Tag Archives: Rome

Douglas Jackson: Enemy of Rome (Review)

Doug

 

Biography of Douglas Jackson

Author web site

Douglas Jackson was born in Jedburgh in the Scottish Borders in the summer of 1956. Educated at Parkside Primary School and Jedburgh Grammar School, he left three weeks before his 16th birthday with six O levels and no idea what he was going to do with the rest of his life.

Fortunately, a friend worked in the local employment office and got him a place on a Youth Opportunities Scheme. It turned out to be restoring a Roman marching camp at Pennymuir in the Cheviot Hills and he had a wonderful summer turning turf and dreaming of Romans.

Obviously, he couldn’t do that for the rest of his life. He was good at English and had a voracious reading habit, and his dad pointed him towards an advert for a junior reporter with the local paper – and changed his life. The next 30-odd years were spent working in local and national newspapers before he sat down in 2005 to work on a ‘project’. After a year of writing on the train and whistling the theme to the Great Escape he finally reached The End, and the project became a book. That book was The Emperor’s Elephant, which, with a bit of help from Youwriteon.com, eventually became Caligula and Claudius. which were bought by Transworld for a ‘six figure sum’. When the publishers offered him a second deal to write three more books, he decided with the support of his family to try writing full time. He has now published five historical novels and two thrillers (as James Douglas), with a further five books in the pipeline

Doug now lives in Bridge of Allan, a lovely village on the doorstep of the Trossachs and is married to wife Alison. They have three children who never fail to make him terribly proud.

He enjoys watching rugby, and finds life at its most relaxing by the river with a fly fishing rod in my hand, although he seldom disturbs many fish.

Enemy of Rome (2014)

(The fifth book in the Gaius Valerius Verrens series)

enemy

Buy a Signed book

In the dry heat of an August morning Gaius Valerius Verrens wakes filthy and bearded and prepares for his last day on earth. Wrongly accused by enemies on his own side, Valerius is destined to die a coward’s death for deserting his legion on the field of Bedriacum. It is the summer of AD 89 and after a year of slaughter and turmoil the Empire remains trapped in the coils of a desperate, destructive civil war. Valerius’ old friend, Aulus Vitellius, victor in the decisive confrontation that left Otho’s armies shattered, sits uneasily on a golden throne in Rome, and his rival is dead by his own hand. But a new challenge arises in the East where Titus Flavius Vespasian has been declared Emperor by his legions. The only way Valerius can survive to reach Rome and be united with his lost love Domitia Longina Corbulo is to ally himself with Vitellius’ enemies. On the way he must battle through a maze of distrust, corruption, bloody conflict and betrayal, with as many perils behind as there are in front. A powerful enemy, a burning temple and divided loyalties all stand in his way, but the prize that awaits has never been more worthwhile.

Review

Doug Jackson, the quiet gentleman of historical fiction. With every book he takes his writing to a new level, the Gaius Valerius Verrens series being an interesting, clever and thrilling mix of story telling, blood and thunder battles, political intrigue and well thought out well written “real” characters.

The main character Verrens, with his almost stiff necked honesty and Roman honour that borders on the suicidal at times, needs a foil, someone to bounce off as a character in the plot, to keep him alive in the reality of the ancient Roman world and to keep the story honest. We get that with Serpentius, who im glad to say in this book is back to being a deadly (but mortal) ex-gladiator, those who read my review of Sword of Rome will remember i was worried that he was becoming a bit super human, but Doug has it perfect in this book, flawed, fallible, but highly skilled, emotional, but tightly wound and highly introspective, one of my favorite characters.

Others that i think Doug writes to perfection in this book; the brief glimpse of Pliny, Marcus Antonius Primus a man who could be an enemy, but is a bigger man. The brilliant emperor Vitellius, corpulent, cowardly, heroic, highly intelligent, and utterly doomed from the start. A character who steals chunks of the book. Given how well he has been written i long to see how Vespasian will grow into the next book.

All of this fantastic characterisation is portrayed in Douglas Jackson uniquely detailed yet fast paced style that lifts the reader from the first page, thrusts a Sword in one hand, a Shield in the other and slams you into the shield wall of Battle. But more than just swords and sandals it has you creeping and spying, exploring the motives and streets of Rome, there is simply no let up in this tale (or the entire series), Book 1 Hero of Rome still holds the best written scene in any book, with Verrens battling Boudicca, that writing skill and talent just grown and grows and will keep me coming back for more.

Highly Recommended (in the do not miss category)

(Parm)

Rufus
1. Caligula: The Tyranny of Rome (2008)
2. Claudius (2009)
Caligula: The Tyranny of RomeClaudius
 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)
Hero of RomeDefender of RomeAvenger of RomeSword of RomeEnemy of Rome
 Glen Savage mystery
War Games (2014)
War Games

As James Douglas

Jamie Saintclaire
1. The Doomsday Testament (2011)
2. The Isis Covenant (2012)
3. The Excalibur Codex (2013)
4. The Samurai Inheritance (2014)
The Doomsday TestamentThe Isis CovenantThe Excalibur CodexThe Samurai Inheritance

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Filed under Douglas Jackson, Historical Fiction

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

Harry Sidebottom: Iron and Rust (Throne of the Caesars, Book 1) Review + Interview

Author

HarrySidebottom-jameshawkinsphotography.com

Harry Sidebottom was brought up in racing stables in Newmarket where his father was a trainer. He had a basket saddle on a donkey before he could walk.

He was educated at various schools and universities, including Oxford, where he took his Doctorate in Ancient History at Corpus Christi College. In similar fashion he has taught at various universities including Oxford, where he is now Fellow and Director of Studies in Ancient History at St Benets Hall, and Lecturer in Ancient History at Lincoln College.

His main scholarly research interests are Greek culture under the Roman empire (thinking about the compromises and contradictions involved when an old and sophisticated culture is conquered and ruled by what it considers a younger and less civilised power) and warfare in classical antiquity (looking at how war was both done and thought about by Greeks and Romans). He has published numerous chapters in books, and articles and reviews in scholarly journals becoming an internationally recognised scholar in these fields.

His first book Ancient Warfare: A Very Short Introduction was published by OUP in 2004. It got excellent reviews. The Times Literary Supplement described it as “jam-packed with ideas and insight … a radical and fresh reading of Greek and Roman warfare that is both surprising and stimulating.” For The Guardian it was “a boot camp for the brain – a short, sharp shock to the presumptions.” The Contemporary Review dubbed it “a tour de force.” Robin Lane Fox described it in print as “outstandingly good.” It has been translated into Japanese (2006) and Chinese (2007). Translations into German and Greek are in progress.

Away from classical scholarship his other interests include fiction, travel, sport, booze, and women.
Since 2003 he has been a regular reviewer of fiction, especially historical novels, in the Times Literary Supplement. Here he has enthused about Robert Harris and Alan Massie, and probably made enemies for life of Erica Jong and Colleen McCullough.

Since 2006 he has been working on the Warrior of Rome series of novels featuring the Anglo-Saxon nobleman turned Roman army officer Ballista and his Familia which are set in the Roman Empire during the so-called `Great Crisis of the Third Century AD`.

He has travelled widely, especially around the Mediterranean. These trips have varied from the luxury of travelling as a guest speaker on a Cunard liner to a memorable solo journey into Albania not long after the fall of the dictator Enver Hoxha.

All his life he has gone racing, and played and watched rugby and cricket. He was a founder member of Woodstock Rugby Football Club. Recently he has discovered the pleasures of real tennis.

 Author Web site

Interview

When  and  why  did  you  begin  writing?

Like  all  children, I  wrote  stories. Somehow  I  never  grew  out  of  it. Eventually  I  faced  up  to  the  fact  that  if  I  did  not  try  to  get  some  fiction  published  I  would  end  up  an  embittered  old  man  always  beating  myself  up  with  `if  only  I  had  tried`.

What  inspired  you  to  write  your  first  Ballista  book?

I  had  tried  all  sorts  of  types  of  fiction, sub-Martin  Amis/Jay  Mcinerney/Bret  Easton  Ellis  literary  comedies, fantasy  novels, thrillers, but  one  of  my  enduring  loves  has  always  been  historical  fiction. Researching  a  big  history  book, Fields  of  Mars: A  Cultural  History  of  Ancient  Battle, I  reached  the  chapter  on  siege  warfare, and  realised  a  besieged  town  provided  an  ideal  setting  for  a  novel; a  unity  of  action  and  place, and  individuals  and  society  stretched  far  beyond  their  norms.

Fields  of  Mars  remains  about  one  third  written. One  day  it  will  get  finished. Meanwhile  a  version  of  the  siege  chapter  is  coming  out  in  a  book  I  am  editing  with  Michael  Whitby, The  Encyclopaedia  of  Ancient  Battles (Blackwell), and I  published  the  chapter  on  naval  battle  in  a  collection  of  scholarly  articles (in  Portuguese!).

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

One  thing  that  depresses  me  about  bad  historical  fiction, and  bad  history  books, is  the  ahistorical  insistence  that  `people  have  always  been  the  same/they  were  just  like  us`. Instead  Mary  Renault  was  right  when  she  said  something  on  the  lines  of  the  pleasure  of  reading  and  writing  historical  fiction  comes  from  the  tension  between  what  is  universal  to  humanity  and  what  is  specific  to  a  time  and  place. In  some  ways  the  Romans  were  much  like  us, but  in  others  completely  alien.

What  books  have  influenced  your  life  most?

When  I  was  at  school  my  godfather  gave  me  Alexander  the  Great  by  Robin  Lane  Fox. It  converted  me  to  Classical  history, made  me  want  to  spend  my  life  reading  and  hopefully  writing  similar  books.

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

For  historical  fiction  it  would  have  to  be  Patrick  O`Brian. Few  writers  have  taken  the  genre  to  such  heights, and  seldom  over  such  a  sustained  series. Over  the  last  few  years  I  have  read  and  reread  Hemingway  and  Cormac  McCarthy. Both  their, very  different, styles  show  what  can  be  done  with  the  English  language  in  a  novel.

Do  you  have  to  travel  much  concerning  your  books?

Yes, but  not  as  much  as  I  would  like. At  first  I  was  limited  by  lack  of  money, now  by  lack  of  time. Having  said  which, I  try  to  get  to  all  the  major  locations  in  the  novels. I  like  to  walk  the  routes  taken  by  characters. It  gives  you  a  secure  grasp  of  how  the  buildings  and  landscape  fit  together; history  through  the  soles  of  your  boots, as  a  review  in  the  TLS  was  kind  enough  to  say. This  year  for  Throne  of  the  Caesars  I  am  going  back  to  Rome, and  hopefully  to  Carthage. No  idea  why  my  wife  refers  to  them  as  holidays.

 Did  you  learn  anything  from  writing  your  books, and  what  was  it?

Just  how  little  I  knew  about  the  Classical  world. Despite  having  taught  the  subject  at  five  universities, and  published  lots  of  articles  and  one  book, there  were  huge  areas  where  my  ignorance  was  almost  total.

What  was  the  inspiration  for  the  new  series?

Since  I  did  my  Masters  thesis  on  the  Greek  historian  Herodian, I  have  been  fascinated  by  the  years  AD235-8. So  many  wars  and  revolts, plots  and  emperors, all  compressed  into  just  four  years, the  start  of  the  crisis  of  the  third  century; it  was  crying  out  for  a  series  like  Throne  of  the  Caesars.

And  I  wanted  to  write  a  slightly  different  type  of  novel  from  the  Warrior  of  Rome, which  was  focused  on  the  one  central  character  of  Ballista. The  new  series  is  constructed  as  a  multiple  point  of  view  story. The  first  result  is  Iron  and  Rust.

So: free  platform, you`ve  been  given  a  pitch  at  Oxford  Market…  sell  your  book  to  the  crowd.

There  are  few  things  I  would  less  like  to  do. Although  I  have  done  loads  of  lecturing  and  public  speaking, I  still  get  stage  fright. But, if  I  went  through  with  it, I  might  say  something  like:- “Iron  and  Rust: creates  a  world  both  sophisticated  and  brutal, yet  firmly  rooted  in  history; a  world  of  intrigue, murder, passion  and  war; a  world  where  men  will  kill  to  sit  in  the  Throne  of  the  Caesars”

(Yes, I  know  the  line  is  from  the  publicity, but  I  wrote  it, and  can’t  think  of  anything  better).

Finally  after  all  the  hard  work  and  skill  you  have  put  in  do  you  have  any  advice  for  other  writers?

Read  lots  of  authors, but  don’t  copy  them  slavishly. Write  lots  of  different  things  in  different  styles  until  you  find  what  suits  you. Persevere – it  is  hard  work – treat  it  as  a  job. Get  a  good  agent. Hope  for  a  lucky  break.

 Iron and Rust: 

Date Available: 22 May 2014

Buy a signed copy

Iron and Rust

From the bestselling author of WARRIOR OF ROME comes the first book in a new series set in third century Rome; a dramatic era of murder, coup, counter-rebellions and civil war.

In a single year six Emperors will lay claim to the Throne of the Caesars…

SPRING AD235

Dawn on the Rhine. A surprise attack and the brutal murder of the Emperor Alexander and his mother ends the Severan dynasty and shatters four decades of Roman certainty.

Military hero Maximinus Thrax is the first Caesar risen from the barracks. A simple man of steel and violence, he will fight for Rome.

The Senators praise the new Emperor with elaborate oratory, but will any of them accept a Caesar who was once a shepherd boy? And in the streets of the eternal city, others merely pray to escape imperial notice.

In the north, as the merciless war against the barbarians consumes men and treasure, rebellion and personal tragedy drive Maximinus to desperate extremes, bloody revenge and the borders of sanity.

Iron & Rust, the first book in a major new series, creates a world both sophisticated and brutal, yet firmly rooted in history; a world of intrigue, murder, passion and war, a world where men will kill to sit on the Throne of the Caesars.

Review

As a fan of historical fiction I’d be a bit remiss if I had not heard of or read Harry Sidebottom, I have to admit to being a bit of a fan of his writing (Warrior of Rome series). When I read the first book Fire in the East I did so with no preconceptions, I read a review copy before most readers of the genre so could do so without any opinions colouring my view. My immediate view at the time was that here was someone a bit different, the writing style skewed more to the educational than the entertainment side of a read, but it has plenty of both. Since that date I have read many opinions of other readers about the writing being “a lecture”, “a bit too Dry” etc.. and each person should be able to form their own view. Mine was always that Ballista was a highly complex and entertaining character, and the books taxed my knowledge of the Roman world, they taught me something. It meant I had to make sure I read them at the right time, to ensure my mood suited that read. Doing it this way led me to give each and every book between 4 and 5 stars, and to read knowing that Harry had done the research, that what I was reading was educational as well as blooming good fun.

Iron and Rust is a departure from the time of Ballista, and a bit to my surprise a departure in style. If this had been my first experience of Harry I  might have been a bit more concerned, I might be leaning a bit more towards those people who use the term “Lecture”. The book is highly informative, packed with detail of the Roman world of AD235, it brings to life (piece by piece) many of the major players in the Roman hierarchy of the time. It’s when you persevere with the detail that Iron and Rust starts to pay dividends, the complexity and the detail resolves itself into a detailed plot with many players and many shifting alliances, like a complex multi-layered game of chess. Nasty back stabbing politics, rumour and denouncements and the old evil of greed and gold.

As the book progressed and I adapted to this style I found myself enjoying the story more, and the characters depths and idiosyncrasies became more and more apparent, I found myself finally sinking into the roman world rather than being swept along by the events of history. Ultimately this book and many more this year will suffer in comparison to Giles Kristian and God of Vengeance, which is my 2014 bench mark, and has reset my use of 5 star read. That said this is still an entertaining read, and highly educational, what I think made me struggle is the lack of a central character, a hero… and as soon as that thought popped into my head…so did bonnie tyler…(sorry Harry)

I need a hero
I’m holding on for a hero ‘til the end of the night
He’s gotta be strong
And he’s gotta be fast
And he’s gotta be fresh from the fight
I need a hero
I’m holding on for a hero ‘til the morning light
He’s gotta be sure
And it’s gotta be soon
And he’s gotta be larger than life (larger than life)

 

Deep down I’m a simple man, I need my battles, I need the fighting, the blood and a little gore, I need the anticipation of battle more than I need politics, I need that larger than life character who will carry me through the world of the book and the events swirling around him/her. But that said this is a book you should read, If I apply the Amazon review model:

1 Star: I hate it

2 Stars: I don’t like it

3 Stars: Its okay

4 Stars: I like it

5 Stars: I love it.

By the end of the book I was firmly in the 4 stars, Harry as ever had won me around, mainly with Maximinus, the Roman Emperor, with his blunt heroic hard charging ways, I just wish he had been a bigger player in the book, or we could have seen the story through the eyes of a consistent character. Harry remains on my must read list and I am looking forward to his next book, I feel the next one will start stronger and faster, first books in a series have to set the scene and the character base, that’s now been done… bring on the battles Harry, but also keep your amazing eye for detail, intrigue and authenticity.

 (Parm)

 Other books

Warrior of Rome
1. Fire in the East (2008)
2. King of Kings (2009)
3. Lion of the Sun (2010)
4. The Caspian Gates (2011)
5. The Wolves of the North (2012)
6. The Amber Road (2013)

Fire in the EastKing of KingsLion of the SunThe Caspian GatesThe Wolves of the NorthThe Amber Road

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Filed under Harry Sidebottom, Historical Fiction

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

Anthony Riches: Emperors Knives (Review and Q&A)

Anthony Riches

Tony R

Author Bio (pinched from his own web site)

Following a childhood which featured a deep interest in the military rooted in my father and grandfather’s service in the two world wars, I took a degree in Military Studies at Manchester University. Working for a succession of blue chip companies over the next twenty five years, I gravitated into business systems and change project management, and I’ve worked as a freelance project manager in the UK and Europe, the USA, the Middle and Far East over the last decade.

Over the same period I’ve gradually refined my ability to write fiction, initially for my own entertainment but more recently with the serious aim of achieving my debut publication. The manuscript of Wounds of Honour eked out a precarious ten year existence on a succession of computer hard drives and memory sticks until a life changing encounter in Belfast energised me to rewrite the manuscript and seek publication. Thanks Gerry!

I’ve been married to Helen, our family’s only true adult for 25 years now, and we live in Hertfordshire with our three children. I’m a confirmed petrol head, and I spend my spare time listening to music, reading (mainly on planes going to and coming back from work) and surfing internet car reviews with a purposeful glint in my eye.

Author Web site

Buy the book Signed

Book Description

emperors Knives

The seventh novel in Anthony Riches’ acclaimed Empire sequence brings Marcus Aquila back to Rome, hunting the men who destroyed his family.
But the revenge he craves may cost him and those around him dearly.

The young centurion’s urge to exact his own brutal justice upon the shadowy cabal of assassins who butchered his family means that he must face them on their own ground, risking his own death at their hands.
A senator, a gang boss, a praetorian officer and, deadliest of all, champion gladiator Mortiferum – the Death Bringer – lie in wait.

The knives are unsheathed, and ready for blood . . .

Review

When i first picked up Wounds of Honour in 2009 i had no idea i would be starting a journey of so much danger, excitement and action. Also when starting with a debut writer i had no idea i would be enjoying these books more and more every year, watching the skill of the writer grow and the depth of the plot increase with every tome.

Book 7 the Emperors Knives  goes so much further than its predecessors, it truly is a book crammed with Machiavellian schemes, plots within plots, as our group of heroes try to help Marcus survive his honour and the machinations of the various schemers set against him within the walls of Rome. As with any Anthony Riches book the reader is left with that ever present feeling of the norns / fates, sat there spinning away the destinies of those in the book, Tony Riches joining them at the loom of life ready to snip an unsuspecting characters life thread at a moments notice either in a spectacular or blasé fashion. I shall not spoil the book by saying if anyone interesting dies…. but blood will be spilled and as writers go Tony is a bit of a swine to his men.

This book comes with a warning to readers, it is one that sucks away your time, you will sit down to read and find that the day has passed while you are marching with legions and uncovering plots. As ever i doff my cap to Tony Riches as he exceeds the plot and power of the previous book, something very very hard to keep doing, but the constant hard work and effort, the striving for more, the digging for detail in dusty research books, and the re-enactment that gives first hand experience, really pays off in the pages of this wonderful book.

I highly recommend this book, and if you have not read any of the Empire series (Why?) then please do start it now, you will not be disappointed. Seven books in and its just getting better and better.

(Parm)

Q&A

Q: When and why did you begin writing?

A: Fiction? In the 90s. I had a great idea for a thriller (still do, it keeps getting updated in my head) but I couldn’t write it well enough to get accepted by an agent and there it lay, putting me off doing anything with Wounds of Honour from 1996 when I wrote the book to 2007 when I finally mustered the courage to send it out to agents.

Q: When did you first consider yourself a writer?
A:From the moment I started writing seriously, aged 22. It was all non-fiction then, mainly about the VietNam War and the best ways to kill tanks… I didn’t consider myself to be much of an author though!
 
Q: How much of the character behavior in books is based on people you know?
A: A fair bit. Mannerisms, language, sometimes a face that has character… My favourite is the brother of a friend of mine who is, shall we say, uncompromising. When threatened with the sack if he refused to take on a further journey (he was lorry driving at the time) he said ‘look at your tracker screen – see that I’ve turned round (with his load still on board) and I’m coming to beat the crap outta you, you ****’ Which, for the record, he did. He’s the source of my favourite line in any of the books… ‘and that’s why you’re sitting on your arse with a broken nose…’. Old fashioned manliness that you don’t see all that much these days.
 
Q: What do you think makes a good story?
A: Action, humour, proper history and the ability to keep me guessing until the end – something I strive for in my own books.
 
Q: What books and authors have most influenced your life as a writer?
A: I don’t know, in truth. I never consider the work of others in terms of what I can take and use,  and I very simply just like to read what I like to read. Whether any of it creeps in to my work I have no idea. I’m not the type to get analytical about my writing style, and I certainly couldn’t change it even if I had to! No degree in creative writing here, just whatever skill I was gifted by upbringing and whatever’s rubbed off on me since then. Favourite authors down the years? Adam Hall (Quiller), Iain M Banks (the Culture), Richard Morgan (Takashi Kovacs), Patrick O’Brian (Aubrey and Maturin) and Christian Cameron (Killer of Men) would probably be my top five. Although I have a huge soft spot for Len Deighton…
 
*WARNING SPOILER ALERT IN NEXT ANSWER*
Q: As a man known for killing his characters, who is your favorite character across the series so far?
A: No you don’t, Carter, you tried that old trick last time I interviewed for you. Let’s find out who’s safe, eh? Nobody’s safe. Nobody was more surprised than me when Rufius got his head cut off (I had no idea until the moment it was raised above the warband on a spear). Read my lips…Nobody’s. Safe. Helen (my wife) thinks she’s got Dubnus under her wing by means of forbidding me to kill him off, but when his time comes…
*WARNING SPOILER ALERT OVER *
 
Q: What is you favorite scene in the series?
A: That I can tell you about without spoilers? The palace scene at the end of The Eagle’s Vengeance. What a way to get your revenge!
 
Q: Now that the many actions of book 7 have played out in Rome, is there a new far reaching plot?
A: Yes, we’re still going all the way to AD211. There will be thirty or so books in the series, unless something happens to stop me writing them. A huge three sided civil war, the biggest battle of the second century, and a military strongman who roams the empire looking for enemies to subdue…what a canvas! And vengeance remains to be taken…
 
Q: If you had to busk your book on the street corner to a new audience, how would you hook those buyers in?
A: Dress in my centurion’s armour with you wearing a loin cloth as my slave! And seriously? I’d tell them that they were about to meet what I modestly consider the most entertaining collection of characters in Roman military fiction, and travel with them to every corner of the empire over thirty years of history. That alright?
 
Q: With the Impending Romani walk 2 would you like to tell people why they should support you and the great charities you Ben and Russ work so hard for? 
A: I support Combat Stress because of the hidden psychological damage done to men like my father who volunteer to be stripped of a portion of their sanity in order that we can maintain our way of life (three generations of my family all having collected medals and mental problems in equal portions in the Boer War and World Wars 1 & 2) – and Medicins Sans Frontieres for the amazing good that they do in countries where all other agencies have either left or are unwilling to enter. Hats off to both causes. 
Many thanks Tony, great interview as ever, and an excellent book.

Other books by this author

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)
Wounds of HonourArrows of FuryFortress of SpearsThe Leopard SwordThe Wolf's GoldThe Eagle's VengeanceThe Emperor's Knives

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Filed under Anthony Riches, Historical Fiction

COLOSSUS by Alexander Cole

colossus vertical

Todays blog is courtesy of the debut author Alexander Cole to coincide with the release of his book Colossus:

Book Description:

colossus flat

Alexander the Great rests in Babylon as he decides which should be his next world to conquer. A war elephant, Colossus, disturbs the peace of the camp when he is provoked to a killing rampage. Only one young mahout has the courage to stop Colossus. And when Alexander notices his bravery, Gajendra begins a meteoric climb through the ranks of the Macedonian army. Gajendra is fiercely loyal to Alexander, the great General who plucked him from obscurity. But as he rises to become Captain of the Elephants, Gajendra sees how Alexander is being corrupted by luxury and power. Forced to choose between keeping faith with Alexander or with his comrades, Gajendra must find the strength to make the right decision as Alexander’s army approaches the gates of Rome. 

Guest Blog: 

THE PARMENION SOLUTION

 

ALEXANDER COLE

 

They called him Alexander the Great. But ‘the great’ what?

Greatness was not calculated in the distant past in the way we would judge it now. Alexander was considered ‘great’ by ancient history because he achieved conquest from the Mediterranean to the Ganges. It is true this made him a great general; but by today’s standards, this does not make him a great man.

Conquest on the scale of Alexander’s could not have been achieved without unrivalled ruthlessness.

Parmenion is testament to that.

Who was Parmenion? He was a Macedonian nobleman who rose to become second in command of Alexander’s army. He commanded Alexander’s left wing at both major battles in the Persian campaign, at Issus and Gaugamala. He was Alexander’s steadying influence, fiercely loyal but very conservative in his tactics.

After Issus the Persian king, Darius III, offered Alexander his daughter’s hand as well as all Minor Asia in exchange for an alliance. Parmenion’s advice? ‘If I were Alexander, I should accept it.’

To which Alexander famously replied: ‘So would I – if I were Parmenion.’

Soon afterwards, one of Parmenion’s sons, Philotas, was accused of plotting against Alexander’s life, a conspiracy to which he confessed under torture.

He was then stoned to death.

While this was happening, Parmenion was in Media, in command of one of Alexander’s armies and guarding his treasury and his supply lines. Alexander rightly supposed that once Parmenion discovered that his son had been tortured and executed he must certainly look to take revenge. Because of his experience, his tactical position and his popularity, he was in the ideal position to do it.

Alexander immediately sent two of his men, Cleandor and Sitalces, across the desert to Media on racing camels. Before news could reach Parmenion about his son’s fate, the two officers had arrived and stabbed him to death.

Parmenion had faithfully served both Alexander and his Alexander’s father; he was a hugely competent soldier with a brilliant career, and was immensely popular with the soldiers.

But Alexander did not hesitate, Loyalty counted for nothing and neither did friendship.

It was a pragmatic decision from a ruthless man.

Or was there more to it? What makes Parmenion’s death more intriguing is the suggestion that there actually was no plot against Alexander. Could it have been Alexander’s ploy to rid himself of a general whose popularity threatened to rival his own? 

If true, it was a strategy that he was never to change. He died himself just seven years later, without a clear heir or successor. He remained adept at keeping his generals at odds with each other.

His quest for greatness was for Alexander and Alexander alone.

After his death Macedonian unity disappeared and his generals squabbled over the empire like buzzards over a carcass.

COLOSSUS begins at which Alexander’s true history ends; it is the story of what might have happened if he lived to march an army out of Babylon, instead of succumbing to illness – or was it poison? – at the age of just 33.

His army was not only pre-eminent, it had been seemingly strengthened with the addition of ancient weapons of mass destruction; war elephants from India. He had recently created a unique post within his army – ‘elephantarch,’ the captain of the elephants.

By then his megalomania and paranoia was well advanced; he was also grief stricken over the loss of his soul’s companion, Hephaiston, and had survived wounds that would have killed ten men.

He had become monstrous.

Meanwhile every general within his army was positioning themselves for the coming game of thrones.

But as Parmenion could have told them, it was a battle they could not win.

This is the world to which Colossus, a monster of a different kind, is introduced. Soon after he survives the assassination attempt Alexander sets out to conquer again – to Carthage, to Sicily and then onto Rome.

Thank You: Alexander Cole, i know reading this has given me a different viewpoint for the story, i hope those reading this will take this view of Alexander the Great into their reading of the book.

My review will follow in a few days……..

(Parm)

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Filed under Alexander Cole, Fantasy, Historical Fiction

Simon Scarrow: Blood Crows (Review)

The author (in his own words)

Simon

I was born in Nigeria and was raised in a number of countries before settling in Britain. Like my brothers I have always been interested in writing and started on my first novel once I had finished my degree and started working in the civil service. After two years of working in London I decided that I was better suited to a more academic career and returned to university to do a research degree. Once that was over I became a teacher. It was a great job. I have worked alongside some fine colleagues and great students. I would truly recommend teaching as a profession since the rewards are so diverse and real.

After I secured my first book deal I continued teaching full-time for as long as possible, before I was forced to scale back on my hours to focus on the writing.  Finally, at the start of 2005, I realised that I could not teach well while devoting so much time to writing and reluctantly decided to give up on teaching until I had more time to devote to it.

At the moment I am committed to writing one book a year in the EAGLE series as well as one book for other projects.

For now, I live in Norfolk with my wife, Carolyn, who runs her own copywriting business,  and two sons.

Blood Crows (Book Description)

blood crows

Macro and Cato are back in town, and bring with them their usual amount of mayhem, intrigue and collateral damage.

They just don’t seem able to sit idle and enjoy some down time, or lady fortuna has a sick sense of humour. Once again they are back in the legions, and once again its not a nice comfortable billet. But I don’t think either of these boys would want or expect one, honours are earned at end end of a sword, and these boys still have medals and higher rank in mind.
In this book we are back where we began, in Britain, there is an unfinished conquest, a guerilla war being waged by the locals, and it needs to end. Tactics on both sides have got bloody and nasty. Cato has command of an auxiliary Unit called the blood crows led by a somewhat sadistic and nasty centurion, and someone that Cato and Macro need to work with, or work around.
Its a book that see’s the need fr Cato to really grow into his new rank as prefect, and get over any fears he may have, to get past his concerns regarding his friend and having to command him, its time to grow up.
Will they survive… probably… it wouldn’t be the time to end the series would it… but how they get there is a hell of a ride and really is a trip back to the early days of Macro and Cato.. (Julia hardly gets a mention… thank you simon).
A word of caution though, i do echo another reviewer, Simon has shown huge writing skill with his other series and stand alone books, and some times i do wonder if its not time to push Macro and Cato to their conclusion, before they become a stagnant parody of themselves. This book was a great trip back to where we began… can that be sustained forever? or should Simon drive towards the year of the 4 emperors with greater speed?
(everyone will have their own opinion).
But for now… bloody and excellent book.

(Parm)

Other Books

Series
Cato
1. Under the Eagle (2000)
2. The Eagle’s Conquest (2001)
3. When the Eagle Hunts (2002)
4. The Eagle and the Wolves (2003)
5. The Eagle’s Prey (2004)
6. The Eagle’s Prophecy (2005)
7. The Eagle in the Sand (2006)
8. Centurion (2007)
9. The Gladiator (2009)
10. The Legion (2010)
11. Praetorian (2011)
12. The Blood Crows (2013)
13. The Zealot (2014)
Under the EagleThe Eagle's ConquestWhen the Eagle HuntsThe Eagle and the Wolves
The Eagle's PreyThe Eagle's ProphecyThe Eagle in the SandCenturion
The GladiatorThe LegionPraetorianThe Blood Crows
The Zealot
Revolution
1. Young Bloods (2006)
2. The Generals (2007)
3. Fire and Sword (2007)
4. The Fields of Death (2010)
Young BloodsThe GeneralsFire and SwordThe Fields of Death
Gladiator 
1. Fight for Freedom (2011)
2. Street Fighter (2012)
3. Son of Spartacus (2013)
4. Vengeance (2014)
Fight for FreedomStreet FighterSon of SpartacusVengeance
Roman Arena
1. Barbarian (2012)
2. Challenger (2012)
3. First Sword (2013)
4. Revenge (2013)
5. Champion (2013)
Arena (omnibus) (2013)
BarbarianChallengerFirst Sword Revenge
Champion Arena
Novels
The Sword and the Scimitar (2012)
The Sword and the Scimitar

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Filed under Historical Fiction, Simon Scarrow

Robert Fabbri: Rome’s Fallen Eagle (Vespasian 4)

The Author

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.

(and what the above doesn’t say: Just a really blooming nice fella)

Book Description

eagle fallen

The fourth instalment of Robert Fabbri’s bestselling Vespasian series. Caligula is dead, Rome is in the hands of a drooling fool – and Vespasian must fight to save his brother’s life and find the Eagle of the Seventeenth.

Caligula has been assassinated and the Praetorian Guard have proclaimed Claudius Emperor – but his position is precarious. His three freedmen, Narcissus, Pallas and Callistus, must find a way to manufacture a quick victory for Claudius – but how? Pallas has the answer: retrieve the Eagle of the Seventeenth, lost in Germania nearly 40 years before.

Who but Vespasian could lead a dangerous mission into the gloomy forests of Germania? Accompanied by a small band of cavalry, Vespasian and his brother try to pick up the trail of the Eagle. But they are tailed by hunters who pick off men each night and leave the corpses in their path. Someone is determined to sabotage Vespasian’s mission.

In search of the Eagle and the truth, pursued by barbarians, Vespasian will battle his way to the shores of Britannia. Yet can he escape his own Emperor’s wrath?

Buy a signed HB copy

Buy it now on Kindle

Review

For those that have not heard of them, there is a group called the HWA “Historical Writers Association” . It is made up of many of the finest writers in the Historical Fiction genre. Robert Fabbri is one of these splendid authors.

For the last 12 months I have been convinced that this group of authors is having an impact on its self, a positive impact. I don’t think its an overt impact, I just think that personalities, the discussions, the exchange of thoughts and ideas is impacting the styles, the depth, the quality and the final product. To the point that 2013 has led to some of the finest books ever released in the genre.

Robert Fabbri’s Vespasian 4 Rome’s Fallen Eagle is for me an example of that, easily the finest book in the series, a book that has taken another step up in quality of action, imagery, pace, prose and plotting. I was left mesmerised for hours at a time reading this book, I grimaced in pain, laughed out loud and cheered on Vespasian and his brother Sabinus with every page.

From the forests of Teutoberg and a story that should have screamed implausible, but had me on the edge of my seat, to the seat of imperial power and Narcissus, to the battle fields of Britain. This book packs in so much story line, and yet covers everything in such great depth and power i’m amazed the book isn’t over 1000 pages long, it seemed to go on for ever and yet finished far too quickly.

This is truly one of the best novels you will read this year, and for fans of Simon Scarrow: the ending left me feeling I had been dropped at the start of Under the Eagle, I wonder how many people will be pulling out their copies for a re-read after finishing this book.

Very highly recommended, and i’m so looking forward to book 5

(Parm)

Vespasian
1. Tribune of Rome (2011)
2. Rome’s Executioner (2012)
3. False God of Rome (2013)
4. Rome’s Fallen Eagle (2013)
The Crossroads Brotherhood (2011)
The Racing Factions (2013)
Tribune of RomeRome's ExecutionerFalse God of RomeRome's Fallen Eagle
The Crossroads BrotherhoodThe Racing Factions

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David Gibbins : Rome Total War: Destroy Carthage (Review)

David gibbins

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.

Buy a signed copy

Book Description:

rome TW

How far would you go for Rome? Carthage, 146 BC. This is the story of Fabius Petronius Secundus – Roman legionary and centurion – and his rise to power: from his first battle against the Macedonians, that seals the fate of Alexander the Great’s Empire, to total war in North Africa and the Seige of Carthage. Fabius’ success brings him admiration and respect, but also attracts greed and jealousy – the closest allies can become the bitterest of enemies. And then there is Julia, of the Caesar family – a dark horse in love with both Fabius and his rival Paullus – who causes a vicious feud. Ultimately for Fabius, it will come down to one question: how much is he prepared to sacrifice for his vision of Rome? Based on Total War: Rome II, the bestselling game, Destroy Carthage is the first in an epic series of novels. It is not only the tale of one man’s fate, but is also a journey to the core of Roman times, through the world of extraordinary military tactics and political intrigue that Rome’s warriors and citizens used to cheat death.

Review:

I have found this a tough book to review, i have been searching for what i hope is the best comparison to describe it. (not sure I cracked it but here goes)

The book right from page one suffers from and gains from its link to the video game (are they still called that… damn I’m showing my age) I loved the first Rome Total War, but it sucked time like a black hole. It and the Intro to the book gave the book a bit of a Manual feel. Then there is the style of the book, it instructs the reader, it gives a depth of background to Rome at the time that you dont find in many Roman fiction titles, the army, the politics and how they all fit together, all like a lesson plan, or a game world build.

All that may have you screaming…NOOOO don’t buy it… But that’s because i haven’t tempered it with..

David Gibbins is an excellent writer, i think he may have to blend his normal thriller style with the historical fiction writing to really lift the series to the next level. But what he does provide in this book is an insight into a period of Rome that few have covered, and a look at the political machinations of the Roman senate and upper echelons or power, and how the powers that be, may have finally ended up in front of the walls of Carthage. David does start to bring out his ability with characters creation, but i think some of that growth was hindered by the semi instructional style of the book.

I really want to see how this series progresses and grows. Here is a book I enjoyed and that taught me something, its not often I feel as if I have been educated throughout a book and entertained at the same time.

I really think you should try this book and stick with it to the end, If you’re a gamer you will love the information it gives on the different empires and the different army units and how to use them in battle. If you are a reader of fiction, then you will enjoy coming at a story from a different angle. I’m very interested to see how book two pans out. I’d love to see some comments on others views of this book.

But basically go buy the book.

(Parm)

Other books

Review of last book by David Gibbins

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)
AtlantisCrusader GoldThe Last GospelThe Tiger WarriorThe Mask of TroyThe Gods of AtlantisPharaoh

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Anthony Riches: Eagles Vengeance (Review + Q&A)

About the Author

tony

Anthony Riches began his lifelong interest in war and soldiers when he first heard his father’s stories about World War II. This led to a degree in Military Studies at Manchester University. He began writing the story that would become Wounds of Honour after a visit to Housesteads in 1996. He lives in Hertfordshire with his wife and three children.

Visit the authors web site

Buy a signed copy of Eagles Vengeance

Anthony Riches Q&A

 Tony congratulations on the release of Eagles Vengeance (book 6 of the Empire series)

The series with some of the most real soldiers in it I have read in Historical Fiction.

 Thanks Robin!

Thank you for taking the time to answer a few questions:

                                                                                                                   

1) Where did the inspiration for the main characters come from? Marcus, Dubnus etc (are they all imagination or do they contain some real people?)

 Marcus is based on the son of a family that was liquidated by Commodus, the Quintili. These two famous brothers of the senatorial class were rich and cultured men who had done their bit for the empire, both serving with distinction as consuls in the 150s, and who ended being murdered for their considerable wealth and property (in particular the Villa Quintilii which was coveted by the new emperor.  They provided the perfect exemplar for my protagonist’s back story, although an attempt to name him Quintili foundered on the need for something a little sexier – hence the switch to Aquila.

As to the rest, they are indeed sometimes people I’ve met. Dubnus is in reality the brother of a friend of mine, a senior NCO in the TA who once started a sentence towards an abusive supervisor ‘If you speak to me again in that tone I’ll put you on your arse…’ and ended it ‘…and that’s why you’re on your arse.’ A sentence I think I may have used in my turn, albeit on the page. I usually ask permission – unless the individual is unpleasant enough to merit an appearance without their knowledge!

 

2) This is book six in the series, do you have an end in sight? (or are there too many tales to tell?)

 I have my sights set on about 25 books. Any more might be excessive. We’re heading for York, in AD211 and the death of the emperor Septimius Severus. Perhaps Marcus will take the Long Walk (if you know your Dredd) after that…and perhaps he won’t!

 3) Who is your favourite character? and why?

 I’m not telling you, because you’ll make the mistake of thinking that person is safe from being killed off. Which they are most certainly not. No-one is safe…

 4) Do you have a writing process? plot it out? story board?

 Yes, my process is finely honed, albeit very simple – I sit down and write whatever comes into my head, once I know where the boys are going next. It means I have to do a good number of re-writes and edits to make it all seamless, but on the upside I don’t get much editing post version one. I wish I could plot it all out before hand, but either I can’t or (ask my work colleagues) I’m too lazy and prefer just to wing it (reader: even I it’s the latter!).

 5) Of the six books which is your favourite  (mine is still book one, Wounds of Honour)?

 Good question. And the answer is…book seven, The Emperor’s Knives! Once you’ve read book six (The Eagle’s Vengeance) you’ll know that the next one’s going to be very different. And terrific fun…well it terrific fun was to write, at any rate.

 6) What are your top 5 favourite reads?

 Bugger me Robin, that’s a tough one. I’ll tell you my five favourite writers – in no order at all:

Richard Morgan, for his fantastic Takashi Kovacs series. Altered Carbon is an absolute cracker of a sci-fi debut. I’m not quite so hot for his fantasy output, but it’s still good.

Lee Child – who apparently writes with a spliff on the go, I read the other day, and genuinely does seem to have a drug dealer on speed dial which I for one never saw coming – for the indestructible Jack Reacher. I suspect the old guy’s probably running towards the end of his fictional lifespan, but what great escapist fiction!

Iain M Banks – please note the M! The moment I discovered his Culture novels was a moment of revelation, and I mourn his passing every time I look at my bookshelves. Sci-fi of the very highest order.

Christian Cameron – if I wrote that well I’d be insufferably smug. The Long War series has to be the best sustained historical fiction series I’ve ever read.

And…turns to scan shelves…Patrick O’Brian, for his fabulous characterisation in the Aubrey/Maturin series.

I’ve missed out the man who wrote possibly the best military historical fiction story ever. Steven Pressfield’s Gates of Fire pips Cameron’s Killer of Men to that honour (in my opinion) by a short head, quite the most riveting tale of ancient warfare I’ve ever had the pleasure of reading (time after time) – but I’ve never had quite the same buzz from his stuff again, which is a shame.

And one more – this one a guilty pleasure – I love the Black Library’s Warhammer 40k inspired novels, especially Dan Abnett’s work. In space, no-one can hear the screaming roar of your assault cannon…

 7) What next for (the remaining) Roman warriors? (and yes that is a dig… character killer)

 Pain, blood, misery, death, blood, more blood and the occasional death of characters when I decide their time has come. Although now you’re moaning about it – again – I might speed up the process. Are there any characters with whom you feel especially connected? Dubnus, perhaps…?

 8) Have you thought about writing in another time period? if so when?

 Are you and Kate collaborating on these questions? The short answer is ‘not yet’ – I think. I think the secret of series writing is to keep the episodes flowing, and I don’t want to  risk falling between two stools at a time when Empire is gathering readers rather than losing them (fingers crossed for book six!). There is another series in me, but now, while I never say ‘never’ unless the proposal is the consumption of rice pudding, is probably not the time.

9) If you could have written any book in history which one and why?

 Now that’s a good one. Ignoring contemporaries whose work makes me envious, I’d like to have written the complete history of the Roman legions in the early 5th century, before the sources we know existed but do not have today were lost. What a story that would have made…

thank you for taking the time with these questions….now crack on with book seven and eight.

cheers

(Parm)

Book Description 

eagles 6

The Tungrian auxiliary cohorts return to Hadrian’s Wall after their successful Dacian campaign, only to find Britannia in chaos. The legions are overstretched, struggling to man the forts of the northern frontier in the face of increasing barbarian resistance.

The Tungrians are the only soldiers who can be sent into the northern wastes, far beyond the long abandoned wall built by Antoninus, where a lost symbol of imperial power of the Sixth Victorious Legion is reputed to await them. Protected by an impassable swamp and hidden in a fortress atop a high mountain, the eagle of the Sixth legion must be recovered if the legion is to survive.

Marcus and his men must penetrate the heart of the enemy’s strength, ghosting through a deadly wilderness patrolled by vicious huntresses before breaching the walls of the Fang, an all-but-impregnable fort, if they are to rescue the legion’s venerated standard. If successful their escape will be twice as perilous, with the might of a barbarian tribe at their heels.

 Eagles Vengeance Review

Our heroically dangerous Tungrians are back in Britain. Returning from their exploits in Dacia, triumphant, but with the knowledge of loss. (Tony does love to bump off a character or two).

Eagles vengeance is no different, In this latest book, Book six in the Empire series, Tony Riches send the reader on a thrill ride of dangerous exploits, daring action, Violent barbarian encounters and political manoeuvring, that will see the deaths of so many men and women we meet for the first time and some we have known for a while.

Tony’s writing is for me subtly different from many others in the genre. Take for example  Douglas Jackson (insert review ink) who writes with such passion and detail, while retaining a narrow cast. Tony Riches gives us the broad canvas of the Tungrian Cohorts, delving into the lives of so many of his men, and exploring who the Centurions and Chosen men of this group are. He brings the camaraderie of the squaddie to life in the ancient world. Many authors bring life to their characters, but miss this feeling of the group, the passion of the legion or men. Tony always hits this square on, and it’s not just his unique colourful turn of phrase, it’s something of the man himself, someone who comes alive in a group, a man built to entertain and be larger than life. That’s the passion he brings to people like Marcus and Dubnus and the men of the Tungrian Cohorts.

I enjoyed this book, but I don’t think I can say too much about itnot without giving away what happens to whom and why and where, and those are spoilers I would not want. I can say that while it’s not my favourite book in the series, (that’s still reserved for Wounds of Honour), it’s an excellent read that can stand alone and provide hours of entertainment. But my personal advice would be go buy all the books if you have never read the series, follow the life and exploits, the ups and downs of the hardest b@stards in the Roman Legion.

Highly recommended

(Parm)

 Other books

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)
Wounds of HonourArrows of FuryFortress of SpearsThe Leopard SwordThe Wolf's GoldThe Eagle's Vengeance

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