Tom Jackson is a British author who lives in Athens with his wife and daughter. After becoming intensely interested in the events surrounding the removal of the Parthenon marbles, he undertook considerable research here in Athens and in the UK to discover the truth about the highly controversial subject. After gaining a lot more information surrounding their removal, Tom not only became an ardent advocate for the restitution of the Parthenon Marbles, he was also inspired to write an adventure/mystery novel revolving around them.
Here in an intriguing interview, Tom talks about his life, his inspiration behind the book and also his hopes and desire that his novel may serve to highlight the need to return the marbles to Greece and awaken an interest in the subject, however small.
Tom, tell me about yourself, your background and how you came to be living here in Greece? How long have you been here now?
I originate from Manchester – and yes I’m an avid ‘United’ supporter. One cold and wet (it’s always wet, and invariable cold, in Manchester) November day back in 1976, I was called down to London by my Head Office – I worked for a British Bank – and they offered me a 4-year posting to Greece. I weighed up the pros and cons, which took all of five seconds, accepted, and in late January 1977, found myself in warm, sunny, friendly Greece.
What do you enjoy most about Athens, How’s the quality of life? Do you miss England?
Undoubtedly, I enjoy most, the actual quality of life in Athens. In Greece, we are currently undergoing considerable social and economic hardship – the word continually on everyone’s lips is ‘austerity’. And yet Greece still has so much to offer – close family relationships, friendship, a good place to raise a family, fabulous cuisine, and of course, as a Mancunian ‘the wonderful weather’! I think when you wake up in the morning and actually see the sun and feel its warmth, then, it makes you feel better, psychologically.
There are certain things that I do miss being away from England – the lack of proximity to my own family, the theatre, certain sports and recreational activities. But, after all, life is a trade-off, and I think I got the best possible deal!
Have you managed to learn the Greek language?
This is something of a touchy subject with my wife and daughter. When I first met my wife – in June 1977 – I did not speak Greek, and Flora did not speak English. We were engaged within six months and married within the year. Flora’s English is now very good, while my Greek is best described as fairly basic. I do try, but I guess I’m one of those people for whom languages just do not stick.
When did you realize that you had a talent for writing and what kind of books do you enjoy reading?
I took pleasure in writing from an early age. I think my first attempt at a short story was around the age of ten. I believe that my desire to write stems from
reading. Every Monday, I would visit the local lending library and stock up with five or six books to keep me going for the week. My preference is undoubtedly for the cocktail of adventure/mystery/crime. For example, I enjoy Agatha Christie, Alistair McLean, Robert Ludlum, Frederick Forsyth and Ken Follett. Although I do have a considerable passion for historical novelists such as Jane Austen, (Pride and Prejudice is my all-time favourite novel), C.S.Forester, John Buchan, and naturally, Dickens.
You’ve recently written a novel, ‘The Devil’s Legacy’, (an ebook online) which I believe revolves around the Parthenon Marbles and their return to Greece? Can you tell our readers a little about the plot and what was the inspiration behind it? Why do you feel so strongly about seeing the Marbles returned?
Many years ago, I attended a conference here in Athens, at the Zappeion, on the Restitution of the Parthenon Marbles. The keynote speaker at the event was the late Jules Dassin (the film director and husband of Melina Mercouri). I must admit that my initial attendance at the conference was somewhat tongue-in-cheek. Like the vast majority of British nationals, I had little knowledge of the exact sequence of events leading up to the Parthenon Marbles being owned by Britain, and housed in the British Museum. For me, they were merely another collection of antiquities we had acquired a couple of centuries ago. We owned them! Why should we just hand them back? What was the big deal?
However, the conference stimulated my curiosity, and I became interested in the actual events surrounding the removal of the Marbles by Lord Elgin’s agents. This led me to undertake considerable research here in Athens and in the UK – including a visit to the archives of the British Museum.
This research in turn led me to the undoubted conclusion that the Marbles had been removed illegally, without any proper authority. In fact, the man actually responsible for the removal, the Rev. Philip Hunt, admitted quite openly at the time, that he was able to remove the Marbles only through a combination of ‘cajolery, threats and bribery’
The bottom line is that I felt, as an Englishman, I must do something to rectify the errors of our ancestors.
Not long after the Parthenon Marbles were removed to Britain by Lord Elgin’s agents, a piece of sardonic Latin graffiti, attributed to Lord Byron, appeared scrawled on the plaster wall, on the west side of the Parthenon (circa 1810): ‘Quod non fecerunt Goti Hoc fecerunt Scoti.’ ‘What the Goths left undone has been done by the Scots’.
I think this sums up the vandalism inflicted on the Parthenon very succinctly, and what was true in Byron’s time remains even more so in today’s enlightened world!
My research gave me the germ of an idea for a work of fiction with the removal of the Parthenon Marbles as the underlying theme – and thus my novel ‘The Devil’s Legacy’ – an adventure/mystery set in the present day with flashbacks to the 18th, 19th and 20th centuries – was born.
There have been many publications of a purely academic nature regarding the removal of the Marbles, however, I am not aware of anything fictionalizing the event – and thus felt that my novel may well offer a uniquely interesting and thought-provoking perspective. As well as a good read!
Buried for over one hundred years deep in the vaults of the British Museum is ‘Pandora’s Box’. The novel’s plot revolves around the British government’s decision to resolve the terrible underlying mystery hidden within Pandora’s Box and return the Parthenon Marbles to Greece within a six-month deadline. Success must be achieved against an intensifying background of treason, competition from an American billionaire collector, and the intervention of the Greek mafia. Failure would threaten the very fabric of British society.
I believe that ‘The Devil’s Legacy’ combines a compelling and novel journey through time with the search for truth and the restoration of a country’s stolen heritage. Fiction is interwoven with historical fact to create a plausible, yet original and absorbing hypothesis revolving around a highly topical issue – the return of the Parthenon Marbles to their rightful home in the New Acropolis Museum.
How much time did you spend on researching and how long did it take you to write the book? How factual is it?
I probably spent over a year researching before I started the writing process – and, all told, two to three years actually writing ‘The Devil’s Legacy’. The
historical element of my novel is around 20%. I made every possible effort to ensure that all the factual elements are as accurate as possible as regards
persons, events, situations, dates, etc.
How did you come up with the title and how did you feel after completing it?
Each of the chapters is prefaced by a quotation from the works of Constantine Cavafy, and I thought at first of using one of these as the title. However, the theme of ‘Legacy’ runs through the book on different levels, and whilst one of the characters in my novel is actually referred to as a ‘Devil’, again the Devil
could have several connotations.
Completing the novel was for me the closest I think a man can come to the physical act of birth. I have always felt that the act of creation, whether it is evidenced by way of art, music or literature, is one of the greatest gifts we have as humans – and the provider of the most sublime pleasure.
What response have you received so far from readers who have read The Devil’s Legacy?
Very positive, so far.
Whilst ‘The Devil’s Legacy’ has only been available at Smashwords for a few weeks, and is still in the process of being made available through other on-line retailers, e.g. Amazon, Apple, Barnes & Noble, Sony, Kobo and Diesel, the general reaction is very promising. From the feedback I have received to-date; the overall perception of readers is that it is a ‘thought-provoking, complex and unusual yarn they simply don’t wish to put down’.
It’s evident that there are no plans for the Parthenon Marbles to be reinstated at this time. Why do you believe the British government are so opposed to returning them?
The British Museum wishes to keep them because they are the Museum’s greatest attraction. It is logical to presume that the bottom line for the British
government is somewhat similar. Money talks, as they say!
Over the years many arguments/reasons have been propounded for retaining the Marbles in London. All have now fallen by the wayside, except one. The perception remains that if the Parthenon Marbles are returned, it might run the risk of opening the floodgates to similar claims from many countries, which would result in the worlds’ premier museums becoming devoid of actual antiquities.
However, what the British authorities must come to realize is that the Parthenon Marbles are unique. They are not a stand-alone antiquity – they represent an intrinsic element of a structure, a building. It’s similar in concept to armed invaders arriving to remove part of the façade of Westminster Abbey, or the Tower of London, or the Notre-Dame, or the Vatican, or the Taj Mahal. The list of comparisons is endless!
Based on the fact that so many influential people including Melina Mercuri, Sean Connery and a number of government
members around the world have demanded their return, but were unsuccessful, do you think it’s likely that they will ever be on show in the New Acropolis Museum?
I remain positive. I believe it’s only a matter of time before the Marbles return home. I don’t mean to sound patronizing, but the British are, by nature, a logical people. Once the ‘people-in-the-street’ fully understand the circumstances surrounding the original removal and acquisition of the Marbles by the British government, the flawed arguments for retention over the years, and the significance of the Marbles to the people of Greece, I believe they will exert
the necessary pressure on the British government for ‘Reunification’! We will see a groundswell for their return.
What is the general opinion of the British citizens? Did you hear any of their opinions during your research for The Devil’s Legacy?
Opinions are rather mixed. Those who have lived in Greece for some years tend to understand the deep, underlying significance of the Marbles for the people of Greece. However, the vast majority of British society is simply unaware of the true facts and events surrounding the removal of the Marbles. If people can be shown the light, then . . .
Back in the eighties, I encouraged a group of university students to each write to Tony Blair demandingthe return of the marbles to Greece. The students actually received letters back from a government official, stating that there was not a suitable location for their display in Greece and that the Greek government could not guarantee that the marbles would be protected. Do you think
that these reasons are still legitimate, in light of the New Acropolis Museum and its beautiful glass-covered exterior walls?
As I said earlier, over the years, many arguments have been put forward against the return of the Marbles. None really stand up today. It’s just a question of
intransigence on the part of British politicians – quite possibly financially motivated.
I can think of no finer location for the Parthenon Marbles than the inspiring New Acropolis Museum.
Have you contacted the British Museum or the government yourself to voice your protest or been involved in any campaigns to
demand the marbles return? Will you send them a copy of The Devil’s Legacy?
I believe that ‘The Devil’s Legacy’ is my best possible forum to campaign for the return of the Marbles.
Experience has shown that the British government and the British Museum are totally immune from independent, indiscriminate, one-off approaches. I believe that what is required is a concerted and co-ordinated campaign. Only by making people fully aware of the true facts can you hope to create interest . . . to motivate . . . to energize . . . support for their return.
I have already contacted the British Ambassador in Athens and provided him with a copy of my book, and have sent Nick Clegg a message through Facebook. I will also be sending him and other influential people, not just limited to within the UK, a copy of my novel to generate interest and hopefully some form of concerted action.
Do you have any future plans to write another ebook?
Yes, I am already thinking about a sequel. But also, I am considering an idea I have for a trilogy set in nineteenth century Greece.
Has the present economical crisis made you consider returning to the UK?
No. I have been pleased and proud to call Greece my home since 1977. I certainly have no desire to leave. If I was young, and just starting out on my career it might be different, because there are very limited opportunities in Greece today for the younger generation career-wise.
Finally, what comments would you like to make to the Greek youth of today? How can they become involved in the crusade to
have the Parthenon Marbles returned to what is hopefully, their final resting place?
I would just say, ‘continue the fight for Reunification’. In life nothing lasts forever, and although the British government is currently inflexible on this
issue, attitudes can quickly change. The British psyche is mired in the dogma of denial and physical possession. It’s very much the case of the old English
saying; ‘Possession is nine-tenths of the law’.
The Greek youth of today are far better placed to make an impact than my contemporaries. We now live in a world dominated by the ‘World Wide Web’. There are very few people under the age of forty who do not have a personal presence through the Internet – be it a Web Site, Blog, Facebook, Twitter, etc. There is nothing that cannot be achieved through dedicated, concerted, coordinated action.
So, I think it all comes down to ‘Participation’ and ‘Concerted/Coordinated Action’.
The more positive, pro-active publicity the issue of Reunification gets, the more we can influence the existing status quo, and persuade the British authorities that what may have been acceptable behaviour in the empirical nation-state world of two hundred years ago, has little place in the 21st century goldfish-bowl we all share today.
‘The Devil’s Legacy’ is available now as an ebook on the Internet from Smashwords (http://www.smashwords.com/ ), and shortly from online ebook retailers including: Amazon, Apple, Barns & Noble, Sony, Kobo, Diesel and others.
THE DEVIL’S LEGACY by Tom Jackson
Smashwords also offers the reader the ability to download the novel in multiple formats and at multiple times.
Tom Jackson will be donating 10% of the royalties he receives from this ebook to the Committee for the Reunification of the Parthenon Marbles. He hopes readers will enjoy the book and its journey through history. He also has a Facebook profile, if readers would like to contact him with comments or queries.