Although The Last Messenger is a work of fiction, intended to entertain as a fast moving conspiracy thriller, there are some themes in the novel which I hope will interest the reader. The basic story line is outlined in the Books tab. This section is intended to provide some further background on the themes and historical context of the novel.
The Origins of Religious Faith
The story being told in the novel is built around the theme that religious faith is universal. Judaism, Islam and Christianity all originate from the same source. They all trace their roots back to Abraham.
Reza Aslan, in his excellent book “No God but God” writes:
Like so many prophets before him, Muhammed never claimed to have invented a new religion. By his own admission, Muhammed’s message was an attempt to reform the existing beliefs and cultural practices of pre-Islamic Arabia so as to bring the God of the Jews and the Christians to the Arab peoples.’
This theme can be summed up by what Amira says to Richard in the novel:
‘Do you think it’s possible for a man to be both Christian and Muslim at the same time?’
He was surprised by the question, but everything surprised him about Amira. ‘I don’t know whether that’s possible. I’m sorry to say I don’t believe in God.’
‘I’m not surprised you don’t,’ she replied. ‘Religion has caused so much trouble in the world but that’s because they forget that there is only one God. There is not a Muslim God, a Christian God and a Jewish God. There is only one God. Masood understood that.’
Another character in the novel is fascinated that the angel Gabriel who appeared to Mohammed to give him the Holy Koran is the same angel who appeared to Mary to tell her she was pregnant with Jesus. Indeed, both Mary and Jesus (who is known as Isa) appear in the Holy Koran and are respected. Indeed, the Nineteenth chapter of the Holy Koran is dedicated to Mary which describes the virgin birth of Jesus.
The Gospel of Barnabas
Barnabas was an apostle, born in Cyprus who played a significant part in the development of early Christianity. He was also the first person to acknowledge Paul’s conversion to Christianity on the road to Damascus. Barnabas and Paul travelled together introducing Christianity across the Mediterranean. A gospel was discovered which was reputed to have been written by Barnabas which says that Jesus predicted that he was not The Last Messenger of God. The gospel was not verified because the document that was found dated back to the 16th Century and so was dismissed as a forgery. However, in the year 2000 a new leather bound text written on animal hide and penned in Jesus’ native dialect – Aramaic was discovered by Turkish Police during an anti-smuggling operation. It is reputed to be a new version of the Gospel of Barnabas. The document is thought to date back to 5th Century and possibly earlier. Apparently, the Vatican have asked to examine the Gospel but have not made any statements as to its authenticity or otherwise.
There is no doubt that Barnabas could have been an evangelist and written a Gospel. He certainly had links to the evangelists particularly Mathew. He is also reputed to have fallen out with Paul over a difference of opinion about Barnabas’ nephew John Mark. Could he also have disagreed with Paul’s refusal to include his Gospel in the Holy Bible because it did not advocate Jesus as the son of God? It is also true that Barnabas and Paul will have met John of Patmos, author of The Book of Revelations when he was Bishop of Ephesus.
The Little Scroll in The Book of Revelations
References to the so called “Little Scroll.” can be found in Chapter 10 of The Book of Revelations. The novel speculates about what that scroll may have contained.
The importance of this background information will become clear if you read the novel.
The Battle of Crete in 1941
The Last Messenger has two interlocking narratives. A modern story which starts at the time of the London 7/7 bombings in 2005 and a 1941 story set in Crete during the German parachute invasion of the island. The background information below is intended to provide some historical detail about the battle of Crete. I have also added a recommended reading list if you want to find out more. In doing so, I have tried to give some context to Callidora’s story told in this part of the novel. If you decide to buy the novel, you will find an Author’s Note which gives some further background which could not be revealed here without risking a plot spoiler.
The fierce resistance by ordinary Cretans took the Germans by surprise. The Parachute regiment known as the Fallschirmjager were expecting an easy victory but were horrified by the way that the resistance started within the first hour of the invasion. Every member of the parachute regiment received a copy of its own ten commandments. The ninth commandment said: “Against a regular enemy fight with chivalry, but give no quarter to guerrillas.” These so-called guerrillas included boys, old men, women and even priests and monks fighting with any weapon they could get their hands on including antiquated rifles used to shoot ducks, pick axes, scythes and spades. On the first day, the Germans lost over 2000 paratroopers, many who were killed by the irregular army of Cretans.
The Germans had no idea that the British knew about the German plans after receiving valuable Ultra intercepts. The British, Australian and New Zealand soldiers based on the island should have inflicted the first German defeat of the war but tactical errors made by the New Zealand commander General Freyberg resulted in eventual German victory.
Most of the soldiers were evacuated on ships and even by a submarine at Preveli leaving the Cretans to fight on with help from members of the British Special Operations Executive.
After the Allies had left the island, the Germans committed violent reprisals against the people of Crete. One such example is Kandanos.
‘On June 3, 1941, a day after executing several civilians in Kondomari, German troops from the III Battalion of the 1st Air Landing Assault Regiment (most probably led by Oberleutnant Horst Trebes) reached Kandanos, following Student’s order for reprisals. The Germans killed about 180 residents and slaughtered all livestock; all houses were torched and razed. Nearby villages such as Floria and Kakopetro met a similar fate. After its destruction, Kandanos was declared a ‘dead zone’ and its remaining population was forbidden to return to the village and rebuild it. Finally, inscriptions in German and Greek were erected on each entry of the village. One of them read: Here stood Kandanos, destroyed in retribution for the murder of 25 German soldiers, never to be rebuilt again.’ (Wikipedia)
There are many photographs of these atrocities on the internet including a photographic diary of the massacre at Kontomari.
I’ve inserted a moving video of the massacre of civilians at Kontomari at the top of this page. It tells the story with a series of graphic still images which capture the true horror of this war crime.
The plight and experience of Cretans during the war is one of the inspirations behind my wanting to write this novel. I’ve put some more images of the battle in the gallery on this website.
There has been a lot written about the battle of Crete. In fiction Evelyn Waugh describes the evacuation of soldiers from Crete in Officers and Gentlemen.
The history of the battle is also superbly explained by Anthony Beevor in Crete – The Battle and the Resistance.
The stories of the SOE men in Crete such as Patrick Leigh Fermor and Xan Fielding are described in the following books:
Hide and Seek – The story of a war time agent by Xan Fielding
Patrick Leigh Fermor – An Adventure A biography by Artemis Cooper
The Ariadne Objective by Wes Davis
Abducting a General by Patrick Leigh Fermor
The Cretan Runner by George Psychoundakis
All these books are well worth a read should you want to find out more.
I would also recommend The Stronghold – Four Seasons in the White Mountains of Crete by Xan Fielding which described his travels around Crete after the war.