Thursday, December 11, 2014

The Secret Price of History--Epic Historical Adventure Novel Just Out from Dante University Press

"Tell me, Maria. What's happening?"
"An Execution."
 "Who is it?"
" A boy from a poor family. He's very handsome, they say. But he won't make his confession. No bells this morning--didn't you notice, maestro? Now they have to wait till the Ave Maria at sunset." 

She shrugged. "They'll kill him then even if he hasn't confessed."
"Ho ho, Madonna, Maestro, the boy has a sweetheart. A rich noble girl, Maestro. But one day a big important priest saw her and, Jesu, he wanted her. And you know what, Maestro? She refused him."
"Of course."
"Of course," Maria mimicked him under her breath, then giving in to her impatient nature; she took the fruit basket off her head, set it on the floor, and plopped down next to it. So we're taking a break, he thought. He went over to sit on the small settee he kept in the studio for his visitors. What do you know about Rome?" Maria chided. "As far as I can see you only paint pictures of poor people. We're talking about the rich. The boy shot a priest. And this priest is very important and influential. Some people say he's the Pope's nephew."
"Did he kill him?""She dismissed his question with a wave of her hand. "Who knows? He stole a pistol and fired it. Whether the priest dies or not, you get put to death for that. Then the magistrate found out that the boy was part of the Republican movement, and that meant the boy would get drawn and quartered as well."
"Such barbarism." Freeman shook his head. "Didn't somebody, perhaps the girl's family, try to intervene?"Maris made incredulous eyes at him...

"And here he comes now, Mr. Freeman look to your left at the heftiest man in your field of vision.

That's Mastro Titta, the executioner crossing the square on that wagon. We'd best follow along--

the guillotine is set up two blocks from here...

The boy kneeled down so promptly that it was heartbreaking. His neck was fitted into 

a hole in a cross plank. 

Below him was a leather bag. The silver blade sheet fell, and into it 

his head rolled instantly like a melon. 

His sweetheart on her balcony shouted incomprehensible words. Despite the serpent 
coil of six arms she managed a half-rise, enough to launch her spit. 
The executioner held up the boy's head by the hair.
After a minute, he paraded with it round the scaffold. The eyes were turned to one side. In the
direction of the balcony, Freeman was sure. The face was already dull wax....
There was no manifestation of disgust or pity in the people around Freeman. None of the
indignation he expected either. They were quiet--that was all that could be said for them--
and many had their mouths open...
Freeman felt exactly how Dickens had said he would. His horror was paralyzing. 
He wondered where the writer was and what words he was finding for this moment. 
Next to him, a woman pointed out to her neighbor
that the staring, shouting girl on the balcony was being pulled by her shoulders back 
through the French doors...

The Secret Price of History
By Gayle Ridinger
Paolo Pochettino

At just under 600 pages, this novel is a monumental tale that moves through time, roaming from the 1800s through to the present decade. The rich abundance of history, however, surrounds one object--a gold medallion. Flashbacks historically carries the readers to what was happening at the time and how the medallion was first discovered... The majority of the treasure hunt adventure takes place in the immediate past, once it is known that the medallion has been with a family for years and is now known as priceless, and great treasures!

I was quickly caught up in two groups of
characters. First the individuals in the 1850s when much war and turmoil was taking place with Garibaldi being the center of most as they fought for Italian unification. Enter a young man, Sandor, who is looking to join up with Garibaldi and comes into a small town, starving and trying to find his way forward. He meets Goffredo, a cheesemaker who hides him, feeds him and slowly becomes close as friends. Goffredo decides to join Sandor and readers join in their difficulties trying to find just exactly where Garibaldi was.

Now during this time, an American artist is also there, who spent most of his time, showing the devastation of the people through his work. It is Maria, his model, his sits for his painting, "An Italian Beggar Girl," and who tells him much of what is

happening and especially when an execution is scheduled. 

James Freeman had thought to go and sketch the people who would undoubtedly be collecting, one of which happens to be the writer Dickens, who quickly greets him but moves to get away from what is happening, noting that he soon will too. James had attempted to sketch, but soon was so caught up in the horror of what was happening that he was caught, becoming emotionally involved. It was this scene that also caught me, making me think that this, then, was a major reason for the war, the people joining to fight...

July 5, 2008
We can't quite believe that others may covet some
small thing we own. We might realize they are
envious of our lifestyle, our spouse, bank accounts
good looks, career, well-brought-up kids, pleasant
personality, resourcefulness, solid faith in something
bigger...but envious to the point of obsession with
some little object we possess? With such
determination to have it that they might try to
kill us?
...No, there is something strange going on.
Something twenty-one-year-old Angie Cebrelli
isn't aware of as she crosses the sunny field
to the grandstand filled with people waiting
to watch the Gettysburg Civil War battle
re-enactment. When she asks one of the men
wearing a baseball cap if the place next to him
is taken, he moves his big butt a few more
inches towards his child. She sees his eyes go
to her breasts under her tank top--the same
thing happened with some jerk at lunch.
When the man obligingly swings his little boy
up on his lap to make still more room, Angie
feels a small foot kick her kneecap. A pudgy
hand reaches towards her neck piece. "No,
honey," she mouths at the toddler with a smile.
While Freeman was active in helping individuals escape from Italy, the main reason I wanted to include him was to share his painting, "The Princess Prattles With Her Parrot," which is the girl upon which the character, Eleanore, was based... She is also the rich girl, who was raped by the priest and whose lover was just hung...

...“As you may know, this painting is entitled “The Princess Prattles to her Parrot.” I personally like the parrot more. We know the painting was inspired by Read’s poem about a poet in an oppressed land. But if, as you say, Freeman knows Garibaldi—.”
“Even Mama knows him.”
“I do,” said Margaret. “The red ribbon in her hair, the green parrot, the white nightgown slipping down one shoulder. The colors of the Italian flag.”
Frances Carter Wilder blinked in surprise. “Yes,” she admitted, stepping closer to the frame, as suddenly behind her, the girl’s mother—Garibaldi’s supposed friend and correspondent—said, “I am that princess.”
Frances Carter Wilder straightened up.
So that’s it, she thought.
“Mama still….Mama still rather looks like her, doesn’t she?” said Margaret, embarrassed.
Note: This quote was located quite late in the book, but I thought illustrated how quietly a treasure had been retained by a family, who had once known and participated in a war, but then quietly moved on in their lives..

Eleonora was a nurse at the time she met Sandor and Goffredo. Both men fell in love with her. And Eleonora loved the both of them as well, one more than the other but they spent many hours together as a threesome and so on that fateful day that a small velvet bag came into their possession, they shared the excitement and mystery and each one retained one piece of what it contained. Initially Sandor wore the medallion, so readers will find the amazing story through which it finally reached Eleonora in America quite fascinating, as well as historically significant.

It is hard to break away from that time period, but now we must at least meet the young woman who had begun to wear the medallion early in this decade. Angie Cebrelli is the great-granddaughter of Eleonora. Her mother Margaret had a rough time during her life, but she had hidden that velvet bag away, not to be touched until her daughter became interested in it. 

The break between historical times and the present are clear, with readers immediately moving into a contemporary setting totally recognizable... Angie has landed a job, for now, as a TV weather girl. She hopes to move up quickly. In the meantime, she had taken a chance and began to dress up as live characters from history to do her report. Her first event was on the birthday of Joan of Arc and next Fred Astaire... Then she decided to be even more dramatic when, on July 3rd, she had dressed as a Civil War soldier...but... she was dressed as her great-great-great-grandfather...

The cap was all right
but Angie didn't like the
idea of appearing on TV
with glasses. "Isn't there
anything else?"
Her mother scrounged
further. "There're these
tweezers with a little
Italian flag stuck on them,
and a vial of dried dark
...Then she set the gold
medallion on top of the
pile. It was the size of a
small peach or a largist
swimming metal, and it
had a lion-man creature
and a radiating sun symbol
engraved on it...
Showers tomorrow folks. A far cry from the hot sunny weather on this day back in 1863. Does that date, July 3rd, tell you anything about who I am tonight? Does this red jacket from an old family suitcase give you any clue? If you guessed I'm a Civil War soldier, even though I'm dressed in red, you're right. I'm my great-great-great-grandfather, a member of the Italian regiment called the Garibaldi Guards, who found at Gettysburg. And I got to wondering-how many of you folks at home also had ancestors who fought in the Civil War, or even a more recent conflict, and wonder what it was like? Write to our website and tell us a battle they were in, and I'll help you out in that regard. I'll send back word on the weather than day...

[pic is actually of Garibaldi, who passed out the shirts in Italy!]

Angie quickly gained fame and also started a blog which supplemented and shared what her history lessons were. She announced she was heading for Gettysburg for a re-enactment. She planned to wear the shirt, the hat...but she needed something else... she would wear the medallion!

That was when the first assault happened...

Individuals who are interested in the treasure are coming from every direction! There are others, however, who have been involved with historical research as a part of their life

Ostia Antica - Mithraeum of the Seven Doors

interests. Damien was the most well-known and as Angie traveled, she ultimately did get the chance to meet with him. But deaths preceded that and also followed that meeting.

Once the first death occurred, the police became involved of course. One officer, somewhat of a rebel in following the rules was soon hooked up with Angie not only because of his case, but because he soon became interested in her (of course, there has to be a bit of romance to lighten the story, right?" The interesting part about the victim was that he was a married priest; and already had enemies because of his role in an advocacy group trying to gain approval for priests to marry! Also of interest was the financial reason submitted for having the rule first put in place.

The key difference between this treasure hunt and most we've enjoyed on television is the historical information included. Readers get involved with the early start of the Catholic Church and also in the present time, for instance. Then there are the reviews of the research and how it fits in with reality and potential options. There is no map and Damien's research is "active," meaning that he's piecing the pieces together each time something happens or another location is discovered. The search also leads into research and interaction with at least three sects or cults, with some playing main characters, including a delightful young Sikh boy who first stands up against evil men and then helps Angie and the officer, Dardanoni...find important evidence that helps to lead to Damien...who has by that time been kidnapped!

You want action and adventure, you got it! You want to historically track what happened with treasure that Alexander the Great accumulated during his leadership. It's here! We even have Bonaparte III playing a role in that later search! There appears to be a balance of historical data to the crime search that takes place in the present, so, please, plan on spending time with this novel! It moves from action to historical references and is not a book that slowly turns into a page-turner. Rather, it is a close look from the viewpoint of families who joined Garibaldi and happened to pick up a "little treasure" of that time period through generations of family passing what they now considered theirs on to the next generation...Only to discover nobody agreed that it belonged to that family! The history is clear: those who founght for solidarity in the Italian Risorgimento and later also fought in the Civil War! The drama is exceptionally well done and documented. Note that extensive information and pictures of those involved can be found on The Secret Price of History site! The site itself is a true learning experience and should be enjoyed along with your reading to enhance the activity. History Lovers, do check this one out! A truly impressive, brilliantly created literary masterpiece. And, BTW, a thoroughly satisfactory ending!


Gayle Ridinger was born in the United States in 1957 and graduated from Oberlin College in 1979. She was a newspaper reporter for two years before moving to Milan, Italy in 1981. Since 1987 she has taught English and translation techniques at an Italian university. For the bilingual anthology,ITALIAN POETRY 1950-1990 (Dante University Press,1996), which she translated and co-edited with Gian Paolo Renello, she received the “National Translation Prize” from the Italian Ministry of Culture in 1997. In 2001, she received a grant from the Raiziss-DePalchi Foundation (Academy of American Poets) in New York to complete her translation of SHAVINGS, prose poems by Camillo Sbarbaro (Chelsea Editions, New York, 2006). In 2003, she was named Knight of the Star Order of Italian Solidarity (Cavaliere dell’Ordine della Stella della Solidarit√† Italiana) by Italian President Carlo Azeglio Ciampi. Her children’s book, A STAR AT THE BOTTOM OF THE SEA, was published in 2001 in Italian (Edizioni Arka), and subsequently in Greek, Chinese, Korean, Arabic, and English (Gareth Stevens-USA). Her novel THE SHADOW WIFE, a tale of twin sisters who find strange ways of ‘helping’ each other, is available on Amazon.

Born in Milan, Italy in 1949, Paolo Pochettino studied the Classics in high school, then obtained a degree in Mechanical Engineering. He has worked as a Technical and Production Manager for high-tech plastics companies in Italy and abroad (Netherlands, USA, Germany, France, India). A marathoner who is passionately fond of cinema and history, he has traveled the world, oftentimes in less than ideal conditions. He’s been through a hijacking in Pakistan, survived a couple of uprisings in Yemen and Sudan, and had thrilling close-up encounters with whales, gorillas, rhinos and lions. He’s also done a few other things that he has always wanted to do, like reaching the base camps of Mt. Everest and Kanchenjunga, hiking across Iceland, and mixing with Indian pilgrims on their way to the start of the Ganges.

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