Thursday, August 30, 2012

Allan Shickman - Zan-Gah series - Guest Post

Guest Post

ZAN-GAH: A PREHISTORIC ADVENTURE, the first of my three books, is a story of survival and brotherhood in the late Paleolithic period. Although I wanted to keep the setting indefinite—it could have taken place in Turkey, Siberia, Morocco, or most anywhere—it was inspired by my travels in the American West. How, I asked myself, would a prehistoric boy survive in a comparable barren wilderness of deserts, rocky places, and salt lakes, armed only with a spear? I tried to put myself in my hero's place.

Zan-Gah, is in search of his missing twin brother, Dael. His long quest leads to suffering, captivity, and conflict. In three years, he passes from an uncertain boyhood to a tried and proven manhood and a role of leadership among his people. I was very interested in character development. If my characters grew, my young readers would grow too.

As an art historian, I am familiar with the art of prehistoric times, and some of the theories that try to explain it. But the fact is, we don’t know a great deal about those times. What was their language like? How did they feel about caves that were warm in the winter an cool in the summer? Did they feel love for their families and compassion for those among them who were suffering? Would they be willing to struggle and kill for a scrap of food or well-made weapon? Were the tribes of people very different from each other, and did they always fight; or did they trade and cooperate at times? How did they feel about twins?

I did some research, but I had to make up lots of the details. There are prehistoric studies, but in the end I had to invent a world both brutal and plausible. I borrowed art and ritual from various tribal societies and combined them. I imagined motives of hate, vengeance, and furious emotion—and at the same time I brought up issues of honor, family, love, and leadership. These books were not meant to be simply "archaeological"; I needed to say something about real life.

The first book is about becoming a man in a time that not many lived to be old. I intended it to be more than a little frightening. Hopefully, the reader will dream of it at night. One woman (a psychologist) told me that she did.

ZAN-GAH AND THE BEAUTIFUL COUNTRY is the first sequel. The characters are a little older now, and married. Zan and his brother come into conflict in a world already troubled by tribal strife. The twin, Dael, dominates this book. Disturbed and traumatized, all of his manic energies explode into acts of hostility and bloodshed. Again, I wanted Dael to be scary, and the entire story to tremble.

DAEL AND THE PAINTED PEOPLE continues the narrative. It is the story of deeply wounded people who manage to heal each other and embrace life. It explores prehistoric magic, and describes a way of living entirely different from that of the earlier two books. And it is a love story.

I want these novels to excite and enrich young minds, and move older readers too. They are intended to incorporate issues of honor, courage, resourcefulness, sacrifice, and human vulnerability into dynamic and impelling narratives. The hero, Zan-Gah, confronts the problems of a harsh, real world devoid of supernatural solutions. Nature, playing an important role, is both terrifying and beautiful. Dael is like a force of nature, and a hard man to like.

I wrote the three ZAN-GAH books mainly for the young adult/teen market. They are accessible to good readers aged 11 and above. Although the main characters are mostly young, I was glad to find that the stories appealed to adults too. They have been favored by educators and librarians. Kids eat them up, bless 'em.

About the Books

ZAN-GAH: A PREHISTORIC ADVENTURE: The hero, Zan-Gah seeks his lost twin in a savage prehistoric world, encountering suffering, captivity, conflict, love, and triumph. In three years, Zan-Gah passes from an uncertain boyhood to a tried and proven manhood and a position of leadership with his people.

Price: $9.95
Pages: 160
Genre: Young adult/teen adventure fiction
Publisher: Earthshaker Books
Release date: 2007
ISBN: 0979035708
Buy Link

ZAN-GAH AND THE BEAUTIFUL COUNTRY: The prehistoric saga continues. Zan’s troubled twin brother, Dael, having suffered greatly during his earlier captivity, receives a ruinous new shock when his wife suddenly dies. Disturbed and traumatized, all of Dael’s manic energies explode into acts of hostility and bloodshed. Tribal warfare and brothers' rivalry mar the loveliness of a beautiful new land.

Price: $9.95
Pages: 160 
Genre: Young adult/teen adventure fiction
Publisher: Earthshaker Books
Release date: 2009
ISBN: 0979035715

DAEL AND THE PAINTED PEOPLE: Dael departs with the mute girl, Sparrow in search of peace and some kind of resolution of his life. Tormented by grief and guilt, and fighting to restrain his violence, Dael goes to live with the painted people. There he finds friends and healing, but without knowing it, he makes a powerful enemy.

Price: $9.95
Pages: 168 
Genre: Young adult/teen adventure fiction
Publisher: Earthshaker Books
Release date: 2011
ISBN: 97809790357

About the Author

Artist, teacher, author, and historian ALLAN RICHARD SHICKMAN was an art history professor at the University of Northern Iowa for three decades. His first novel, ZAN-GAH: A PREHISTORIC ADVENTURE, won an Eric Hoffer Notable Book Award, and was a Finalist for the ForeWord Magazine Book of the Year Award. The series, including ZAN-GAH AND THE BEAUTIFUL COUNTRY, received the Mom's Choice Gold Seal for Excellence in family-friendly literature. DAEL AND THE PAINTED PEOPLE is the third of the ZAN-GAH book series. Shickman has published articles in English Literary Renaissance, Studies in English Literature, Notes and Queries, Colby Quarterly, Art Bulletin, Art History. He has had many letters in various newspapers, including thirteen in the New York Times.

Links to connect with Allan:
Web site 


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  1. I was a reader that loved all three of these books, though the latter ones were far more exciting than the first. It is an exceptionally well-written series that is great for kids and parents.

  2. Freda, you have a lovely profile that reminds me of one of those Italian Quattrocento portraits. Thanks for your kind comment, and for your earlier enthusiastic support.