by Steve Wagner, former bureau chief for United Press International and long-time freelance write for the Los Angeles Times
For more than half a century, the world has been fascinated by a poor nomad's inadvertent discovery of the storied Dead Sea Scrolls. Found in caves along that historically significant sea, not only was discovery of the ancient manuscripts a monumental archeological achievement, one that only now is beginning to impact the world, but the parchments represent the earliest known true biblical documentation. It is proof of early scriptural existence.
In his dramatic first book Eyewitness, Jack Scully carries the story an important step further in the person of Sal Longo, a noted American professor/archeologist in search of new discoveries in the same Israeli back country. What he finds will exceed his wildest imagination and shock the world--if he's able to tell the story.
Accompanied by aides, one of whom inadvertently falls into an underground cave where he's bitten, in an appropriate 'genesis' to the story, by a snake, Longo emerges with an archeological coup: a simple clay jar containing detailed scrolls that thoroughly document one of history's great controversies via an eyewitness account: the crucifixion of Jesus Christ.
In this tightly-woven and thrill-packed tale, Longo and his trusty assistant, Lucy, have little time to savor their potentially world-changing discovery before antiquity rustlers try to muscle the documents away from them. Employing cunning, daring, luck--or is it really luck?--and everything else they can muster, the two embark on the adventure of a lifetime in an effort to safely transport the document back to the U.S., where all the world can savor, enjoy and take heart in what clearly is a breathtaking postscript to the nomadic discoveries that began some 65 years earlier.
In a tale bound to intrigue even the most irreligious, Scully's brilliant narrative, overt knowledge of the rugged Israeli geography, and shrewd character development combine to create a novel that both inspires hope and entertains throughout.
Few novels of theological bent carry the power and weight that Eyewitness does. The story itself is eager to proselytize, but that isn't Scully's motive. Rather, he has chosen the most controversial of all topics--the death of Jesus--as the cornerstone for a hair-raising drama that seeks to provoke thought while carrying readers through the excitement and intricacies of archaeological discovery and beyond.
Eyewitness, in its pure form, is an exciting trek through the land where Scriptures tell us history began. If Longo is successful, history may begin anew for a world desperate to believe--even as it teeters on the brink of disorder.
by Linda M. Bland, author Don't Stop at Green Lights and former literary agent
Eyewitness, just released by Vermont author Jack T. Scully, is as fast-paced and character-driven as any Indiana Jones tale. The premise exceeds even National Treasure in its urgency to preserve a precious international artifact. In the story, American archeologist Salvatore Longo battles betrayal, greed, and his own shortcomings to save an eyewitness account of Christ's death and resurrection.
The brilliant, if overly optimistic Sal thinks high-tech imaging equipment will swiftly find Biblical treasures at Qumran--origin of the Dead Sea Scrolls, first found there in 1947. Three blistering seasons later, the costs have been high: His wife has left him; he's lost tenure at his university; and even close friends think he should abandon his quest.
Then a Bedouin shepherd boy plunges into an undetected Essene cave. In a daring rope-belay rescue of the boy from the collapsing cave, Longo grabs an ancient pottery jar. The contents--honey-colored parchments--unleash passion, deceit, and lethal force as officials, academics, and illicit artifact dealers vie for the invaluable treasure contained inside. From bats to panthers, from caves to concealment beneath date palm fronds, tension and action are relentless as humor colors the rescue journey.
Sal Longo's unfaltering optimism and drive lead him into nearly impossible predicaments—and miraculously out of them too. His strengths and faults are revealed by Dr. Frederick "Fritz" Jodel, savvy Senior Expedition Director and proven retriever of high profile artifacts in Israel; Joe Pantos, a young linguist-translator with a fondness for fast cars and pretty women; Roni Kahana, Longo's dig assistant—and a spy who betrays the expedition; official Yehuda Singer, a dour egotistical man obsessed with money; Bebe Yigal, a dangerous and disreputable antiquities dealer; and Longo's young resourceful intern Lucy Stone, whose acute intellect and athletic good looks are not lost on either Sal or Joe.
Eyewitness is a page-turner because it cleverly alternates between Sal Longo's story and the scroll's tale, whose author is sensible lawyer Samuel Bar-Hezekiah, counsel to Caiaphas, chief priest of the temple in Jerusalem at the time of Christ's crucifixion.
Sal Longo and Lucy Stone escape with the scrolls on a journey to Amman where they hope to send it to the U.S. via diplomatic pouch. Escape depicts a bouncy ride to the Dead Sea on an ATV pulling an inflatable boat; a last-second turn into a bat cave; a camel ride in local dress; and smothering disguise under palm fronds in the back of a pick-up—as Singer searches overhead in a helicopter and Yigal's hit men join the chase on the ground.
Yigal's team is under strict orders to retrieve the scroll at all costs—including human life. The climax does not disappoint with helicopter crashes, rolling scrolls, and gunfire in an ancient Roman amphitheater in Amman. Meanwhile the scroll's account has hurdles of its own: Samuel's wife Leah encounters thieves and rapists on the road in Biblical times. Author Jack Scully draws parallels between Lucy and Leah that direct the dramatic endings of both stories.
Eyewitness is an action-adventure novel of exceptional pace, superior character development, and tight plotting—all topped off by a surprise ending.