What is the greatest desire of all?
In the death choked corridors of Palermo's famous catacombs, a young man asks this question of himself as he stands surrounded by eight thousand mummified corpses. The answer he gives, will set the course of his life and take him on a journey into the heart of darkness.
Adrian Ashton is a brilliant man: a quantum physicist and chronobiologist who has devoted his life to the study of chi — the vital energy that runs through our bodies. A gifted scientist, he is also a skilled martial artist — and a hunter. Calling himself Dragonfly, he preys on fighters and martial artists who are blessed with a strong life force, draining them of their chi and making it his own. To assist him in his quest, he draws on the knowledge contained in an enigmatic Chinese text written by a legendary Chinese physician in the thirteenth century.
But the hunter becomes the hunted when a mysterious woman enters his life. A martial artist herself, she belongs to a long line of Keepers: women who are warriors, healers and protectors. When Dragonfly targets the man she loves, she sets out to defeat him. It becomes a fight to the death in which love is both the greatest weakness and the biggest prize.
A fast-paced, highly original thriller, The Keeper: A Martial Arts Thriller* blends mysticism with science and explores themes as old as time: the imperative of violence, the redemptive power of love and the greatest desire of all — to live for ever.
I was working on the final chapters of Keeper of Light and Dust when I broke my ankle. It happened while I was sparring with my kickboxing instructor and managed — much to the surprise of both of us — to sweep his leg out from underneath him. My ankle remained entangled with his and when we both hit the mat, it snapped. For the next eight weeks I would be Crutches Tiger, Hidden Dragon.
Being able to laugh in a lopsided way at my misfortune could not take away from the fact that the fracture was painful, required surgery and would keep me from training for six months. Before this incident I've had other accidents as well — bruised ribs, a cracked nose and a broken little toe — but this was the first time a few uneasy questions started to drift into my mind. What was it that so attracted me to combat? Why do I like to punch and be punched? What kind of person does that make me?
I still don't have the answers. All I know is that when I am inside the dojo, I am happy, and acutely aware of my own vital energy. When I sat down to write Keeper I could therefore not think of a better milieu for a book that deals with the concept of chi. I know there will be readers to whom the idea of physically challenging someone — even in a controlled environment — is unacceptable and they may have difficulty understanding my characters and the world in which they live. I have complete respect for this point of view. But I think Joyce Carol Oates, in her book, On Boxing may have said it best:
'Of course it is primitive, too, as birth, death and erotic love might be said to be primitive and forces our reluctant acknowledgment that the most profound experiences of our lives are physical events - though we believe ourselves to be, and surely are, essentially spiritual beings.'
Training with Carlos Andrade,
former WKA European Light-Heavyweight
All photographs taken at KX Gym UK by David Dettmann
Click pictures to enlarge
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*Title used for the US edition. UK edition is titled The Keeper.