By Aaron Brown
The first pairing of FBI Agent Sean Reilly and archaeologist Tess Chaykin in Raymond Khoury’s The Last Templar spent 11 weeks on the hardcover New York Times Bestseller list and was a Number 1 bestseller overseas. It has been translated into thirty-eight languages, published in over forty countries, and became the basis for a television mini-series.
It’s now been four years since we’ve shared an adventure with Tess Chaykin and Sean Reilly, but they’re back for a triumphant return inThe Templar Salvation, a new adventure that has been described as “every bit as nail-biting, cinematic, and thought-provoking as its predecessor.”
Constantinople, 1203: As the rapacious armies of the Fourth Crusade lay siege to the city, a secretive band of Templars infiltrate the imperial library. Their target: a cache of documents that must not be allowed to fall into the hands of the Doge of Venice. They escape with three heavy chests, filled with explosive secrets that these men will not live long enough to learn.
Vatican City, present day: FBI agent Sean Reilly infiltrates the Pope’s massive Vatican Secret Archives of the Inquisition. No one but the Pope’s trusted secondi get in-but Reilly has earned the Vatican’s trust, a trust he has no choice but to violate. His love, Tess Chaykin, has been kidnapped; the key to her freedom lays in this underground tomb, in the form of a document known as the Fondo Templari, a secret history of the infamous Templars…
Your books are known for taking us to new and exciting places, both in the present and the past. Can you tell us about some of the settings you explore in The Templar Salvation?
The huge opening sequence takes place at the Vatican, but it’s set in parts of the Holy See that we haven’t really seen before and which may surprise some readers. After that, the story crosses into Turkey, including Constantinople; Konya, where Rumi is buried; and, for a big chunk of the book that I wanted to have a desolate, John Ford/Western feel to it, in the outlandish landscapes of Cappadocia, with its “fairy chimney” houses, its churches carved into rock faces, and its vast underground cities… Separately, there are also of course historical chapters set in the past, notably in Constantinople just before the sack of 1203 and in Nicaea in 325, the year of the famous council that generated our Nicene Creed…
It’s been four years since we’ve shared an adventure with Tess Chaykin and Sean Reilly. Where has life taken them between the conclusion of The Last Templar andThe Templar Salvation?
Reilly’s still at the FBI, running the NY office’s counter-terrorism unit, while Tess’s career has evolved in a way that I think readers will enjoy. But they’re not in a great place in their relationship. A personal problem has pulled them apart. But the new story throws them together in a way they hadn’t counted on, and it allows them to bond even more than they did in the first book.
Your new book takes Sean Reilly into the depths of the Vatican and their secret archives. Can you tell us how you researched a place to which so few have been given access?
My visits to the Vatican didn’t give me much more access than most visitors. For additional information, I relied on the travelogues of others–journalists, documentary filmmakers, visiting church dignitaries–who have been deeper into the city than I have.
You are originally from Lebanon, and US Forces evacuated you from your homeland during the beginning of a civil war. Do you feel that this unique background has given you a different perspective on the world and helped you to tell the stories that have captured the imaginations of so many readers?
Those troubled, intense times undoubtedly shaped me, my world view and my storytelling. For one thing, I need to tell big, epic, global stories, stories where the events in them have a global reach, and I suppose this is one reason why they’ve been bestsellers in so many countries. Another way they shaped me is that after witnessing some of the insanities in the Middle East first-hand, I find conflicts based on–or fuelled by–religious beliefs absurd and inexcusable, especially at a supposedly enlightened age when we know so much. The fervor and passion with which people follow the dogmas of their chosen faiths, often without knowing where these dogmas really originate, baffles me. Beyond that, I suppose I’m more sensitive to how events around the world tend to collide and have repercussions across the globe, and I probably also have a more Machiavellian view of what geopolitical games are being played behind closed doors.
Many people learned of your work through the NBC mini-series based upon the first Chaykin/Reilly novel, The Last Templar. Did the mini-series stay true enough to the source material of the book so that fans of the mini-series can jump right into The Templar Salvation?
The new book can be read without needing to have read The Last Templar. As for the mini-series, I couldn’t bring myself to watch more than the first ten minutes of it, which tells you how faithful I thought it was to my book! (Sigh)
Can you tell us about any of your other work that may be coming to the big or small screen?
A couple of producers are trying to set up The Sanctuary as a movie, but the problem they’re coming up against is that it’s a big story to try and squeeze into a 2-hour movie, and I’m not ready to try another mini-series attempt. The Sign interested several directors, but the studios felt it would be too controversial to film, which may change…
Was there anything particularly interesting that you learned through your research that didn’t make it into the book, or something from the book that you’d like to highlight?
I’ll just mention that devising the airborne sequences with a friend who has the plane I used in the book were a lot of fun… and a bit hairy!
What are you reading now?
A book I hugely recommend: “Devils in Exile” by Chuck Hogan. I’ve just discovered his writing and am hooked.
What are some of your favorite books/authors?
Books that I’ve loved… William Goldman’s “Marathon Man”; James Patterson’s “Along Came a Spider”; Michael Connelly’s “Blood Work”; Nelson DeMille’s “Plum Island”; and my favorite of the last few years, Carlos Ruiz Zafon’s “The Shadow of the Wind”;
Do you have any advice for aspiring (or struggling) authors out there?
Step back and think of the overall story that you’re writing and the motivations and reactions of your characters: what makes them special, how can you push them further to make them even more unique and powerful. And trust your instincts.
What can we expect from you next? Another Chaykin/Reilly adventure?
Yes, they’ll be back in the fall of next year, when Reilly gets a life-changing jolt from the past…
Raymond Khoury is the bestselling author of The Last Templar, The Sanctuary, and The Sign. An architect and investment banker turned acclaimed screenwriter and producer for television and film, his work includes the hit BBC television series Spooks, known as MI:5 in the United States, that ABC just bought to remake, as well as the Emmy-award winning series Waking The Dead. Khoury lives in London with his wife and two daughters.