Iscariot: A Novel of Judas by Tosca Lee 

By L. Dean Murphy

In historical thriller format, NEW YORK TIMES bestselling Tosca Lee tells this story of Judas, from his tumultuous childhood to his emergence as the man known as the betrayer of Jesus. Moreover, it’s a surprising view into the life of Jesus that forces us to reexamine everything we thought we knew about these famous—and infamous—religious icons.

Tosca added, “This was really a chance to put myself into the skin of one of the most vilified characters in history. By skin, I mean the oppression of the age. To really hear the national cry for salvation—for freedom—from Rome by the hand of a Messiah when so many would-be messiahs before had failed. We’re all familiar with the story of Judas, his infamous kiss and betrayal of Jesus. But there was so much going on politically, nationally and religiously, in those last decades, like a ticking bomb leading up to the revolt that happened after the death of Jesus.”

Steven James, bestselling author of PLACEBO, said, “A startlingly dark and breathtaking novel. ISCARIOT is both visionary in scope and historically accurate down to the most minute detail—which is an astonishing feat. This is epic, masterful storytelling from one of the most gifted novelists writing today.”

Mega-bestselling Steve Berry said, “Written in a voice that is original, animated, and refreshing, Tosca Lee has forged a poignant tale of Judas, a character we only thought we knew.”

James Scott Bell, bestselling author of ONE MORE LIE, opined, “Tosca Lee’s take on the most notorious figure in history is at once highly imaginative and deeply moving. Weaving historical detail, human drama and spiritual insight, ISCARIOT will hold you all the way to its shattering conclusion.”

Tosca said the humanization of Judas Iscariot makes the novel compelling. “The necessary question of why he did it, the ultimate question of whether you—or I—would have done the same.”

And she hopes to dispel myths. “Foremost, the idea of this mild-mannered Jesus. This wasn’t the Jesus we think of today—he was a laborer of questionable birth. A man who was by all accounts dangerous to his followers. His cousin, John the Baptist, was beaded for speaking out against Herod. And Jesus speaks out against Pharisees (religious laymen considered good guys at the time), touching the socially untouchable, interacting with women, drawing a crowd in a country where oppression is violently put down, saying things like drink my blood…doing the things that by all accounts a good man of Israel—a safe man—would not do.”

Surprisingly, Tosca said, “I wasn’t eager to write this story. I knew how much research and time it would take and I was completely cowed. At some point after avoiding the idea for about a year, I found myself sitting in a restaurant scribbling a scene between Judas and his mother on the paper tablecloth. I was a goner, and I knew it. I called my agent the next day.”

Tosca discourages fainthearted aspiring writers but gets to the seat of her convictions. “If you must write fiction, and feel somehow compelled to be clever and brilliant and relevant, I guess you should invest in a good chair.”

On a more serious note, she added, “Also, as soon as you are done with your first book, get right to the second, even before the first sells. This makes it easier on yourself with subsequent novels if something is in the works. I wish I had done this—it would have saved me a load of work, angst, and general paranoia.”

Tosca fell into a writer’s trap. “I overwrote the first draft by 100,000 words. Somewhere in that giant forest of history, intrigue and clever theological innuendo I realized I had utterly obscured the trail of this journey and the mystery of Judas and Jesus’ relationship with it. I stalled. Finally, I thought back to my time in Israel. I had stood on the shore of Galilee’s lake, sat in Capernaum’s synagogue, had seen the theater of history.

“By the day I entered Jerusalem, I was bereft. Ascending the Dome of the Rock, I realized I had not experienced one moment of mystery. As I made my way to the mosque, I stopped to give an old beggar woman a few shekels. She grabbed my hand in both of hers. Here was the thing I was looking for. Here was God. And I knew without a doubt I had traveled all the way to Israel just to hold her hand.

“I returned to the manuscript and pulled it apart, throwing out three theses’ worth of detail. I returned to the heart of the story. Iscariot was no longer Judas’ story…it was mine. But it’s tricky dealing with religious history. How much is fact, tradition? The only answer is to do a lot of digging. When dealing with ancient history, the best litmus test is what rings humanly true.”

On publishing, Tosca said, “This industry seems to change every six months. I think there are a lot of exciting avenues in eBook, many new ways to publish that will shape and change how we tell our stories. I’m not sure what those are—but I know compelling stories will always find readers.”

*****

Tosca Lee is the NEW YORK TIMES bestselling author of the critically acclaimed DEMON: A MEMOIR, and HAVAH: THE STORY OF EVE, as well as the Books of Mortals series with TIMES bestseller Ted Dekker: FORBIDDEN, MORTAL AND SOVEREIGN (spring 2013). Tosca received her B.A. in English and International Relations from Smith College in Northampton, Massachusetts, and studied at Oxford University. In her spare time, she enjoys adventure travel and makes her home in the Midwest.

To learn more about Tosca, visit her website.

Dean Murphy

L. Dean Murphy interviews authors and reviews books for Bookreporter.com & The Big Thrill. The MWA, FWA and ITW member is working on, The Art of Murder, and Two Bodies. His maxim is "When there’s nothing left, write."

Visit him at: www.DeanMurphy.net.

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