The Really Big Idea: Russell Blake
I found Russell on the Twitter, locked in eternal combat with his mortal enemies, the clowns. Supported only by the love of his followers, alcohol, and a few brave Lithuanian sex workers; he guards us all from the evil machinations of the kōlobathristēs. Hatred of clowns may seem a slender reed upon which to build a relationship, but it has been a fruitful one. Russell typically writes adrenaline-fueled thrillers. And this book is no different. However, there is a bit of idea lurking in there, and I’ll let Russell explain it:
The Voynich Cipher
My latest book, The Voynich Cypher, is an action/adventure novel that uses the Voynich Manuscript as the basis of the underlying conspiracy/treasure hunt. I first became familiar with the Voynich years ago, when a friend of mine who is really into cryptography told me about it. It’s 240 or so pages of “quires” (chapters) with fantastical illustrations, written entirely in an unknown language, believed by most of the best cryptologists of the last century to be a cypher. It’s never been cracked, in spite of being a lifelong fascination for many notables in the code-breaking field. Controversy has surrounded the document almost since it was rediscovered in the early 20th Century, when it was bought by rare book dealer Wilfrid Voynich in 1912, from amongst the possessions of a recently deceased Jesuit general. It has remained enigmatic and inscrutable ever since, and has baffled and confounded generations of experts. Numerous theories have been advanced on the script, none of them correct, or at least not correct enough to decipher it. From time to time it’s been theorized that it was written in a hoax language, but those notions were debunked by rigorous study of the nuance of the text, which is far more sophisticated than any hoax would have required, or than would have been possible to create in the 1400s.
Authorship is a hotly debated aspect of the manuscript. Speculations have abounded – everything from 13th century father of modern science Roger Bacon, to Shakespeare (Francis Bacon), to flim-flam men, con artists and rogues. The truth is that nobody knows. The vellum was recently carbon dated to the mid 1400s, so it is in fact what it appears to be: a medieval document of unknown origin apparently written entirely in code or some unknown language, which chronicles medical, astronomical and botanical knowledge, if the illustrations are any indication. The Voynich Manuscript is truly one of the world’s most inscrutable mysteries, and is the most viewed document at the Beinecke Library at Yale University, where it has resided since the 1960s.
When I decided to try something different than the conspiracy thrillers I’m known for, I started looking around for a mystery. I wanted something that was genuine and verifiable that I could twist and mold into an entirely plausible story. The Voynich occurred to me almost completely by accident – I was reviewing candidate possibilities, and one of them was mentioned alongside the Voynich. That triggered my recollection of long discussions with my buddy, and I was on the road.
I wanted to create an enduring modern fable, something that was both social commentary and adventure, and that was completely non-disprovable. That’s a tall order, and became taller still when I began researching all the aspects of the saga I wanted to include. Months went into everything from Roman geography and arcana, to the Voynich itself, to numerous cryptography tomes, to the various authorship theories (I read several books that made logical, but ultimately incorrect arguments), to the history of the Catholic Church, to the Rosicrucians and Templars, to medieval secret societies, to Masonic lore. I put the book aside several times to write others, but always returned to it, drawn by what I felt is a compelling tale.
The Voynich Cypher is a special novel for me, because it represents my desire to spread my wings and attempt something I’ve always wanted to do, but never felt I had the chops for until recently – to write a Foucault’s Pendulum sort of book that a modern audience could relate to easily, but that didn’t pander. That type of book is hard – it’s difficult to move a plot along at breakneck pace and keep things unexpected at every turn, while imparting a tremendous amount of detail, and writing it was a challenge I’m glad I stepped up to. My hope is that readers who enjoy Dan Brown or Cussler’s work will enjoy Voynich, and that it will be compared favorably to their efforts.
Buy The Voynich Cypher: amazon