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Would you have guessed that I flew in a flight simulator? While working for a large aircraft manufacturer I wrote some articles about flight safety and pilot training. The company had a simulator on site to train pilots for the aircraft it manufactured.
I interviewed the manager of the flight training school. After asking questions about the fight simulator, he invited me to see it and then asked if I want to try it out. I immediately said yes. I sat in the pilot’s seat and the instructor was in the co-pilot’s seat. After he gave me a few pointers what to do, we began the flight. Take off went well and during the flight he introduced a few scenarios; flying at night, adding some turbulence, etc. Every once in a while, the instructor would take control to keep me on track. Actually, to keep me from crashing.
Then came the landing. I did everything as instructed. At least I thought I did. We touched down, a rather bumpy landing. When we came to a stop he said, “That wasn’t too bad. Except you didn’t land on the runway.” I landed in the field next to the runway.
Would you have guessed that I lived in three countries? I was born in Italy, then at the age of three we moved to Belgium where my father worked in the coal mines and then at the age of five, we moved to Canada which has been my home ever since, and I love it!
Would you have guessed that I had a full knee surgery exactly one year ago (Sept 3, 2021). After many, many years of sports, including professional basketball in Italy, the injuries finally caught up with me. Everything went well. No more pain but no more high impact sports. I stick to golf. So, there’s another thing you might not have guessed about me. I played professional basketball.
After I graduated from university I set a personal goal, to see how far I could go with basketball. I excelled in the sport, but I was also realistic. So, I set my eyes on Europe. I made some contacts and off I went and ended up playing professional basketball for a few years, where else, in Italy.
During my time in Tuscany, I met a very interesting person. While I lived for a while in Siena, I vividly remember reading Irving Stone’s The Agony and the Ecstasy, the story of the life of Michelangelo. During one of my several jaunts to Florence, I stopped at the Piazza della Signoria. Sitting at a café, reading about Michelangelo, while drinking one espresso after another, I knew I was at the very place where the political and social life dominated fourteenth-century Florence. A place where great triumphs were celebrated, and protests occupied the public square. I looked up, across to the Palazzo Vecchio, where next to the entrance stood a replica statue of Michelangelo’s David. I imagined the original – gigantic and impressive. Even from where I sat, I could make out the veins that Michelangelo painstakingly carved to bulge out of David’s right hand.
But my experience with reading the story of Michelangelo didn’t end there. Back in Siena, I was fortunate to have met and had tea with Ginevra Bonelli Chigi Zondadari Colonna, also referred to by Irving Stone, in his credits, as a descendant of Vittoria Colonna. While we sipped from fine China cups, sitting across from each other on antique divans in her salon, adorned with Renaissance artifacts and paintings, Signora Colona recounted her meetings with Stone and how she helped him with his research about the Marchesa di Pescara, Vittoria Colonna.
The Marchesa, an Italian noblewoman ranking above a countess and below a princess, developed a close relationship with Michelangelo. The well-educated Vittoria Colonna had become one of the most popular female poets of sixteenth-century Italy. Michelangelo and Colonna were united by poetry. Some of his finest sonnets were about the Marchesa and he made drawings of her too. In turn she gifted him with a manuscript of spiritual poetry. During that time, she was 50 years old, and he was 65.
I still hold dear to me the original paperback of Irving Stone’s novel, signed by Signora Ginevra Colona.
Ok, now for something embarrassing. During my professional career in aerospace, I attended a conference where I was asked to speak about Canadian regulations regarding the export of controlled military products to foreign entities. I was ready for the presentation, having rehearsed it at work and in the hotel room the night before. When it was my turn to present, I reached into my bag for the presentation. To my dismay, it wasn’t there. I checked and checked. No luck. Where was it? What do I do? I must have left it in the hotel room.
I walked up to the podium, empty-handed and smiled. I owed to my faux pas and said I would do my best. Luckily for me, I had made a similar presentation in the past. It’s nice to be among supportive colleagues. The presentation went well. I answered questions and everyone appreciated my effort with an applause. All’s well that ends well.
Nenshi, an Egyptian house servant, raised in nobility, is well-schooled, a master huntsman and hungers to be free. His master agrees to grant his freedom but while the petition is set to be heard, Nenshi's indiscretion gets in the way. He is caught in a secret love affair with a woman above his social status.
As punishment, he is exiled to labour in the Nubian gold mines. His life turns upside down as he is thrust into a world for which he had been ill prepared. He escapes from the mines and vows to return to Thebes, but his attempts push him farther and farther away on a journey that redefines him – a journey mired with cruelty, bloodshed, and the discovery of a new deity.
In the end Nenshi learns his freedom has been granted and must decide whether to return to his homeland or start a new life.
"I greatly enjoyed this well written story by Vince Santoro. He takes us across the Ancient World through the protagonist, Nenshi, an exiled Egyptian servant who struggles with class structure, both around and within himself. Santoro weaves a story of ideas – a sense of belonging, monotheism, and the human soul - told through Nenshi's rite of passage through to his final crossing. The setting is visually evocative of "spirit of place" as the novelist and travel writer Lawrence Durrell called it. It's a story worth reading." - Terry Stanfill
Award winning historical fiction author of The Gift from Fortuny, Realms of Gold, The Blood Remembers and other works.
"Vince Santoro is a gifted storyteller. I found The Final Crossing difficult to put down because it is well written. As an historian and author of non-fiction books, I am impressed with the amount of research that Santoro has done to prepare this story of adventure and romance set in the ancient Middle East. The customs, the beliefs and even the character names are all authentic to that region and era. With so many plot twists and turns, Santoro will keep you guessing about what might happen next to the protagonist until the very end!" - John Charles Corrigan
Author of The Red Knight and "Love Always"
Read an Excerpt
Twilight was fast approaching, and they returned to the trail. From a distance they saw an abundance of trees and vegetation that sprung from the hard soil. Moments later, they heard rushing water. A twisting river murmured. It called out and invited them to consume its wealth. Nenshi and Aziza went to explore it.
Aziza stopped and kneeled to examine small flowers in bloom. On the river’s edge Nenshi bent over and splashed water on his face. He cupped his hands and drank its cool refreshing offering. Rocks jutted out from the shallow water. He heard footsteps and threw a glance behind him. Aziza, ran towards him, as free as the wind blew, eager to jump into the river. Nenshi screamed from the top of his lungs to warn her.
“Aziza ... Aziza ... be careful, the water is shallow! There are rocks!”
Her excitement muffled his warning. Nenshi then stood, flapped his arms to get her attention. She pushed her legs hard against the water to run faster until it was just deep enough to jump in.
“Aziza …. Aziza … stop …” Nenshi cried. Aziza took another step but this time slipped and almost fell. She tried to regain balance and continued moving forward. Nenshi gasped hoping she realized the danger and would stop. But she didn’t and it was too late. She slipped again, fell and hit a rock. Nenshi immediately ran to her, stepping and slipping on rocks that almost caused him to lose balance. Babak who had heard Nenshi’s cries dashed to the river. Nenshi crouched over the wet and motionless body.
“Help me get her out,” Nenshi cried out as he lifted her, propped her head and shoulders in his arms. Blood, washed by the water, dripped from her head.
About the Author:
Vince is an Italian-born Canadian who grew up in Toronto, Canada, and now lives in Pickering, a suburb of Toronto.
In his youth, education and sports became a priority. A private boys' school, St. Michael's College in Toronto, provided the opportunity for both. He graduated from York University, Toronto, with a degree in history and a minor in behavioural science.
Vince was always up for new challenges. After completing his studies, he set his eyes on Europe and played professional basketball in Italy. When he returned home, he shifted gears and worked in the aerospace industry in several capacities. The most rewarding was managing internal communications for a large aircraft manufacturer. It was during this time he decided to hone his writing skills by studying journalism at Ryerson University, Toronto, and he had several articles published.
His career in communications along with studies in history and journalism prepared him to take on his next challenge: to write a book. His debut novel, The Final Crossing, has been a labour of love, one he worked on for many years. It reflects life experiences, woven into a story that inspires and entertains, and perhaps even show the world in a different way.
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