* Nominated for the Pushcart Prize
The Fool Returns: ($20, 6X9″, ISBN: 978-1-937536-85-5, Hardcover ISBN: 978-1-68114-127-5, LCCN: 2014950625, 250pp, December 15, 2014; Buy on Amazon or Barnes and Noble): Based on Tom Block’s non-fiction study of the cross pollination between Jewish and Islamic mysticism (published as Shalom/Salaam: A Story of a Mystical Fraternity, Fons Vitae, 2010), The Fool Returns is a page turning, spiritual thriller based on fact.
The Fool Returns centers on the idea that medieval Jewish thinkers discovered the underlying impetus for current political issues between Jews and Muslims in the Biblical story of Isaac and Ishmael (Genesis 21). They set a 500-year quest in motion, which was coming to fruition in 1992, when a NY bartender (Bill) had a card made from human bone thrown into his lap in the middle of the night, on the subway. If he succeeds in his quest, a positive energy will be released and Abraham’s original weakness before God reversed. A new age between these Children of Abraham would flower.
What ensues is a voyage – both physical and spiritual – which takes Bill far from his life as a bartender into lost Iberia, where he meets an increasingly bizarre collection of crypto-Jews who have been waiting for him; descends into hidden “bone chapels;” must leap across a vast psychic abyss, work his way through subterranean tunnels deep beneath the city of Cáceres, Spain and bring the card to its final destination, somewhere on the other side of a bordello in ancient Lisbon. All the while, he is pursued by a shadowy figure from his past, a man named “Hoopoe.”
Tom Block (www.tomblock.com) has published four non-fiction books, has had plays produced in both New York and Washington DC and has been a visual artist for 20 years, with more than 200 exhibitions in museums, universities and galleries around the world. This is his first novel.
“In Block’s newest, Bill Willis is a Jew who doesn’t realize he’s Jewish until he discovers he’s heir to a spiritual obligation originating with 13th-century philosopher Moses Maimonides. Bill grew up without religion, failed at professional baseball and became a bartender, all without realizing his family was inextricably intertwined in the great polymath Maimonides’ desire to heal the Abrahamic rift by creating a covenant between Jewish cabala and Sufism theology. Long ago, mystical cards, ‘a 40-card deck [was] dispersed to the four corners of the world…imbued with spiritual powers…[to] bring these two religious paths together,’ by ‘the transposition of reality—perceived as well as unseen—into numerology.’ The axis was Cáceres in Andalusia, and the impetus was the Inquisition. Even Christopher Columbus carried one of the cards to the New World. Not knowing that ‘the ingathering of the cards will repair the original injury to creation,’ Bill has the final card, the Fool Card, tossed into his lap while riding the subway. Trapped by the prophecy, Bill is soon compelled to journey to the Iberian Peninsula and contact Jews who’ve lived as Christians since the Inquisition. There are visits to dank and dark underground reliquaries, meetings with scholarly relatives, a brief tragic love affair, a retired madam and assorted mystics. In fulfilling this ‘Tariqah…to acknowledge the injustice visited upon Hagar and Ishmael,’ Bill’s travels come to symbolize the Fool passing from the Formative World ‘into the Creative World, where everything is lost in a haze of ulterior meanings.’ While the writing is literary and full of imagery, the story is extraordinarily dense, heavily laden with surrealistic numerology and metaphors, especially the latter third, ‘the distillation of destiny.’ Think of a Dan Brown-like adventure penned by an erudite Talmudic scholar.” —Kirkus Reviews, November 1, 2014
“If you’re looking for the perfect historical fiction read, this one should fit the bill… It has a mesmerizing plot… This book was based off of fact. The way the author was able to create an idea and promote his stories from these facts was truly amazing… One thing I loved about this book were the pictures that were intertwined with the story. It was unlike and unlike anything I’d seen in a historical fiction book… I was really educated by the world that Mr. Block introduced to us.” —The Book’s Buzz (NY), November 23, 2014
“Productions and readings of several of his plays will take place in the next few months in New York City, and two Off-Broadway possibilities are in the works. Next up are a reading at the Ensemble Studio Theater, with a Broadway director and Broadway-seasoned actors, and a play in development with Off-Broadway’s Athena Theatre Company./ Only the painting arena is ‘quiet just now,’ Block said, except for a viewing of his huge painting, ‘Broken Berlin Wall,’ during the American Institute of Contemporary German Studies’ Global Leadership Award Dinner on Dec. 15 in New York City./ Everyone’s ‘quiet’ is not like Tom Block’s… The Fool Returns is a Jewish Da Vinci Code, the difference being that so much of the author’s research is based upon his own historic and verifiable studies.” –David Crumm, Gazette, Read the Spirit (MI), December 3, 2014
“Tom’s creativity bursts through on every page, in his detailed descriptions of people and places that Bill encounters as he approaches his final destination. You will want to follow Bill’s every step along the journey; that’s all I will tell you about the book, because I do not want to risk divulging any secrets.” —Pamela Jay Gottfried, December 18, 2014