I'm very excited to share the cover of my new novel which is a historical
thriller called Race to
Tibet. It is
the story of Gabriel Bonvalot, one of France's greatest explorers, who teams up with Prince Henri d'Orleans, a jaded, ill-mannered aristocrat, in an all-out effort to be the first living Europeans to reach Lhasa. The story occurs during the Great Game, the period of great strategic conflict and rivalry between Great Britain and Russia (1813-1907) for political and military control of Central Asia, including Tibet. Many explorers of Central Asia were really intelligence agents sent to gather information about troop movements and trade routes, which could be used for advancing armies. Race to Tibet focuses on these two adventurous Frenchmen, who are caught up in the Great Game when they are taken for Russian interlopers by Chinese Ambans (officials of the Qing Emperor who enforced the laws of Peking) who had never heard of France, and were determined to stop at all foreigners from entering Lhasa at any cost.
had long been the stuff of dreams. Buttressed by the Himalayas, and lying at an
altitude of about three miles, Tibet
was dubbed 'The Roof of the World' by Victorian travelers. Lying at 12,000
feet, Lhasa, is
the world's highest capital and those with elevated blood pressures are urged
to stay away. In fact, Lhasa
had been closed to foreigners for so long, it was called 'The Forbidden City'. So
little was known about Tibet
that for many years it appeared as a huge white blank on official British maps,
as if the entire area was covered with snow. Slowly over time the English in India devised a way to collect intelligence
by sending 'pundits', or Hindu technicians disguised as Buddhist pilgrims, to
explore it and map it. These pundits would enter Tibet clandestinely, calculating distances by using measured footsteps which they recorded by means of
specially-designed rosaries, as well as measuring altitudes by means of boiling
water and recording the temperatures with a thermometer. Without a doubt, the fascinating adventures of the pundits whetted the
appetites of Victorian explorers and before long, an international race to Lhasa was underway.
|The Potala Palace has been luring explorers since time immemorial.|
My novel, Race to
focuses on the journey of Gabriel Bonvalot and Prince Henri d'Orléans, a
mismatched duo who attempted to reach Lhasa
for different reasons. For his part, Bonvalot was already a celebrated French
explorer, having crossed the Pamirs to reach India during the middle of winter,
for which he was awarded the gold medal of the Société de Géographie in 1888. Bonvalot was motivated by the desire to be
first to reach Lhasa,
to have his name go down in history, and to sell out lecture halls and travel
books. On the other hand, Prince Henri turned to exploration as a means to
escape a bad reputation he had earned in Europe
as a brutal, ill-tempered dueler, a drinker, and a gambler.
|Gabriel Bonvalot and Prince Henri d'Orleans: these guys hated each other in real life.|
There's lots of drama and intrigue in the story, which I wove together from various sources. I spent close to three years researching this story, which I studied within the context of the Great Game. I brought to life real-life characters, including all the major players in Bonvalot's expedition, as well as invented some fictional characters, incluiding Princess Pema, a Tibetan Buddhist princess who I modeled on Yabshi Pan Rinzinwangmo, the real life daughter of the Panchen Lama (a religious figurehead in Tibet similar to the Dalai Lama) who is known as the 'Princess of Tibet' and is considered an important figure in Tibetan Buddhism and Tibetan-Chinese politics, and is the only known offspring in the 620 years of history of either the Panchen or Dalai Lama reincarnation lineages.
|Yabshi Pan Rinzinwangmo, the princess of Tibet.|
I also added mystical elements of Buddhism, as well as romance to give the novel more drama, mystery, and intrigue. In many ways, Race to Tibet fits into the Lost World genre of novels like "King Solomon's Mines" by H. Rider Haggard and "The Lost World" by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. The story is replete with danger, suspense, and intrigue as the explorers inch closer to Lhasa. So join Bonvalot and Prince Henri on their expedition to the Roof of the World. In the pages of this novel, you will encounter an entire new world waiting to be discovered!
|Yak at Yundrok Yumtso Lake the yak is perfectly suited to life at high altitudes.|
|Gabriel Bonvalot and Prince Henri and Father Constant de Deken were the first Europeans to reach Lake Namtso, due north of Lhasa.|