One former professor from the University of Louisiana at Lafayette has a little bit more to celebrate this May.
Joseph N. Abraham, M.D., recently won an award for his book published by the UL Lafayette Press entitled, “Kings, Conquerors, Psychopaths: From Alexander to Hitler to the Corporation.” The book won the Indies Book Award honor for “Current Events/Social Change.”
The novel was the only book published by a university press to win, a double honor for the university. Other universities with published novels in the competition included Yale, Iowa and Nebraska.
The novel was also a finalist for “Historical Non-Fiction.”
“I was surprised and pleased, obviously. I felt like I was saying some very shocking things, but also inescapable things,” Abraham said. “But very few people seemed to 'get' it. It was a great relief to see that book critics recognize merit in the book.”
The book begins with a haunting look at humanity's past, from the rapist and murderer, Alexander the Great, to horrors the U.S. inflicted upon the Vietnamese in My Lai. As an emergency physician and an evolutionary biologist, Abraham has a unique look on the world and how it works; his different perspective also influenced his ideas for the novel.
“One of the earliest ideas came from a quote by former Black Panther Kwame Ture/Stokely Carmichael, ‘The only thing that I can remember about Alexander the Great was that at age twenty-six he wept because there were no more people to murder and rob. That is the epitome of Western Civilization,’” Abraham said. “His insight intrigued me; it is rare for something to be unique. So if this comment is true for Alexander, it must be true for other conquerors.”
Abraham said another valuable insight for the novel came from a talk that was given at UL Lafayette by a man named Eugen Weber, a historian from UCLA. Weber spoke of the ancient honor and how the concept did not resemble modern honor. Abraham argued that the two concepts of honor had to coexist somewhere in history.
“Commerce, and therefore civilization, isn't possible without the modern concept of honor; and the earlier, thuggish concept of honor is still obvious in government, corporations, media, sports, and other high-visibility activities, even in the university,” Abraham said. “Eugen spoke with me at length about my ideas, and we corresponded for a while. At some point after that, a think tank made some quiet inquiries about me; I can only assume that was Eugen's doing.”
Abraham also said he struggled for a bit to publish the novel and felt quite frustrated with the publishers he encountered. He said that some publishers would take months to get back to him, and others not at all. They wanted Abraham to find his own people to do the copy editing, as well as the marketing for his novel. Instead of going with one of these publishers, Abraham had another plan fall to his feet.
“I ran into James Wilson on campus. At that time James was the nuts & bolts of the Press, vetting manuscripts, staying on top of authors, hiring printers, and offering what help he could with publicity,” Abraham said. “James and Michael Martin, the Director at that point, looked at my manuscript, decided the writing was good, and that although the thesis was controversial, it was well-documented and well-defended. They decided to run with it.”
Abraham’s book can be purchased online on Amazon as well as the UL Lafayette Press website.