September 1494 - Amid the chaos of Charles VIII's devastating invasion of Renaissance Italy, a squadron of Turkish galleys slips out of Istanbul under cover of night, and disappears west into the October storms. Aboard are three Turkish diplomats, a papal nuncio, and a fortune in gold ducats. The unforeseen consequences of their dangerous mission threaten to destabilize the papacy and alter the military alliances of Europe. A tale of seagoing adventure and actual historical events, The Sultan's Helmsman is also a philosophical vel exploring eastern and western ways of thought. Kachak -- the helmsman of the Turkish galley White Falcon -- is a fugitive from war-torn Europe who has been educated at the elite Ottoman palace school. When the west attempts to reclaim him, he must rely on his training, and on the loyalty of his friends, to make himself the person of his own choosing.
Robert Colburn's interest in Turkish history began in 2006 when he was recruited to compete internationally as a member of Turkey's prestigous Fenerbahce rowing team. He fell in love with Istanbul -- one of the world's most beautiful and facinating cities -- and with the language, music, and history of Turkey. The historical parallels between the east-west relations of the late 15th century, and those of the present day became the germination of The Sultan's Helmsman. Sultan Bayezid II was one of history's most enlightened rulers. He was notable for his tolerance of religions and ideas, and for sending the Ottoman navy in 1492 to evacuate the Moors and Jews who were being persecuted in Spain, and to offer them asylum in the Ottoman Empire. His musical compositions with their majestic, sweeping melodies are still performed, and he wrote complex and moving poetry. Sultan Bayezid was one of the great figures of the period we call the Renaissance, but his reign has seldom been depicted in western literature. In describing some of the most eventful years of the Renaissance as seen through Ottoman eyes, The Sultan's Helmsman attempts to bring the reign of one of history's most humane leaders to a wider audience. By having the Kachak, the main character of The Sultan's Helmsman study at the elite Ottoman palace school, Colburn is able to expose Kachak -- and the reader -- to the many ideas circulating at the court. Forget the colors of the threads, but remember the pattern, the Grand Vezier Daud Pasha tells Kachak -- just one example of the many sufi ideas and stories that were influential at the time. The Sultan's Helmsman has a facebook page with additional plot information, photographs of places and scenes mentioned in the novel, additional illustrations by Bruce Colburn -- the author's brother -- and a glossary of Turkish and nautical terms used in the book. http: //www.facebook.com/pages/The-Sultans-Helmsman-A-novel-of-the-Ottoman-Navy-and-Renaissance-Italy/201839170221