- I have enjoyed the series, particularly the descriptions of military planning, actions and failures – points for borrowing so liberally from the Defence of Duffers Drift in book two. On the whole there was a strangeness in reading about outlandish and incredible events so close to reality…it is a sign of some originality, in my opinion anyway, that the most fictional elements of the story are generally the less interesting…a kin to the whole ‘truth is stranger than fiction’ I guess.
My question is given that the goal of raising debate or prompting thought has been achieved, are you considering writing further stories of Thomas Cale the man?
Given the story you told – and the way you told it, I can see how the ‘ending’ made sense…but on the whole the greatest dissatisfaction I had with the story was the treatment of the core characters…understandably if the story was to reflect reality then the Heroes don’t necessarily get what they deserve…but Cale the ‘hero’ hasn’t had a go – perhaps how and why someone like that would seek redemption or just try to fit into society would be fertile ground for some sort of character based plot…and surely there is more that Cale’s world has to say about the nature of our world.
Bit of a rant I suppose, perhaps wanting to hope that a Cale type would come good in the end. Maybe wanting a character story more like everyone’s use to -where the hero conquers all or his story is nicely wrapped up. Key point is that I would still be interested in a story about this world/character outside of the left hand of god series.
Have very much enjoyed your writing, good luck in future.
- Hello, my name is A#### and I come from the island of Cyprus (For those who have never heard of it, Cyprus is a small island in the Mediterranean between Europe, Africa and the Middle East). I have just started reading the third book and I was wondering whether the reference of the Sanitarium where Cale is placed at the beginning of the book is true. I am aware that there was a place for lunatics in a small village call ‘Karvounas’ but I am quite sure that it is not that old. Is this place real or fiction?
Have just finished ‘The Beating of His Wings’ – utterly brilliant, the third of the Thomas Cale trilogy , which I have collected since the first book was released – I have thoroughly enjoyed the entire trilogy and will revisit them again. I take my hat off to Paul Hoffman and his creation!
- From: L
Subject: Vague Henri death
First of all, thank you for the amazing work and sorry for my bad English.
My name is Lucas Lima, I am 20 years old and I’m from Brazil.
I’ve read game of thrones, harry potter, Percy jackson, the hunger games, the name of the wind, neil gaiman and a lot of other stuff, but nothing ever touched me like the left hand of god trilogy. I really can’t explain exactly. It’s like every word, every dialogue is meant for me. I don’t know, I feel the entire book, I feel every character. I can’t say that this is the best trilogy I’ve ever read, but I can really say it’s my favourite.
Just finished “the beating of his wings” and I really didn’t understand Vague Henri death. It wasn’t a pencil?
I can assure you that your answer will die with me.
ps-death to the barn owl!
‘The Left Hand of God’ was a purchase made on a whim. As a designer, the first thing that brings me to a new book and author is the dust jacket.
And there, looking down at me from a book shelf was an avenging angel. So far so good…
Then, the first page has to engage me. Which it did…
And then, there was Thomas Cale, …..delighted.
There is just the right amount of Theatre in the boy, “Je suis la Mort Rouge qui passe!” Red Opera, indeed.
I doff my feather plumed hat to you monsieur for a thoroughly absorbing trilogy.
Your obedient servant, O.G.
- From F
Dear Mr Hoffman,
I have just finished the trilogy and I would love to make a few comments -indeed, I would love to talk to you in person.
A little background : I am Irish and altough i was born and grew up in Dublin ( both parents Dublin families of a number of generations) I now live in Tipperary (Irlande Profonde) and have done so for 40 years.
I was an only child and was schooled first by nuns (Montessori) and then priests -Holy Ghost Fathers in Blackrock College for 11 years – with a brief sally to Belgium (also H G Fathers) for a half year to learn to speak french. I would have to be honest and admit that my experience was nothing like as bad as yours, but then I wasn’t a boarder ; I did have friends in the Christian Brothers who related the most horrific stories to me of their treatment at the hands pf these men.
I got a good education but I would say that the school was essentially a fascist establishment for the propagation of future dyed-in-the-wool Catholic leaders. Didn’t buy it -in fact I must have radiated secularity for I was the only boy that I know of not approached with suggestions of joining the priesthood.
I have long since parted company with that organization -long before any of the revelations.
I loved the books – maybe enjoy would not quite be the right word -but they were worth reading for your limpid prose style alone and that is without commenting on the content. Every one of the characters was so deeply human and thus flawed and ones’ sympathies swung for and against constantly.
Poor Thomas – so drained of the joie – de – vivre that ought to be the lot of someone at that age…..well at least some of the time, anyway.
Your essay at the end was a tour de force and essential reading for the full enjoyment of the books and I hope there may be more visits to the Rubbish Tips of Paradise.
Ps Have you Irish friends because I don’t think I have ever seen gobshite in and English book before – that really made me laugh a lot
- From: Stefan König
your Bio mentioned “He is the writer or co-writer of three produced films…”. One obviously is “The Wisdom of Crocodiles”, but what are the other two films? It seems there is some easy confusion with other (film-) writers named Paul Hoffman and the IMDB especially mixes you up with an American Hoffman. My best guess would be for the 2001 movie “Superstition” (as it is at least British) and I couldn’t find a possible third one.
Thanks and kind regards,
- From AH:
This may sound a bit of a strange message… but is Red Opera the Authors website or a fan created one?
I just finished “The Beating of his Wings” and trying to find out, is it really is the last part of the Trilogy? The ending leads towards another book being found, at some point, in Rubbish Tips of Paradise… which reading your FAQ means the authors head?
I feel a bit surprised by the ending, that just fizzled out…
- From Leaslie
Just finished the third book. Thanks
Don’t suppose there is a chance this will be like a DA trilogy?
- From C:
I don’t really understand what u are saying but i am really interested, i have never heard of the The International Court of Archaeological Artifacts and cant seem to find anything about it. The picture of the hanged redeemer? that is just the ruined portrait of jesus that some old lady tryed to fix. I dont really understand what u are trying to say about the moon landing either, is this all fiction? or some kind of promotion for the book? if not i would love to be better informed.
- I’ve just had to say good-bye to my the most loved book character ever. The final book was released in my country (the Czech Republic) a month ago and when I got the “beating of his wings” into my hands, I put aside all the books I haven’t finished and started with this one.
I was so overwhelmed. The finale was not what I expected and I am very happy with that cause it was totally perfect and when I closed the book after reading your essay, I had a smile on my face and felt so sorry for everything some people (like you) have to go through.
And then I felt the sparkle of joy… I thought my Thomas Cale is gone forever, but now I know he lives out there somewhere for real! You are Thomas Cale for me! And I love you and I wish you and your wife the most perfect life you deserve :)
Greatings from the land of John Zizka (Jan Zizka here :) The Czech Republic!!!
- Been reading fantasy for 25 years and loved the series, it reminded me of a more in depth Black Company by Glenn Cook. I have never written to an author before now, and I felt the ending was a bit rushed. It went from one point to the ending way too fast. Fantastic characters, and when Kleist missed his wife in the market and was then on “borrowed time”, I was so mad that I had to stop reading and go out for a walk.
- I am 19 years old and I’m from Brazil.
First of all, I’d like to say that my english isn’t that good, but I really want to express my opinion about this magnificent trilogy.
Thank you, Mr. Paul Hoffman, for this completely different way for telling a story. It was nothing compared to any other book I’ve ever read. I really loved the characters; I could, if I may say, understand their thoughts, actions and feelings. In my humble opinion, the way you wrote about the characters and his world, even being really great, stays behind of the battles and wars that you described. I could really see what was happening in the battlefield, feel the anxiety of the generals, and, of course, the anxiety of the greatest general ever lived: Thomas Cale.
I got shocked every moment, because everything happens in a blink of eyes. Prove of it was the death of my so adored Vague Henri, which I almost cryed! Or when Thomas killed Kitty the Hare, where everything happened really fast.Well, I can not continue writing or I’m gonna need to read all the books again.
I have only one question: You said that intend to come back to Thomas Cale in a couple of years. Does it means that you’re gonna write a new book? If is this true, can you give us more information? I really, really loved your work, and I’d gladly read more about this wonderful story.
- First of all, I need to say that I absolutely loved the story in the books. All the characters and the plot were simply great. Better than most of the fantasy books I’ve ever read.
However, there were some things that bothered me from time to time. Other people might enjoy it, but I really didn’t.
First of all, the way you start philosophizing (if that exists) in the middle of a narrative. Second, the geography. I’m a very visual person. I like to see everything, like directing a film in my head. From the description it was really confusing to put that world together. Maybe a map of some sorts.
Third, many things left unsaid (when’s the new book coming???).
And finally, the way you use real characters with fictional ones and all that mixing up names (you made your point in the acknowledgements, but still…) (and btw, Alois was inspired by Adolf, wasn’t it?).
PLEASE, don’t make the Left Hand of God trilogy a movie. Too many details would be lost. Maybe a series, like GoT. That would be great.
Keep on the great work,
- I am a Japanese and I have read all of your THE LEFT HAND OF GOD TRILOGY. And I want to ask you something about the sentence in “the beating of his wings”.It is in the last of chapter 35, where Kleist asks Cale “What’s to stop me lepping off with the money?” and Cale answers”Because you can trust me”. Kleist understands Cale’s answer, but Daisy doesn’t understand. I also can’t understand. What is the meaning of Cale’s answer, and why does Kleist understand it? I think you are very busy, but please answer my question, because I think it might be important part which tells the relationship between Kleist and Cale.
- From R:
I saw the beating of his wing in an airport on my way to Canada. I read the back cover and from their I was hooked. Realizing that the beating of his wings was the last book I ran (in a rather undignified manner) through not only Brisbane airport (where I saw the book) but through several other airports as well looking for bookstores that held copies of the trilogy. It took me until the return journey to collect them all however the books where well worth the wait. Not only did they capture my imagination and teach me words I had never heard they also improved my aerobic capacity.
Thank you so much. Please write more books about Cale.
- I just finished your last novel “The Beating of His Wings”. The whole trilogy is amazing. Really. Honestly. I love it. I just have a few questions.
I’m not a native speaker. What does “barn owl” mean? Because the dormitory was called a barn?
What was the cat about? Seriously? The one in the dream, I mean. And the cats thrown at executions.
How long did Cale stay in the Priory on Cyprus? Is Kleist’s storyline a few months ahead at the end of novel 2/beginning of novel 3? Because if Cale is the father of Arbell’s son – well, she was still pregnant when he got to the Priory, right? In the meantime Kleist managed to marry, father a child, and it was delivered when Daisy arrived at Spanish Leeds. What I’m trying to say is that I don’t know how long who stayed where and so on.
Well, that’s it with the questions; I have some more praises:
The end of chapter 36 in “The Beating of His Wings” was definitely mean. I read the last paragraph thrice and was so puzzled until I read on. You scared me.
The chain of happenings – from the storm to the oak crashing in the ice – was very well done, I was always wondering what the result would be.
Good humour, wonderful characters, flawless writing…you’re a maddening good writer.
(But honestly – a cat?)
I’m glad you enjoyed the books. Barn Owl is what Vague Henri thinks he hears when someone describes his conversation as banal
The cat in the dreams are just the oddities of dreams but cat throwing was a feature of executions in the past – the cat was thought of as potentially demonic.
Cale isn’t the father – she is just trying to sow doubt in his mind. As to the timeline – it might be wrong but I tried to keep things vague. I’m too lazy to spend hours working out these things.
Lots of people criticised the chapter 36 end.
Hope this helps.
- I must be your biggest fan from Portugal. I just loved this trilogy and you became my favourite writer… But there’s something really getting on my nerves. What is this International Court of Archaeological Artefacts? Are you in trouble as it looks like in the book? Is this Court against you for your work? And is this History or fantasy?
Fortunately this is all made up (my job is to tell lies, after all). It’s history and fantasy and science fiction and more or less everything else.
- First of all I would like to thank you, Mr. Paul Hoffman, for writing the enjoyable, exciting and humorous books about. I really enjoyed the Thomas Cale books and I have read all of them several times. And during each reread I find something else to enjoy about the books.
If you don’t mind, I have a few questions that I hope you might find the time to answer.
1) Is there actually an element of “magic”/fantasy in the books or is this just “imagined”/taken as faith and proof of Gods existence by the characters in the books?
Cale`s “head injury” is perhaps a clear indication of an “element” of magic/fantasy.
2) If it took place, was the “discussion” between Thomas and Arbell at the end of the third book deliberately left out? Will the readers ever know what was said and done? That was one of the scenes I was looking forward to.
3) Is the title of the third book, “The Beating of his Wings”, inspired by Lord Byron`s poem “The Destruction of Sennacherib”. I am referring to the third verse her.
For the Angel of Death spread his wings on the blast,
And breathed in the face of the foe as he passed;
And the eyes of the sleepers waxed deadly and chill,
And their hearts but once heaved, and for ever grew still! – Lord Byron
I know you refer to John Bright at the start of Part Five in the third book but has Lord Byron`s poem been any inspiration?
4) Can you confirm that there will be more books in the Four Quarters setting that feature Thomas Cale? I know that this has been “confirmed” on the Red Opera web page, but that is on the “Reader`s Comments” section of the Red Opera web page and I am a sceptic and more books about Thomas Cale is news that are too good to be true.
And what about Idris Pukke, Kleist and Arbell? The Redeemers?
5) Is the Maid of Blackbird Leys based on Anne Askew?
6) Is Thomas Cale based, even loosely, on any historical figures?
Last of all I would again thank you, Mr. Paul Hoffman, for your writing. Good luck to you. And hopefully your readers get to meet Thomas Cale again.
I’ve tried to avoid any element of magic. I used the head injury as a metaphor for the fact that mental injury (the cruelty that has made him tough) has made him both weak and strong and hence his belief that the brain damage altered his abilities to his advantage but it still constitutes damage.
I came very close to having a final confrontation between Cale and Arbell but it seemed to me that he is so close to madness at the end it would only go in one direction as IdrisPukke feared. However I intend to come back to a confrontation between the two in the next Cale novel (a few years away) to answer another of your questions. Some of the characters will return.
It’s an interesting idea but I wasn’t in this case influenced by Byron – except perhaps the Byron of Don Juan
The Maid could easily have been based on Askew, so well spotted but I was thinking of Sophie Schollen.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sophie_Scholl. Like the Maid she was very courageous but doomed to fail against such a powerful enemy. The usually pragmatic Cale can’t understand the point of such sacrifice even if he admires her.
As to the origin of Cale, he’s a mixture of my own character as a teenager and some of my friends – the Sanctuary being based on the Catholic boarding school I attended. However, I would point out that teenagers given power have had radical effects on the world in which they operated – for example, Henry, Prince of Wales (later Henry V) and, of course, Joan of Arc.
- Just finished The Beating of his Wings, had me gripped and read cover to cover in a few days, however, I always expected Sister Wray to make a further appearance in the story but this was never the case, so much seems to be left undiscovered about this character…?
I suppose my relentless moving around in my life has meant that I’ve come across a number of people who were massively influential and then passed out of my day to day existence as I vanished into a new situation. I’m contemplating bringing Sister Wray back but not until after another Cale novel first. I’m glad you found the character compelling – she’s based in part on a teacher who had a huge effect on me despite my, initial, huge hostility towards her.
- I have just finished reading the “Wisdom of Crocodiles”
Quite a book and well worth getting to the end.
I am curious as to why you wrote about financial collapse when at the time of writing this was not particularly on the cards. Was it a happy coincidence that the collapse came about at almost the same time as the book or was it based on research?
I am certainly not criticising the book just curious as to why you should include this as an aspect of the book along with global terrorism that also occurred just after the book was published.
The Wisdom of Crocodiles took 13 years to write and research and was, at one time, almost twice as long. I started out in 1980 trying and failing to get a mortgage for my first house but then on buying a second home 11 years later I discovered I could borrow more than it would be possible to pay back – I realised something seriously odd was going on. It didn’t take much research into past bubbles to see what was going to happen and what I read fitted entirely into the unfinished novel’s fascination with the relationship between new kinds of complexity and old-fashioned self-delusion. At the time no one was interested in what I was saying – and they still aren’t. Again it seemed to me that resentment against powerlessness would inevitably mean a return to terror – I just didn’t see where exactly it was coming from (though Hannif Kureishi did in My Son The Fanatic).
- So I just bought “The Beating of his Wings” today and the first thing I’ve read as confused me and kind of shocked me, so I decided to search for the things mentioned in there, and I’ve found nothing but this website, so my question is, is it fiction or reality? Because right now, due to lack of evidence, I’m inclined to believe its just fiction so if it is, how is this related to Cale and his story, and if not, how isn’t there anymore evidence?
So I just bought “The Beating of his Wings” today and the first thing I’ve read as confused me and kind of shocked me, so I decided to search for the things mentioned in there, and I’ve found nothing but this website, so my question is, is it fiction or reality? Because right now, due to lack of evidence, I’m inclined to believe its just fiction so if it is, how is this related to Cale and his story, and if not, how isn’t there anymore evidence?
- I saw the beating of his wing in an airport on my way to Canada. I read the back cover and from there I was hooked. Realizing that the beating of his wings was the last book I ran (in a rather undignified manner) through not only Brisbane airport (where I saw the book) but through several other airports as well looking for bookstores that held copies of the trilogy. It took me until the return journey to collect them all however the books where well worth the wait. Not only did they capture my imagination and teach me words I had never heard they also improved my aerobic capacity.
Thank you so much. Please write more books about Cale.
Glad you enjoyed the books and that they proved to have such health benefits.
- Sir. I have just finished the beating of his wings and am satisfied on all fronts. I thoroughly enjoyed the archaeological theme as well as the names of places jumbletron. I read this with a co-worker and we speak the books language in front of other workers at times to mess with them. I referred this to a friend of mine I thought her husband would enjoy it but it turns out he already has as their daughter picked it up I Ireland while studying at the University of Limerick. Another Irish connection. In turn she has given me her copy of The Wisdom of Crocodiles. Thanks for the great ride. There is another trilogy that came out around the same time by an Ian Tregillis..The bitter seeds trilogy. Reading these two sets made for one of the best reading periods of the last few years. BTW.I am a peasant in the mundane suburbs of Trenton NJ. Ever been to Princeton? Fun town.
Glad you enjoyed the books – not everyone cares for the fake archaeology or the modern names so I’m pleased you found them to your taste. Never been to Princeton, only Miami and Chicago where my Brother, now a US citizen, lives. Perhaps they’ll give me an honorary degree there one day – though I won’t be holding my breath.
- Have you ever verified the quote ascribed in Wisdom of Crocodiles to a “German finance Minister” (Helmut Schmidt?) that Tony Benn was the “Bertie Wooster of public finance”?
I’m not sure if I failed to answer your question so here goes: The quote comes from a wonderful book about the Bank of England called Portrait of an Old Lady by Stephen Fay.
The great script writer William Goldman described sequels as ‘whore’s pictures’ because the only reason people made them was to make money. As it happens I do intend to write more novels about Cale because – as you imply – his journey (whatever that is) could be a long way from over. For that reason I expect to keep coming back to him over the years (not necessarily in order) and visit more trials on him. He is a product of extremes and I want to keep putting him under pressure to see what he does. I intend him as an intense example of the journey we all have to make – a rather rambling, erratic, terrifying, pleasurable, amusing, horrifying journey and one where the direction and ultimate meaning not be very clear at all.
Oddly enough I visited Cyprus last year and the surroundings of The Priory and the trip up the mountain are based closely on the landscape around where I was staying. But the connection with Karvounas is just an interesting coincidence.
Your English is a great deal better than my Portuguese. To clarify Vague Henri’s death, he was killed by a pencil. The reason he dies by means of something so trivial is that, I suppose, I always want to underline that while life can certainly be an epic it is very rarely romantic. To paraphrase Shakespeare, few die romantically that die in battle
FROM T. designer
Thanks. Perhaps if they ever make a film of it, you might want to design it.
I found your letter so interesting because your own history is so close to my own. Both my parents were born in Ireland –in Dublin in fact –and I spent much of my childhood there. In fact, most of my relatives are Irish. One of my grandfathers was the station master at Howth at the same time as my father was a stoker working on the line between Dublin and Belfast. I think my late uncle used to play rugby for Blackrock. I’m glad you didn’t suffer too badly at the hands of the priests, at least physically. Brutality in Catholicism is very much related to class in my experience. The ideology is just as deadly but the priests tend to keep their hands off the middle classes. In my next book I want to try and get away to some degree from the physical and sexual violence of the church to concentrate more on the (as you say, fascist) psychological, spiritual and intellectual violence it perpetrates against the young.
I worked on the Script of Superstition until it was funded as a Europudding then they hired someone without any experience to rewrite it so badly they never worked again. The third film was The Children of Huang Shi where I was uncredited for legal reasons too boring and complicated to go into. It’s a film I’ve never seen. All the films were so far from being any good that I realised it made no sense to continue writing them. I turned to writing more novels instead – one of the few uncomplicatedly correct decisions I’ve ever made.
The red opera website is my own idea. I’ve been much criticised for my world creation but it was always my intention to build a different kind of imagined world, neither real nor unreal, and certainly not comprehensive in the way of The Lord of the Rings. I wanted it to be bitty, jagged, partial and confusing the way the archaeological past is in our world. I realise that a lot of people found the ending anticlimactic but it seemed to me to be the right thing to reflect Cale’s confusion and lack of direction, as well as his determination to escape the destructive path on which he had been set by Bosco. His choice at the end is either to walk away or to become something very like the angel of death – a Napoleon or Genghis Khan.
I definitely intend to come back to Thomas Cale in a couple of years.
As you can see from the above I have every intention of creating a trilogy in five parts.
I had always intended to make the world of the left hand of god trilogy one that was both strange and familiar. I got the idea from the excavations of the city of Oxyrincus in Egypt, a once thriving community had a vanished under the sand of the desert more than 1800 years ago. What the archaeologists discovered was a vast amount of paper that had survived the years because of dry conditions. Along with the divorce papers, the letters of complaint, the household bills and other legal documents, there were also undiscovered works by Aeschylus and Sappho which threw a completely new light on both authors (the short new play by Aeschylus that was discovered there was a comedy involving fake breasts and enormous erections – revealing him as something very different from the traditional dramatist of the highest ritual seriousness). The overwhelming majority of the material uncovered at Oxyrincus has yet to be analysed. Who knows what masterpieces remained to be uncovered?
I simply wanted to imagine what would happen to our own culture if it underwent a similar catastrophe and rediscovery.
Paul’s reply: Thanks for your kind words. I know that there were others who felt that the ending was rushed but, if it’s any help (which it may not be), this was deliberate rather than careless. My experience in life is that there are moments of great change which arrive quite suddenly – and this is also true of great events like those at the end of The Beating Of His Wings. After all, the Berlin Wall fell in a week in a way that staggered everyone and the vast Russian empire took only a few months to unravel. The financial crisis (something I predicted in 1999 in The Wisdom of Crocodiles) took almost everyone by surprise and blew up (again) in weeks even though the roots of it had been plain to me long before. I think it’s fair to say that the trilogy endlessly emphasises the incoherent and unpredictable nature of events both small and large.
Paul’s reply: I will be back to Thomas Cale after my next book which will be set in modern London. Cale will be older but still on the run as he’s being hunted down for war crimes while at the same time his status as a myth grows ever stronger. Down to rock bottom he’s blackmailed into assassinating a politician regarded as the bright new hope for mankind. As you might expect, it all goes horribly wrong and Cale is obliged to go into hiding. However, an old obsession threatens to make matters even worse.
Paul’s reply: What can I say but that nobody’s perfect. The ‘philophising’ is, I’m afraid, just part of the style. I can sympathise, up to a point, about the geography but I’m not the kind of obsessive who invents new languages and entire histories for the worlds I create. I’m much more of a writer as illusionist. The reason I mix up real characters and fictional ones is because I want to keep putting the reader at odds with the world – in a way I don’t want readers to be totally involved in another world, like the one created by Tolkien, for example. I’m deliberately trying to get the reader to drag in the real with the imagined. Obviously not everyone likes this – people often complain that it interrupts their sense of escaping into another world – but that’s really the point. You’re right about Alois, for example. As to a new Cale book, one is coming but not for a couple of years as I’m writing a novel set in modern London to be published first. The next Cale book starts with him being blackmailed into assassinating a real world figure you won’t have any problem identifying.
‘Lepping off’ comes from an old Irish version of leaping, as in running off (leaping off) with the money.( I agree it is very obscure – my apologies). His reply, ‘you can trust me.’, means that you can trust me to come after you and do something horrible if you run away with the money.