Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Interview: Allan Richard Shickman, author of the Zan-Gah series

Please join me in welcoming Allan Richard Shickman, author of Zan-Gah: A Prehistoric Adventure and Zan-Gah and the Beautiful Country. You can read my review of the first book here. Artist, teacher, author, and historian Allan Richard Shickman was an art history professor at the University of Northern Iowa for three decades. His first novel, Zan-Gah: A Prehistoric Adventure won an Eric Hoffer Notable Book Award and was a finalist for the ForeWord Magazine Book of the Year Award.

1. Please describe Zan-Gah: A Prehistoric Adventure in 50 words or less.
Zan-Gah seeks his lost twin in a savage prehistoric world, encountering suffering, captivity, tribal conflict. He emerges from an uncertain boyhood to a tried and proven manhood and a position of leadership. Themes of survival, brotherhood, cultures, gender roles, psychological trauma, nature’s wonders and terrors. Age 11 and up.

2. What about the sequel, Zan-Gah and the Beautiful Country?
Dael’s disturbed mind engenders violence and division. Zan-Gah must lead his twin brother away from thoughts both destructive and self-destructive as they migrate to a beautiful new land. Themes of war and peace, tribal conflict, traumatic stress, gender roles, sibling rivalry, bereavement, redemption. Age 12, up

3. Why did you choose to write prehistoric fiction? Few people do, but it's such an interesting topic!
Actually, there is a very considerable amount of prehistoric fiction. It is a genre in its own right. Go ahead and search it; see for yourself. I chose the period after a trip across the arid American West because I was inspired to write a tale of survival. Difficult as it could be to survive in deserts and mountains in any period, it seems most remarkable and challenging in an era which was technologically very primitive, as the late paleolithic period was. Notice, I don’t say the people were primitive, just the technology. Maybe we are the primitive ones.

4. What ancient society do you find the most exciting?
Ancient Egypt is extremely fascinating and awe-inspiring. For one thing, it lasted so long!—about ten times as long as the United States has existed, if you take our birthdate to be July 4, 1776. Ancient Greece has to be my favorite, however. I love the art and drama, not only of the Classical Period, but the Hellenistic, when Greek culture spread as far as India. The Romans loved and copied Greek and Hellenistic art. Through them Greece gave us our language, our alphabet, the very word democracy! Is pizza a Greek word? Naahhh. The Renaissance gave us pizza.

5. What's the one book you recommend to everyone?
Off to Russia! If I have to name a single book, it is The Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoyevsky. That book practically changed my life, it moved me so much. However, I usually recommend Crime and Punishment by the same author as a lead-in. Not every book is for everyone, is it? I could and do recommend many books. Have you read The Mayor of Casterbridge by Thomas Hardy? It’s another of my favorites. I guess I like gloomy.

(I've yet to read any of those, but I'll be sure to check them out!)

6. Are you working on anything at the moment?
If so, please tell us a bit about it. I have been working on the third book of the Zan-Gah series for quite a while, but I have only started typing in the last few days. Dyno-mite! It picks up where the second book left off, centering on Zan-Gah’s twin brother, Dael. The story continues with Dael’s self-imposed exile, as he seeks some sort of redemption or resolution of his shattered life. He will go to live with the crimson people (introduced already in Zan-Gah and the Beautiful Country). I think I’ll call it Dael and the Painted People, but I have to write it first.

7. Any last words?
Baudelaire wrote a poem about time, the last words of which were: “Die, old coward, it is too late!” That’s what I was thinking of having engraved on my tombstone, but my wife won’t even consider it. And she has the last word on the subject. My last words to my readers and reviewers are: Don’t be in too much of a hurry. The purpose of a good book is not to get done with it. I hope my readers are sorry when Zan-Gah comes to an end. One doesn’t just “read” a good book; one FEELS it. It is not enough for a book to be entertaining. It should be harrowing, enriching, moving. Because it’s not about what happens to the hero, Zan-Gah. It is about what happens to YOU.

Thanks so much for joining us Allan!


  1. Such an original setting!

    (On his favorite books, I must admit I am not at all fond of Thomas Hardy.)

  2. The third book of the Zan-Gah series, Dael and the Painted People, is nearly finished. Watch for it this summer at the new web address:


    I hope you will pay us a visit.

    Allan R. Shickman


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