Y’all come! I’m reading from my most recent historical novel, A Meteor Shower, at Two Rivers Bookstore, 8836 N Lombard St, Portland OR. The action starts on Sunday, September 8, from 2-4 pm: love and chariot warfare in the ancient Middle East, kings and queens, peasants and prophets. Below are some comments from reviewers, and below that, an excerpt from the book itself.
I could not put it down as it transported me to ancient times, where I could almost smell the tantalizing food, flowers, sea-breezes, and medicinal herbs. The novel brings the Biblical Middle East back to life in a roar of color and customs. Shelley depicts the ways in which women rebel and survive. Her pages teem with women warriors, women physicians, princesses and queens. Her characters are both straight and gay, kind and brutal. She is very sensitive to class differences and the prerogatives of royalty but is fair to one and all. – Dr. Phyllis Chesler, author of Women and Madness
The book is really gripping: I loved the sensory details, and the high drama and suspense Martha Shelley does so well. It was three a.m. and I could not stop reading. All the characters are so likeable and real—including the very vivid minor players. A mammoth work—happy I got to read it! – Judy Grahn, poet and author
A Meteor Shower is a richly textured re-imagining of the story of Jezebel, through the eyes of two unusual women who step outside the expected social categories. Their lives—and hers—go through unexpected twists and turns, against a backdrop of ancient medical practice, battles, court intrigues, and love affairs. So what if you can’t put it down? This novel takes you on an absorbing journey through the lives of women in ancient Israel and beyond. It’s as close as anyone has gotten to the real story of Queen Jezebel. – Max Dashu, founder, Suppressed Histories Archives
Shelley is in love with her people, their lives, their world, their heart aches and their triumphs. She recreates their world with astounding accuracy and affection. She surpasses both historians and anthropologists in her willingness to submerge herself in that dangerous ancient world of the Biblical Middle East. We know about the herbs, the spices, the desert terrains and the mountain passes. We live in their houses and ride on their donkeys. But most of all we experience life, exuberant, full, scary, unpredictable, beautiful life and all of it is astoundingly real. This book, once picked up, cannot be put down until the last pages are turned. – Dr. Barbara Joans, director emeritus, Merritt Museum of Anthropology
And here’s the excerpt—a passage from Ahab’s last battle, as seen by Caleb, his driver:
Caleb turned the vehicle around, no easy task in the thick of battle, and headed for the encampment where the medical team waited… “Lie down!” the driver bawled, almost in agony himself. “For the love of Yahweh, lie down!”
“No.” Ahab coughed. “That way.” He pointed toward the rise.
“But the doctor is—”
“No! They have to…see me …”
Caleb understood, and it hit him like a blow to the midsection. He almost stopped breathing. He had witnessed a disciplined battalion lose its nerve and disintegrate into a fleeing mob when its leader went down. Each man had run, thinking to save himself, but as soon as they turned their backs almost all of them were slaughtered. Ahab, beloved king, wouldn’t let that happen to his people. “All right, my lord, shhh, all right.”
When they reached the top of the rise, Caleb and the officers propped Ahab up, looping a rope several times around his chest and tying him to the rim of the chariot. They broke a spear in half, put it down the back of his shirt, and lashed it to his helmet, to keep his head erect. “Thank you,” Ahab whispered.
Caleb’s eyes blurred. My master. You’re going to sacrifice yourself to protect the rest of us. He thumped an officer’s arm. “Get a medic!”
It seemed like forever but was probably only a few moments before the officer returned with a medic riding double behind him.
“How do you expect me to work on him like that?” the doctor snapped. “Untie him. He’s got to lie flat.”
Ahab shook his head. His lips formed the word no, soundlessly. The doctor climbed into the chariot and ordered the others to hold Ahab’s arms and legs still while he tried to remove the arrow. The rivulet of blood became a steady stream. “Nothing I can do,” he said. “It’s in the liver.”
The battle raged on. Caleb tried to stanch the king’s wound. Refused to admit it was useless. Swallowed phlegm and tears. Now and then he looked up but couldn’t tell which side had the ascendant. Eventually the sun slid down and both armies drew back to their respective camps. And Ahab died.