A big chunk of the research for The Magic Circle is related to what today is modern Turkey, a land where, in ancient times, so many major literary and historical events took place.
Turkey was the home of King Gordius, whose Gordian knot was later cut by Alexander, opening the western route into Asia, and also home to Gordius’s adopted son King Midas. Even earlier, Turkey was the birthplace of the protoype of the Great Goddess from which most European goddesses descended. The west coast of Ionian Greece was where the Judgment of Paris took place, deciding which of three goddesses was most beautiful. When Paris backed the wrong horse, the result was the Trojan War. Farther south was Ephesus, where St John, the Virgin Mary, and Mary Magdalene once lived, and where St Paul threw his famous tantrum about the booming business of the artisana: carving and selling icons of the goddess.
Karl and I hopped a plane to Istanbul where I’d arranged for a rented car so I could drive down the coast to meet our friends. I’d spent months figuring out what stops would be best, checking notes with fellow authors like Mary Lee Settle (Turkish Reflections) and Alex Croutier (Harem: The World Behind the Veil). But leaving our hotel in Istanbul—at the last moment, as we stepped into the car—Karl insisted, “Our concierge is from the region, and he says we should drive along the north shore of the Sea of Marmara, avoiding the southern route through cities. The view is better.” An altercation ensued, and Karl prevailed. The northern route would take us to Gallipoli, the car ferry across the Bosporus, and our hotel near Troy.
It wasn’t until after lunch, when the road swung into a forest adjacent to the Sea of Marmara, that we realized we might be in real trouble. The road got smaller and smaller. Pretty soon it turned to dirt and nearly disappeared altogether—along with gas stations, houses, farms, telephone poles, cars, hay wagons, humans—all trace of civilization. We’d come too far to turn back to the planned southern route. We were driving along a sheer cliff with (I must admit) a beautiful view of the sea—a sea where there wasn’t even one boat afloat! And the sun, as always in the Aegean, was setting fast. Just then, we saw a man trying to pull a little burro along the road above us. The burro’s feet were dug in and it refused to budge.
“Do you think that burro knows something we don’t know?” I asked Karl, as we started laughing in a kind of hysterical desperation.
After ten hours of gruelling driving along the sheer cliff’s edge—it was just after dusk—with enormous relief we finally reached Gallipoli and took the last ferry across the Bosporus in the dark, headed for Troy. And another avventura.