Basil of Makri – a sardonic, irascible old man, once immensely rich and powerful, wakes to discover he is locked in a dark, airless cellar. Basil’s isolation and dreams revive charismatic ghosts from his past who force him to relive the glories, betrayals and tragedies of his colourful life. Only his sharp wit and sardonic humour keep him sane. His fate is bound up with that of Bernard of Chevreuse, a poor but pious French archer who joins the Fourth Crusade. As the crusade lurches from one disaster to another, Bernard gradually learns that wars can never be ‘Holy’ and that their roots lie in greed for power and money. Through each of them in turn, the reader experiences both sides of a terrible conflict and journeys back to another world, another time, and other Gods.
In the end, Bernard must choose between his conscience and his comrades. For Basil, the conflict first makes him heroic as he rescues the love of his life, but later brings tragedy – though also great wealth. During the second half of his life, grief makes him bitter and cruel while wealth and power increasingly corrupt him. He neglects and abuses his family, his philandering results in murder, and he steals the girl that his grandson loves to use as a concubine.
Basil and Bernard are both, initially, ordinary men. Basil’s character personifies the rise and fall of the Eastern Roman Empire, corrupted by wealth and power, whose downfall comes at the hands of so-called ‘allies’. Bernard gives us a ‘pilgrim’s tale’ of lost youth and innocence: the common man as a soldier, gradually understanding the deceptions and lies of war.
The story also reveals the greatest secret history (and arguably, disaster) of the medieval age – the destruction of the greatest Christian city, and Empire, in Europe – by an army of crusaders. There are dramatic contemporary echoes: hate preachers recruiting for Holy War, an insane conflict that destroys a great civilisation, and a humble fisherman who becomes rich by smuggling refugees…
As a writer and former psychotherapist, Ian knows that all of us have secrets, and that some of us have secret lives. His work also taught him the power of words – how one good metaphor can, in an instant, unleash a flood of understanding that sweeps people forward and past obstructions in their lives. As a writer, the same metaphors burst into a reader’s consciousness and sweep them along with the character, living the story. He blends dramatic narrative and dialogue, quirky yet empathic characters, and the full range of life’s emotions. ‘The Cardinal’s Hat’ can be characterised as ‘Winter Pilgrims’ meets ‘Macbeth’ and ‘The Hundred-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out Of A Window And Disappeared’.