventures that brought him perilously close to death. Yet the Fates always and sometimes miraculously intervened steering him clear of these hazards and then propelled him on to a new and better destiny in the Far West, the California gold fields, Hawaii, the Yukon, and to meetings and contests with some of the West’s most f amous, and some times, infamous citizens, including Buffalo Bill, Wild Bill Hickok and “Little Miss Sure Shot” - Annie Oakley.
But hold on! He wasn’t done yet! He went to Europe, met Napoleon III, Emperor of France and Otto von Bismarck, the all conquering Prussian Chancellor. Then he took ship to Indo-China which raised the curtain on yet other adventures.
“THE GREAT BELZONI" REDISCOVERS THE ART OF ANCIENT EGYPT.
Giovanni Belzoni was among the first 19th century European explorers in Egypt and to a large extent he was responsible for the curiosity about Egypt’s ancient history that was then growing in both Europe and America. Belzoni was 6’ 8,” a physical giant who in his youth had been a carnival performer lifting great weights thanks to his remarkable strength. The circus strongman was destined for greater things, however, and he developed an interest in Egypt’s ancient monuments while collecting bits and pieces of them in 1815 for an English antiquarian living in Alexandria. The world was just awakening to the great richness of ancient Egypt; its treasures were as yet unknown and Egypt’s geography itself unexplored.
His first notable achievement was to affect the transport of a nine ton red granite bust of the Pharaoh Ramses the Great to England. He was also among the very few early explorers to investigate the great temples of Karnak and Luxor. Crossing over the Nile from Luxor he excavated many of the royal burial chambers of ancient pharaohs he found hidden in the so called “Valley of the Kings.”
His next feat was to travel a thousand miles up the Nile to Abu Simbel in order to uncover the tomb of the great Ramses. This pharaoh had founded what archeologists would later call the “ New Kingdom.” Ramses raised Egypt to its greatest heights as the builder of its most important temples since the Pyramids of the Old Kingdom. Most of these temples were dedicated to Ramses himself. His own tomb and burial temple at Abu Simbel sat hundreds of feet above the Nile at the top of a great sand drift. Belzoni was guided to the tomb entrance by a little boy whose name was Abu Simbel, the name by which the temple has been known ever since.
Abu Simbel temple was hidden within cliff face, the face of which was decorated by four enormous raised reliefs of the Pharaoh. The tomb and funerary temple had been sealed for three thousand years. Belzoni opened it and then walked among four more sixty foot tall figures of the Pharaoh that guarded the interior. These stood in a lofty hall whose walls bore beautifully painted hieroglyphics whose colors were as vivid, he related, as if they had been painted only the day before.