A / Sinners of the Czech Kingdom (tales of the knight Oldrich of Chlum – 13th century)
B / Chronicles of the King’s Chamber (tales of the royal scribe Jiri Adam of Dobronin – 16th century)
C / The Relics Sellers Tetralogy (tales of the knight Martin of Stvolna – 14th century)
D / Biographical novels
E / Humorous novels
F / Novels for young people (tales of the alchemist’s daughter – 16th century)
G / Collected stories
A / Sinners of the Czech Kingdom
Fourteen books published so far, the average length of each novel is about 280 pages
The tales of Oldrich of Chlum, royal procurator and master of the North Bohemian castle of Bezděz, take place during the reign of the “Iron and Gold” King Otakar II of Bohemia (1253 – 1278). Oldrich of Chlum is a knight renowned for his skills with a sword, but he is also uncommonly well-educated thanks to spending his youth in a monastic school in Magdeburg, Germany. He is therefore able to use reason and logic in solving the most complex mysteries. He has his own concept of justice, based on the belief that truth itself is higher than secular law. He is willing to put his own life on the line for this belief and to stand up even to the king when defending the innocent. He has two dedicated servants – Ota the Squire and Divis, the captain of the guard. Both are invaluable, but whereas Ota uses his good looks to get information from pretty girls, Captain Divis’s somewhat coarse appearance enables him to move freely among thieves and robbers. The first novel about Oldrich of Chlum appeared in 2002 (second editions were soon issued for some of them) and was also made into a feature film (In the King’s Name).
1. Dagger and Snake
It contains one plot that incorporates three detective stories (Dagger and Snake, The Mysterious Archer, and The Case of the Deadly Game). I employed a very complex structure for the first time in this book, and because it worked out well, I used it again in several later books. The story takes place among Czech and German noble clans and the Hospitallers.
2. Zdislava and the Lost Relics
This book also combines three stories (The Case of the Lost Relics, The Case of the Sinful Wife and The Case of the Strange Duel) into one thrilling and almost mystical plot that revolves around a relic – a thorn from the crown of Christ. It has drawn the interest of not only Czech knights, but especially some mysterious brethren from southern France. It takes place at Lemberg Castle during the time of the renowned Czech saint Zdislava.
3. The Mystery of the Golden Tunnel
Oldrich of Chlum is on the prowl near Prague (The Case of the Lost Gold, The Case of the Missing Innkeeper and The Case of the Lovestruck Clerk). The story unfolds in gold mines, involving not only the miners, but the danger they face from a mysterious demon in the underground tunnels. A treasure chest filled with gold is inexplicably lost, implicating both crown officials and a delegation of the Austrian nobility.
4. The Curse of Advent
The Curse of Advent was loosely borrowed from the story The Haunted Monastery of the Ancient Chinese Judge Ti (by Robert van Gulik). This is perhaps my favorite detective novel. My version brings the story up to the Middle Ages while offering a similar atmosphere of mystery and motifs. Otherwise the plot and essence of the story are quite different. The whole action takes place over the course of one night during the Feast of St. Barbara. As a snowstorm rages around Krašov Castle, someone inside the palace is carrying out his or her murderous intentions.
5. The Sign of the Rosenberg Rose
Three Stories (The Case of the Dead Monk, The Case of the Lost Letter and The Case of the Murdered Pharmacist) are connected by a single theme – courtly intrigue. But it is not clear by whom or against whom. In addition, someone tries to kidnap the wife of Oldrich of Chlum. Only during the investigation does it emerge that an assassination attempt is being hatched against the King of Bohemia. The book combines a detective story with an adventure novel about knights and chivalry.
6. Murder in the Cloister
Unlike the others, this book contains three separate retrospective stories of the young Oldrich of Chlum. Murder in the Cloister tells of the mysterious ritualistic murders that take place in a monastic school in Magdeburg; Carnival Masks plays out at Prague Castle, including the story behind how Ota the Squire first entered Oldrich’s service; and in The Fatal Tournament, Oldrich must not only catch a murderer, but also win the hand of his wife Ludmila of Wartenberg in a duel of honor (In the King’s Name was filmed according to this story).
7. The Bestiary of Olomouc
During my mountain climbing days, I once descended into a precipice to explore a cave. Because I feel intimately familiar with this environment, I placed this story in an underground labyrinth around the Moravian chasm known as Macocha. The beginning of this horror story of sorts introduces a miller who reportedly turns into a werewolf. But it soon develops that the tracks lead to the Bishop of Olomouc himself and his scriptorium, where he keeps a manuscript of an ancient bestiary (a so-called moralistic fable of mostly non-existent animals and monsters).
8. Ranger Boleslav Mysteries
My first work that “broke into” the Czech TOP 10 list in just four weeks. The seemingly trivial disappearance of the daughter of a certain yeoman leads Oldrich to Stará Boleslav, to the spot where St. Vaclav was murdered. To his surprise, he discovers there is a secret brotherhood that keeps the legacy of the martyred king alive. He also learns that it involves one of the most highly guarded secrets of the royal family of Přemysl.
9. The Novel of the Rose
The medieval Novel of the Rose dates back to the 13th century and is the oldest work of erotic knightly literature. One of the copies ends up in Bohemia and is the center of an investigation at the beginning of the action. This story of disguises, mistaken identities and romantic errors in the style of commedia dell’arte sees Ota nearly get married. Fortunately, Oldrich reveals the true criminal at the last moment.
10. The Sign of Judas
Oldrich of Chlum has always been unquestioningly faithful to his wife Ludmila, so I decided to throw him a curveball in the form of Svetlana, a charming and, I think, quite appealing girl. Naturally he refuses her, but this is only a marginal theme. He is planning to do something he never would have thought of doing before. He stands opposed to a decision handed down by the King of Bohemia, because he understands that there is a higher duty than mere obedience to his Majesty and his laws: respect for justice and human rights.
11. The Seal of Death
This story is quite dark. In the language of modern genre, I would probably call it a thriller with the added label of “cruel”. I wrote this book after I experienced a hideous incident, and when I look back on the story of The Seal of Death, I must admit that a kind of fate seems to hover about in the dark alleyways of Old Town Prague. Here again we find Oldrich of Chlum totally uncompromising in his search for justice, even if it means endangering the lives of those closest to him.
12. The Secret of the Abbess of Assisi
This adventure story involves a pilgrimage to Compostela in northern Spain. The world of medieval faith with its reverence for relics and purifying pilgrimages provides perhaps the best backdrop for the spiritual ambivalence of the people of that day. Exalted piety is intertwined with the desire for hedonistic pleasure. While the other “Oldrich” tales were created relatively quickly, the progress on this book was extremely slow (several years in the making). I visited many pilgrimage sites in an attempt to truly understand the way medieval pilgrims thought. At the same time I added several contradictions that appear in the Gospels and form the basis for the murders that dog the pilgrimage.
13. Apage satanas!
Oldrich’s wife Ludmila tries to help a noble woman from North Bohemia brought before the Inquisition after being accused of involvement in a coven of witches. Since Oldrich is away with the king, she conducts her own investigation. The real perpetrator of the crime is quickly revealed, so Oldrich returns home and has to start the investigation again from scratch. His elegant outcome is of course different from the conclusion reached by Ludmila.
14. The Secretive Monks of Brno
This story unfolds over the course of seven days, during which Oldrich solves the loss of some seemingly meaningless codex. But with a whole cast of religious figures involved, from the Bishop of Olomouc to Benedictines, Dominicans and Franciscans, Oldrich wends his way through the world of monks in order to understand the reason behind the crimes. The revelation is – I think – truly original.
Six books have been published so far, consisting of 14 separate stories, with the average length of each story running about 120 to 140 pages
B / Chronicles of the King’s Chamber
These novels take place during the reign of Ferdinand I (Habsburg), i.e. between 1526 and 1564. The main hero is the royal scribe of the King’s Chamber in Prague, Jiri Adam of Dobronín, assisted in his endeavors by his servant Peter Korec. Sometimes appearing as helpers in this drama is the clever and mysterious noblewoman Katherine Dolanská and Rozarka, a former sommelier from Pilsen.
Jiri Adam of Dobronín is an aging, uncommonly worldly aristocrat who follows the antics of society with sarcasm and irony, getting a good laugh out of all the accompanying stupidity and knowing how to navigate within the complex world of the court and haughty town halls. He always knows how to act decisively when the going gets tough, not least because his wit and cunning enables him to take advantage of the weaknesses in the bureaucracy and loops in the law. The plot unfolds throughout the Czech Kingdom, with one side adventure to Vienna and another to London.
The atmosphere of the Renaissance provides a host of backdrops for detective stories, follow crown officials, alchemists, glassblowers, miners, minters, actors, convents, brothels, spas, buyers and doctors, and with lots of intrigue ranging from family revenge to espionage.
- Pilsner Muzzles
- The Unburied Knight
- The Case with the Alchemist
- The Fake Thaler
- The Silent Language
- The Temptress of Boskovice
- Tart wine
- The Monastic Ossuary
- The Pastoral of Velhartice
- Murder in the Baths
- The Last Cantilena
- The Tudor Mystery
- The Poisoned Cup
- Death of the Martyr
C / The Relics Sellers Tetralogy
A cycle of 4 novels, the average length of one book is about 450 pages
Many believers during the Middle Ages coveted relics. It was therefore only logical that they would become goods and good business for both religious people and hustlers. An extensive storytelling fresco from the 14th century tells of the young Czech knight Martin of Stvolna, who went to study at the University of Paris, but came into conflict with the Inquisition and had to opt for an adventurous life instead. He travels across Europe earning his living mostly by selling relics. He survives the great plague of the 14th century, takes part in battles of the Hundred Years War, undergoes a penitential pilgrimage with flagellants, returns to study at university, fights in the civil war raging among the Czech aristocracy, travels throughout southern Germany in pursuit of relics, carries out a diplomatic mission to the Venetian Doge, gets imprisoned in Marseilles, accompanies Emperor Charles IV on his coronation journey to Rome, clashes with the miners in Upper Hungary, fights in Transylvania, becomes a prisoner of the merchant of Cairo, and flees across the desert from the wrath of the Mamluks. This is just part of what Martin experiences during his lifetime. And no matter where he is, there’s always a beautiful girl loyally standing by his side, because he’s not just a merchant, but also a great troubadour. He is, however, fated to fall in love twice, which he loses, finds again and loses again...
- The Relic Sellers
- The Relic Collectors
- The Relic Masters
- The Relic Thieves
D / Biographical novels
1. Between the Tiara and the Eagle
A biographical novel about the first Czech king, Vratislav I, 500 pages
The novel depicts the years 1045 – 1092, when Vratislav was growing up as the second son of the Czech Prince Bretislav. After his father’s death, he rose up against his brother and had to flee to Hungary as a result, later returning to Moravia and assuming power in Prague after the death of his elder brother. As the first Czech king, he began to exert influence in European affairs. He fought on the side of Emperor Henry IV against Pope Gregory VII and used his forces to keep the excommunicated emperor on his throne. Thanks to his loyalty, he was granted the title of King. Vratislav also took part in military skirmishes in Hungary and Poland, while struggling at home with his bishop and the nobility. This colorful novel is full of many depictions of war and adventure, taking place throughout the whole of Central Europe.
2. The Great King
A biographical novel of King Přemysl Otakar I, 550 pages
This is the first part of a planned tetralogy about the Přemyslid era, chronicling the last four kings of that Czech dynasty (the second part, about Wenceslas I, comes out in autumn 2012), takes place during the years 1172 – 1205. Based on the available historical sources, this novel tells of the youth of Přemysl I, focusing first and foremost on his struggles with his ambitious relatives (the medieval Czech state was subject to its worst crisis at the end of the 12th century). The Přemyslids lost the crown as the country ripped itself apart. Přemysl finally achieved victory at home and took advantage of the power split in the German lands (two emperors were elected after the death of Frederick Barbarossa) to get his crown back. He also did something quite unusual for that time – he annulled his marriage to his first wife and married a young, passionate Hungarian princess. Naturally the powerful members of his first wife’s family were rather incensed by this action and civil war again broke out.
E / Humorous novels
1. The Party of Luck
A contemporary novel, 230 pages
A couple of people meet quite by chance (a teacher fired for immoral conduct, an embezzler just released from prison, an erotomaniac, the incompetent son of an unscrupulous businessman, a motel owner, a half-wit maintenance man, and the complacent deputy mayor of a small town) and decide to start a political party. The only program of the party is to issue raffle tickets with promises that if they win the election, the raffle winners will go to Parliament on behalf of the party. The electorate is disgusted with the current state of politics, so the party overwhelmingly wins the elections and thanks to the raffle, all kinds of rabble make it into Parliament to commence governing the land with the most unorthodox (and extremely funny) means. Although fiction, every clerk, especially those based in Brussels, will surely recognize themselves in it.
2. The Monastic Madrigal
A novel about the Renaissance, 230 pages
Somewhere under the mountains near the border with the Kingdom of Bohemia lies a forgotten monastery with land, God and chapter house. This monastery in Selbr is run by lazy friars while their depraved serfs occupy the land. Time goes by here calmly without any hint of ambition, until one day a royal charter arrives at the scriptorium of the monastery elevating one of the villages to the status of city, only the name of the village isn’t mentioned in the charter. Since such an “honor” would only mean extra work, the serfs start conniving among themselves to avoid this obligation. That doesn’t stop them from living as they’ve always had, enjoying themselves in the tavern, carrying on secret affairs, and enduring sharp rebukes from their nosy neighbors. The Crown gets involved and sends its officials to sort out the mess because the friars are too busy building a new brewery. One of the reviews describes it as an extraordinarily look at the Czech Renaissance.
F / Novels for young people
Two titles have been published so far, the third is at the printer’s, the average number of pages is 300 (including illustrations)
The story takes place in Prague at the end of the 16th century during the reign of Emperor Rudolf II. A new alchemist named Giovanni da Ponte and his daughter Fiorello arrive at the imperial court. Because guild rules prohibit girls from dealing in alchemy, Fiorella dresses up as a boy to become his assistant “Rafael”. In this way she masters his art (her father specializes in fireworks, Roman candles, firecrackers, smoke bombs, etc.). Fiorella enjoys being a boy anyhow (preferring to run around in the streets with her friends than to do household chores). Her father buys a house in Old Town, where Fiorella (still disguised as Rafael) befriends Luke and Martin, two boys her age. Together they found the Brotherhood of the Crystal (crystal being the alchemical sign of purity and justice). They experience many minor adventures together (battling it out with the gang from Caletna Street), but begin to look into several crimes that have taken place. Fiorella skillfully uses her alchemical craft, which begins to strike some of her contemporaries as witchcraft.
- Fiorella and the Brotherhood of the Crystal
- Fiorella and the Mystery of the Dead Bat
- Fiorella and the Vampires in the Cemetery (in preparation)
G / Collected stories
1. Blood on the Burdock
Twenty detective stories, taking place between the 12th and 18th century.