The Flowers of Evil
The Flowers of Evil is the sequel to The Waste Land. It takes up the story of Hugh de Verdon in the early years of the Twelfth Century, a turbulent period when the victorious First Crusaders fought to hold on to the lands they had won in Outremer. Unfinished business from The Waste Land takes Hugh on a journey of vengeance and fulfilment to Aleppo, Damascus, Petra and Jerusalem. He battles his old adversaries Baldwin of Boulogne, now King of Jerusalem, Hasan-i Sabbah and the Assassins, and encounters the Knights Templar.
Hugh's story is once again retold by the dons of St. Lazarus' College, Oxford. They have been delighted by the commercial success of The Waste Land and hope to repeat their achievement with The Flowers of Evil. They could not have foreseen the sinister and unexpected consequences.
The Flowers of Evil was published in June 2011.
To download a free sample of The Flowers of Evil, click here. (124k PDF)
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Simon Acland on the Genesis of The Flowers of Evil
I really don’t have it in for the world’s greatest poets. But because of the title choices for my novels, I suppose you might be forgiven for thinking that I do. So after causing poor TS Eliot to turn in his grave with The Waste Land, I have now turned my attention to Charles Baudelaire and called my second novel The Flowers of Evil.
In the circumstances, The Waste Land seemed a very apt title for the first of Hugh de Verdon’s adventures. The Flowers of Evil works just as well for the sequel, even though Baudelaire’s poems lack the Holy Grail imagery that suffuses Eliot’s masterpiece. After all, the events of the second book flower from the evil suffered by Hugh in the first. And they are set against the historical backdrop that has flowered from the evil of the First Crusade.
Add the evil flowers that feature in my Chapters Three and Four, and the line from Baudelaire’s prelude quoted by Eliot in his poem to connect the two works – ‘Hypocrite lecteur, - mon semblable, - mon frère!’ – , and I think you will agree that The Flowers of Evil was the right choice. Certainly it was easy to find suitable headings for my chapters amongst the titles of the poems that make up Les Fleurs du Mal.
At the risk of putting you off completely with more pretension, as well as a few more references to Chrétien de Troyes (what strange names some of those Templars have!), there is an extended allusion to another great work of French literature in Chapter 11. This time it is of the twentieth century. Someone once told me that this book has sold more copies in France than any other. More, even, than the Bible. I suppose that is appropriate in the circumstances. Maybe I am making a deliberate philosophical point by transposing existentialism and the philosophy of the absurd backwards in time by a millennium.
But enough of this pompous nonsense! The Flowers of Evil is really just another fast-moving adventure story, interlaced with some humour and occasional explanation from the dons of Saint Lazarus. Yes, of course they are right when they tell you that there was a public lavatory in Aleppo in 1103.
And do you notice anything about the pricing of the book? The Waste Land was £10.99. The Flowers of Evil is £11.29. Cheap at the price, but that’s not the whole story.
© Copyright Simon Acland 2021