Genre: Historical Fiction
Pub. Date: January 25, 2018
This tongue in cheek historical fictional takes place in Europe during the 1600s, and is a fun- and fact-filled piece of work. The protagonist is a Jewish dwarf named David Reuveni, a real historical person, who cons European Jews into believing that he’s the Messiah. He hires an actor, Diogo Pires, another real person (who is always on the run from one country to another, usually for sleeping with the wrong woman), to aid him with his deception. They both become rich in this scam. When the two first meet on a ship, Diogo comes close to stabbing David because he calls Diogo a Marrano. Digio demands an apology because “that is what they call Christian Jews in Portugal. Pig.” David thinks “this is a man with a hidden past. Perhaps he can be of value to me.” The novel wears a coat of black humor. It speaks of greed, manipulation, and religion. I see these characters as a shrewd, not so nice, version of an “Abbott and Costello” act, especially when the protagonists are in the company of sultry ladies whom they are trying to impress.
There are many real historical characters thrown into the plot. The author, Dennis W. Maley, had me google to see if Cristoforo Colombo aka Christopher Columbus was really a Marrano, meaning a Jew who is forced to convert and secretly practices Judaism. I learned that this might be true. Several chapters or pieces of vignettes on other real historical names are tossed around freely in this book:
- Sir Thomas Malloy: The radical English writer who wrote and died in prison
- French King Francis I: He was also King Consort of Scotland as a result of his willing marriage to Mary, Queen of Scots
- King Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn: Their marriage caused the first break between the Church of England and Rome
- Martin Luther: The German Protestant reformer
- William Tyadle: The leading figure in Protestant reform
The reader will learn that Canon law forbids Christians to charge interest on a loan, so they would hire Jews to do so for them. It has been suggested that this was the beginning of the banking industry. And let’s not forget the infamous “Fountain of Youth” that all seemed to be trying to locate. It is amazing how Maley juggled all these figures together so the reader gets the full picture of the happenings that change the religious world. He manages to personalize the facts so they aren’t dull. Plus, he works hard to keep his story a fun read. But still, I often felt like I was in the middle of a history book. Because there truly is so much more historical information packed into the novel that I haven’t even mentioned. There are too many names and affairs and marriages and deaths to keep up with. For instance, in the “War of the Roses,” which was a series of wars for control of the throne of England, I didn’t care that the war ended when “Henry number seven bedded Elizabeth of York.” I wish he cut some of the facts out because I felt eager to get back to the perils of the quirky narrators, David and Diogo, the two scheming delightfully unlikable protagonists.
Even though the history lesson is a little too long for my taste, this is a very funny book. Be prepared to laugh a lot. Maley writes, “Destruction awaits the Muslim Turks if Christendom joins with his powerful desert tribe. But why hurry? The food and beds are warm, the ladies plump and willing.” When he requested that I review his novel, “Profane Fire at the Altar of the Lord,” the author shared with me that it “is what would be on reality TV if they had TV in the 16th century.” This is a great comparison. I can see our swindlers, attention seekers that they are, puffing out their chests for the cameras. There is enough fame-seeking in those two characters to fit right in with “Keeping Up with the Kardashians.”
I found myself smiling a lot in this book. David is surprised to discover that the leaders of the world may also be liars (no surprise to 2017 readers). He is tired of all the nonsense and becoming fearful of exposure. This prompts him to attempt to change his ways, though he does not succeed. He cannot help himself. David even lies to animals. “What am I doing now, he asked himself, lying to a horse?” To further complicate truth-telling, Diogo comes to feels it is his turn to be the Messiah. Again, making me think of the many Reality TV shows that are currently bombarding our brains, begging the viewer to wonder who is the show’s true star. So, the scam continues. (The next sentence is a potential spoiler.) I did not care for the ending of this novel, but that may be because I became very fond of the swindlers.
In Acknowledgements, the author states, “This book’s purpose is to entertain. I am not a historian.” Still, his work seems well-researched. The references he cites are impressive. Just do not take anything, especially the religious references, too seriously. If you are a historian, you will devour all the facts found in this book. If you are not, but enjoy historical fiction that is expertly written in black humor you will also enjoy the tale. Just wait until you read about David’s female encounter towards the end of the book. I am still laughing. Maley seemed to be having as much fun writing the book as I did reading it.
Purchase here: http://maleybooks.com/#
The author reached out to me to review this book.
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