Thursday, July 1, 2010

Author Robert Parry's Thoughts on John Dee

Yesterday I reviewed Robert Parry's historical fiction novel Virgin and the Crab: Sketches, Fables & Mysteries from the early life of John Dee and Elizabeth Tudor. As I mentioned in my review, I thought that the character of John Dee was very interesting and I was curious what drew Mr. Parry to him as a character.

He was kind enough to answer the following question for us: What made you decide to make John Dee such a main player in your novel?

Here is his answer:
John Dee is one of the most interesting of all Englishmen, and yet is also someone who has been virtually airbrushed out of history by subsequent generations. So the reader is certainly forgiven if he appears as something of a stranger. He is, however, the perfect vehicle for exploring the amazing years of the mid 16th century when England went through no less than five monarchs in a space of little more than a decade, beginning with the death of Henry VIII in 1547, to the boy-king Edward, Jane Grey, Mary and finally Elizabeth I. Our hero John Dee was there amid the whole turbulent and harrowing time, not only as one of the leading lights of the academic establishment but probably also working behind the scenes in conjunction with a number of Cambridge academics and lawyers to guide and protect the young Elizabeth Tudor through the most dangerous years of her life and, ultimately, to see her established as Queen in 1558.

Dee was one of the most extraordinary men of his age, an astronomer, a brilliant mathematician and geographer. He was probably one of the earliest members of the English secret service (he signed letters to Elizabeth with a 007 symbol). He owned one of the most extensive libraries in Europe at the time and was employed as advisor to seafarers such as Raleigh, Gilbert and Frobisher on just about every great voyage of exploration and discovery undertaken during the Elizabethan age. I believe he might even have been involved in the development of the telescope many years before it first appeared in Italy and was adopted for use by Galileo. He was, by all accounts, a tall, handsome and charismatic individual, highly gifted. He was also very much the archetypal Renaissance man - an alchemist and a devoutly religious person who believed in the world of the spirit and who wished to see the opposing religious divisions of the times resolved peacefully. In the novel he is seen as a young man in a chivalric role, supporting and protecting Elizabeth. He was there, helping out through it all, through one of the most turbulent, bloody and harrowing periods of English history. I am very fond of John Dee, he is certainly my hero, and I hope I have conveyed that admiration in my story.
I personally think that Robert has done a fine job in shedding some light on an interesting, yet little-known, historical figure. A big thank you to author Robert Parry for joining us today!

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