The Rise and Spectacular Fall of the Templars

Two years ago, Dan Jones gave us the scoop that he was writing a new book on the Templars, and now the moment has arrived. On September 7th, The Templars: The Rise and Spectacular Fall of God’s Holy Warriors will be in stores in the UK (Sept. 19 in the US). To mark the occasion, Dan sat down with me via Skype to talk Templars, Knightfall, and The Colour of Time – and he gave me a brand new scoop to share with our readers. Here’s our (condensed) conversation.

DC: The obvious question to start with is: why the Templars? Because it’s very different from the stuff you’ve done before.

DJ: I’ve written about six books now, and when I signed this deal, I’d been writing for about ten years. And those books had been about medieval England, which will always be the subject I’ll come back to and I love, but I’d covered a lot of ground, and what I didn’t want to do was to start narrowing down. I just wanted to do something different, but not too different. [People] have heard of the Templars if they’ve read The DaVinci Code or watched the movie or played Assassin’s Creed. And that’s important because I want to bring people into the fold. That’s always been the urge is to get people reading and thinking about and enjoying medieval history. It was also this opportunity to expand my geographical scope because this is a story that takes place across multiple territories from Syria, Palestine, Egypt, what’s now Lebanon, Israel, Cyprus, Hungary, Italy, Spain, Portugal, France, England, Ireland, Scotland. Big geographical spread. Which, having written about England for quite a while, was attractive to me because it was a different scale. It was an epic story [and] it was a self-contained story in the sense that the Templars have an end point. So, there were lots of things that made this an attractive proposition for me intellectually [and] commercially, and I loved doing it. I genuinely did. I’ve had more fun writing this book than for a long time because I was finding out a lot. I was working with new sources, I was learning a lot, and it was just like – you know that experience when – you watch Game of Thrones, right?

DC: Yeah.

DJ: That experience that you used to get more in the older series where you’d be in Westeros a lot or in the North a lot, and all of this has been filmed in Northern Ireland and Iceland, and then suddenly you’re in Dorne and just the whole visual palette changes, and you’re in new territory. And that was cool for me.

DC: I remember talking with you about that, and how much you were liking the new process and scope. I noticed for [The Templars] you could easily have stayed with England, geographically, but you’ve stayed with the Holy Land pretty much the whole time. Why?

DJ: That’s where the action is. The challenge with writing about the Templars in a narrative history across the best part of two hundred years – six, seven generations or more – is to make the story in some sense coherent. So, you’re making editorial decisions about focus and saying where is the story happening? And what are the sources? Where is my richest material? The action is in the Holy Land. That’s where the Templars are – it’s in their DNA. They’re set up and named for the Temple of Solomon in Jerusalem. So, really, their raison d’être is Jerusalem. I tended, in the book, to shift just a little bit, and there’s a chapter on Aragon, a chapter set in England. The back three chapters of the book are set in France. So, there’s a reasonable moving around across the terrain, but ultimately, it comes back to the Holy Land because we’re talking about a crusading order.

DC: I just figured I should ask!

DJ: It’s a very good question because it was the hardest structural question, building this book. How do I gather in as much of the experience of the thousands and thousands of men – and some women – who were involved with the Templars? How can I plug this into a story that still has shape? And the attempts to move the story between theatres of operations was quite challenging. I would have liked to have sat more in Spain, but then I realized that that probably wasn’t the book that I was writing.

DC: No.

DJ: And here’s your scoop for this year: the next big (medieval) history book that I do is going to be the crusades. I’m just totally at the architecture stage at the moment, but I think I’ve worked out how to solve that problem – it’s not going to be easy.

DC: No, because you’re going to have even bigger scope there.

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