TRANSPORT back to a turbulent Jerusalem in 30AD – the year after Jesus Christ’s crucifixion – and a country amidst of political outbreak, as the Jewish Zealots revolt against the brutal rule of the Roman Empire.

Historical fiction The Senator’s Assignment tells the story of Senator Vivius Marcianus, a trusted confidant to the Roman emperor Caesar Tiberius, who is sent to Jerusalem under orders to investigate the corrupt practises of Pontius Pilate, the man who in the Bible, is considered responsible for sending Jesus to his death.

The novel is the first work of fiction by Hexham author and local Methodist preacher Joan Histon, who said she was inspired to the book due to her interest with Pontius – and his mysterious disappearance from history.

“Pontius always interested me,” Joan said.

“He was this hugely important man at the time – a prefect of Rome, the governor of Judea and the judge of Jesus’ trail. Then he suddenly disappears without explanation, and we never discover his fate.

“He remains the topic of many historical or religious texts – but he is rarely featured in historical fictions, which was what inspired me to make him a central character in my novel.”

Throughout The Senator’s Assignment, biblical figures such as Pontius, his wife Claudia, and Prefect Lucius Aelius Sejanus are weaved into the lives of the character’s born from Joan’s imagination – including her protagonist Vivius, who must not only battle through the political snake-pit of of Rome, but also his own troubled past.

“It was important to me to have a main character who was both heroic, and flawed,” Joan said.

“Because we all have our hang-ups and that’s what makes us human – and I wanted Vivius to be as realistic as possible.

“I didn’t want him to be just another two-dimensional character whose only qualities are being stereotypically tall, dark, handsome.”

Joan’s passion for a complex and real protagonist she said stemmed from her career as a professional counsellor, and more recently, her work as a spiritual director as part of her role within the Methodist church, where she helps people to reconnect with their faith, particularly in times of hardship.

Through her experiences in counselling, Joan was shown the power of human strength, as she witnessed her clients overcome major difficulties, and this inspired her to reflect that bravery in Vivius, which she said was “part of his real heroism”.

Although The Senator’s Assignment is Joan’s debut fiction novel, she has previously worked as a ghost writer for two non-fiction works called Tears in the Dark and Thy Will Be Done … Eventually!, both of which are comprised of a collection of personal stories from Joan’s counselling clients, who had wanted to share their experiences with the world.

“Writing is an unquenchable thirst,” Joan said.

“I honestly don’t know what I would do without it.

“This latest book is different to my previous works however, because it was a chance for me to let my imagination run wild. I wanted to blend together religion, history and fiction – without having to box myself into one genre or the other.”

Since the release of The Senator’s Assignment in October, the novel has flown off the shelves internationally, selling copies in the UK, Canada and America to such success that Joan has been commissioned to write a series which will continue to follow Vivius’ journey.

The sequel The Senator’s Darkest Days is currently in the works.

“I feel extremely lucky, because everyday I get to exercise my passion which is telling stories – whether it is reading a sermon at church, or scribbling away at my writing desk at home,” Joan said.

The Senator’s Assignment can be ordered from