I have a new book coming out, “The Dervish”; an unique love story set in Istanbul and Anatolia in 1919. It tells the story of Mary Benedetti, an uncoventional American artist compelled to quit New York after her husband was killed in the war. Mary makes the arduous to Istanbul to stay with her sister Connie and her husband John who has recently been posted to the American Consulate in Beyoglu.
It’s easy to forget that Turkey as we know it today, did not exist, and, as you can see from this early twentieth century map the city of Istanbul was smaller, confined within the old city walls and along the water. Istanbul had always been cosmopolitan, during Ottoman times only sixty percent of the population were Muslim Turks, the rest Christian minorities. At the end of the war the numbers swelled by thousands of White Russian refugees fleeing the revolution and hordes of Allied forces , sent to occupy Western Anatolia, territory ravaged by years of famine and war.
When the Ottomans surrendered in 1918 the Muslim army disbanded and straggled home carrying weapons and munitions, a move destined to have devastating consequences. Flouting promises made to the Ottoman government the Allies sent a million soldiers to occupy territory from Palestine to Bulgaria. Their navy sailed into Istanbul where thousands of foreign troops disembarked along the Golden Horn. The Allies took over the capital, Mehmed VI, Caliph of all Islam relinquished his power to the European Commisioners. Meanwhile thousands of miles away in Paris, at the Peace Conference, the European powers cast a possessive eye over the lands of the Middle East. During the Great War secret treaties were drawn up by the Allies distributing the former Ottoman territories among themselves, the spoils of Victory. Colonial attitudes still prevailed.
Inspired by this seething chaotic city, Mary tries to forget the painful past, and begin painting again. Through a series of accidental encounters she becomes involved with the underground Nationalist movement dedicated to ridding Anatolia of foreign occupation, and creating a democracy from the ruins of the Empire. Through her Turkish friend Halide Edib, the same character who inspired “Halide’s Gift”, Mary meets Mustapha Pasha, a dervish intellectual committed to the fight for freedom. My novel takes them from Istanbul through the rugged Anatolian countryside to the then hill town of Angora, the center of nationalist politics that became modern day Ankara, where, barely a week ago, a suicide bomber blew himself up at the gates of the US embassy.
More to follow…………………