Monthly Archives: September 2020

Simon Turney / Gordon Doherty : Sons of Rome (Guest Post & review)

book cover of Sons of Rome

Sons of Rome  (2020)
(The first book in the Rise of Emperors series)
A novel by Gordon Doherty and Simon Turney

Four Emperors. Two Friends. One Destiny.

As twilight descends on the 3rd century AD, the Roman Empire is but a shadow of its former self. Decades of usurping emperors, splinter kingdoms and savage wars have left the people beleaguered, the armies weary and the future uncertain. And into this chaos Emperor Diocletian steps, reforming the succession to allow for not one emperor to rule the world, but four.

Meanwhile, two boys share a chance meeting in the great city of Treverorum as Diocletian’s dream is announced to the imperial court. Throughout the years that follow, they share heartbreak and glory as that dream sours and the empire endures an era of tyranny and dread. Their lives are inextricably linked, their destinies ever-converging as they rise through Rome’s savage stations, to the zenith of empire. For Constantine and Maxentius, the purple robes beckon…

Guest Post

A Choice of Emperors
by Gordon Doherty & Simon Turney

Between 305 and 312 AD, the Western Roman Empire was dominated by two figures. The conflict between Constantine and Maxentius – and in particular their seismic battle at the Milvian Bridge in 312 – has grown over the centuries to achieve mythic proportions, and like all myths we must look beyond the obvious if we wish to discern the truth. The rivalry between the two emperors was not a religious schism, nor a personal crisis, it was simply a conflict between two men who claimed rulership over one land. That Constantine has come down through history to become arguably one of the most famous of emperors, while Maxentius has been vilified and damned by the centuries and even then to become an almost forgotten figure, is largely the work of Christian writers colouring events with their inescapable bias.

Constantine’s history before his rise to the purple is scarcely covered, with a few events and anecdotes and little in the way of confirmed motivation. Maxentius’s life, even throughout the better-recorded period during which the two emperors came to blows, is barely detailed at all except insofar as it impacts upon Constantine. So what was the history of these two men who rose to become the two most powerful figures in the West, and was there more to their conflict than the simple inevitability of power-clashes?

When Gordon and Simon first conjured up the idea of writing the tale of these two larger-than life figures, the first challenge was deciding where to begin. Well, what better place to begin than at the beginning? The child is the father of the man, after all. Thus, Simon and Gordon instigated their tale during the early years of Maxentius and Constantine, in better times, prizing open their little-known childhoods and trying to understand the humans behind the history.

What history does not tell us is whether their paths crossed in those earlier days. This was a welcome challenge for Gordon and Simon, the opportunity to debate and speculate over how the two characters might plausibly have possibly known one another in childhood and adolescence. Both were children of Rome’s leading men, so it seemed likely that they could have met at the many imperial court gatherings across the empire. The starting point seized, the story planned, Gordon and Simon were all set to begin writing. All that remained now was to each settle upon which protagonist each author would write.

Simon’s literary career thus far had been solidly built upon tales of the Roman military. As such, the action-packed life of Constantine, with his war-hero record and empire-spanning military career which propelled him to power, might seem the obvious choice. However, Simon has always had a soft spot for history’s underdogs, and the idea that Maxentius, perhaps Rome’s quintessential underdog, might be more than simply a black-and-white villain was too much to refuse. With little confirmed information about Maxentius in sources, and much of that clearly apocryphal and biased, the opportunity to create a vision of this man as he might have been was a great pull. And so Simon turned away from his usual military fare and began to explore the world of a man who was more politician and patriot than warrior and hero.

Gordon’s writing career has largely centred on the late Roman Empire and the period that led to the collapse of the West and the continuation of the ‘Byzantine’ Empire in the East. Many point to Constantine’s day as the definitive starting point for that period. But in his reading, Gordon has long been unsatisfied by the polarised opinion surrounding Constantine: he was either a saint, the thirteenth apostle who bestowed Christianity upon the world of Late Antiquity… or he was a political monster, bloodthirsty, manipulative, ambitious and determined to make the world his own. But no man is all good or all evil. This was the proverbial gauntlet for Gordon – to explore the fog in between these two extremes, to mine the scant anecdotes and scraps of evidence we have for Constantine the person and to truly understand his motivations.

Armed with their story plan, their burning enthusiasm to tell the tale of these two giants of history, Gordon and Simon set to work. The story of Constantine and Maxentius begins with ‘Sons of Rome’.

Review

What happens when two very talented and prolific authors get their heads together and come up with an idea…. The result can be pure genius.

Simon Turney and Gordon Doherty with over 56 novels between them have really become among the best individual writers in their genre, but combining their talents… that was something new and would need a huge amount of cooperation and discussion. Thankfully these two friends have meshed together their talents and voices seamlessly.

Sons of Rome is a story that grabs you from the first page, it follows both Maxentius and Constantine from childhood , through their growth to power and how they survive the perilous intrigue and back stabbing that forms the daily life in the courts of Emperors, how their personalities and Psyche were formed, how they developed into such powerful figures of history.

Both of these authors are characters writers and creators, in their various series they have a skill that breathes life into dusty history, adding flesh to these famous names is not enough, they want you to love their creations, to root for them, to become invested in them, but with diverging agendas you find yourself invested in two people who are destined to become at odds with one another, its a strange feeling. The style of one author writing Constantine and the other Maxentius and then having them staggered through the books adds a frenetic pace to the reading of this book, you cant put it down because you want to find out what Constantine did next, then how did Maxtenius react to that…. and on and on until…. suddenly the book is over and you’re left desperate to have more.

I honestly put this book as a really contender for book of the year, its a brilliant achievement, and one i encourage you all to read.

(Parm)

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Jonathan Spencer : Napoleon’s Run (Review)

Napoleon’s Run

 (2020)
(The first book in the William John Hazzard series)
A novel by Jonathan Spencer

book cover of Napoleon\'s Run

 

One man against an armada

London, 1798. Late one night, a junior naval officer at the Admiralty intercepts a coded despatch, marked with blood: Napoleon Bonaparte is about to launch the largest invasion fleet in history. Target: unknown.

England is vulnerable, bereft of allies, and the Sea Lords fear a direct assault on Britain. Admiralty Intelligence sounds the alarm and prepares to unleash Nelson and the Mediterranean squadron.

But before they can, they need vital information. They need a special officer to infiltrate by land or by sea to uncover the destination of Napoleon’s armada – a man who never stops.

Marine Lt William John Hazzard.

But will he agree to help them?

Betrayed by the Admiralty at the African Cape three years earlier, Hazzard has vowed never to trust them again. Bitter memories poisoned his return home, and his devoted fiancée Sarah, unable to bear his pain any longer, disappears in Naples – never to be seen again.

But the Admiralty knows just how to get him back.

They know where Sarah is, and her life is in danger…

Review

Its been ages since there was a new Napoleon fictional tale out, having enjoyed the likes of Bernard Cornwells Sharpe and Simon Scarrows Wellington i had high expectations.

To start with i was a little concerned, it all felt a bit to Sharpe, the grizzled veteran officer and the big Sargent, but very quickly that dissipated, and gave me a sense of Paul Collards Jack Lark, the same dark, brooding, tortured quality of character. This is no bad thing, because the Jack Lark series is one of the best Historical Action series out there for character driven plot.

Jonathan Spencer though soon started to plot his own course, a debut is always going to feel a bit like something else because we all have influences, its the mark of a new great writer when you see their own style come to life and their characters chart their own course.

Marine Lt William John Hazzard is a new name on the role call of great characters, but a worthy one, dark, brooding, full of menace, and also regret and love. A man who bucks the trend of dilettante officer in an army where rank is purchased, this is a man very much like Sharpe and Lark, a man who charts his own course, a man who shares the dangers and struggles of his men, a man with a conscience and his own moral compass. Orders are to be carried out, but not if they impinge on his own morality.

In this book we see Hazzard badly treated by the admiralty and yet despite a long convalescence from the injuries bot physical and mental he finds himself dragged back into their world of intrigue and back stabbing. His lady love is on danger and they use this to trap him, to use his passion, his moral compass and his drive to get her back safe…

Hazzard set out with a backing cast of veterans, men who have seen it all and are loyal only to their officer, the man who has sweated and bled alongside them, a man who has earned their respect, a man who they would die for, because he would die for them.

I found myself utterly engrossed in this book, its wonderfully vivid characters and explosive action, there was never a moments peace to relax and pause for breath, Hazzard goes at 100mph and never lets up in his search, not for one moment does he think of personal danger, only how he can find Sarah and save her, and you the reader are dragged along on a white knuckle adventure by his Bombay coat tails.

A fantastic Debut, a man to watch, i feel we will be seeing many more fantastic books and a definite contender for a top 5 spot in my best book of the year

Highly Recommended

‘Never give up the boat’

(Parm)

Author and book links below

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Kenneth Cameron: Moody and the Fateful Lightning (Review)

Once a Roman soldier, the man called Moody wanders through time and space, following voices calling him for help and never understanding what drives him to obey. A few years after the end of America’s Civil War, his hot-air balloon follows a tornado into a small Southern town, seeking a woman he thinks he heard as Lulu. But Lulu turns out to be the handsome and commanding madam of a brothel in Darktown, an enclave of impoverished freed blacks across the railroad tracks from the whites-only Doobeyville. He Wants Lula, not Lulu – the disturbed daughter of “Lord” Doobey, owner of a thousand slaves – eight years after slavery was supposedly been abolished.

Moody is drawn into a world of racial injustice that makes him the object of a Ku Klux lynching after a kaleidoscopic mix of a tournament of “White Knights,” a charge of murder, a chain gang, and a surreal trial. Fighting his way free of the lynching, he confronts the slave owner in a climax that endangers Darktown itself and even his own existence.

 

Review

Self published books are always a bit of a crap shoot, except that more and more authors with a writing pedigree are embarking on this route, one of these is Kenneth Cameron a man with a fantastic writing bibliography (see below) 26 Novels is an impressive number in anyone Biblio.

Now at the impressive age of 89 Kenneth has embarked on another series about Moody, Moody is a complex character, a time travelling angel of good? a man driven to end evil? a man directed by unknown voices and compulsions?  Born at the end of the Roman occupation of Britain he became a warrior and follows his own moral compass.

In fateful Lightning Moody and his sidekick arrive in Southern mid west america, just after the Civil war, racism is still rampant, and made worse by having had to emancipate their slaves…. but emancipation is only an idea when the locals can still hold the power of life and death over the ex slave population, when they can still brutalize and abuse them, and control their every waking and sleeping moments. Moody is called by a voice asking for help arriving with his wagon full of everything he could ever need, a wagon akin to the doctors tardis, with never ending compartments. Moody must find out why he has been called, he must walk the line between the white overlords and the Black slaves, his swarthy skin seeing him truly accepted by neither.

On the surface this is a great supernatural story of good vs evil, but at its core its also a story of the evils of slavery and the horror that that life and society created. Its a story that entertains and educates, the delights and horrifies the reader in equal measure, and its one that i enjoyed more than i expected to, and left me wanting to see where Moody goes next, what adventure will call him, what wrong will need to be put right.

(Parm)

Series
Alan Craik (as  Gordon Kent)… Co written with Christian Cameron
   1. Night Trap (1998)
aka Rules of Engagement
   2. Peace Maker (2000)
   3. Top Hook (2002)
   4. Hostile Contact (2003)
   5. Force Protection (2004)
   6. Damage Control (2005)
   7. The Spoils of War (2006)
Denton
   1. The Frightened Man (2008)
   2. The Bohemian Girl (2009)
   3. The Second Woman (2010)
   4. The Haunted Martyr (2013)
   5. The Backward Boy (2013)
   6. The Past Master (2013)
   7. The Oxford Fellow (2013)
Louisa Conan Doyle Mystery
   Winter at Death’s Hotel (2012)
Novels
   Fair Game (1973) (as by George Bartram)
   A Job Abroad (1975) (as by George Bartram)
   The Aelian Fragment (1976) (as by George Bartram)
   White Peril (1977) (as by George Bartram)
   The Sunset Gun (1983) (as by George Bartram)
   Under the Freeze (1984) (as by George Bartram)
   In the Noonday Sun (1985) (as by George Bartram)
   Master of Secrets (1987) (as by George Bartram)
   The Sun Is Bleeding (1989) (as by George Bartram)
   Cauldron of Violence (2000) (as by Gordon Kent)
   The Falconer’s Tale (2007) (as by Gordon Kent)

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