Rutherfurd on Rutherfurd

The Maya

Q. You left after a while - to write. How did your boss Waterstone take it?

A. He was a prince. When I left, he said: "I have more sympathy with what you're doing than you suppose." As he later went on to write three novels of his own, there may even have been some wistfulness in that remark.

Q. You had two very different projects in mind. The first was a big historical novel about the classical Maya.

A. It's a fascinating subject. Why was it, a thousand years ago, that this spectacular Central American culture with its magnificent pyramids and its mathematical genius suddenly and mysteriously collapsed? A wonderful subject, potentially.

Q. You went to the Yucatan Peninsula?

A. For months. I'd saved a bit. Travel in Mexico, Guatemala and Belize was cheap. The setting was inspiring and the research fascinating. But the technical process of putting such a complex novel together proved to be daunting, and eventually there was nothing to do but put the project aside for a while. As it turned out, this was just as well, because historians have completely reevaluated the Maya since that time, and my account of Mayan culture would have been entirely inaccurate.










Did You Know?
In 1598, Queen Elizabeth ordered a banquet featuring a food source from the new world: potatoes. The royal cooks, having never prepared potatoes before, threw the veggie away and cooked the green part or eye instead, sickening the whole royal court. Elizabeth banned the vegetable. The ban was eventually lifted a few years later when potatoes gained popularity in Spain, France and Italy.

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