Davis Bunn: Thriller 'Lion of Babylon' exposes hopeful reality behind headlines
With almost seven million copies sold worldwide, Davis Bunn is known for
his thrillers that keep readers turning pages far into the night. His novel Lion of Babylon
recaptures the power of his bestselling Christy Award winner The Great Divide, and is already
receiving much early praise.
But for Davis, writing Lion of Babylon was not only exciting because of his love of the genre
but because this story allowed him to draw from his own life experiences and passion. Set in
Baghdad, at the center of one of the most defining conflicts in the Middle East, and infused with
insightful interfaith dialogue, Lion of Babylon proved to be the story Davis was desperately
waiting to write.
Q: How did you develop the initial story idea/plot line for Lion of Babylon?
Some years ago I worked for a company in which I was the only non-Muslim. I studied with an imam for a while to better understand their history, culture, and religious
beliefs. That job caused me to travel often to Africa, Asia, and almost every country in the Middle East, revealing the very distinct divisions represented by the word Muslim, which to most Westerners conjures up only images of terrorists and violence. So Lion of Babylon has been at work in my heart and head for a while. Along with visits to the region, I have friends and acquaintances both in the U.S. and other countries who have been invaluable resources for “insider information” on government policies, national security, religious issues, cultural norms, the setting, and so on—all the parts and pieces that go into creating authentic characters and plot.
Q: Did you have other motivations for writing a book of this nature?
I have a passion for faith-based peace initiatives. The role I play is very small compared to the amazing and heroic work done by others. But it has remained something very dear to me, and perhaps someday I might take on a greater responsibility. The entire
effort, which is taking place in every country in the Middle East and North Africa, comes down to the simple act of sharing our faith in the midst of these peace initiatives.
Also, I can still remember the first time I saw Lawrence of Arabia, and all the
mysterious beauty of this region came to life. Ever since I began writing, I have sought to reveal some small fragment of the wonder and astonishing richness I have discovered through my own travels. Both elements certainly played a role in shaping this story.
Q: The original title of this novel was The Green Zone. Why the change to Lion of Babylon? What is the historical significance of the title?
Just as I was completing the first draft of my novel, the film Green Zone was released. Nothing could have been further from what I hoped to achieve in my story. The title had to be altered. Lion of Babylon is an expression from the very early days of human
history, around the time that Abraham was instructed by God to leave the idolatrous land of Ur. The title Lion of Babylon comes from that same period, derived from the epic poem Gilgamesh. It refers to a hero of the people, one who can be trusted to see them through perilous times. What better way to describe the gift that Jesus holds?
Q: Have you witnessed or experienced reconciliation between Muslims and
Christians? Or is the reconciliation that occurs in Lion of Babylon mostly wishful thinking?
This sort of reconciliation goes on every day. Witnessing such events with people who know firsthand the tragic conflicts threatening to overwhelm the countries of the
Mideast is nothing short of miraculous. And yet it happens, over and over again. And each time it occurs, it is living testimony to the power of faith.
Q: Your writing also has been a journey. You wrote for nine years and produced seven manuscripts before the first one was accepted for publication. How were you able to retain your passion during that time?
I admit it was not easy, and I could have given up at many points along the way. But probably the most significant event was meeting someone who believed in me and my creative gifts. A lawyer, this friend offered to represent my work and find a publishing home for me. That occurred with the release of my first novel, The Presence, and I very wisely married her! Isabella is an acclaimed attorney, doing work for the UN related to human rights and ethics, but she also is a beloved wife and partner with me on the writing. Her touch in some way appears in everything I write.
Q: What final thought would you like to leave with your readers?
Lion of Babylon is being called a thriller, and I do hope readers experience a ride they won’t forget. Beyond that, though, my desire is that readers will have a new understanding and appreciation of West vs. East, of the highly complex issues related to the United States’ involvement in Iraq and Iran, and possibly a new way of thinking about solutions for peace in the Mideast. I feel that we as believers need to glimpse a world beyond the dark headlines and the fearful strife. We need to gain a higher perspective. I would very much like to have this story help readers rise up to a new vision of this region.