José Rodrigues dos Santos is a journalist, a lecturer at Lisbon’s New University and a writer.
José was born in Mozambique, in April 1964, when this African country was part of the Portuguese empire. His father was a flying doctor, travelling around war-torn Mozambique providing medical assistance to local inhabitants. It was in Mozambique that José first experienced the harsh realities of war, which were to have an impact later on in his life.
After the collapse of the Portuguese empire, in 1974, José moved to Portugal; then, five years later, to Macau, a Portuguese colony in China, close to Hong Kong. It was here, at the age of seventeen, that he began his journalistic career working as a reporter for Radio Macau. He returned to Portugal in 1982 to take a degree in journalism before moving to the UK in 1986 to work for the BBC in London. This was to be a crucial step in the development of his journalistic and writing skills, including radio drama.
In 1990, José returned to Portugal where he was hired by RTP, Portugal’s public television station. He also began teaching television journalism and radio drama at Lisbon’s New University. At RTP he began as a reporter for Telejornal, RTP’s Evening News, but within a few months became a presenter for 24 Horas, RTP’s Late News. It was while presenting this programme in January 1991 that news of the Gulf War broke. His presentation of the ensuing dramatic events instantly brought him to national attention. As a result, José was soon promoted to presenter of Telejornal, becoming RTP’s main anchorman, a position he still holds today.
In 1993, and while working for RTP, he became a regular CNN World Report contributor, filing stories from around the world to the American television news station. He became involved in war reporting, a situation he was familiar with, as a result of his childhood in Mozambique.
He covered war and crisis in South Africa, Angola, East Timor, Iraq, Kuwait, Israel and the Palestinian territories, Albania, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Serbia, Lebanon and Georgia. His last conflict was the 2011 civil war and NATO bombing in Libya, which he covered from Bengazhi, Adjdabyia, Brega and Ben Jawar.
In 2000, José finished his Ph. D. dissertation on war reporting, which he later published in three volumes, entitled War Chronicles.
Over the years, José Rodrigues dos Santos has won several awards, both academic and journalistic. He was awarded twice by the Portuguese Press Club - in 1986 with Prémio Ensaio, and in 1994 with the Grande Prémio de Journalismo (Grand Award of Journalism). In 1987 José won the American Club of Lisbon Award for Academic Merit, by the American Club of Lisbon. He also received several awards for best television news presenter in Portugal as voted by the public. Internationally, he won three CNN awards: the Best News Breaking Story of the Year, in 1994, for the story “Huambo Battle”, set in the Angolan civil war; the Best News Story of the Year for the Sunday, in 1998, for the report “Albania Bunkers”, set in the 1997 civil unrest in that country; and in 2000 the Contributor Achievement Award in recognition of his career.
In 2002, a friend involved in a literary magazine asked José to write a short story for him. He had read War Chronicles and believed José was a novelist in waiting. José did not agree with his friend, but he owed him a favour.
So, drawing from his journalistic writing and radio drama scripting, José began writing a short story for the magazine. After a while, however, he realized his short story, written in two weeks, was 200 pages long. It became his first novel, The Island of Darkness (74 000 copies), the story of a family in East Timor during the years of the Indonesian occupation. At the outset, the book sold 6 000 copies. It wasn’t a bestseller, but it gave him the writing bug and two years later José finished his second novel, The Captain’s Daughter (135 000 copies) This was a story of love and betrayal set in World War I. In the first two weeks this 600 page novel did not sell. Then, after the main Portuguese news magazine fleetingly mentioned the book, sales erupted all over the country and the novel became one of 2004’s bestsellers in Portugal.
After The Captain’s Daughter, all José’s novels became instantaneous bestsellers, sold for translation in 20 languages.
In 2005, José published Codex 632 (215 000 copies), an historical thriller focusing on the true identity of Christopher Columbus and his Iberian Jewish background, and based on actual documents. This novel became the third bestselling book of 2005 in Portugal and was longlisted for the 2010 IMPAC Dublin Literary Award.
His next novel, The Einstein Enigma (201 000 copies), became the nº 1 bestselling book of 2006 in Portugal and was longlisted for the 2012 IMPAC Dublin Literary Award. It is a scientific thriller set in Portugal, Iran and Tibet concerning the Iranian nuclear crisis and the biggest quest of them all: the search for the scientific proof of God’s existence.
José’s 2007 novel, The Seventh Seal (205 000 copies), is another thriller set in Antarctica, Portugal, Austria, Siberia and Australia and concerns the biggest immediate threats to human civilization: global warming and the end of oil. It became the second bestselling novel of 2007 in Portugal.
In the following year he published Life in a Breath (156 000 copies), a story set in Portugal in the 1930s, involving a love affair, a murder, a political persecution and the Spanish Civil War. This novel became the nº 1 bestselling book of 2008 in Portugal.
His 2009 novel, The Wrath of God (198 000 copies), deals with two questions: what if Al-Qaeda has got the atomic bomb, and what if true Islam is radical Islam? Reviewed by a former operative of Al-Qaeda, the man who carried out Bin Laden’s first attack in Europe, this novel became the n.º 1 bestselling book of 2009 in Portugal and won the 2009 Porto Literary Club Award.
In 2010 he published The Last Interview of José Saramago, a short book on his conversations with the Portuguese Nobel of Literature laureate, who died this year.
José’s next work was The White Angel (174 000 copies), the story of a flying doctor in war-torn Mozambique who, one day, while visiting a remote village, comes across a terrible, dark secret. This novel is based on the life of the author’s own father and it became the nº1 bestselling book of 2010 in Portugal.
The 2011 novel, The Last Secret (167 000 copies), is a mystery about the true identity of Jesus that became the number 1 bestselling novel of 2011 in Portugal. The plot involves the serial killing of three academics and Tomás Noronha’s pursuit of the assassin. The quest takes him to the Holy Land, a search that leads him to who Jesus really was. All historical, biblical and scientific information in the novel is authentic.
The 2012 book, The Devil’s Hand (141 000 copies), deals with the financial and economic world crisis and won the Portal da Literatura Award for Best Novel in 2012. The International Penal Court began legal procedures against those responsible for the world crisis for crimes against humanity and the murder of a childhood friend, hired by the IPC, puts Tomás Noronha on the trail of a very dangerous DVD, with damaging evidence that seriously compromises the politicians who created the crisis. All historical and financial information in the novel is non-fictional.
His next novels, The Man from Constantinople (110 000 copies) and A Millionaire in Lisbon (103 000 copies), tell the story of an Armenian who escapes Turkish persecuton in the final days of the Ottoman Empire and eventually becomes the richest man in the world. Based on historical events, both The Man from Constantinople and A Millionaire in Lisbon lead us to the heart of the events that shaped the 20th century.
The 2014 novel, The Key of Solomon (120 000 copies), is a thriller about consciousness, matter, and the strange nature of reality. Suspecting Tomás Noronha of having murdered CIA Science director Frank Bellamy, the American agency hunts him down. To survive, Tomás must solve the mystery of Bellamy’s death – and humankind’s ultimate enigma: what happens when we die? Based on genuine scientific evidence, The Key of Solomon is bound to shake the way we think about life, death and the universe.
His next work is The Lotus Flowers (83 000 copies) and The Purple Pavilion (55 000 copies), the beginning of a trilogy about the rise of authoritarianism. Karl Marx announces the coming revolution and the prophecy shakes the world. Satake Fukui grows in Japan and sees ultra militarism everywhere, while blue-eyed Chinese Lian-hua is kidnapped by Mao Zedong and witnesses the clash between Communists and Nationalists. Young Nadezhda lives in Russia under the Bolsheviks and its terrifying collectivization programme, whereas Artur watches democracy crumbling in Portugal with the rise of dictator Salazar. Can an idea change the world? Based on true historic events, The Lotus Flowers and The Purple Pavilion show us how a generous political concept can bring humankind to the edge of the abyss.
José’s 2016 novel, Vaticanum (96 000 copies), brings us to the subject of corruption in the heart of Christianity. The story begins when Islamic extremists penetrate Vatican City and kidnap the Pope. Hours later a video runs on the internet with “a message to the crusaders”: the Pope is held by ISIS and at midnight he will be decapitated. The clock starts ticking. Tomás Noronha is involved in the search to locate the Pope and finds a clue that will lead him to the Vatican’s darkest secret.Overall, José has sold over 3 million books.