With the recent capture of the world's most wanted terrorist, a lot has been said about the importance of couriers. In my upcoming political thriller The Time of the Eleven, codes and couriers also play a substantial role. In ancient Greece, couriers had their heads shaved and secret messages written on their scalps. When the hair had grown back, the courier was sent on his way. After arriving at the destination, the messenger would shave his head to reveal the hidden message. When a more secure form of delivering messages was needed, (as well as a speedier one) the science of cryptography was born.
Derived from the Greek word Kryptos, meaning hidden, the purpose of cryptography is not to hide the existence of a message, but to hide its meaning, in other words, to scramble it. Hiding an already coded message is called Steganography, meaning covered writing. Invisible ink and microdots are examples. Today secret messages can even be hidden inside tiny pixels on a computer.
From the cipher of Mary, Queen of Scots, (the discovery of which led to her death) to the Zimmerman telegram during World War I and the Enigma machine during World War II, codes have been used extensively during wartime as a means of transmitting top-secret information. However, these codes have been solved. The ones listed below have not.
Kryptos--a large sculpture located in the courtyard of CIA headquarters in Virginia. Hidden from the public, the code on this sculpture is written in four parts. Three parts have been solved, but the last ninety-eight characters remain a mystery. The creator of the sculpture has been asked whether the rest of the code refers to something buried on the CIA grounds, but has declined to answer. Dan Brown made reference to this in the Lost Symbol.
The Voynich Manuscript--A rare book dealer bought this strange manuscript in 1961. Lacking a title and unsigned, the book is filled with eerie full color plates, strange symbols that do not match any known language and may be at least 400 years old. Now in the possession of Yale University, it can only be viewed under strict supervision and is valued at millions of dollars. This is the world's oldest and longest unsolved public cipher. Read Brett King's The Radix for a fictional account.
Shugborough--the Shepherd's Monument--The text is only ten letters long and is found in the gardens of Shugborough Hall in Staffordshire, England, engraved on a stone monument, commissioned in 1748. The code is as follows: O.U.O.S.V.A.V.V. and beneath that, the letters "D" and "M" are written. Above the inscription is a carved marble relief of a painting: Les Bergers d'Arcadie II.
The Beale Papers--Anyone who solves this code will find a huge treasure trove hidden in Virginia--over 2,921 pounds of gold and 5,100 pounds of silver, worth over thirty million dollars today. The three ciphers consist of a series of numbers. Only the second cipher has been broken using a book code, where specific pages, words and letters on a page are each given a numerical value. A very famous text was used to solve a portion of this cipher. Think NationalTreasure. I also used the idea of the Beale papers in my book The Secret Sentinel.
Dorabella Cipher--a coded letter written by the famous British composer Edward Elgar to Dora Penny, dated July 1897. Consisting of eighty-seven characters over three lines, the code could be based on a twenty-four symbol alphabet or may even be more complex. Elgar, best known as the composer of Pomp andCircumstance, was interested in ciphers. The note lay in a diary for forty years and has never been solved. It may have contained sentiments of affection from an older man to a much younger woman. Romance authors, take note!
The Zodiac Killer's Code--The Zodiac serial killer operated in northern California in the late 60's and early 70's. His identity remains unknown. He sent a series of letters to Bay area newspapers, which included four cryptograms. Only one was ever solved. The code utilized a strange mixture of English capital letters, plus other symbols (the inverted V and the V filled in). In all, the killer used sixty-five symbols. It's suspected that the remaining three ciphers could have been written by someone obsessed with the case, rather than the killer.
Does anyone know what the picture above represents? (Thanks to the wonderful book The Six Unsolved Ciphers by Richard Belfield)
Next Week: Plot Wreckers: When a Good Plot Idea Goes Bad
FIVE STARS: "Excellent writing! Enjoyable hero and heroine! Great romance! Fast pace! I read it straight through! Author thorough in research! I lived the experience!"--A reader on Amazon.com
FIVE STARS: "Erica Kingsley, a twenty-nine year old spoiled woman had to be taught a lesson and her CEO father planned with the help of her ex-lover to do just that! The Holiday Channel needed a huge cash flow shot in the arm or it was at the mercy of his enemy. Erica hosted "The Lap of Luxury Show" and her ex hosted "The Wildman Show." Both shows could not survive and he got the idea of filming Erica as she tried to survive in the Belize jungle while they searched for Montezuma's Treasure!
Trey Zacco was told not to give the pampered Erica any help and he rode her hard! His crew was being picked off one by one and all eyes were on Erica as the culprit, but would she go as far as murder to get back to Miami?
Does Ms. Chambers hold her readers captive with a book that you just can't put down and gives her opinion on where the king's daughter buried his gold! From the descriptions of the jungle, the visions fairly leaped off the pages and I can't wait to read her next!"--A Reader on Goodreads.com
FIVE STARS: "A Wild Sultry Ride! Wonderful, action-packed story! I was completely lost in the author's words. Ms. Chambers created quite a world for us to lose ourself in. The chemistry between Trey and Erica is fantastic. With curves, twist, romance and action. Take the chance, The Montezuma Secret is well worth your time."--A reader on Amazon.com
The Secret Sentinel
Available from The Wild Rose Press
Reviews for The Secret Sentinel
FIVE STARS AND A TOP PICK FROM NIGHT OWL REVIEWS--" The Secret Sentinel is a wonderful read and I highly recommend it. Look out Nora Roberts...there's a new author on the horizon."
FOUR STARS FROM THE ROMANCE STUDIO--"The constant action and adventure made this a very enjoyable read. If you loved the movie 'Romancing the Stone' this book will be a treat for you."
RT Reviews--"Deception is the watchword in Chambers' thriller. The action is fast moving and the characters intriguing."
NIGHTS AND WEEKEND REVIEWS--"A wild mixture of National Treasure and Indiana Jones."
FIVE STARS--GOODREADS--"Savannah Rutledge Unlocks Pandora's Box When She Takes Her Father's Secret Map and Loans It To Her Boss For Display For A Southwest Fest And To Save Her Job, But Instead of Crowing With Delight She Was Running For Her Life With Murder Charges, Her Disabled Father Murdered, And A Zorro Stranger Kidnapping Her! A One Hundred Year Old Secret Has Been Released And It Refuses To Get Back In The Box!"
Time of The Eleven
Now Available on Amazon!
The Time of the Eleven
A daring prison escape in Mexico. An explosion in the Hague. Tourists disappearing in Scotland and the Sahara. Reporters murdered or reported missing. Seemingly unrelated incidents. Or parts of an ingenious terrorist plot? After her fiance mysteriously disappears, Kiley Prescott has a chance encounter with a seductive stranger in Mexico. But who is this man? FBI agent Peter Rushing is sure her new lover, handsome Armand Rachet, is really the notorious international terrorist, Gabriel Roca, suspected in a series of devastating bombings overseas. After Kiley learns Rushing was fired from the FBI, she fears he is hiding something even more sinister. The chase for the truth takes her cross country, from Washington to Chicago, Las Vegas, and finally San Diego, where Kiley learns the deadliest secret of all--everything is timed to happen at eleven. Eleven men. The eleventh hourof the eleventh day of November, 2011. It is "The Time of the Eleven."