Friday, March 22, 2013

The Bastard Child of Sandra Bernhard and Howard Stern

The coin shown here is the most historically accurate image of Queen Cleopatra VII ever generated.  The coin was minted by Cleopatra herself during her reign.  Below is an excerpt from The Vesuvius Isotope, a novel by Kristen Elise.

Alyssa led me across the room as she spoke, reaching into her pocket to withdraw the hefty keychain from her office.  “I’m sure you are familiar with the rest of the tragedy, which culminates in the suicides of Cleopatra and Marc Antony, the end of both the Ptolemaic dynasty and the Roman republic, and the rise of Octavian—who became Augustus, the first Roman emperor.  I’m sure you have also heard the idealized, romanticized version of this story, in which Cleopatra is a woman of such beauty and charm that she effortlessly manipulates these powerful men as if they were schoolboys . . .”

We arrived at a display case in the corner of the room, and Alyssa unlocked it.  She raised the glass lid and withdrew a small coin.  Placing the coin into my free hand, the hand not holding the document translations, she said, “Katrina, I give you the seductress, Cleopatra."

My jaw dropped.

On the coin in my hand was an image of a face in profile.  The figure might have been a female, evidenced primarily by the hair.  The most prominent facial feature was one of the longest, most hooked noses I had ever seen.  The mouth hung partially agape, and the lower jaw dangled downward as if the figure were disgusted.  The expression on the androgynous face was something akin to stupor.

“That’s Cleopatra?” I blurted out.  “She’s hideous!  I was expecting Catherine Zeta Jones, and you’ve given me the bastard child of Sandra Bernhard and Howard Stern!”

“Peculiar, isn’t it?  I guess that’s what two hundred fifty years of inbreeding will do for you.”

“But . . . surely the standards for beauty were different in her time?”

“Yes, they were,” she acknowledged.  “But ugly seems to have endured through the ages."

Excerpt from The Vesuvius Isotope, the first Katrina Stone novel. Buy The Vesuvius Isotope in print or ebook.

From the ancient ruins beneath Mount Vesuvius, a two-thousand-year-old document has emerged. It is the only text ever attributed to the ambitious, inquisitive, and cryptic last pharaoh of Egypt...

When her Nobel laureate husband is murdered, biologist Katrina Stone can no longer ignore the secrecy that has increasingly pervaded his recent behavior. Her search for answers leads to a two-thousand-year-old medical mystery and the life of one of history’s most enigmatic women. Following the trail forged by her late husband, Katrina must separate truth from legend as she chases medicine from ancient Italy and Egypt to a clandestine modern-day war. Her quest will reveal a legacy of greed and murder and resurrect an ancient plague into the twenty-first century.

Kristen Elise, Ph.D. is a drug discovery biologist and the author of The Vesuvius Isotope and The Death Row Complex. She lives in San Diego, California, with her husband, stepson, and three canine children. 

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