Category Archives: Nick Brown

Nick Brown: Emperor’s Silver (review)

Nick Brown

Nick was born in Norwich in 1974. A keen reader from a young age, he graduated from Enid Blyton to Douglas Hill and JRR Tolkien, and from there to Ian Fleming, Tom Clancy and Michael Crichton. After three years studying in Brighton, he travelled to Nepal where he worked at an orphanage and trekked to Mount Everest. After qualifying as a history teacher in 2000, he worked for five years in England before taking up a post at an international school in Warsaw.

Nick had completed a few screenplays and a futuristic thriller before being inspired to try historical fiction after reading C.J. Sansom’s Dissolution: “Researching the Roman army and life in the third century was a fascinating but time-consuming project and the book went through many drafts before arriving at its final form. I had always intended Cassius to be a somewhat atypical protagonist and when I came across the research about the Roman ‘secret service’, I knew I’d found an ideal vocation  for my reluctant hero.”

Recently, most of Nick’s spare time has been spent on the fourth Agent of Rome novel, but if he’s not writing he might be found at the cinema, in a pub or playing football.

Author Web site

book cover of 

The Emperor\'s Silver

Still recovering from his previous assignment in Arabia, imperial agent Cassius Corbulo has been spending most of his time and money on women and wine. Unfortunately for him, word of his achievements has reached the emperor Aurelian’s deputy and he is sent north, tasked with smashing a counterfeiting gang. Cassius tracks the criminals to the city of Berytus, where his investigations are hampered by civil unrest and uncooperative officials, not to mention the personal problems of his servant Simo and bodyguard Indavara. Despite this – and intense pressure from his superiors – the young officer eventually closes in on the gang. But his enemies will do anything to protect their profits, and Cassius and Indavara soon find themselves fighting not only for the emperor, but for their very survival.

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Review

For me this is one of the stand out series in Roman fiction, something different, not built around battles, it follows the exploits of Cassius an officer of the “Grain Men” or the Frumentarii. In this tale we follow our due of Cassius and Indavara on what should be a more quiet and sedate posting to uncover a counterfeiting ring, something more cerebral and more suited to Cassius talents than Indavara’s (the ex gladiator who has saved them from more than a few life threatening escapades). Only things never go quite how our young scholarly soldier hopes, and more often that not he has to rely on Indavara’s prowess and size to get them out of trouble.

Never a simple tale Nick Brown manages to twist and turn the plot, keeping you guessing as to if, how and when he might catch the leaders of the counterfeiting ringleaders. The author throughout the book manages to keep the reader not only on the edge of their seat, but wanting to flick that next page, page after page after page, meaning that you may lose sleep (please note health warning here) you may well be tired at work (watch that heavy machinery) and you will finish it before you know whats happening, and like me when you read the last paragraph you will  probably have the odd expletive. The book keeps you guessing and hanging to the end, and leaves a hook in you for the next book. But deeper than the crime story and the adventure is the relationship building of our main characters, Simo (the man-servant / slave) included. The close proximity of the three, often undercover, leads to a blending of personality types, a shared learning and as the books have progressed character growth. Cassius has learned to view others views and feelings, Simo has pushed forward with his beliefs but learned to moderate his pushing of the faith, and Indavara is learning who and what he is, and how he truly feels about things (given he has no memory prior to the arena)…. I feel we will soon learn more about Indavara and his past, and i am very excited by the prospect.

I find myself as always struggling to find the right niche for this author, it’s not just Roman fiction, it’s not just historical crime, it’s not just adventure and action, it seamlessly combines all elements into a perfectly rounded and highly entertaining book.

i cant wait for the next book

(Parm)

 

Other titles

 

Agent of Rome series

Series
Agent of Rome
1. The Siege (2011)
2. The Imperial Banner (2012)
3. The Far Shore (2013)
4. The Black Stone (2014)
5. The Emperor’s Silver (2015)
The Flames of Cyzicus (2015)

Novellas
Death This Day (2012)
The Eleventh Hour (2013)
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Nick Brown: The Black Stone (Review and Q&A)

Nick Brown

Nick Brown grew up in Norfolk and has taught English and history in both the UK and abroad. He was inspired to try his hand at historical fiction after reading C.J. Sansom’s Dissolution.

The Black Stone (2014)
(The fourth book in the Agent of Rome series)
A novel by Nick Brown

black stone

AD 273. Obsessed by the solar religions of the east, the emperor Aurelian sets out to obtain every sacred object within his realm. But one – a conical rock said to channel the very voices of the gods – lies beyond his reach. Arabian king Amir Adi has captured the stone and intends to use its fabled power to raise an army against Rome. For imperial agent Cassius Corbulo and his bodyguard Indavara, recovering the stone will constitute their toughest mission yet.

Review

Since book one of this series i have been a fan, I don’t normally find myself gravitating towards mixed genres and this series with its Roman Spies, investigations all mixed in with classic blood and sandals Roman battles is as mixed as you can find.

BUT…it works and works well. I think for me its because it doesn’t really have the big muscle-bound hero, on one person who is just amazingly good at fighting or intelligent beyond his peers etc.. Cassius Corbulo is young, too young, and scared, he never wanted to be part of the Frumentarii, he wanted to be an Orator, to belong to the cerebral arts, to enjoy his status at the top of society. At the beginning he would never have survived without his bodyguard Indavara a man with his own troubled past. The series is set against varying locations of the empire, but always at a time when the Roman world was still struggling with all the varied religions and revolts, as much as it wanted to absorb other cultures, it struggled with the Christ Cult and to add to Cassius’s problems his slave Simo is a member.

Books 4 The Black Stone: unlike books two and three which (were excellent books) showed incremental improvements, the improvements I look for in authors as a series progresses. Book four however goes to a whole new level, the plot is woven with multiple layers of religious intrigue and intolerance, political intrigue, fighting, comradeship and the ever growing relationship and maturity of our band of hero’s. Cassius learns more about his limits, his courage, and his friends. Indavara starts to learn and over come his past. The relationship between these two has matured to a whole new level in this book.

The story the black Stone is well thought out and put together, and has the layers to keep you galloping along at a decent pace. But its the characters that make it a winner, the development of the characters in the book alone is excellent (let alone the series). There are many teasing glimpses of Indavara and his past which i feel will become the focus if a future book in the series. There is very real wear and tear on the team and their personalities and the dynamic as a group. Its this frailty this real humanity that shines out from the page and makes this such a good book. Its so easy to make a near invincible hero or villain, but Nick creates shades of grey. Good guys do bad things for the sake of others or politics, or just that its expedient. Bad guys do good things on a whim, or because they just want to walk away.  All of it means that when reading it you can empathise with the characters, to think..”Yeah..I get that”. The introduction of Gutha was a master-stroke, the perfect bad guy foil to Indavara, you spend so much of the book waiting for them to face off. Also the mystery of a Germanic warrior in the far east, adds such an element of difference to the tale, also bad guy is probably the wrong term, he is a mercenary, he fights for money and his master, so good guy / bad guy in this time period is a matter of perspective, His side pays him, and while they do, they are the good guys! I found this sort of thinking refreshing in a book of this type, rather than the standard good v evil. (im going to stop now before i give something away)

At almost 500 pages you get your moneys worth and a whole lot more, not once did this book feel like it should have been trimmed, despite the length the writing is sparse where it needs to keep the pace flowing and descriptive where you need to feel the heat and desolation of the desert. By the end of the book i guarantee you will be wanting more!

This book is Highly recommended

(Parm)

Q&A

When did you first consider yourself a writer?

That’s a good question; it’s probably only recently that I’d say I was if someone asked what I do. Of course anyone who writes is a writer but I think most people – possibly unfairly – would expect you to have had something published. In creative terms, I’m a big believer in just putting in the hours. Stephen King said it takes a million words to really get to grips with writing and I think there’s a lot of truth to that.

What led you to write Roman fiction?

Even though there are so many books covering the period, the Empire was so long-lasting and vast that the story opportunities are almost endless. Also, the sources allow us to picture the Roman world yet we remain in the dark about so many aspects. That is a compelling and attractive blend for creative minds.

 How much of the character behaviour in the series is based on people you know?

Not a huge amount though I do occasionally use real people for little details like speech patterns or physical behaviour. While I was on holiday in Croatia a couple of years back I saw a striking fellow and started making notes describing his appearance. My girlfriend was a bit bemused at the time but he turned out to be Captain Asdribar from ‘The Far Shore’!

 Where did the inspiration for Cassius come from?

I think it’s quite interesting to focus on a character from the patrician class because it provides a window on the ruling ‘elite’ – both the good and the bad. I appreciate that some of his antics can occasionally put readers off but I have always tried to stay true to how I believe someone like him would behave. At heart he is a good person but very much a product of his class and with all the accompanying traits of a young man with considerable status and power.

 Your Roman books are a mix of investigation (crime) and classic swords and sandals is this deliberate and why?

Absolutely. I think readers are very well served elsewhere if they want huge battles and political machinations so if I had to use one word to describe what I’m aiming for I would say ‘adventure’. There have been military and mystery elements in all four so far but I am always on the lookout for new story ideas.

Where next for our very mixed trio of (mis) adventurers?

Without being too specific, they are returning to a province where they’ve seen plenty of action before. Cassius thinks he’s found himself a nice and easy assignment but you won’t be surprised to hear that things soon go awry.

 If you had to choose, which writer would you consider a mentor?

I wouldn’t say I’ve studied anyone’s work to that degree but I am aware of certain aspects of my stuff being influenced by Tolkien, Fleming and Macdonald Fraser.

 Just for Fun: All time fav book?

Easy. ‘The Lord of the Rings.’ Story and character tremendous, not to mention the fact that Tolkien pretty much invented a genre.

Dinner…any 4 people from history, who would you invite and why?

First off, the Roman emperor Aurelian, who ruled at the time my series is set. Mind you, there’s then a danger I would ignore the rest of my dining companions so they need to be just as intriguing. Hammurabi would be another – the ruler of ancient Babylon lived in a fascinating time and led his people for about forty years. Then perhaps Boudicca, though I’d have to remember to seat her well away from Aurelian.  Lastly, I would go for the Roman gladiator Asteropaeus, who was said to have won 107 victories in the arena. Now that guy would have some stories to tell!

Series

Agent of Rome
1. The Siege (2011)
2. The Imperial Banner (2012)
3. The Far Shore (2013)
4. The Black Stone (2014)
The SiegeThe Imperial BannerThe Far ShoreThe Black Stone
Novellas
Death This Day (2012)
The Eleventh Hour (2013)
Death This DayThe Eleventh Hour

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Filed under Historical Fiction, Nick Brown, Uncategorized

Nick Brown: (Author of Agent of Rome Series) Q&A

Author

Nick B

Bio

Nick was born in Norwich in 1974. A keen reader from a young age, he graduated from Enid Blyton to Douglas Hill and JRR Tolkien, and from there to Ian Fleming, Tom Clancy and Michael Crichton. After three years studying in Brighton, he travelled to Nepal where he worked at an orphanage and trekked to Mount Everest. After qualifying as a history teacher in 2000, he worked for five years in England before taking up a post at an international school in Warsaw.

Nick had completed a few screenplays and a futuristic thriller before being inspired to try historical fiction after reading C.J. Sansom’s Dissolution: “Researching the Roman army and life in the third century was a fascinating but time-consuming project and the book went through many drafts before arriving at its final form. I had always intended Cassius to be a somewhat atypical protagonist and when I came across the research about the Roman ‘secret service’, I knew I’d found an ideal vocation  for my reluctant hero.”

Recently, most of Nick’s spare time has been spent on the fourth Agent of Rome novel, but if he’s not writing he might be found at the cinema, in a pub or playing football.

Author web site

3_books_clear_background

Hi Nick, how are you? Thank you for taking some time away from your busy schedule to answer some questions.

Tell us about your series, and its characters?

My pleasure, Robin!

 The Agent of Rome series is set in the 3rd century AD and follows the adventures of reluctant imperial agent Cassius Corbulo, his ex-gladiator bodyguard Indavara and his Christian servant Simo. So far their travels have taken them to Syria, Cilicia, Rhodes and Africa.

Looking back at you as a writer, and why you became one… 

When and why did you begin writing?

I always liked creative writing as a child but my first real crack at it was after university. I was looking for a job and decided to try a screenplay. It was a contemporary thriller about two American assassins sent to kill each other. I got an agent in L.A. but unfortunately never sold it. Around the year 2000 I started a sci-fi project which again didn’t really get anywhere. I began the first Cassius book in 2005 and it took a long, long time to get right! As for why – I have always loved stories and it was probably inevitable that I would eventually try my hand.  

What inspired you to write your first book?

It’s hard to remember, to be honest. I think I just wanted to see if I could do it and I always have loads of ideas popping around in my head. Although the first two didn’t really get anywhere I learned a lot and proved to myself that I could get to the end of something. That’s the first hurdle really.

Is there a message in your novels that you want readers to grasp?

Not really, though I do try my best to capture something of the reality of the times. We can never really know of course but I research as much as I can to understand what life in the third century was like. My main goal is to create convincing, three-dimensional characters and place them in compelling, varied stories.

How much research is there involved in each book?

Quite a bit – I refer back to all the notes I’ve assembled over the past nine years and also get some new texts. Once I know the location I usually start with that – the geography, economy, political situation etc.; then I move on to what might have been going on there in the 270s. But it’s also the case that the books I’ve bought recently suggest story lines to me. For example, I read ‘Corruption and the Decline of Rome’ by Ramsey Macmullen in 2012 and it informed much of the plot of ‘The Far Shore.’

What books have most influenced your life?

I think anything I really rate probably affects my work in some way at some point. The writers who I’m very conscious of having influenced me include Ian Fleming, Tolkien, Tom Clancy and Michael Connelly. ‘The Lord of the Rings’ is my favourite book and made me appreciate the importance of intriguing, compelling characters. Clancy I loved as a teenager and although he’s not everyone’s cup of tea I think the way he built his plots was fantastic. My dad introduced me to Bond at a young age and Fleming has ensured that I cannot write about a meal without describing exactly what was eaten!

Do you have any advice for budding writers?

I think the main thing is to enjoy the process because making a career out of it is not easy. I always say it’s important to have your story straight before you really commit because you can end up wasting a lot of time otherwise. I would also say try to read the type of thing you want to write and learn from it. What you really need is something you just cannot wait to write – without that type of commitment you’ll struggle to get anything done.  

Finally: Open forum, sell Far Shore to the readers…Why should they buy this book. (oh and what’s next?)

Well I hope it’s a novel that transports you back to the 3rd century and lands you in the middle of a mystery that then leads to a sea voyage and finally a confrontation between my heroes and an exceptionally nasty piece of work! It has been the most well-received of the books so far and there are certainly plenty of twists and turns.

 Next is ‘The Black Stone’ which finds Cassius and Indavara off to Arabia on the trail of a sacred rock. 

Agent of Rome

1. The Siege (2011)
2. The Imperial Banner (2012)
3. The Far Shore (2013)
4. The Black Stone of Emesa (2014)
The SiegeThe Imperial BannerThe Far Shore
Novellas
Death This Day (2012)
The Eleventh Hour (2013)
Death This DayThe Eleventh Hour

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Filed under Historical Fiction, Nick Brown