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The King of Vinland's Saga Paperback – 19 Jul 1998

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Product details

  • Paperback: 637 pages
  • Publisher: Xlibris (19 July 1998)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0738801526
  • ISBN-13: 978-0738801520
  • Product Dimensions: 14 x 3.7 x 21.6 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 2,312,389 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Stuart W. Mirsky is a former municipal bureaucrat who left government service in 2002 to write full time. After traveling in his youth (Europe, Africa, the Middle East) and securing a black belt in the oriental martial art of karate, Mirsky, who studied philosophy in his college days, settled down to raise a family and keep them housed and fed. But the "call of the writer" drew him back once more to the wild and windswept shores of fiction with his first novel, The King of Vinland's Saga, about Vikings and Indians in eleventh century North America.

The novel, which was initially begun and written in the early 1980's, lay forgotten for a decade in a desk drawer until a colleague approached him in 1994 in search of a story that "might make a good movie." A former filmmaker, the colleague was interested in getting back in the business but, on re-reading the original manuscript, after nearly a decade, Mirsky decided the sensibility was too juvenile and determined to write it all again -- nearly from scratch.

Two years later he delivered the new manuscript to that colleague and a screenwriter collaborator. As they sat over a late lunch in a midtown Manhattan eatery, Mirsky listened with a growing sense of dread as the screenwriter painstakingly described all the problems he saw with the novel. Rising from the table, Mirsky finally thanked them and excused himself, saying he had to get back to the office. "I'm sorry you didn't like it," he added as he turned to leave.

The screenwriter stared in surprise. "Sit down," he said. "Who said I didn't like it? I was just saying how hard this is going to be to film." Returning to the table, Mirsky found the food tasted a great deal better than before. Still, when all was said and done, neither his colleague nor the screenwriter could raise the cash to make the film.

Mirsky finally called the screenwriter a few months later and said, "What do I do now?"

"Get it published," was the reply. But that proved easier to say than do.

After two more years of queries to various publishing houses, Mirsky was ready to shove the new manuscript in the drawer with the older one when he discovered that modern digital storage and printing technology, combined with Internet distribution and sales, had made self-publishing an economically viable alternative and decided to publish the novel himself. Despite its "amateur" provenance, the book, which came out at the end of 1998, won surprisingly good reviews from readers in many venues including on and Mirsky began to think that maybe he'd been wasting his time in the bureaucracy after all.

"It actually took me only 108 days to write though it was two years in the making since I was working full time then," Mirsky notes.

The book, as it now exists, was written nearly without revision (except for one troublesome scene and some light editorial clean-up prior to publication). "It virtually poured out of me," Mirsky adds, "as if it were writing itself. Unfortunately I've never had that experience again as everything on this scale I've tried since has been an agonizing struggle to get right, suggesting that I may have become too self-conscious in my craft -- such as it is."

Since writing the viking novel, Mirsky has coordinated a viking ship extravaganza in 2000 in New York Harbor and, after retiring, he developed and managed two literary arts festivals, bringing writers and readers together in a series of panel discussions and workshops combining musical entertainment and poetry readings with book signings and other networking opportunities for writers and readers.

In 2004, he published a compendium of short pieces, written for a number of local newspapers over the preceding decade about local cultural and political issues (Irregularities: Tidal Flows and Politics Along the Rockaway Shore). He also ran for local political office in a campaign aimed at restoring fiscal responsibility and making state government more accountable to its citizens while eschewing all efforts at formal fund raising. He lost with less than 25% of the vote in a two-candidate race!

In 2005 he edited the Holocaust memoir Bitter Freedom by Jafa Wallach and wrote the foreword for it (Hermitage Publishing, 2006) and in 2006 he completed A Raft on the River, the true story of a fifteen year old girl's remarkable journey of survival as she dodged the Nazis in Eastern Poland during the Second World War for nearly two years and lived for a time under the unsuspecting nose of the local gestapo commandant (Paul Mould Publisher, UK, 2006).

Mirsky reports that he is now at work on another, rather different sort of novel, this one an off-the-beaten-track American Western, set mainly in pre-Civil War Oklahoma and Texas. It's the true story of a forgotten group of people whose long struggle to redeem a broken promise given in the midst of a shabby and bloody conflict produced a legend fit to stand with the greatest sagas of the old West, he says.

Product Description


Mirsky keeps us glued to this excellent first novel, using a subtle yet powerful story-telling technique that recalls old-time adventures involving swordplay, fair maidens in distress, relatives who are scoundrels, a misunderstood hero engaged in epic exploits, strange lands full of mysterious and wonderful peoples, and the power of good versus evil. The King of Vinland's Saga is a book the reader can't stay away from . . . and mourns when it is finished. -- Midwest Book Review, Fall 1999

THE KING OF VINLAND'S SAGA is a wonderfully rich adventure novel, with memorable characters, a storyline that is faithful to the mediaeval Icelandic sagas, and enough sword- and axe-play to please even the most jaded of adventure readers. Mirsky's work compares well to that of his predecessors, both in terms of capturing the gloomy mood of the saga and the larger-than-life heroes, while avoiding any blatant historical inaccuracies -- from the SFSite in Canada

The King of Vinland's Saga .earns a place on the bookshelf beside other neo-sagas such as Eric Brighteyes by H. Rider Haggard and E. R. Eddison's Styrbiorn The Strong. Mirsky has an excellent command of the saga style and spins a fine, page-turning tale -- IDUNNA Magazine, Summer '99

From the Author

When I set out to write this book I aimed to create a tale both modern and old-fashioned -- one which could hold its head up as an historical romance of the 19th century sort, yet still work for us moderns. To do so, I selected the "voice" of a 13th century sagaman to recount an 11th century adventure in the guise of a 19th century historical romance. And frankly, while I had to cheat a little to make the tale contemporary, I really didn't cheat all that much. In truth, adopting the voice of other times is actually a very respectable tradition for telling a tale of high adventure, though it seems to have gone out of style by the late twentieth century. (The closest thing we have to it today is "fantasy and science fiction"; -- which this book isn't, so be forewarned.) Hopefully, THE KING OF VINLAND'S SAGA will help make high adventure fashionable once more, finding its audience among those who like history or who just like their fiction well-leavened with the archaic. For myself, I was particularly taken with the remarkable sympathetic resonance between the old sagas of medieval Iceland and the American mythos of the West so I tried to capture that as well. I hope the reader will find some or all of this in the book offered here. I, at least, enjoyed writing it.

Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

8 of 9 people found the following review helpful By T. C. McDowall on 8 Jan. 2003
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
If there is a book that can positively dismiss the somewhat stuffy image of interminable Norse Sagas then this could well be it. Having little prior knowledge of this era in history I set about, with a little trepidation, my journey into the lost world of Norse exploration. And was hooked from page one as though I was devouring a quick-read thriller, except Mirsky’s saga is far, far superior in all respects.
For a first novel the author has set himself a huge task, and succeeded, demonstrating an erudite knowledge of the subject combined with a disciplined story-telling ability. The narrative style, although archaic, gives the epic story it’s own momentum and is a refreshing read for it.
This narrative voice, like Arnilot’s double-edges battle-axe, has both advantages and disadvantages and requires a confident hand to wield it.
It allows the storyline to remain on course with gusto, covering time-spans that otherwise would require inconsequential details to fill the gaps.
However, the flip-side is the loss of detailed characterization. For those readers unfamiliar with this era in Norse exploration a background introduction would also have been welcome.

The story itself follows the adventures of a disparate group of mostly Greenlanders lead by the stoical ‘Stigrydd’ to claim land bequeathed to him by his forefathers, after leaving their homelands in somewhat dubious circumstances. The land in question is the Vinland of the title, a.k.a. North America, and describes the interaction of Stigrydd’s band with the indigenous Indians and their culture.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Nigel Collier VINE VOICE on 18 Sept. 2001
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This book came very highly recommended to me - and I'd always fancied giving the Norse sagas a bash - so I decided to give it a whirl.
It is very ambitious in its scope and in its style; in the style of writing and dialogue Mirsky has undertaken to emulate the sagas to give his book an authentic feel - a very difficult prospect for a writer - it could go badly wrong. That Mirsky apparently pulls off this stylizing of his story is a testament to both his meticulous research and his pure writing skill.
I read somewhere (I think on that this very weighty first novel was the equivalent of a first-time mountaineer climbing Everest. That may be true, but that certainly doesn't mean the resulting book presents a similar challenge for the reader. The story is not dense nor bogged down by the obvious supreme knowledge of history infused into its pages. The characters aren't particularly complex, but then were norse warriors complex people? Some characters are very much larger than life, caracatures even, which you might think is at odds with the strive for realism. Not so. Historical accuracy is one thing, but the book is first and foremost a great yarn - a story packed with high seas, blood, lots of blood, implacable warriors, honour and considerable buckling of swashes.
We follow the exploits of an unlikely band of mercenaries and erstwhile viking warriors setting sail from Greenland for the promised land of Vinland (North America) - a semi-mythical fertile and fruitful land of plenty bequeathed to the central character Sigtrygg. The story seemed similar to the Seven Samurai in that this band of warriors are subsequently enlisted by the native populace to tame a local warlord. But the challenges, carnage and confrontations don't end there.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Jason Mills VINE VOICE on 15 Jan. 2002
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Written with a cool detachment that lends dignity to its characters, this is an epic story of Vikings and Indians (now I've seen it all). Our hero is Sigtrygg, black sheep of the family of Leif Erikson's descendants, who finds the farm that is his rightful inheritance cut from under him by his relatives. In return he is offered a ship to sail to Vinland (the good ol' USA). Even this is contested, and Sigtrygg's troubles increase exponentially as he sets out.
The compelling saga is full of adventure, with a strong but unintrusive plot. Whilst the themes are operatic (Love, Death and Fate feature prominently), the narrative is stoically understated. The climax is powerful and moving, not through any special-effects gimmickry, but because of a hard-earned sense of tragic inevitability. I finished it in the small hours and went to bed sniffling and biting my quivering lip.
The book itself is tragically under-exposed. If you can afford it, buy it. Full stop.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By R. Conway on 8 Sept. 2013
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
As an Icelandic Saga enthusiast and lifelong hobbyist who collects top quality novelisations of the Dark Age and Viking Age sources, I put off buying Mirsky's book for years, because it was self published, and was self promoted. How glad I am that I finally read it.
I'll never be put off by a book being self published again. The fact is that many self published books, in the age of POD, can be incomparably superior to, and much more of real books, real literature, than average high street best seller. Certainly this one is. It will stay with me.
I loved this book, and was hooked and put on the author's side from the very first page: largely because of the author's mastery of a true saga style, a simplicity combined with subtle nuance that can be very moving. Mirsky's style is in fact rather more amplified than that of a true saga, and tends to cover events and dialogue in more detail, but the narrative conventions are broadly the same, and the author has a sensitive appreciation of the values and artistic effects of the sagas.
Sigtrygg is a memorable character, the flawed Action Man, the Trapper, the Loner, the Youngest Son of folk tale who is cheated by his elder kinsfolk, and must travel to seek his fortune. In folk tale, the Younger Son marries a Princess and gains a Kingdom; and so, in a way, does Sigtrygg; but we cannot expect the same happy fulfilment, because this is an Icelandic saga in type; their world is bleakly realistic and it pays a price for everything. One of the most poignant things in this story is the ineluctable meanness with which Sigtrygg is treated by his legitimate kinsmen, the grandsons of Leif Eirikson, and his perseverance and courage.
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