1. The Old Dragon’s Head is a story about a wall, as it is set on the far eastern end of the Great Wall of China. The germ for the novel was a short story I wrote called, ‘Vallum Hadriani’, set on another famous wall, namely Hadrian’s Wall. At the time, I also re-read Franz Kafka’s The Great Wall of China. I remembered that I loved reading in my youth.
2. Some of the non-fiction I read to research the novel included The Art of War by Sun Tzu, The Book of Chung Tzu by Lao Tzu, The Book of Mencius and the T’ao Te Ching.
3. Some of the fiction I read for the research included The Chinese Maze Murders, a Judge Dee Mystery by Robert van Gulik, The Story of the Stone aka The Dream of the Red Chamber, a Chinese Classic, vol. 1., The Golden Days by Cao Xueqin, and Stories Old and New, a Ming Dynasty Collection, Compiled by Feng Menglong.
4. The Old Dragon’s Head was my second novel and took me about a year and a half to write, edit, polish and finish. It was my first historical novel and has four point of view characters.
5. As part of the research into China in the 14th Century, I visited the China sections of the British Museum and the Victoria and Albert Museum in London, as they hold some fascinating artefacts of the period. I also corresponded with the curators of the museums about their artefacts.
6. To promote the novel, I wrote and developed an illustrated talk entitled “The Great Ming Code; How the Law Book of the Ming Dynasty attempted to harmonize human society with the will of heaven.”
7. The cover artwork for the book The Old Dragon’s Head was done by Jim Burns, who lives not far from me in Trowbridge, Wiltshire. He has done the covers for all four of my novels now, and a wonderful job he has made of them too.
8. The Old Dragon’s Head is a real place at the far eastern end of the Great Wall of China. In Chinese, Laolongtou is the Chinese word for Old Dragon’s Head. The name of the town there is Shanhaiguan. I would have liked to have visited the area but wasn’t able to do so.
9. To keep out the Mongols, the founder of the Ming Dynasty, the Hongwu Emperor, had a fortress built across a ten-kilometer pass between the Yellow Sea and the Yanshan Mountains in 1381.
10. The biggest gate in the fortress was the Zhendong Gate, above which hangs the famous inscription, “The First Pass Under Heaven,” a sentiment which tells you everything you need to know about the Chinese mind set. One of the ironies of history is that in 1644 a Chinese soldier, disillusioned with the emperor of the time, opened the gates of the fortress and let in the Mongols.
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