Sunday, February 28, 2010

Guest Post: Allan R. Shickman author of Zan-Gah: A Prehistoric Adventure

Allan R. Shickman, author of the books Zan-Gah: A Prehistoric Adventure and Zan-Gah and the Beautiful Country, stopped by to share with us a piece he wrote.

ZAN-GAH: A PREHISTORIC ADVENTURE is a story of survival and brotherhood in the late Paleolithic period. Although I was at pains 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?

The hero, Zan-Gah, is in search of his missing twin brother, Dael, a quest that 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.

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 always the same temperature, winter and 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?

Some of these things have been the subjects of studies, but usually I had to invent a world both brutal and plausible. I borrowed art and ritual from various tribal societies and combined them in the story. I introduced motives of hate, vengeance, and furious emotion—and at the same time I raised issues of honor, family, love, and leadership.

This book is about becoming a man in a time that not many lived to be old. I wanted 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 sequel. The characters are a little older now, and married. Zan and his brother come into conflict in a world already full of 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.

* * * * * * *

It is my hope that these novels will 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 magical or supernatural solutions. Nature, playing an important role, is both terrifying and beautiful. Dael is like a force of nature.

The ZAN-GAH books are intended primarily for the young adult/teen market, and are accessible to good readers aged 11 and above. Although the main characters are mostly youngsters, the story has proved appealing to adults. Both novels have been favored by educators and librarians.

About the books:

For young adults ages 11 and up. An exciting, enriching, and deeply moving story of a youth who struggles with the difficulties of his primitive world and achieves manhood and leadership.

About Allan:

ZAN-GAH author Allan Richard Shickman conceived Zan's adventure after thousands of miles of travel through mountains, deserts and forest land. The idea for this exciting story was born in a cave deep beneath the earth— in the company of hundreds of bats.

Allan is an artist, teacher, actor, author, historian, gardener, and former Boy Scout. He has published articles in The Art Bulletin, Art History, English Literary Renaissance, Studies in English Literature: 1500-1900, Notes and Queries, and Colby Quarterly. He was also Art and Music Bibliographer for Shakespeare Quarterly. He has had many letters in various newspapers, including a dozen in The New York Times. Allan taught the history of art at the University of Northern Iowa for three decades. He now lives and writes in St. Louis.


Jean said...

Enjoyed the interview with Allan Shickman. I've read both books and intend to sent them on to the children I know. Very exciting and enjoyable.

Jean Lund, Cedar Falls, IA

joe said...


I’ve known Allen before his first book Zan-Gah a Prehistoric Adventure. When Allen published the first Zan-Gah book I immediately bought a copy. The book seemed to come alive. The only thing better than reading his book is to listen to Allen’s voice reading his books.

After Allen’s second book was published, I bought a copy of each book for my granddaughter. Cierra is a good reader. She just turned 10 and enjoyed both books very much.

Joe Kosednar, Saint Louis, MO

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