F. G. Cottam, the author of The Lazarus Prophecy, a gripping thriller with a supernatural twist, tells us about his inspiration for the story, his literary influences and debunks the latest theory on Jack the Ripper’s identity…
I dreamt the basic premise of the story that eventually became The Lazarus Prophecy. The dream shouldn’t really have come as a surprise. I had been thinking of writing a book with Satanism as its theme for several months before it occurred. Nothing frightened me as a teenager so much as The Exorcist and The Omen did. If you have a conventional Christian upbringing, and mine was Catholic, there is nothing as plausibly supernatural as the Devil. And stories have to be plausible to be scary.
My premise was that Christ returned Lazarus not just from the dead, but from hell. Lazarus was a sinner, he had been judged and damned and the real miracle was bringing him back from Lucifer’s domain.
He returned with a warning for mankind. This was the Lazarus prophecy of my title and it stated that demons would visit the earth with the intention of sowing doubt and despair among people. The ninth of these demons would be the Devil’s own son – the Antichrist of Revelations – and his appearance would signal the End of Days.
The Church in its infancy would not have ignored such a dire warning. Its response in my story is to set up a secret order, or sect, dedicated to identifying and combating the demons. This is the Most Holy Order of the Gospel of St John, also known as the Sacred Keepers of the Gate.
After two millennia, their existence has been exposed to Church reformers by a routine Vatican audit. They’re an embarrassing anachronism to a faith that now believes both hell and the devil to be mere metaphors. They are ordered to stop their rituals prior to being disbanded. But they have a captive only their rituals can successfully contain and it is his escape that triggers the action.
The Lazarus Prophecy is an apocalyptic novel. I read two apocalyptic novels back in the 1980s and have always wanted to have a go at one myself. One of these – Stephen King’s The Stand – is a masterpiece of the genre and features in The Walkin’ Dude a character I’d definitely call demonic.
The other apocalyptic novel I found inspiring certainly deserves to be better known. It’s The Ceremonies, by T. E. D. Klein. King’s apocalypse is caused by plague and Klein’s by powerful pagan rituals. I opted for the Antichrist, for the reasons I’ve already explained.
Edmund Caul – originally captured by the Sacred Keepers of the Gate in London in 1888 – is a very human sort of demon. He’d have to be to work effectively. And he finds that the mood and method of modern times suit his agenda much better than the Victorian era did. Then, his crimes could be hushed up and concealed much better than they can be in the age of the internet. You realize this when one of his famous victims starts to trend on twitter before her corpse is cold.
Jack the Ripper has been in the news recently based on Russell Edward’s claim that Aaron Kosminski, a 23-year-old Polish immigrant hairdresser was “definitely, categorically and absolutely” the man guilty of the 1888 killing spree based on his DNA being on the Eddowes shawl. Provenance is the first problem with the Eddowes shawl. Clothing was shared, bartered, swapped and pawned among the East End poor. Then there’s contamination; forensic evidence should be bagged, tagged and sealed where it can’t be tampered with. This garment has been God knows where and with whom for over a century. It’s compelling but not conclusive evidence. My detective leading the murder hunt in The Lazarus Prophecy, DCI Jane Sullivan would rate it above Piltdown Man’s skull as evidence but below, say, the Turin Shroud. Lastly there’s chronology. Kosminski used prostitutes. If it really is his DNA it could have got there (relatively) innocently. I’m not convinced by this theory.
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