You live in an age when Rome rules the world and astrology rules Rome.
You are a sixteen-year-old apprentice in the Great Library of Alexander, a slave, when you hear that your Roman masters are searching for 16-year-olds with a particular birth time, just as king Herod searched for two-year-old Jesus who astrologers predicted would become the king of the Jews.
Instead of killing you the authorities send you to Rome to serve Agrippina, the emperor’s niece, who believes the stars have foretold that you are destined to help her raise her ten-year-old son to the imperial throne. This draws you into astrology-inspired court intrigues which force you to decide whether Nero is the Christian’s Antichrist who “fiddles” while Rome burns or a musical genius trapped inside a Caesar.
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I was born and brought up in Apartheid South Africa, a medieval environment. After graduating from Rhodes University I worked for a short period as a newspaper reporter and high school teacher. In 1966 I settled in London. With “flower power” in full bloom, it was an intoxicating time to be there – so different from my puritanical Calvinist background. Once again I worked as a reporter and a teacher while I co-authored The Dominant Man,a layman’s guide to the human pecking order, which was published in 1972 in five languages.
In 1975 I emigrated to LA with my then girlfriend Suze Randall who had just landed a job as a Playboy photographer. For two years we were on the “gang list” at Hugh Hefner’s Playboy Mansion West which meant we could visit as often as we wanted. Sybaritic splendor indeed! Suze and I wrote a frivolous paperback of our experiences there (Suze by Suze Randall, published in 1978) which offended Hefner. We were frog marched out of his mansion. It was like getting the bum’s rush out of paradise!
The Nero Prediction was a long time in coming. With his penchant for music and festivals, Nero seemed to the most 60’s of the Roman emperors and, looking back, I probably wanted to recreate that magical time in a historical setting. However the deeper I looked into the first century the more references I found to astrology. One day the idea hit me like the proverbial lighting bolt. Nero’s birth date and time are known (dawn on December 15, 37 AD) so it must be possible to re-create his horoscope. With this mysterious wheel in hand, anyone familiar with ancient astrological lore should be able to make some very intelligent guesses about what Nero’s astrologer would have been advising him on a regular basis. Since Nero, like everyone else at the time, believed in astrology which, in the words of historian Michael Grant “exceeded every religion in power and influence” this could be an important historical tool in explaining his motives and actions.
So I linked up with an astrologer who specialized in Greek and Roman astrology to cast Nero’s chart and to teach me the rudiments of this intriguing mixture of superstition and astronomy. After several years of studying Roman astrological manuals (two have survived intact) and casting hundreds of horoscopes, the main theme of The Nero Prediction, the self-fulfilling prophecy, came into focus. It still astonishes me that I appear to be alone in this approach because not only was Nero clearly guided by his horoscope but, as soon as it was leaked, his enemies were guided by it as well which led to his death at the age of 30.
I know that Nero would have approved that my wife Suze Randall has gone on to be one of the world’s most successful erotic photographers. In the early 1980’s, under the nom de porn Victor Nye, I directed several of the erotic movies she produced which included the cult classic Too Naughty To Say No. My novel Lies, Love & Porn (2010) was set during that period.
My most recent novel, Napoleon’s Rosebud (2016) was inspired by my great great grandaunt’s affair with the fallen emperor during his exile on the remote island of Saint Helena. This was followed by the Sulby Hall edition of The Nero Prediction edited by David Stansfield with a new cover by Neel Muller.
Humphry can be found on his website