TOM #3

  In 1271 when Marco Polo left Venice at the start of his journey to the land of the  Kublai Khan, there was another Marco that traveled with the expedition



        In the book, ‘The Other Marco’, Tom arrives at the port city of Acre on the boat from Venice carrying the Polo expedition.  His only knowledge of the place is that Christian Crusaders ruled the port but the surrounding area, all the way to Jerusalem and beyond was Saracen [Muslim] territory.  Saracen was the term used for Muslim warriors by Europeans on the voyage.  TOM is mostly fearful of these soldiers even without knowing the turbulent history of the Crusader wars that had for hundreds of years been waged in this region.

           A very quick look at the story of the Crusades might be appropriate at this point.


A Crusader Knight, his armour covered in a white shroud facing a Saracen Warrior


          As the Roman Empire began to crumble in the west, Constantine I moved his capitol to the ruined city of Byzantium in the east and established his New Rome.  The city was renamed Constantinople and his empire, Byzantine.  His realm included the Christian Holy lands around Jerusalem.

          300 years later the Arabs defeated the Byzantines at the Battle of Yarmuk, and Jerusalem was captured.  They ruled for 100 years and where then overthrown by Abbasid Caliphate who established an Islamic Empire for 350 years.

          During these 450 years the Catholic Church had grown and replaced the Roman Empire to become a powerful ruling force in Rome and Europe.  Pope Urban II urged Christian leaders in the west to join a crusade to evict the Muslims [Islamic Empire] from Jerusalem.  The 1st Crusade was successful when Godfrey of Bouillion recaptured Jerusalem and assumed the title: ‘Defender of the Holy Sepulchre’.

           100 years later Sultan Saladin defeated the Christians at the Battle of Hattin and occupied Jerusalem.  Richard the Lionheart called for a truce with Saladin who allowed Christians pilgrims safe passage to and from their Holy City.

          The fortunes of Jerusalem swayed backwards and forwards for over 150 years between Christian and Muslim occupation.  Battles determined some of the outcomes, negotiation decided others.  At least two of the Crusader leaders died before reaching their objectives.  In all 8 Crusades were mounted with mixed success.

          TOM arrives in Acre in 1271 when it is still in Christian hands, but 20 years later the Crusades eventually peters out with the fall of Acre in 1291, and it remains a Muslim port till the end of World War II.

An interesting bit of purported history at the time of the Polo expeditions is that the Kublai Khan asked the Polo brothers to return to Cathay with one hundred Catholic Priests and a jar of holy oil from the Church of the Sepulchre in Jerusalem.  They managed to secure the oil but only two Priests started the journey to Cathay, turning back in fear of the war in Armenia on the way.  It is said that the Mongolian leader wanted the priests to convert his followers to Christianity.  They missed the opportunity and just over 50 years later the Mongolians converted to Islam in 1323 with the Treaty of Aleppo.

The mind boggles when one tries to imagine a Catholic presence in most of Asia as there is in South America today for example.


The Polo expedition turned south to avoid the hostilities in Armenia and after making a huge detour to Hormuz on what is known as the Gulf of Oman today, they retraced their steps and crossed over the western end of the Himalaya range called the Pamirs.  This was one of the accepted silk road trade routes, but the merchants preferred the northern route through Bukhara and Samarkand as it was obviously warmer.

In ‘The Other Marco’ story, Tom struggles with the cold mountain air and deep snow as he leads his horse through the wet mist.  Adding to this discomfort he has a frightening experience.  The short paragraph below is taken from the book.

‘I was tired, and my eyes burned, trying to see through the white glare around me.  Suddenly the mist swirled and there, right in front of me, barring my way, stood a huge hairy animal with massive curved horns.  Before I could cry out the mist closed in around me and the vision was gone.’


Imagine being confronted by this creature in the swirling mist!

During the research of the Pamir area for the book, I came across some pictures of the Himalayan Ibex and was astounded by the size of its curved horns.  Perhaps for the very reason that I imagined how terrifying it would be to meet such an apparition in the mist, I allowed Tom to do just that – meet the ‘monster’.  I would like to add a comment here before you think of me as a sadistic tormenter of a young, travel wary boy; I feel every emotion personally as I write.  I would not be able to describe the sensation if I did not experience it myself.  Writing is a wonderful yo-yo of passionate emotions and I even have to wipe away a tear from time to time.  I call it: ‘Living the words!’

Another sketch or two of these magnificent creatures will not be out of place here.  Enjoy.















Thanks for staying with me to the end of this posting.


TOM #4 will be available in a fortnight. #4 being an even number means that the Monsters 4 Monsters corner will be back with a scary picture.




TOM #2


  In 1271 when Marco Polo left Venice at the start of his journey to the land of the  Kublai Khan, there was another Marco that traveled with the expedition


Hi there.  Welcome to ‘The Other Marco’ Blog.                           #2

Thank you to all the ‘Blog Oglers’ that responded to the first TOM #1 posting.  Suddenly my Facebook family has doubled in size and seems to be growing!  Just what I wanted.

It has taken me 6 months to get this Blog going in spite of ‘How to set up a Blog’ in 20 minutes as the Blogging for Idiots/Dummies and every other well meaning expert on the net would like one to believe.  I eventually began to develop a complex as I realized that I had obviously not yet reached the lofty heights of an Idiot yet.  The only thing that kept me going was noticing how many of the computer boffs I asked for advice could not setup and publish a blog in 20 minutes either.  Beware of ‘feel good claims’ by Idiots/Dummies books or at best multiply your ‘Eureka moment’ by a factor of 100 to stay sane!

Having a young grandson living thousands of miles away on the far side of the USA, I have established a personal link with him by drawing the monsters he describes in detail and mailing the results to him.  Other youngsters of the same age that I know have been added to this monster mailing list which I name Monsters 4 Monsters.   Then I realized that these boys will in a few years [if not already] become the readers of ‘The Other Marco’.  Why not give them a monster-a-month wrapped in this blog so that their interest in the book may be awakened?  At the bottom of this posting #2 [and in the following even numbered entries] I will include a Monsters 4 Monsters section with the latest creations from our collective fantasmagorical imaginations.  Of course, if there are any young ladies [girls] out there that think of themselves as little monsters, write to me with your ideas of what a real monster should look like [not your little brother], and I may even draw it for you!

Now let me introduce you to, one of the people mentioned in the book.

Here we have Giovanni Solari, TOM’s father.  [TOM is the acronym for ‘The Other Marco’ as explained in #1]


Quote from the book: The Other Marco

‘My father was a very important man.  Senor Giovanni Solari was the chief baggage carrier for the Polo brothers, Niccolo and Maffeo, who had travelled all the way to Cathay and back.  My father had travelled with them and carried the golden tablets of authority, which had been given to them by the Great Kublai Khan, Lord of the Mongols.’

Giovanni Solari is of course fictional and so is the drawing a figment of my imagination, whereas Niccolo [Marco Polo’s father] and Maffeo were the real merchants of Venice who met the Kublai Khan.


Here is a drawing I illustrated long before I wrote ‘The Other Marco’.  As an artist I admire the work of many other artists and cartoonists.  Aubrey Beardsley is one whose art I stand in awe of, and tried with this work to capture the style and elegance of this brilliant artist.  Discovering this picture among my art files the other day, I thought it could pass as a very flamboyant Merchant of Venice.

The best known Merchant of Venice in English literature is of course the play written by William Shakespeare.  In the play, Antonio is the merchant who is very wealthy, but his money is tied up in shipping.  When his friend Bassanio asks for a loan, the merchant is unable to help, so he in turn borrows from Shylock, the money lender who stipulates that if the loan cannot be repaid, the Merchant of Venice must give him a pound of his flesh!  Ouch!  Needless to say, the loan cannot be repaid, and sets the scene for the intrigue that follows. 

Looking at the drawing above, one wonders if this rather rotund merchant could part with a pound of flesh without too much damage?  This is obviously where the expression; ‘demanding a pound of flesh’ comes from?

I would however not portray either of the Polo brothers like this though.  They would have to be more robust, tough looking, travel worn individuals who had not spent their lives in the opulence of the Venetian palaces and merchant’s guildhalls, as this flashy trader.


scanimage16Here is a rough sketch of what I imagine the Polo brothers might have looked like.

And now, the Monsters 4 Monsters corner.



I suppose this monster could be called:  The Callous Car Crunching Creature from Calamity Crossroads.

There you have it.  Please comment on how to draw more readers and I’ll draw to entertain them.

See you on ‘The Other Marco’ Blog #3.


TOM #1

In 1271 when Marco Polo left Venice at the start of his journey to the land of the Kublai Khan, there was another Marco that traveled with the expedition


Ciao, mi chiamo Marco.*

marc1*Hello, my name is Marco.

Welcome to ‘The Other Marco’ Blog.  Posting #1


The story of the other Marco, written as a novel will be introduced to you through this blog before the book is published.

Having two characters called Marco in the story, I will, in this Blog call ‘The Other Marco’ by the acronym TOM.  It simplifies what could become confusing.  Marco therefore refers to the real Marco Polo, the well known 13th century adventurer and traveler, and TOM is ‘The Other Marco’, the fictional hero of this book who travels with the Polo expedition to Cathay as a camel porter.

Writing this book was the easy part, so I am told.  Having to promote the book is considered to be much more difficult.  Well I am not so sure about it being more difficult, but what I am finding is that it is just as enjoyable and informative as writing the story in the first place.

A wonderful bonus about dredging through reams of reference material to authenticate facts and give the story a ring of ‘truth’, is that it always begs more questions that need answers.  Take for instance TOM’s experience of learning to ride a camel.  Suddenly one is confronted by what a camel’s saddle looks like and how entirely different to a horse’s saddle it must be.  Of course one could simply say that TOM hopped onto his camel and jolted off into the desert sunset, but that is not good enough.  Not for me, that is.  The question I asked was, what keeps a camel’s saddle balancing on its hump and what makes it comfortable enough to support the rider for days on end?

To answer this, and other questions like it, I will support the text with simple pen sketches.

 Looking at a simple modern camel saddle, it is noticeable how the frame design is formed around the hump.

In the following sketch, it appears that frame B may be kinder across the camel’s back, but then again, frame A sits higher and will have less contact area to chafe the beast.


This basic frame is naturally made more comfortable for the camelman by covering it with carpets, bed rolls and sheep/goat skins.

 I then came across a delightful photo of the most basic camel saddle imaginable, made up of sticks lashed together and looking like a bird’s crude nest.  This is obviously what saddle frames looked like for thousands of years in the deserts.  I simply had to illustrate its construction sequence with the following comic strip.


This is what I have in mind to promote my book, ‘The Other Marco’.  Examining topics that are not directly addressed in the manuscript, but would be nice to know anyway, and increasing our general knowledge as a bonus.  All additional information will be illustrated in the posts that will appear twice a month initially and more frequently when interest dictates it.

 The story itself is an educational adventure.  The journey is a wealth of interesting historical and geographical enlightenment.

Follow the other Marco’s second journey, this time to the publisher’s desk.  You will be entertained and educated all the way.

Thanks for persevering through to the end of this post and feel free to comment!

 Ciao, Lawrence.

See you on ‘The Other Marco’ Posting #2.