Friday, November 16, 2012

Guest post with RA Mathis author of Ghosts of Babylon

Something happened in June of 2005 that changed my life and my writing forever. It may sound crazy, it may even be crazy, but it’s true.

It was just after sunrise at Forward Operating Base Bernstein near Tuz, Iraq. My team and I had been at the helm of the battalion operations center all night and were preparing to hand it over to the day crew. It’d been a tough few weeks. IEDs were almost a daily occurrence, car bombs were on the rise, and Death was a constant.

One of our team (we’ll call him Sergeant Gray) was a veteran of the first gulf war of 1991. He witnessed the aftermath of the atrocities committed by Saddam Hussein’s troops against the Kuwaitis. He also saw the carnage inflicted upon the Iraqi army by allied forces. The man has seen enough death for several lifetimes.

As the causalities mounted in our area of operations, a few of our men began to notice something had changed. Following each fatal event, they felt what could only be described as a ‘presence.’ It was as if something moved among them, watching them, but couldn’t be seen.

Gray said he’d felt it before. He told us it was the angel of death.

I felt it too on that morning in June. But I felt it before anything happened. There was no reason for it. The morning was calm. I looked to Gray. He felt it, too. About twenty minutes later, the largest car bomb of our combat tour exploded in the middle of Tuz, killing several Iraqis. We heard the explosion and saw the smoke plume from over ten miles away.

It was as if Death went to harvest those poor Iraqi souls and passed by us along the way.

We encountered it several other occasions during our time in Iraq. It came to be just another part of war we wanted to forget but couldn’t.

This and other experiences have impacted me and my writing deeply. In writing Ghostsof Babylon, my goal was to present as honest and accurate a picture of the Iraq War as possible.

As such, all the places, equipment, and tactics are real. Most of the scenes in the book are also based on actual events—factual dots connected by fictional lines. I realized early on that painting a faithful picture of Iraq also meant including the supernatural nature of the region. The place is permeated with it, from ancient tales of Aladdin’s lamp to the dark sheiks of Najaf who still call upon the djinn to do their bidding. This mysticism is a part of life in Iraq, always present yet unseen. It always has been. This story really couldn’t be told without it. To my knowledge, this is the first work to address this aspect of the Iraq War.

What did we experience that day in 2005? Was it precognition, the angel of death, the djinn, or paranoia? I still don’t know. But when I reflect on these events, one quote always comes to mind.

There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy.

Shakespeare sums it up better than I ever could.

Have you ever had an encounter with the unexplained? If so, I’d like to hear about it.

Set against a backdrop of escalating terror, Ghosts of Babylon is a fast-paced military thriller that features an intense, gritty, and powerful cast of characters. In a desperate attempt to salvage both his career and a wrecked personal life, archaeologist Stuart Knight volunteers to serve in Iraq as a translator, but his real objective is to get his hands on Babylon’s ancient treasures. Once on the ground, he meets Captain Allen, a battalion intelligence officer determined to catch Al-Khayal, the insurgent who blew off his leg and annihilated his entire crew with an IED.

Entangled in the grisly web of Allen’s private war, Knight’s quest for redemption turns into a struggle to survive with deadly enemies on both sides of the fence. Stuart soon finds himself staring into the face of terror, his own mortality, and an evil as old as Babylon itself.

Written by R.A. Mathis, a veteran armored cavalry officer, this unique novel exposes the pain, horror, and exhilaration of the Iraq War—harsh realities that can only be revealed by one who was there. Spiked with elements of the supernatural, it peers into the abyss and reveals how unchecked obsession can damage those around us and ultimately lead to our destruction. Will Knight heed a final warning, lest he, too, loses his soul to the ghosts of Babylon? Nobody believes in Hell—until they get there.

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  1. Your book sounds fascinating. I love realism, although the horrors you saw first-hand chill my blood just reading about them.

  2. I would like to thank you so much for a really fantastic post and a wonderful book giveaway, that i would love to have the oportunity of reading. In response to your question i would have to say that i have not, except in fantasy literature and horror/ ghost stories. I love these kinds of genre and shall be adding Ghosts of Babylon by RA Mathis to my to-read list. x

    Email: lfountain1(at)hotmail(dot)co(dot)uk

  3. Very intriguing concept. Can imagine this book to be a real page turner. Love it!

  4. I have never personally had an encounter with the unexplained. However, I do have some friends claim to have. Their stories are a little unbelievable, but I know the people personally and they would never make anything up00

  5. I love the plot and look forward to reading this soon!

  6. First of all I have never had an unexplained experience but love to watch shows like ghost hunters and paranormal witness, second, the interview was amazing and final, I would love to have the opportunity to read this book. It sounds amazing.

    Thank you for such a wonderful giveaway and interview.


  7. I have actually already read this book and I have to say I really enjoyed it. There is a very real feel to the book with just a hint of the supernatural bolstering certain elements. It was a fantastic blend.

  8. I read this with rapidly spreading goosebumps. As for encounters with the unexplained, I've had several, but I've never been in war situation - I hope I never am. Glad you made it home.

  9. A thoughtful, intriguing post. Warriors throughout the ages have felt the "angel of death," which goes under many names and guises. A djinn, a spirit, a presence, a feeling.

    I've had several encounters with the unexplained, but it's impossible to transmit the feeling of a presence unless you have also experienced it.

    If your book is as compelling as this post, I'm certainly going to read it.

    1. It's funny that you mention the djinn. They are also metioned in GoB by one of the Iraqi characters. You're right about the difficulty in explaining encounters with 'things unseen.' But the impact of such experiences are deep and lasting.

  10. Thank you all for your kind words. I hope you enjoy reading GoB as much as I did writing it.

    Thanks again to Scott for allowing me to guest post on his blog. It was a great experience.

    Happy Thanksgiving everybody!