Here's the reworked query I plan to send out to literary agents:
A GIFT FOR THE SULTAN is a 100,000+ word historical novel that simultaneously tells two stories, the actual world-shaking clash of Christian Constantinople and the Islamic horde of Sultan “Thunderbolt” Bayezid in 1402, and the (fictional) relationship between a Christian princess and the Islamic warrior who is supposed to deliver her to the sultan when the acting emperor tries to surrender the city. The desperate conditions inside the walls as nobles, merchants, clergy, juvenile street fighters and foreign mercenaries prepare to die for the greatest city in the Christian world, and the contrasting conditions in the mountains of Anatolia as Bayezid’s horde moves to combat the invading horde of Timur (Tamerlane) are made vivid through both historical and fictional characters. The unexpected defeat of Bayezid by Timur upsets the chessboard and changes the destiny of all them, and of Europe and Asia.
The novel will appeal to readers of International Booker Prize-winner Ismail Kadare’s The Siege (about 15th century Ottoman-Christian conflicts in Albania) and all those eager to understand Christianity’s complicated relations with Islam. It treats respectfully Orthodox Christian, pre-Islamic Central Asian and early Islamic beliefs and practices, attempting to understand rather than condemn behaviors that, although they often led to extremely violent confrontations, at other times permitted intercultural understanding and tenderness.
I am the author of six books of nonfiction with HarperCollins, the University of Arizona Press and other publishers, and of a book that the New York Times Book Reviewer called a “frequently powerful collection of short stories.” (Full review attached.) My other short stories have appeared in Milk magazine, Exquisite Corpse, In Posse, The Copperfield Review, Small Spiral Notebook and Linnaean Street (all online), and in print in Ink Pot, The Threepenny Review, Yellow Silk and Fiction International. I am currently co-writing a book on Latin American architectural history for W. W. Norton.
Image: Sultan Yildirim ("Thunderbolt") Bayezid (1362-1403) in his glory days