Author of the Month: Craig SmithPublished: June 16, 2014
Herod from Hell: Confessions and Reminiscences
Craig Smith, professor, Communication Studies, Founder Center for First Amendment Studies
Published this year, this fictional departure from Craig Smith’s usual research describes one of the New Testament’s worst villains, King Herod, who tries to do penance in one of the lower reaches of Hell by telling the story of the “soap opera” of his life – including stories of his elaborately crazy family members and of famous Romans and Judeans (including a certain Yeshua, son of Joseph and Mary). He reflects on the fact that the Gospels will forever link him to the “slaughter of the innocents” in which he ordered the deaths of every male child up to 2 years old. Herod fiercely contests these written records, however, including those originating long after his death; he’s well aware of how Hollywood has portrayed him as well. Herod finds historic figures in Hell to help him, including his son Herod Antipas, who ruled during Jesus’ crucifixion, Cleopatra, who at first befriended and then turned on Herod, Marc Antony, who made him a king of the Jews, Caesar Augustus, Pontius Pilate, Pope Leo X, Martin Luther and Henry VIII. “The more I got into Herod, the more fascinating he became,” said Smith, a member of the university since 1988. “Herod the Great was the second-richest man in the Mediterranean after the Roman emperor Augustus,” Smith explained. “He created the largest Jewish temple ever built.” A lifetime of political experience helped to prepare Smith to write this novel. “From behind the scenes, I have watched presidents operate including Gerald Ford and George H.W. Bush. My experience has helped me to understand Herod’s motivation and how he negotiated his way through Roman rulers,” he said. “Herod’s father declared for Pompey and Pompey lost to Caesar. Herod went for Caesar and Caesar was assassinated. Then he bet on Brutus and Cassius who lost to Marc Anthony and Octavian. So Herod then allied himself with Antony and Cleopatra who lost to Augustus. Herod must have been extremely persuasive because he won over Roman emperors. It wasn’t just a political alliance. They liked having dinner with Herod.” Smith feels his research into Herod deepens his understanding of today’s Middle East. “You can trace much of today’s situation straight back to the time of Herod,” he said. “He goes to war against
his own people, the Arabs. Readers will see a lot of the current Mideast in this book including problems with Syria and Lebanon.” Smith feels Herod from Hell offers potential audiences a learning experience. “I explore the fact that Herod, an Arab, became King of the Jews, and the fact that the apostle John was called `the beloved apostle.’ Why was that? But I also put in some of my favorite recipes,” he laughed. “Cleopatra, Seneca and Herod are sitting at the table with Marc Antony sharing a pasta dish in Hell and it is one of my favorite recipes.” In addition to publishing more than 15 books and 60 articles, he served as a full-time speechwriter to Chrysler CEO Lee Iacocca, and in 2010, he received the Douglas W. Ehninger Award for lifetime achievement in rhetorical scholarship by the National Communication Association. Another recent book of Smith’s, Confessions of a Presidential Speechwriter, came out in February.