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A Serious Historian Lets Loose With a ‘Memoir’


Tom Shachtman of Salisbury, Conn., has a new book, “The Memoir of the Minotaur,” which the promotional materials describe as “the posthumous confessions of the half-man, half-bull of Crete, as offered to an audience of recently-deceased, 21st-century fellow souls in Hades’ domain. This book is a satire for readers unafraid of a rollicking good tale involving anatomically complex beings, unforgivable puns, the champion serial killer of all time, scantily-clad Greek maidens and youths, articulate tyrants, and feminist proto-history leavened with theological impertinence.”

They’re not kidding.

The narrator is Asterion (aka the Minotaur), who is the result of a sexual union between Pasiphae, the queen of Crete, and a mysterious white bull.

Asterion recounts his adventures in a mixture of idioms (including Homer Simpson’s all-purpose expression: “D’oh!”) to his audience of the recently departed.

Along the way the reader gets a lot of sex, a lot of murder and a crash course in Greek mythology.

In a phone interview Sept. 30, the author was asked: “How did a respected and hitherto blameless historian such as yourself come to write this crazy book?”

After he stopped laughing, Shachtman explained that he wanted to take another stab at fiction. Shachtman wrote three short novels about sea lions earlier in his career (before taking on weightier topics in books such as his most recent, “The Founding Fortunes: How The Wealthy Paid For and Profited From America’s Revolution,” “How The French Saved America: Soldiers, Sailors, Diplomats, Louis XVI, and the Success of a Revolution” and “The Day America Crashed.”)

Besides, he has always been interested in Greek mythology.

And the sex and violence and slang?

He said he felt it was “impossible to do it straight, because it’s been done so many times.

“I also wanted to let out my humorous side.”

Readers will get a chance to learn more about Tom Shachtman and “The Memoir of the Minotaur” on Wednesday, Oct. 15, at 7 p.m. when the author talks about the book, courtesy of Oblong Books in Millerton, N.Y. Go to www.oblongbooks.com and click on “events” for the Zoom log-in information and to buy the book.

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