Ball, David (W.) 1950(?)-
Ball, David (W.) 1950(?)-
PERSONAL: Born c. 1950; married; wife's name Melinda; children: Ben, Elizabeth. Education: Columbia University School of Journalism, M.A.
ADDRESSES: Home—Coal Creek Canyon, CO. Agent—c/o Author Mail, Delacorte Press, 1540 Broadway, New York, NY 10036.
CAREER: Journalist and author. Previously worked in real estate development and construction.
Empires of Sand, Bantam (New York, NY), 1999.
China Run, Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 2002.
Ironfire: A Novel of the Knights of Malta and the Last Battle of the Crusades, Delacorte (New York, NY), 2004.
ADAPTATIONS: China Run was adapted as an audio-book from Recorded Books.
SIDELIGHTS: Novelist David Ball's first three books show a wide-ranging talent. Empires of Sand and Ironfire: A Novel of the Knights of Malta and the Last Battle of the Crusades are sprawling historical epics, the former set in the 1870s and 1880s and the latter in the sixteenth century. His novel China Run, in contrast, is a tightly knit thriller set in modern China.
Empires of Sand is an "impressive debut, a mammoth tale of war, romance, treachery and coming-of-age," declared a Publishers Weekly contributor. The story follows the lives of two cousins, Paul and Moussa DeVries. Their fathers, French noblemen, married very different women: Paul's mother, Elizabeth, is a thoroughly European social climber, while Moussa's mother, Serena, is a royal member of the Tuareg tribe of the Sahara. The boys grow up together on the DeVries estate outside of Paris, until events force Moussa and parents Henri and Serena to return to Africa. A decade later, Moussa has reclaimed his Tuareg roots, dressing in the traditional blue robes of the tribe and fighting for them against the French. Paul, on the other hand, has followed his father into the French army and finds himself in the Sahara as part of a French expedition surveying for a potential railway. When Paul and Moussa find themselves in a climactic confrontation, they must decide which is stronger—their loyalty to their nation or their loyalty to their kin.
Ball traveled across the Sahara four times before writing his book, one time riding a motorcycle and staying with the Tuareg, and his familiarity with the region and its people shows in the details, noted several critics. Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reviewer Ron Franscell even commented that the parts of Empires of Sand set in the Sahara are "so vivid it leaves a phantom grit on your skin."
Ball was inspired to write China Run by his own family's experience adopting a baby girl from China and from stories he heard about other families whose overseas adoptions did not go as smoothly as did his. The protagonist of China Run is Allison, who has traveled to China with her stepson, Tyler, to pick up their adopted daughter. They receive the baby girl, Wen Li, and spend several days bonding with her in their hotel, as are several other American couples who adopting Chinese girls. As Allison, Tyler, and Wen Li prepare to leave, Chinese officials tell Allison that there has been a mistake. The healthy child she was given is to be taken back, and Americans will be given "special needs" babies instead. Three adoptive families—Allison, single mother Ruth Pollard, and Claire and Nash Cameron—decide to make a run for the American consulate in Shanghai, halfway across the country, rather than surrender their babies. A Publishers Weekly critic commented that "this sweeping odyssey of action and sentiment set in exotic and gritty locales cries out for filming," while Library Journal reviewer Nanci Milone called China Run a "gripping, tightly woven suspense novel."
Ironfire again follows the adventures of two separated relatives, this time a brother and sister. Nico de Borg and his sister, Maria, are playing in the coastal caves of Malta one day when pirates from the Ottoman Empire raid and seize Nico. He hopes that the Knights of St. John, the defenders of Malta, will come to his rescue and although Maria pleads with these knights on her brother's behalf, they do nothing. Throughout their teen years, both Nico and Maria struggle against the powers that control them: Nico against el Hadji Farouk, the wealthy man who buys the boy in an Algerian slave market and intends to make him his lover; and Maria against the Catholic Church, whose patriarchalism stifles her and condemns her when she is raped by a priest. Nico eventually escapes from Farouk, only to be captured again by Muslim pirate Dragut Rais (an actual historical figure). Under Rais's tutelage, Nico converts to Islam and becomes a commander in the navy of the Ottoman Empire. An ancestor of the DeVries family from Empires of Sand, Christien Luc de Vries, also appears and rebels against the powers that be, in his case the chivalric social code of medieval times. Ball's seven-hundred-page saga concludes as Nico returns to his homeland to fight in the Battle of Malta, an epic clash between the Ottoman Empire and the Knights of St. John that occurred in 1565.
Ball's description of that battle was praised by critics: it is "climactic, masterful, action-packed, and brutal," noted a Kirkus Reviews contributor, while a Publishers Weekly critic wrote that "Ball's bold, gruesome descriptions evoke the savagery of this sixteenth-century religious war." As Franscell noted in a review for the Denver Post, while the story may be "an action-packed, often erotic and always sensual epicadventure," the most notable features of Ironfire are Ball's "well-developed" and "three-dimensional characters."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Booklist, June 1, 1999, review of Empires of Sand, p. 1740; August, 2002, Michael Gannon, review of China Run, p. 1883; December 1, 2003, Margaret Flanagan, review of Ironfire: A Novel of the Knights of Malta and the Last Battle of the Crusades, p. 644.
Denver Post, January 4, 2004, Ron Franscell, "Sense and Scents of the Sixteenth Century: Colorado Author Spans Globe to Write Historical Epic about Siblings' Struggles" (interview), p. F9.
Kirkus Reviews, October 15, 2003, review of Ironfire, p. 1237.
Library Journal, July, 1999, Cynthia Johnson, review of Empires of Sand, p. 128; June 15, 2002, Nanci Milone, review of China Run, p. 92; November 15, 2003, Johnson, review of Ironfire, p. 96.
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, August 1, 1999, Ron Franscell, review of Empires of Sand, p. E15.
Plain Dealer (Cleveland, OH), January 4, 2004, Donna Marchetti, review of Ironfire, p. J10.
Publishers Weekly, June 14, 1999, review of Empires of Sand, p. 45; July 1, 2002, Ben P. Indick, interview with Ball, p. 45, review of China Run, p. 47; November 23, 2003, review of Ironfire, p. 42.
Rocky Mountain News, August 1, 1999, Ron Franscell, review of Empires of Sand, p. E2.