A quiz about Sacred Games

Someone on GoodReads created a quiz about my book Sacred Games.  Incredibly, I managed to get a question wrong about my own book.

I scored 9/10!  See if you can beat me.

Here's the quiz.


Death Ex Machina, and a giveaway!


A theatrical murder sends classical Athens into uproar!




This is the fifth adventure for Nico and Diotima.  I'm afraid life isn't getting any easier for the only private agent in ancient Athens, but at least he has a chance to get into show biz.

In bookstores on May 19, 2015
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My astoundingly excellent publisher Soho Press is doing a giveaway on GoodReads.  Click here to enter the giveaway!


Are things getting worse?

With the depressing news of yet another atrocity, this time against satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo, I thought I'd take a moment to ask whether the world is becoming a worse place, at least in terms of mass murder.  Note this is different to serial murder.  A serial killer kills one person, then waits a long time before killing another.  Mass murder is killing many in a short space of time.

I think it is getting worse.  The solo mass murderer, or death delivered by a handful of deranged people, is a modern phenomenon.

I can't recall from the ancient world, or even the mediaeval, or the Renaissance, or even in Elizabethan times, a single instance of mass murder being conducted by one man acting on his own.

The reason is easy to see.  In the time of my hero Nicolaos, the most powerful individual weapon available was a bronze sword.  A nutter could kill at most a few people in the street before being taken down.

And a mass murderer would be taken down quickly.  In a world without a police force, citizens were naturally inclined to intervene when they saw a crime being committed.  Surviving court cases from classical Athens that involve violence in public always mention passers-by running into the action.   Not something you see much these days.

But a modern mass murderer can do a whole lot better than a bronze sword.  The growth in power of lethal force that can be carried by a single individual is incredibly important.

The same nutter today would have a couple of automatic weapons, hundreds of rounds of ammo, a pouch of grenades, and maybe a few bombs to plant. He could kill hundreds.

Then there's the unfortunate fact that there are more people inclined to mass murder.

The population today is 7 billion.   In Nico’s time it was roughly 200 million. The percentage of the population inclined to mass murder is small and probably hasn't changed, but population growth means there are thirty-five times more dangerous maniacs walking the planet today than in the ancient world.

Never mind that there are also thirty-five times more good guys.  Good guys don't commit crimes, good news never moves, and bad news spreads like wild fire.

When you add that many potential mass murderers to the extra lethal technology they can carry, it doesn't look good.


Sacred Games for $1.99 on Nook

Barnes & Noble has price-matched the Amazon offer for Sacred Games.  So if you're a Nook reader then don't feel left out!

You can get Sacred Games for $1.99 here.



Sacred Games for $1.99 on Kindle

Sacred Games is a kindle monthly deal this month.  That means if you're a kindle reader then you can buy it for the grand total of $1.99.



If political shenanigans and a sports murder at the ancient Olympics are your thing then this is the book for you.

"Corby integrates the political intrigue of the day with fair-play plotting and welcome doses of humor.  Fans of Steven Saylor's Gordianus novels will be enthralled."

—Publishers Weekly, starred review

The perfect Christmas gift

If you enjoy ancient murder mysteries, that is.  "This will have the wealth of historical mystery buffs jumping up and down for joy."

Here's a lovely review of The Marathon Conspiracy that appeared a few issues back in Suspense Magazine, which is well worth subscribing to.


“The Marathon Conspiracy” By Gary Corby 

Corby has most definitely brought to readers three amazing tales they will not soon forget. And now comes a fourth historical mystery set in Greece that, yet again, is so well-written you will feel as if you are truly part of the Ancient World. 


The elections are about to be held in the city of Athens and the city’s (wise) statesman, Pericles, asks his inquiry agent, Nicolaos, to look into a matter that could undermine all of the political elections. It seems that a skeleton has been found at a girls’ school located not too far from Athens. 


Nico is the super sleuth, to say the least; a sleuth who has just taken time off to wed his investigating partner, Diotima. Of course, Pericles and the case put that happy occasion on hold. Especially when the remains just happen to be those of Hippias. This was the massive traitor to the Greeks and, in the Battle of Marathon, was killed and left behind in Persia. The veterans of that battle are beyond angry. They have always claimed they were the men who thwarted the traitor, and they need to gain favor and political power, not stones to the head. And if this is not enough trouble, one of the girls who found the bones is dead, and the other has gone missing. 


Shocking surprises arrive to the Athenian world, as they wonder why and how the traitor is ‘back.’ There is no obvious reason behind the bones finding their home in Athens, and Nico and Pericles must solve the mystery as fast as possible before Athens becomes a bed of power hungry, angry, willing-to-do-anything tyrants. 


This will have the wealth of historical mystery buffs jumping up and down for joy. As with Corby’s other works, the tale is full of humor, suspense-filled plots, subplots, and characters that are unforgettable. It is no overstatement to say that Corby most definitely knows his history backwards and forwards, providing stories that are beyond exciting. 


Reviewed by Mary Lignor, Professional Librarian and Co-Owner of The Write Companion



Don't let the bedbugs bite!

In addition to deep and profound philosophy, classical Athens also scores in a slightly more prosaic subject:  the earliest documented mention of bedbugs comes from them.  It's in a play called The Clouds, written by Aristophanes.

In it, no less than Socrates is instructing a young man named Strepsiades.  Socrates asks his student what deep thoughts he is thinking.  Strespiades replies, "Whether there'll be anything left of me after the bedbugs have finished chewing."



Yep. it's Hades and Persephone

The archaeologists have uncovered the rest of the mosaic.  And there, sure enough, is Persephone.



Which means the guy carrying her off is Hades.  Which means you can't use this picture to predict who's inside.  It's a stock image, like putting Jesus on the cross over a modern tomb.

Of course, this one's a particularly exquisite stock image!  The intriguingly round damage in the centre is a bit of a bummer, but even so this mosaic will be gracing art history textbooks for the next century or so.

The press release on this mentioned the same thing I did in my last post: the style of this picture is very similar to one at the royal Macedonian burial ground at Vergina.  That other tomb is believed to be Philip II's, the father of Alexander.

Let me take a moment to talk about why the guy on the chariot could be called either Hades or Pluto.  In the original Greek religion he was Hades.  His underworld realm of the dead came to be known by the name of its ruler, but that wasn't originally the case.

By the time of Nicolaos and Diotima, the dead go to Hades, which is ruled by Hades.  This is kind of confusing.  In my books therefore I usually distinguish by calling the place Hades, and its ruler Lord Hades, which isn't technically correct but means you have some idea of which Hades is meant when my characters are talking.

Real classical Greeks had the same problem, so sometimes referred to the god Hades by his epithet Plouton.  The Romans picked that up and changed it to Pluto.

So technically I could call him Pluto in my books, but if I did, too many readers would imagine a lovable puppy dog, which isn't quite the reaction I want when discussing the feared Lord of the Dead.

More on that tomb in Amphipolis

A while back I wrote about the increasingly famous dig at Amphipolis, and explained why Alexander the Great is not in there.

The plot thickened slightly a few hours ago, when the Greek Ministry of culture released pictures of a terrific mosaic.

Here's the mosaic (I've taken all these from the press release):


Yes, the centre is damaged.  But the rest of the image is remarkably clear.

The guy on the left is Hermes.  He's got the staff in his left hand (it's called a caduceus).  He's got the wacky hat.  The hat is because Hermes travels a lot.  He wears the wide-brimmed affair to keep the sun off.

He won't need it where he's going on this trip though, because Hermes is leading someone to the afterworld.

In addition to being Messenger of the Gods, Hermes also leads dead people to Hades.  In that guise he's known as Hermes Chthonios.  If you're an H.P. Lovecraft fan then you'll be familiar with that last word.  It simply means "underground".




Weirdly, the guy on the chariot is probably Lord Hades himself.  It might seem odd that Hades needs a guide to get home, but this is a standard motif.  He's sometimes depicted on a chariot racing home with a very reluctant Persephone in tow.

The extremely erudite and in this case well-informed PhDiva has suggested the guy on the chariot might be Philip II, who was the father of Alexander.

Don't get excited.  This isn't the tomb of Alexander's father, unless there's something hideously wrong with the identification of another tomb at a place called Vergina.

Personally I think the jury will be out for some time on the identification of the driver.  If it's Hades, then it really doesn't say much about who's inside.

What is very interesting is that the picture looks much like another one at Pella, which was the capital of Macedonia in the time of Philip and Alexander.  The Pella mosaic shows an Abduction of Helen by Theseus.

If you told me the same artist did both, I wouldn't argue.  More likely it was a standard style of the times.  But it makes identical dating and the link to Pella very strong.

It also raises the probability that the tomb holds someone  closely associated with Alexander.  But that's just a guess.  Who it is remains a mystery.






Ancient Sausages

The classical and ancient Greeks had sausages.  Just thought I'd mention that piece of trivia.

How do we know this?  Because one of the main characters in The Knights by Aristophanes is a sausage seller who plies his trade in the agora.

However the earliest known mention of sausage is in the Odyssey, believe it or not.  At one point our heroes make sausages from pork stomach filled with blood and fat.  This is described as a tasty meal that the warriors can't wait to tuck into.

Personally, I'd run away screaming.  I am not keen on blood sausage.