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That Fabulous Dye, Tyrian Purple

The process of making Tyrian purple dye was long, difficult and expensive. Tens of thousands of tiny snails had to be found, their shells cracked, and each snail removed. Mountains of empty shells have been found at the ancient site of Tyre, a town on the Mediterranean coast of southern Lebanon. The snails were left to soak, then a tiny gland was removed, and the juice extracted was put in a basin, which was placed in the sunlight. There, in the sunlight, the juice turned white, then yellow-green, then green, then violet, then a red which turned darker and darker. The process had to be stopped at exactly the right time to obtain the desired color, which could range from a bright crimson to a dark purple.

In “The Guest”, Miriam blunders back to consciousness after being attacked outside the Bank of Gabinius:

Groaning, rolling onto my side, I opened my reluctant lids and dragged my senses back to life. And that’s when the details of my situation trickled back to me. I was lying in the alley next to our Alexandrian branch of the Bank of Gabinius, the stink of the sewer burning my nose, blood oozing from my right temple, my himation smeared with muck. And looming over me, eclipsing the late morning sun, was a man in a short-sleeved, bluish-purple tunic, dyed with that fabulously expensive extract from the glands of sea snails.

Why would a man wearing a Tyrian purple tunic attack Miriam outside a bank? You can find out without experiencing the trauma she did. Just look for “The Guest,” one of the short stories in The Deadliest Deceptions. To find out the release date of the collection and choose another book while you’re waiting, click here.


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