|About the Book|
Long before my days as a reporter for the San Diego Union-Tribune and Hollywood’s KFWB All-News radio, I started writing about the 10th century collapse of Maya city-states in Mexico. In the course of writing three Bantam historicals-- Woman Called Arkansas, Madoc, and Madoc’s Hundred-- I stumbled on scientific hypothesis postulating an unknown critical event that an eminent archaeologist calls the big bang at America’s first city of 40,000 people. Located near Collinsville, Illinois, the unnamed city with more than 120 pyramids reached the level of empire a thousand years ago. The flowering of that sun-worshiping, pyramid-building, corn-growing Cahokian culture overlaps the decline of the sun-worshiping, pyramid-building, corn-growing Maya kingdoms. Yet, when Europeans arrived in the 1500s, Cahokia was already the magnificent ruin we see today across the River from St. Louis, Missouri. The big-bang hypothesis recalls a remarkable celestial event recorded by Chinese astronomers as the Guest Star of 4 July 1054. Literally in the twinkling of an eye, a new little sun appeared a few degrees north of the crescent moon. A dozen striking images of similar big stars in the exact position relative to the moon have been found in North American rock art, apparently documenting a dying star’s implosion that sparked history’s first recorded supernova. Now called Crab Nebula, the little sun as bright as Sol stayed visible in the daytime for weeks, and lingered two summers as the brightest night-sky object. A scientist must take a conservative approach to the possibility that the supernova inspired Cahokia’s dramatic rise to the cusp of empire before collapsing under ecological pressures reminiscent of the Mayan kingdoms. A novelist needs no further inspiration to see a hauntingly relevant story clustered at the intersection of those two cultures under that spectacular sky.The story is JAGUAR KING.