Scotland (1956 – )
aka James Douglas
Douglas Jackson is the author of the successful historical novels Caligula and Claudius and my next book Hero of Rome, the first of a new trilogy, will be published in July 2010. I was born in Jedburgh on the border between England and Scotland in the summer of 1956. It’s a place full of history and haunted by the ghosts of Border reivers and the victims of centuries of bloody border warfare. I left school three weeks before my 16th birthday with six O levels and no idea what I was going to do with the rest of my life. Luckily, a friend worked in the local employment office and got me a place on a youth work scheme. It turned out to be restoring a Roman marching camp in the Cheviot Hills and I had a wonderful summer turning turf and dreaming of Romans. Later I joined my local paper and for the next 36 years worked in local and national newspapers in Scotland, including the Daily Record and the Scotsman. I left the Scotsman after nine years as assistant editor in the summer of 2009 to become a full-time writer.
AD 72. Titus Flavius Vespasianus, known as Vespasian, is Emperor of Rome, but his grip on power grows increasingly fragile as economic disaster threatens. The enormous riches from his Judaean campaigns are all but spent, legions go unpaid, and the yields from Rome’s vital Spanish goldfields have fallen dramatically since the civil war.
Gaius Valerius Verrens is recently married and building a new home when the summons arrives from the Emperor. Vespasian needs a man with the combined skills of a lawyer and a soldier to investigate what is happening in remote, mountainous Asturica Augusta where the authorities claim a bandit called The Ghost is ravaging the gold convoys.
But when Valerius arrives in Asturica he faces a much more complex situation. Stalked from the shadows he cannot tell ally from enemy, the exploited native tribes are a growing threat, and the tortured landscape itself seems capable of swallowing him up. Gradually he finds himself drawn into a much wider conspiracy, one that could plunge the Empire into a new conflict and that will place him on a deadly collision course with his old friend and most dangerous adversary, the former gladiator Serpentius.
Saviour of Rome, book seven in the Gaius Valerius Verrens series. I have read and reviewed each and every book as the series has progressed, and i have always complimented Douglas Jackson on his ability to find a new and exciting twist and turn to the plot, to the style and flow of the writing and to the fact that he has made each book an improvement on the last, this writer is no one trick pony. Which is where my quote “A writer at the top of his game, his books are the complete package, filled with intrigue, action and adventure” came from. A quote i was gob smacked to see on the back cover of this latest book.
Saviour of Rome is different from the previous books in the series, Verrens has reached a stable point in his life, he could if he wanted sit back and start to enjoy life, if any man had earned some respite it is he, the Hero of Rome. But his Emperor calls and he answers.
Serpentius has vanished from Verrens life, in the aftermath of the fall of Jerusalem ( See Scourge of Rome ) and the confusion that followed Verrens as he had to leave his badly wounded friend behind, the chaos of war separated them. Does this new mission offer the possibility of a reunion? could it pit them on opposing sides?
Emperor Vespasian needs gold to prop up his bankrupt empire and the Gold Mines of Spain seem to suddenly be running dry, the local government attributes this to bandits led by a man named the Ghost or the Snake, Could the snake be Serpentius? this is all after all happening right in his home neighborhood.
In what is a departure for Douglas Jackson, Verrens embarks upon a purely fictional adventure rather than part of historical fact, it is an imagining of what could have happened giving the author free licence to explore the landscape. The historical situation was ripe for it and the author uses the historical situation of the time to create a thrilling adventure for our hero. Everything else in the tale is as ever; impeccably researched as would be expected from such a great writer.
Going under cover and with a plot that twists and winds to keep the reader guessing, in the same vein as the wonderful Nick Brown, Douglas Jackson has Verrens investigate the root of the crime, digging through layers of misdirection and deceit, viewing the horror inflicted on the locals who are forced to work the mines (again historical detail taken from the considerable research carried out by the author, and provides such a powerful view of something as mundane as mining, yet in this book as exciting as an action movie)
As always Douglas Jackson uses his twin foil main characters to expose the good and the bad of the Roman world, from the gutters of the poor all the way to the corridors of power. As a friend and intimate of Titus, son of Vespasian we walk those corridors of power, we see the machinations of the powerful in the form of the enmity of Domitian and his desire for revenge, to the provincial houses of the Spanish locals in their mountain villages . But most of all in this book we see the impact of years of stress and the toll that death takes upon a man, both Verrens and Serpentius are tired, their adventures and injuries slowing them, but their experience always carrying them through, all the ghosts of the past wearing on the soul and the tiredness it creates comes across on the page, i think this effect is something very hard to achieve successfully, but Douglas Jackson has managed it, i could feel the pain and exhaustion in the characters.
There are only a handful of books i think that could possibly beat this for book of the year, and they have not come into my hands yet…. if you have not read this series then please do so, start at book one and enjoy the ride.
1. Caligula (2008)
2. Claudius (2009)
1. Hero of Rome (2010)
2. Defender of Rome (2011)
3. Avenger of Rome (2012)
4. Sword of Rome (2013 )
5. Enemy of Rome (2014)
6. Scourge of Rome (2015)
7. Saviour of Rome (2016)
War Games (2014)