.

Iain McLaughlin

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The Last Pharaoh

Thebes Publishing novel

Released June 2015

After a freak electrical storm that seems to happen indoors, a young woman is found in the Egyptian exhibit of a London museum, and she seems to look exactly like the face on the death-mask of the uncrowned Pharaoh Erimem…


What is she doing inside the exhibit? How did she get there? Is she really a Pharaoh from 1400BC? And just who is willing to search time and space to find and assassinate her?


THE LAST PHARAOH is the first in a series of novels and short story anthologies taking Erimem, a former companion of the 5th Doctor, on a new set of adventures travelling to the past, the future and into deep space. 


THE LAST PHARAOH takes Erimem and a group of 21st century students far into the past, to Actium in Greece where Erimem meets the famed Cleopatra VII on the eve of a vital battle which could end Egypt’s existence as a free country and condemn it to life as a Roman province. 


Two great rulers of Egypt come into conflict over what Egypt needs to do in order to survive, and both Erimem and Cleopatra face their own personal battles for survival.


Published June 2015

Available now from Thebes Publishing


THERE ARE SPOILERS BELOW FOR THE BOOK. READ ON AT YOUR PERIL

I'd had it in mind to do something with Erimem since Big Finish stopped using her in the Doctor Who range. The first thing I did was put her into an episode of Kerides the Thinker, a series of radio plays Claire and I did for Imagination Theatre. That worked pretty well and it gave me the push to start thinking about what else we could do with her. I thought about proposing a radio series to Imagination Theatre but with Caroline Morris here in the UK and Imagination Theatre based over in the States, I dismissed that. We'd got around the recasting for Kerides by having Erimem inhabit the body of a soothsayer in 276BC. The idea of finding a new outlet for Erimem was something I thought about for a year or two, before deciding on books. Claire and I had already written an Erimem prequel novel for Big Finish and we liked how she worked in print, so that was that decision made.

I put together the plan for the books and characters over a lengthy period from 2012-2013, mapping out a long-term set or character and plot arcs and working out the backgrounds for all of the regular characters. From the start I wanted some characters to miss some of the books, but always for ongoing plot reasons. I also wanted to mention straight off the bat that Erimem's travels would be dangerous so there had to be blood, death and a real sense of peril. That's why SPOILER happens to SPOILER.

It was important that Erimem should know about her heritage and care about Egypt. When we were talking about this book, there was a lot going on politically in contemporary Egypt. But there's always been a lot going on politically in Egypt, even back in Erimem's time or in Cleopatra's. I can't remember who first mentioned Cleopatra but we got talking about her, and about the way history had preserved the legend rather than the truth and we started wondering how Erimem and Cleopatra would get on. We were pretty sure they wouldn't. So why wouldn't they get on? Erimem was a warrior who played politics when she had to. Cleopatra was more of a politician who used violence when it was necessary. They were different enough to just not get along. Mark Antony was also a point of division. I'd always thought him a foolish commander. Staying in camp at Actium when preparing for battle with Octavian's troops allowed the enemy to cut his supply lines. It also led to his troops becoming ill and deserting in droves. He threw away his advantages and he was responsible for his defeat. Erimem would disagree with his military strategy - she was far more pro-active and she wouldn't condone him sulking and destroying Egypt's future. So there we had the guts of it. Two of Egypt's greatest women in conflict.

But there was a problem.

That plot left us with a purely historical adventure. It also didn't give us the time travel mechanism we'd need for future books. So, we worked backwards. We knew where we wanted Erimem to end up and how she would travel through time in subsequent books so there had to be a way for her to get that technology. There also had to be a threat involved with that... and we needed to introduce Erimem's grandfather. That all came together in a plot that involved a time travelling cult that needed Erimem's blood for some nefarious purpose, which we decided should be releasing some ancient Devil from captivity... that sounds a lot like Sutekh when broken down into broad strokes but it was never intended that way.

So there we had the two main plots of the book. From there we worked the details of the individual characters. One of the late additions was that Ibrahim was a relative of Erimem's. We added that because we felt that there needed to be a more immediate connection for her in her new life in 2017. He's part of her family. She's not alone. 

Andy was the character who first came alive from the page when we were writing. She became the prime 'companion' character as early as the writing of the first draft. Ibrahim changed a fair bit from first plan to writing the book. We made him younger by about fifteen years and threw out the age-gap we had planned for his relationship with Helena. I'm glad we did that. The relationship between those two is really important. It adds a warmth to the series that we need, otherwise we have a bunch of people who feel isolated coming together. Ibrahim and Helena are the glue holding them together as a group.

I think it works as a novel in its own right and as a launch to the series. As Caroline Morris said in her foreword, it's great that Erimem has her adventure boots on again.

I have worked in publishing since leaving school. When I was 18 I had a choice. I could either go to University to study English or take up a job I had applied for and been given while I was waiting to hear if I'd got in to Uni. That job was as a journalist or writer in DC Thomson's Children's Papers. My Mum had just lost her job (blame Thatcher, it was the 80's) so I took the job. I thought I'd do it for a couple of years then move, probably to London. I stayed for nearly 29 years. While I was there I learned how to tell a story, the importance of remembering the audience, and as I stayed I was exposed to other mediums. I was able to take what I learned there and use it to write as a freelancer. Writing freelance I picked up skills, knowledge and experience I was able to take back to DC Thomson. One of those skills was in writing novels, which helped me edit novels based around the Beano IP.

When I was Deputy Editor on the Dandy and then Editor on the Beano I was exposed to the business side of publishing, working with the finances and production of the operation as well as the creative. That gave me a solid basis to begin work on creating a business plan and working out the costings. When I got started I realised how much I still had to learn, but an important part of life is taking on new challenges, learning what you need to learn and finding new skills. I think we all should try things that are outside of our comfort zone. There's a terrific quote somewhere from David Bowie stating that we should take chances and risk failure if we're going to grow. Who am I to disagree with the Thin White Duke? He was much smarter than me. And he's just plain right... we should try things. That's why I chose to start a publishing company. There's no shame in failing, only in not trying.

Review from Sci Fi Bulletin.
Review from Starburst.

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