History of Baden-Powell and his Beads:

His First Life

Lord Baden-PowellI did not intend for the story of Baden-Powell’s Beads to be a four book series.

As most authors will tell you, the first book you write probably needs to be hidden from public scrutiny.  My first was the tale of a modern day surgeon who in one week, experiences everything that scares doctors, from malpractice suits to contracting AIDS. This book may be worth a rewrite one of these days, but what I couldn’t let die were two side characters: covert Homeland Security agents Patrick Dartson and Adnan Fazeph. As I shoved “Insure This” into a bottom drawer, I began the search for a venue in which to develop these two young men.

I found it in the biography of Lord Baden-Powell (B.P.).

Robert Stephenson Smyth Powell was born in London, England on February 22, 1857: the twelfth son his father and the eighth of his mother. To honor his father posthumously, his mother added the name Baden to all her children in 1869. After completion of his schooling in 1876, he accepted a commission in the British army and was immediately shipped off to India. Ayub Khan of Afghanistan declared jihad on the infidel British Army in 1880, leading B.P. to Kandahar. Four years later, he found himself on a ship with the 13th Hussars headed for South Africa to deal with the Boer problem. In 1885, he returned to England, then back to South Africa in 1887.

In June of 1888, Baden-Powell, the 6th Royal Dragoons and two hundred native police encountered an army of two thousand Zulu warriors, described by B.P. as “fine strong muscular fellows with cherry handsome faces…their brown bodies were polished with oil and they looked like bronze statues.” They chanted as they marched toward the British,

Zulu warrior

Eengonyama Gonyama!  Invooboo!
Ya-boh!  Ya-boh!  Invooboo!

The next night, B.P. led a group of men into the Ceza bush. They came upon a deserted fort, in which he found a long string of quaintly carved wooden beads that he was sure had once belonged to Chief Dinizulu.

The Boer War formally began in 1899. As part of his duties, B.P. was ordered to defend the town of Mafeking. By nightfall on October 13, 1899, Mafeking and Baden-Powell were completely surrounded by the enemy and cut off from the rest of the world. The Boers were as determined to take Mafeking as B.P. was to defend it. The British population at home thirsted for news of the siege. The defense lasted for 217 days before relief finally arrived on May 17, 1900. Winston Churchill was quoted as saying, “…the streets of London became impassable, and the floods of sterling, cockney patriotism were released in such a deluge of unbridled, delirious, childish joy as was never witnessed again until Armistice Night, 1918…”

 

Baden-Powell’s Second Life

Lord Baden-PowellAfter his return to England, B.P. became distressed at the condition of the young boys of his country. In late July, 1907, he lead 21 boys on a camping trip to Brownsea Island in Poole Harbor off the southern coast of England…the first Boy Scout function. B.P. is credited with the founding of the Boy Scout movement and later became know as the Chief Scout of the World. The movement rapidly spread round the world and survived WWI with Baden-Powell again answering the call to duty.

The first Scoutmaster training camp was held in Gilwell Park just north of London in September 1919 and is still used today.  To commemorate the event, he gave each of the first Scoutmasters one of the Zulu beads he’d brought back from South Africa. This is the origin of the Wood Badge that is still awarded to Scoutmasters today who complete the training.

Scoutmaster training camp

For his work in Scouting, he was nominated for the Nobel peace Prize in 1939, but no prize was awarded that year due to the march of Adolf Hitler.

B.P. died on January 7, 1941 at his home in Paxtu, Kenya.

What Baden-Powell may not have appreciated was how special these beads were to the Zulus. In 1988, one hundred years after he found them, four of the originals were returned to the Zulus in a ceremony held in South Africa.

It was at this point in my research that the fictional tale of Baden-Powell’s Beads began to take shape.

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Baden-Powell’s Beads:

Baden-Powell's Beads

What was so special about these beads that the Zulus would want them back after 100 years? Were all the beads the same, or were there some with special significance? Four were returned to them. Would they not want all of the originals? What were they made of? Who made them and when?

These were the questions that created the fertile field for this adventure, mystery novel.

The tale begins in Memphis, Tennessee in 2005. A young orthopedic resident is given a strange wooden bead by a dying patient who with his last breath pleads with Dr. David Freeman to “find the others.”

Banta Mangabe is a Zulu warrior who has traveled to Memphis with his men to recover these beads for his people. But their procurement is not enough. The previous owners must die. When Dr. Freeman realizes his life is in serious danger, he calls on his college roommate, Homeland Security agent Patrick Dartson, for help.

 

The Characters

This story is driven on two fronts. The first is the weaving of history and fiction in the tale of the beads. The second is the characters.  Modern day heroes are for the most part, flawed loners. What I love about the two characters that grew out of my first (unpublished) effort is the feel of these two men acting and living as one. This is an old concept, popular in the 60s, with the two agents in Man from Uncle and The Wild Wild West. 

Patrick Dartson

His orthopedic surgeon father and Cuban born mother raised Patrick in middle Tennessee. Handsome, athletic, and unapologetically patriotic, he was recruited out of Dartmouth College by the department of Homeland Security to be one of a select few covert agents charged with one and only one task…prevent another 9/11. These agents function in pairs and are given free license to take whatever measures necessary. Teamed with his partner, Adnan Fazeph, this duo has become the most respected and effective at what they do.

Adnan Fazeph

Born in Lebanon to Middle Eastern U.S. citizens teaching in the American University in Beirut, Adnan was brought to the US as a young boy after the death of his parents. Fluent in several languages and scary good with computers, he is the perfect compliment to Patrick.

Dr. David Freeman

In the final months of his training at Campbell’s Clinic in Memphis, David is looking forward to a life as an orthopedic surgeon in Nashville, joining the established practice of his college roommate’s father. These plans are seriously jeopardized when a very old patient in the Veterans Hospital gives him one of these old Zulu beads. Suddenly, he is fighting for his life.

Pam Blanchard

Beautiful, intelligent, strong nurse Blanchard has been dating Dr. Freeman for several years, resisting his proposals of marriage. Her mysterious past includes time in the military and service in Iraq, which has left emotional scars.

Banta Mangabe

Zulu Banta Mangabe was raised in South Africa. As a young boy, he followed his older brothers into the Boy Scouts. His oldest brother was killed in 1967 in a shooting accident in Idaho while attending a Boy Scout Jamboree. Banta never got over this and dedicated his life to recovering from the Scouts the Zulu beads, which in his mind, were stolen from them years before he was born.

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Baden-Powell’s Beads: London

Baden-Powell's Beads: London

The history of the beads draws our heroes to England where the beads were distributed to the first Scoutmasters in 1919. There, they encounter a new set of villains also interested in these small wooden objects for reasons still unclear but just as deadly.

Sir Wadley Crestmore

The last of the original Scoutmaster, Sir Crestmore is the self-appointed historian and protector of Baden-Powell’s beads. Together with his friend and butler James, also a bead holder, they know the importance of the beads and why they must remain separate and hidden.

Raoul Livingston

Egyptian born, Livingston heads up Scotland Yard’s anti-terrorism unit. Secretly though, he serves two masters, the other being from deep within the Arab world.

Cheri Hassan

A beautiful assassin-for-hire presently working undercover for Livingston, Cheri will stop at nothing to get the money she wants to support her lavish lifestyle.

Ras Marcus

How is a Rastafarian connected to Islamic terrorism? The connection to the Arab world begins with the reign of Emperor Halle Selassie of Ethiopia from 1930 to 1974. Selassie’s lineage dates back to the Solomnic Dynasty and he’s regarded by the Rastafarians as the Messiah of the second coming predicted in the Bible.

 

Baden-Powell’s Beads: Aksum

Baden-Powell's Beads: Aksum

Spelled Axum by some, this small city in Ethiopia was a powerful center of commerce from 400 B.C. to the tenth century.  Many believe beneath the church of Saint Mary of Zion is housed the Ark of the Covenant. According to the Book of Exodus, the Ark was built in 1440 B.C. from shittem wood, also known as acacia wood, the same wood of which the original beads were carved.

          Lij Mered

Head of an Islamic terrorist training camp and small army in Aksum, Lij Mered believes himself to be the rightful Emperor of Ethiopia.  He believes it is within his grasp to defeat the infidel Western world and return civilization to the teachings of Mohammad…and he may be right. He knows something that our heroes must discover and deal with if they can.

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Baden-Powell’s Beads: Jerusalem

Baden-Powell's Beads: Jerusalem

As if the threat of worldwide terrorism was not enough, now our heroes have to deal with an inevitable asteroid strike big enough to cause an extinction event. Is it possible all these seemingly random events are connected and indeed predicted by ancient philosophers and biblical prophets? Has one of our heroes been marked for fulfilling a role awaited by humanity for centuries? Or must some of them die in a desperate attempt to save mankind? And why does blowing up our moon make sense?

Perhaps life is random and without purpose…perhaps not.  Do we really control as much as we think we do?

The conclusion to the Baden-Powell’s Beads epic story confront you, the reader, with these questions and more, perhaps even requiring a reread to pick up clues missed along the way.

 

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Photo credits: Guitar © by Alexandr Mitiuc; Caduceus © by James Steidl; Fleur De Lis © by aves — Fotolia.com