Tag Archives: Rome

Douglas Jackson: Scourge of Rome (Review)

Douglas Jackson

Douglas Jackson's picture
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.

Scourge of Rome  (2015)
(The sixth book in the Gaius Valerius Verrens series)

70AD: disgraced, dishonored, and banished into exile on pain of execution if he ever returns to Rome, the former military tribune Gaius Valerius Verrens makes his way East through the death and destruction of the savage Judaean rebellion. Valerius knows his only hope of long term survival and a restoration of his family’s fortunes lie with his friend Titus, commander of the Army of Judaea and son of the newly crowned Emperor Vespasian. But when he reaches the ring of legionary camps around the seemingly impregnable city of Jerusalem, he finds Titus a changed man. Gone is the cheerful young officer he knew, replaced by a tough, ruthless soldier under pressure from his father to end the insurrection at any cost. Soon, Valerius finds himself at the center of a web of intrigue spun by Titus’s lover, Queen Berenice of Cilicia, and her sometime ally, the general’s turncoat adviser, Flavius Josephus, who have an ulterior motive for ending the siege quickly. Yet the laurels that will regain his honor cannot be won in the negotiations in the murky tunnels beneath Jerusalem. Only amid the fire and blood of battle will he equal the glory that brought him the title Hero of Rome.

scourge

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Review

Douglas Jackson is quite simply a writer at the top of his game, his books are the complete package, filled with intrigue, action and adventure.But more than that they are filled with history, with heart and emotion and characters that will make you bleed and cry and love, characters that will involve you deeply in every aspect of their lives and drag you ever deeper into the bloody Roman world.

This series that started so triumphantly, and still holds one of the (IMHO) greatest scenes in historical fiction (the last stand at the temple) has become so much more than just an adventure following the seemingly indestructible Verrens. Integral to the story now is Serpentius, a man who is still as deadly as he ever was, but now more real, flawed, destructible. Both of them now are older, they are scarred beyond measure and yet they survive in a world where so many of their friends and comrades have gone to an early death, they survive as much by luck and brains as they do by brawn and skill.

Douglas Jackson challenges our hero’s to bring all of their luck and skill to the fore in surviving the wrath of Domitian who has grown in power since the taking of Rome, he may not have executed Verren’s but he is not beyond sending men after him, despite his agreement. Freedom, for the hand of Domitia Longina Corbulo, one forced upon him , read enemy of Rome. Its this uncertainty and intrigue that drives much of the early part of the book. Who is after them? some one must be and there are many potential names in the frame, staying alive is a war on its own, surviving to reach his friend Titus, paranoid that death awaits around any corner, hidden under any robe.

Along the way he (Verren’s) will find love, step into greater and greater danger and become embroiled in one of the bloodiest fights in Roman history, (with claims by Josephus that around 1.1 million people died), until ultimatly the great city of Jerusalem is ground to dust.

This has such a huge potential to be a dark dark story, but Douglas Jackson tells it with such passion and skill that while you feel the horror, the terror and the heat of battle, you also feel the passion of new love, and the enduring love of two friends who cling to each other come what may, tossed around like flotsam to the whims of the great and powerful and and the tide of history yet always striving for each other and honour first.

I truly love this series, its one of my all time favourite. Nothing to do with the period, all to do with the skill of the writing and the great characters.

I cannot recommend this highly enough

(Parm)

Series

 

Rufus
1. Caligula: The Tyranny of Rome (2008)
2. Claudius (2009)

 

Gaius Valerius Verrens
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)

Glen Savage mystery
War Games (2014)

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Filed under Douglas Jackson, Historical Fiction

E S Moxon : Wulfsuna (Review)

E S Moxon

Of Anglo-Italian heritage, E S Moxon’s life has always involved languages and travel. Growing up she spent many family holidays visiting ancient burial sites and stone circles, exploring Britain’s multi-cultural past. Her Italian grandfather’s tales of the roguish adventures of his youth fuelled Elaine’s passion for writing from a young age. A former holistic therapist and current member of the Historical Novel Society, she lives in the Midlands with her family.

Author Web Site

Description

9781781322734-Perfect.indd

 

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AD433 Torn apart when Rome abandoned Bryton, the Wulfsuna are a disparate tribe. Twenty years on, two long ships sail for the east fens to honour their Warrior-Lord’s dream and reunite with lost kin. Soon after landing however, a murderous betrayal divides loyalties, some craving revenge and others indignant on pursuing their Lord’s dream. Blood and brotherhood are tested to their deadly limits. The discovery of a young Seer adds to the turmoil. Expelled from her village after foretelling of an attack by blue painted savages, the Wulfsuna are equally wary of the one they call ‘Nix’. None fear her more than Lord Wulfgar, who refuses to believe an ancient saga bearing his name, is weaving the Seer’s destiny into his own. But a treacherous rival threatens their fate and Wulfgar must accept the Seer’s magic may be all that can save them.

Review

A debut book is always a privilege to review, its also a tough responsibility. You can do untold damage if enough people read your blog, as well as give plenty of benefit with a good review. Ultimately my view is that you need to walk a fine line. bridge the gap. Give and honest review, but also factor in the fact the writer is beginning a career. I’m not arrogant enough to yet know what impact my review has, but i’m honest enough to know it has an impact….

So … what does that mean for Wulfsuna? well happily for me Elaine can write, she has clearly spent many long hard hours, days and nights pouring her passion for a subject into a novel. She has chosen a period in time that is very underwritten, and seems to be gaining popularity at the moment, that period when Rome has pulled out of Britain and the populace has been left to fend for its-self against the ever migrating hordes from the the mainland.

The story follows the Sons of the Wolf as they look to meet up with past members of their group, people who have settled the land, farmed it. The plot follows the leader of this band and a young woman, a seer. Both suffer personal tragedy, She expelled from her village, forced to fend for herself, He the loss of family to betrayal. Fate has their lives interwoven, and she will have her fickle way.

The authors love for her characters and her time period clearly shine through on every page, i did feel that the book was perhaps over polished, when you have too much time to finish a book, its easy to go back and tweak a phrase, add a description, and i think Elaine has perhaps suffered that first book wobble where she had that extra time. To her credit she finished a book, and made it a decent plot, one which really pulls the reader with it. I think knowing her as i do (for quite some time online) she will be taking on board all her feedback to make book 2 really hit home. Also she has set herself a much shorter window to write the book, thus removing the habit of polishing.

The book i would rate as a 3/5, it has lots of charm and plenty of action and great characters, but more than anything it has potential, so i will be back for book 2. I hope you will also give this a go and join the journey, because if we don’t support new authors…. we lose anything new and different.

(Parm)

 

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Anthony Riches Thunder of the Gods (2015) Review

Author website

Anthony_Riches

About the author

Buy a signed copy from Goldsboro Books

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Description:

51XjytNNSFL.SX316

The eighth book in the Empire sequence takes Centurion Marcus Aquila and his Tungrian legion on a dangerous mission to the heart of the Parthian empire

With Rome no longer safe Marcus and the Tungrians are ordered east, to the desolate border lands where Rome and Parthia have vied for supremacy for centuries.

Ordered to relieve the siege of an isolated fortress, their task is doomed to bloody failure unless they can turn the disaffected Third Legion into a fighting force capable of resisting the terrifying Parthian cataphracts.

And Marcus must travel to the enemy capital Ctesiphon on a desperate mission, the only man who can persuade the King of Kings to halt a war that threatens the humiliation of the empire and the slaughter of his friends

Review

Whenever there is a new Anthony Riches book in the offing it always create an air of anticipation in my reading schedule, Its very easy for me to say Tony is a fun read but really he is so much more than that. His early books were just that, great fun, but I always felt that this squad of Tungrians could be from any time period, they were/ are the epitome of what I expect squaddies to be, they are just the same as many soldiers I have known…. Only tougher and more dangerous, purely by dint of the time period they live in, where life is cheap, Tony captures the essence of the men on the front line so well and the fatalistic approach to much of their everyday life. What is so easy to miss in the early books is the subtle web that Tony weaves to draw the reader in, to create the Roman world and the politics that surround the people in the book, its so fun and the language so irreverent that its easy to miss the subtlety, but its there, and he orchestrates ii in what appears an effortless fashion, to build a world and a group of men that capture the imagination, and hold on for grim death.

Then comes Tony’s real talent as a writer, again something quite subtle, but when I find myself talking books and using him as an example to all and sundry on the right way to do something then surely that means he must be one of the best? (at least for me). Its his characters, its very easy I think for a writer to spend time on his key characters, his hero(es), to build them up so we worry about them, so we are invested in them, but many writers do this at the expense of the supporting cast. Tony treats all the characters as the main character, there is no supporting cast, you become invested in everyone. He does this I think with a malicious glee, because then he becomes the Atropos, holding the abhorred shears over the thread of each characters life, leaving you to worry over the fate of everyone, adding a heightened sense of anticipation to each and every scene. This delivers so much more than the average book for the reader, because you do not know who will survive the book, I honestly don’t think a single character is safe, he will kill anyone if the story calls for it, unlike many writers who protect their heroes. I have read more than one book of Anthony’s that has left me shouting “no F—ing way” at the fate of a character, he is the only author who does that to me.

Thunder of the Gods reproduces all this fantastic skill and does it against the dangerous backdrop of the Parthian empire, a part of the world in the forefront of everyone’s minds at present with ISIS and the destruction of historic sites that someday may only be left in the wonderful descriptive and imagination of writers like Tony. This book takes us on a tour of the edges of this territory, into the heart of the empires deadly politics.  Having been a fan of Tony’s since book one I have no qualms in saying that this is his best work to date. It may not have had me swearing at him like the last book, but it is wonderfully descriptive, highly emotive and just a sheer pleasure to read. As ever he will without doubt appear in the fight for my end of year top 10.

Highly recommended, (this book and this series, so prev reviews below)

(Parm)

Series

Empire 

1. Wounds of Honour (2009)
2. Arrows of Fury (2010)
3. Fortress of Spears (2011)
4. The Leopard Sword (2012)
5. The Wolf’s Gold (2012)
6. The Eagle’s Vengeance (2013)
7. The Emperor’s Knives (2014)
8. Thunder of the Gods (2015)

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Filed under Anthony Riches, Historical Fiction

SJA Turney : Praetorian: The Great Game (Review / Blog Tour)

Author Bio in his own words

Find me on Twitter @SJATurney

I live with my wife, son and daughter, and two (close approximations of) dogs in rural North Yorkshire, where my wife and I both grew up, surrounded by friends and family. A born and bred Yorkshireman with a love of the country, I cannot envisage spending my life anywhere else, though my anchor is sometimes tested as the wanderlust hits and we travel wherever I can find the breathtaking remains of the classical world. I have a love of travel and history, architecture and writing and those four interact well enough to keep me almost permanently busy.

Since leaving school and University, I have tried a great number of careers, including car sales, insurance, software engineering, computer network management, civil service and even paint ing and decorating sales. I have lived in four counties and travelled as widely as time and budget allowed and find myself finally back where I began and finally doing something I love.

Having written a number of unpublished short stories in my early days, I decided back in 2003 to try and write a full length novel. That was the start of Marius’ Mules. Being a lover of Roman history, I decided to combine my love of writing and my love of classical history. Marius’ Mules was followed two years later by Interregnum, my attempt to create a new fantasy story still with a heavy flavour of Rome. Since then, the success and popularity of both have inflated my head so that I can no longer comfortably fit through doors, and has spawned sequels to each work, with the fantasy trilogy complete, six volumes in the Marius’ Mules series, and two books of the Ottoman Cycle quadrilogy now out.

I maintain another website detailing the Roman sites I visit and photograph, and write a blog about books. I am an almost terminally chatty person. That’s just a due warning if you feel like contacting me (see above.) I am always happy to speak to people and have put together an FAQ gathered together from things I have been asked previously.

Praetorian Blog Tour

(in case you can’t read the image)

Thursday 12th:    SJAT’s blog (https://sjat.wordpress.com) – Extract of the book, Competition, Background to the story and other bits and pieces
Friday 13th:        I and I (https://bantonbhuttu.blogspot.co.uk/) – Review
Saturday 14th:    For Winter Nights (https://forwinternights.wordpress.com/) – Guest post on writing about historical locations
Sunday 15th:      Parmenion Books (https://parmenionbooks.wordpress.com/) – Review
Monday 16th:     Hoover Book Reviews (https://hooverbookreviews.wordpress.com/) – Review and Q&A
Tuesday 17th:     Reading Gives Me Wings (https://readinggivesmewings.wordpress.com/) – Review & interview

Praetorian Front Cover (1) - Copy

Buy the book….A Bargain at £1.99 (uk)

Buy the book….A Bargain at $3.01 (usa)

Promoted to the elite Praetorian Guard in the thick of battle, a young legionary is thrust into a seedy world of imperial politics and corruption. Tasked with uncovering a plot against the newly-crowned emperor Commodus, his mission takes him from the cold Danubian border all the way to the heart of Rome, the villa of the emperor’s scheming sister, and the great Colosseum. 

What seems a straightforward, if terrifying, assignment soon descends into Machiavellian treachery and peril as everything in which young Rufinus trusts and believes is called into question and he faces warring commanders, Sarmatian cannibals, vicious dogs, mercenary killers and even a clandestine Imperial agent. In a race against time to save the Emperor, Rufinus will be introduced, willing or not, to the great game. 

“Entertaining, exciting and beautifully researched” – Douglas Jackson 

“From the Legion to the Guard, from battles to the deep intrigue of court, Praetorian: The Great Game is packed with great characters, wonderfully researched locations and a powerful plot.” – Robin Carter

Review

When Simon said he was writing a new Roman series i worried that it would be Fronto by another name, something so easy to do when you have a series as successful as Marius Mules. Simon very generously involved me in his writing process, sending me the book in very early stages for comment and feedback (he knows i love that sort of thing, and pretends i add value). This allowed me to See Rufinus evolve, and soon dispelled any concerns about a carbon copy of Marius Mules, this was something new, something sharp and intelligent, full of intrigue, but still laden with Simon’s sharp wit and mischievous humour.

Rufinus takes the reader from the Legion to the Guard, from battles to the deep intrigue of court, Praetorian: The Great Game is packed with great characters, wonderfully researched locations and a powerful plot that fans have come to associate with Simon Turney.

This truly is the start of something new and special i highly recommend it

(Parm)

Series
Marius’ Mules
1. The Conquest of Gaul (2009)
aka The Invasion of Gaul
2. The Belgae (2010)
3. Gallia Invicta (2011)
4. Conspiracy of Eagles (2012)
5. Hades’ Gate (2013)
6. Caesar’s Vow (2014)
7. The Great Revolt (2014)
Prelude to War (2014)
The Conquest of GaulThe BelgaeGallia InvictaConspiracy of Eagles
Hades' GateCaesar's VowThe Great RevoltPrelude to War
Tales of the Empire
1. Interregnum (2009)
2. Ironroot (2010)
3. Dark Empress (2011)
InterregnumIronrootDark Empress
Ottoman Cycle
1. The Thief’s Tale (2013)
2. The Priest’s Tale (2013)
3. The Assassin’s Tale (2014)
The Thief's Tale The Priest's TaleThe Assassin's Tale
Novels
Praetorian: The Great Game (2015)
Praetorian: The Great Game
Collections
Tales of Ancient Rome (2011)
Tales of Ancient Rome

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Filed under Historical Fiction, S J A Turney, Uncategorized

Robert Fabbri : Rome’s Lost Son (Review)

Author

About Robert Fabbri

Robert Fabbri was born in Geneva in 1961. He was educated at Christ’s Hospital School, Horsham and London University. He worked for twenty-five years as an assistant director in the film and television industries.

Having had his fair share of long, cold nights standing in the rain in muddy fields and unbearably hot days in deserts or stuffy sound stages he decided to start writing.

Being a life-long ancient war-gamer with a collection of over 3,500 hand-painted 25mm lead soldiers and a lover of Roman Historical Fiction the subject matter was obvious.

More Info: Author web site

ROME’S LOST SON

VESPASIAN VI

romes lost son

Rome, AD 51: Vespasian brings Rome’s greatest enemy before the Emperor. After eight years of resistance, the British warrior Caratacus has been caught. But even Vespasian’s victory cannot remove the newly-made consul from Roman politics: Agrippina, Emperor Claudius’s wife, pardons Caratacus.

Claudius is a drunken fool and Narcissus and Pallas, his freedmen, are battling for control of his throne. Separately, they decide to send Vespasian East to Armenia to defend Rome’s interests. But there is more at stake than protecting a client kingdom. Rumours abound that Agrippina is involved in a plot to destabilise the East. Vespasian must find a way to serve two masters – Narcissus is determined to ruin Agrippina, Pallas to save her.

Meanwhile, the East is in turmoil. A new Jewish cult is flourishing and its adherents refuse to swear loyalty to the Emperor. In Armenia, Vespasian is captured. Immured in the oldest city on earth, how can he escape? And is a Rome ruled by a woman who despises Vespasian any safer than a prison cell?

Review

Somehow i missed reviewing and reading Vespasian 5 Masters of Rome, so when Rome’s Lost Son arrived i made the decision to re-read the entire series. I’m so glad i did, not only did it allow me to totally immerse myself in Robert Fabbri’s version of Vespasian s Rome, it also allowed me to watch the masterful and methodical way that Robert Fabbri grows his characters, melding the facts we have with the fiction that could have been. Giving a potential insight into the mid of the future emperor.

Master of Rome sees a huge leap in Vespasian’s thinking, where he learns to put his morality to one side in favour of finding preferment for his family, to put them in a safer position, to enrich them. He basically reaches the point of if you cant beat them join them… then plan to beat them. Each book bring the history of those that have gone before, the things that have been learned, in the same way a person would become the collective sum of their parts. Masters dispelled any thoughts Vespasian might have had about gods not impinging on his world and life. Making him take notice of the story of his auspicious birth. it brought Caratacus to Rome, someone i feel who will be important in book VII.

Rome’s Lost Son sees a change in power, political machinations on a massive scale, a new emperor and Vespasian taken to hell and back, The stage is laid further for the year of the four emperors, there is a lot of ground still to cover, and surviving Nero will be no mean feat, but this series has some splendid tales ahead..  I think both books V & VI are stunning stand out Historical and Political Thrillers, made more so by reading the series back to back.

Highly recommend reading both Masters of Rome and Rome’s Lost Son..and if you have not read the series, the books are listed below… read them, you will love them

(Parm)

Series

 

Vespasian
1. Tribune of Rome (2011)
2. Rome’s Executioner (2012)
3. False God of Rome (2013)
4. Rome’s Fallen Eagle (2013)
5. Masters of Rome (2014)
6. Rome’s Lost Son (2015)
Vespasian Vol 1-3 (omnibus) (2014)
Tribune of RomeRome's ExecutionerFalse God of RomeRome's Fallen Eagle
Masters of RomeRome's Lost SonVespasian Vol 1-3

 

Crossroads Brotherhood Trilogy
1.5. The Crossroads Brotherhood (2011)
2.5. The Racing Factions (2013)
3.5. The Dreams of Morpheus (2014)
The Crossroads Brotherhood Trilogy (omnibus) (2015)
The Crossroads BrotherhoodThe Racing FactionsThe Dreams of MorpheusThe Crossroads Brotherhood Trilogy

 

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David Gibbins: Sword of Attila (Review)

David Gibbins's picture

David Gibbins

Canada (1962 – )

David Gibbins has worked in underwater archaeology all his professional life. After taking a PhD from Cambridge University he taught archaeology in Britain and abroad, and is a world authority on ancient shipwrecks and sunken cities. He has led numerous expeditions to investigate underwater sites in the Mediterranean and around the world. He currently divides his time between fieldwork, England and Canada.

The fall of Rome was just the beginning. A new empire will rise . . .

The Sword of Attila (2015)

(The second book in the Total War Rome series)
A novel by David Gibbins

Sword of Attila
AD 439: the Roman Empire is on the brink of collapse. With shocking speed a Vandal army has swept through the Roman provinces of Spain and north Africa, conquering Carthage and threatening Roman control of the Mediterranean. But a far greater threat lies to the east, a barbarian force born in the harsh steppelands of Asia, warriors of unparalleled savagery who will sweep all before them in their thirst for conquest – the army of Attila the Hun.

For a small group of Roman soldiers and a mysterious British monk, the only defence is to rise above the corruption and weakness of the Roman emperors and hark back to the glory days of the Roman army centuries before, to find strength in history. But then they devise a plan of astonishing audacity that will take them to the heart of darkness itself, to the stronghold of the most feared warrior-king the world has ever known. In the showdown to come, in the greatest battle the Romans have ever fought, victory will go to those who can hold high the most potent symbol of war ever wrought by man – the sacred sword of Attila.

Review:

Book one in this novel new series, starts with the real birth of the roman empire, the sacking of Carthage, the beginning of their real power in the Mediterranean. Book 2 The Sword of Attila focuses on the end of the empire, Rome has been sacked a hundred years previously by the goths, and are now on the verge of being kicked out of Africa by the vandals. In the east a new power is rising ruling over the Hun.

A much underwritten part of the Roman history, yet there is so much rich, action packed history to delve into. David Gibbins as usual provides immaculate research, he then couples it with highly plausible fictional action. This series is linked to a computer game, it is potentially its flaw, the book provides the reader with all the knowledge needed to play and win the game, to understand the history, and all the elements in it. The soldiers their equipment, the countries the alliances and so much more, so much in fact each book could and maybe should be a series on its own. It is this that made me struggle a little with book one, book two however had the winning extra of including a fictional but highly plausible character Arturus, a dark age figure tied to British folklore and myth. As with so much of David Gibbins amazing Jack Howard series, he gives enough fact to the fictional to show just how possible the it is for Arturus to have existed in this way, and been the basis for the myth.

Arturus, coupled with Flavius and many other very real characters really make this book, the occasionally slightly stilted plot (by this im using the comparison of the flowing plot that is the Jack Howard series) is more than made up for with scope, the characters and the copious author notes at the end, making this a very very readable, enjoyable 4/5 stars.

(Parm)

Jack Howard
1. Atlantis (2005)
2. Crusader Gold (2006)
3. The Last Gospel (2008)
aka The Lost Tomb
4. The Tiger Warrior (2009)
5. The Mask of Troy (2010)
6. The Gods of Atlantis (2011)
aka Atlantis God
7. Pharaoh (2013)

9. Pyramid (2014)

AtlantisCrusader GoldThe Last GospelThe Tiger WarriorThe Mask of TroyThe Gods of AtlantisPharaohPyramid

Total War Rome
1. Destroy Carthage (2013)
2. The Sword of Attila (2015)
Destroy CarthageThe Sword of Attila

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Filed under David Gibbins, Historical Fiction

Ian Ross: Twilight of Empire – War at the Edge of the World (Q&A)

Ian ross

Buy an exclusive signed limited edition

Ian: Many thanks for taking the time to answer some questions….

1)      When I write a review I always like to give some background on the author, but all I could find was the stock blurb.. you are the veritable ghost man (writer) of the roman world… can you add some meat to the bones of who is Ian Ross?

I could do… although I quite like the idea of being ‘the ghost man/writer of the Roman world’! But to be a bit less nebulous: I originally studied painting at art college, but quickly decided that writing fiction allowed me greater freedom to express what I wanted to do. Since then I’ve supported myself with a variety of jobs, while continuing to develop my writing abilities. I spent a year in Italy teaching English, and that reawakened my interest in Roman history. Later, after I returned to the UK, I decided to combine what had become a growing fascination for the ancient world with my love of adventure stories. Other than that, I live in the west country but travel as much and as often as I can, I keep unsociable hours, and I’ve never owned a TV or a car…

  2)      What made you choose Roman Historical Fiction and why so late in the history of the Empire?

I’ve always been drawn to history, and the Romans in particular hold a special appeal. It’s that combination of the familiar and the completely alien I suppose – they resembled us in so many ways, but their society and beliefs were often brutally different. Periods of revolutionary upheaval and change interest me – change creates conflict, and conflict creates stories. The later Roman period was a time when the empire was changing, Christianity was becoming a force in the world and the old certainties were breaking down. There was a real sense that civilisation was in jeopardy, and perhaps the drama seems all the more intense set against that dark background. There was plenty of action too: near-constant wars on all frontiers, tangled alliances and intrigues, enormous battles and towering personalities. For perhaps the first time, ordinary men could rise to positions of great, and perilous, power. To throw a protagonist into that world, and to use his experiences as a sort of prism to show the wider picture, seemed to hold enormous potential.

 3)      I have to admit to ascribing some influences/ comparisons (in my view) for your book. “the depth of detail and narrative of Ben Kane, the action and pace of SJA Turney and a main character that has the depth and personality of Simon Scarrows Macro “  What if any influences do you think you have in writing this series (I really believe each person will see their own version of influences in any writing).

Being compared to some of the biggest writers in the field is very flattering – thanks! Of course, I’ve read most of the Roman fiction that’s come out in the last five or six years, and enjoyed it greatly. But I think with War at the Edge of the World I was consciously trying to reach back to things I’d read a few years before; probably there’s more direct influence from books like Steven Pressfield’s Gates of Fire, or Wallace Breem’s Eagle in the Snow – I love their very gutsy muscular prose style, and the convincing detailing of the era. Rosemary Sutcliff too – Eagle of the Ninth, naturally, but more especially Frontier Wolf, and The Flowers of Adonis, which was one of her books for adult readers. She had a superb way of summoning a sense of place, a feel for the setting and the landscape. I suppose that might relate to my background in painting – I tend to think very visually, and I enjoy being able to see places through description.

 4)      Centurion Aurelius Castus, what was the influence behind him as a main character, the bluff, soldier rather than the man at the centre of power (eg a book following Constantine)? Is he based on anyone you know? 

One of the first aspects of the story I came up with was the character of the protagonist, Castus – or Knucklehead, as I called him at first (the nickname stuck, even if it is anachronistic!). I found I could picture him very clearly right from the beginning. Essentially he’s the opposite of me in many ways – very physical, instinctive, inclined towards action rather than reflection. He’s also very big and brutal-looking, and can’t read or write, which leads people to underestimate him, often to their cost. I’ve never been drawn to superheroes or very larger-than-life characters, but Castus has a shrewd intelligence, a genuine sense of honour and a deep vein of compassion, and I hope it’s these qualities that make him heroic, besides leading him steadily into conflict with the far more twisted morals of the world around him.

 5)      Where will we go next? As a reader im tempted ito wish for two separate directions, I want to be with Centurion Aurelius Castus, I want to find out what happened to Cunomagla. I also want to follow the rise of Constantine, there is so much story there, so much intrigue for Centurion Aurelius Castus to become embroiled in.

 Castus will always remain at the heart of the story; the successive books in the series follow his rise through the hierarchy of the late Roman army, which parallels the rise of Constantine to supreme power. So the two of them are interlinked; the further he rises, the closer Castus gets to the emperor himself and the inner circles of imperial rule, and the more he gets to see of the realities of power, and the often inglorious ways that empires are maintained. Castus is a traditionalist, loyal to the old gods of Rome, so Constantine’s adoption of Christianity is going to be one of many challenges he has to face, with both his beliefs and his loyalties tested to breaking point. But there’s plenty of adventure along the way too: it’s possible that at some point Castus might find himself in north Britain again, and we’ll see more of Cunomagla, but he’s got a long road to take before he gets there!

6)      If you had the choice of any other Genre to write in, what would it be and why?

I’d think I’d be hard pressed to leave historical fiction behind: the past is just too fascinating, and there’s so much of it… But if I were somehow compelled to stop writing about Romans I’d doubtless start thinking up stories about archaic Greeks, or the Victorian Royal Navy, or 16th century swordsmen – it’s the way my imagination works. I have a couple of other projects in mind, but they’ll still very much in the planning stages…

 7)      What / who do you read for fun?

Besides the extensive research for the Castus books, which I genuinely enjoy – perhaps I enjoy it a bit too much at times – most of my reading lately has been other historical fiction. I’ve just finished Christian Cameron’s brilliant The Ill-Made Knight; his Tyrant novels are superb, and this one was just as impressive. The way he conjures the sense of an entirely convincing past world is both daunting and inspiring. Robert Low does the same, especially in his ‘Kingdom’ series, which was very powerful. There seems to be a lot of good medieval stuff around at the moment actually – next on my list is Toby Clements’ Kingmaker: Winter Pilgrims… Probably my favourite contemporary writer, although not one I’d like to try and emulate, is Hilary Mantel: her Thomas Cromwell novels have revolutionised the way people think about historical fiction. There’s a visceral intensity about some of her writing that takes my breath away.

8)      Who are the writers that have influenced you most, from making you want to be a writer, through to style?

I’d say my earliest influences were the classic adventure writers of the 19th century, particularly Joseph Conrad and Robert Louis Stevenson. Graham Greene too, from a later era; his stories have a real sense of moral complexity and peril about them. It took me quite a long time, I think, to realise that what I enjoyed most in fiction was powerful and compelling storytelling, combined with strong graphic description and depth of character. Writing War at the Edge of the World, I also found myself recalling some of the fantasy/sf novels I’d enjoyed in my teens; I recently reread Gene Wolfe’s Book of the New Sun and Soldier in the Mist, and I was amazed at how much of it had remained lodged in some corner of my mind. Undoubtedly the things you read at an early age often make the greatest impression.

9)      If you could invite any four people from throughout history or fictional writing to dinner, whom would it be and why?

Inviting interesting historical figures to dinner might be risky; many of them probably wouldn’t get on, and you may not make it through to dessert! In purely practical terms, I’d love to quiz the Roman soldier and writer Ammianus Marcellinus: the first thirteen books of his history of the later empire, including the bits covering the reign of Constantine, are lost, and he could fill me in on the no-doubt scurrilous details. I’d rather invite the emperor Maxentius to dinner than his great rival Constantine: it would be interesting to get the loser’s side of the story for a change, and I could find out exactly what he thought he was doing at the battle of Milvian Bridge… Zenobia of Palmyra would no doubt enliven any party, and Gore Vidal would, I’m sure, have a host of pithy anecdotes to cover any awkward lapses in the conversation.

 10)   Finally, the bit most authors would shy away from. You have a soap box and the publisher has asked you to stand outside Kings cross and sell your books to the passers buy… what would your pitch be to make the public buy this book/ series?

I would probably need the help of the late Don laFontaine, of the gravelly movie-trailer voice, to do justice to my soap box. I’ve never been fond of pitches myself, but if pushed I might end up with something like Conflict, adventure and dangerous intrigue on the far northern frontier of a declining Roman empire….

 

So you have heard from man himself… and here is my review again… Click to read

this is one not to miss, and for those of you who collect signed books… get this now, they will go very fast, Ian Ross is a name to watch.

(Parm)

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Filed under Historical Fiction, Ian Ross