Tag Archives: war

Noble Smith: Spartans at the Gates (review)

Author Bio (Noble Smith)

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Noble Smith is an award-winning playwright and documentary film executive producer as well as a 16-year veteran of the interactive entertainment industry as a narrative designer. He is the author of The Wisdom of the Shire, a guide to life for fans of J.R.R. Tolkien (translated into 8 languages), praised by Kirkus Reviews as a “must-have” for fans of Middle-earth. He lives in the Pacific Northwest with his wife and children.

Book Description (Spartan at the gates)

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The Peloponnesian War has begun. An army of merciless Spartan invaders have arrived at the gates of Plataea, bent on obliterating the city and its inhabitants. Plataea’s oldest allies, the Athenians, are spread too thin in their own campaigns to send help. Cut off and alone, the Plataeans dig in behind their high walls for the coming siege, while the ruthless Spartans gather outside.

On a rugged mountain road a young Plataean warrior named Nikias rides to Athens on an urgent quest. He carries with him a bag of ill-gotten gold, hoping to raise an army of mercenaries to help defend his city from the coming Spartan assault. But in the sprawling stronghold of Athens, Nikias encounters perils that prove to be more dangerous than those he has faced on the battlefield.
Noble Smith’s Spartans at the Gates is a thrilling action-adventure novel set during the war between the great powers of Ancient Greece.

Review:

I first discovered Noble last year when i stumbled across Sons of Zeus, The concept was the bit that intrigued me despite the cover being another unfortunate US cover (sorry guys, but US publishers have an amazing skill for awful covers, Spartans at the Gates isn’t really an improvement…sorry Noble). In the last five years plus I have developed a real passion for books set in ancient Greece, something driven mainly by the awesome writing of Christian Cameron. Couple that with Nobles setting of Plataea again a location at the heart of Christians writing and I was hooked in to read book one and give it a go. What i didn’t expect was excellent pace and plotting of the book and its characters. My review of Sons of Zeus is Here

When I know Spartan at the Gates was ready in advance copy I was front and centre begging the author for a copy. I hadn’t enjoyed a book this much in this time period since Christian Cameron’s works first hooked me in. (and that really is my highest compliment). The worry of a great first book is “can the author repeat it?”

In the case of Spartan the answer is yes with a tiny quibble. The fantastic setting is there, the descriptive is there, the research is impeccable, the characters are once again sublime. Noble imbues Nikias and all his family and friends with a real passion, the protagonists are all complex bad guys, giving an amazing keep you guessing plot, who will pop up where, what are the real motives? Introduce the multitude of whisperers (spies) from all sides and factions and you don’t know what will happen next.  This book has Nikias thrown from one set of issues and adversity to another, testing his stamina and metal to the limit, We also fill in more of the blanks on Chusor the mysterious Smith and will Nikias young friend Kolax finally find his father, and how many people will this whirling devil of a Scythian boy kill on his journey to find him. The whole book flew by, it was over before I felt I had really got to the meat of it, and I think that was my only regret with the read, it felt like a bridging book, moving pieces on the chess board and shifting them into position for the final book in the series, its done so well that on the Amazon scale I would still give this 5/5 stars, but on a personal note I felt that bridging and plot building too keenly in its ending, that could just be a great compliment that i never wanted it to end? but in a world of hefty tomes, i felt this could have benefitted from another 100 pages of meat.

So once again from Noble Smith a truly excellent read, crammed with great characters and story telling , an engaging and fast paced writing skill and style to rival the best of them (Bernard Cornwell, , Conn Iggulden, Christian Cameron, Giles Kristian, Anthony Riches, Ben Kane, Paul Collard, Michael Arnold, Angus Donald (hope I didn’t miss anyone 😉 etc..) and well worth the cover price, a book I heartily recommend.

(Parm)

 

Novels
Stolen from Gypsies (2000)
Sons of Zeus (2013)
Spartans at the Gates (2014)
Stolen from GypsiesSons of ZeusSpartans at the Gates
Novellas
The One-Armed Warrior (2013)
The One-Armed Warrior
Non fiction
The Wisdom of the Shire: A Short Guide to a Long and Happy Life (2012)
The Wisdom of the Shire: A Short Guide to a Long and Happy Life

 

 

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Filed under Historical Fiction, Noble Smith

I.D Roberts : Kingdom Lock (Review)

Author

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I.D. Roberts was born in Australia in 1970 and moved to England when he was three. From a young age he developed an obsession with war comics, movies, Tintin and James Bond. For the past decade he has been the film writer for a national listings magazine. After living all over the country and buying a farmhouse by mistake in Ireland, he finally settled in the South West and currently lives in rural Somerset with his wife Di and their chocolate Labrador, Steed.

Follow him on Twitter: @KingdomLock

Author’s Website: www.idroberts.com

Buy a signed copy

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It is 1914 and while battles rage across Europe, three empires – the Ottoman, the German and the British – fight for dominance in the Middle East. The merciless landscape of Persia and Mesopotamia are prizes to be claimed by the most ruthless opponent.

In the midst of the chaos is Kingdom Lock. Working for the British Intelligence Service known as the White Tabs, Lock is sent to Persia on a commission from the Australian Infantry Force. His mission: to prevent a German spy from inciting jihad and rebellion among the Muslim tribes and from seizing control of the precious oilfields. But before then, having recently rescued Amy Townshend, the daughter of a top ranking British officer, from Turkey, he now finds that he must save her from the clutches of death once more. It’s a task that seems destined to fail with bloodthirsty, relentless Turks at every turn . . .

To complete his mission, Lock must stay one step ahead of the war raging around him. And to make matters worse, Amy’s fiancé, an aristocratic young officer, is none too pleased about Lock’s developing relationship with his future wife. In this super-charged  adventure, can Kingdom Lock survive the dangers that threaten him?

Review:

I love a debut, well… I love a debut when it turns out to be one that’s something new and exciting, a bit different, and then ultimately turns out to be wonderfully written. Despite my passion for Historical Fiction, i have never really had a love of the first world war. Its always felt too dark, too emotional, to personal to the near past of everyone in the UK and Europe. This is the second book in a number of weeks that has managed to prove that great books do exist in this period (well apart from Charlies war obviously…that’s just part of my childhood reading).  The first of those read was The Shadow of War which was an eye opener, Kingdom Lock by I.D Roberts was something else.

If i was to make any comparison i suppose it would be to John Wilcox and his Simon Fonthill series, only this book is slightly more stark and gritty. Instead of the witty 352 Jenkins we have the angry, dangerous Underhill, and instead of the slightly dippy reserved Fonthill we have Kingdom Lock, a highly competent soldier / spy. A man who has his flaws yet lives with them, through them, a human among elitist snobs of the officer class. For me he was exactly the soldier i would want to have been.

The other difference in this story is the setting, its WW1 but not France, its the oilfields of Persia, chasing the very real German spy Wilhelm Wassmuss, (known as “Wassmuss of Persia”. He attempts to foment trouble for the British in the Persian Gulf. This man is someone i had heard of before, but since reading the book i have done a little research. This guy was the German Lawrence of Arabia and I.D Roberts doesn’t just bring Kingdom Lock to life he also brings Wassmuss to life in a great chase across a war torn landscape, through a rich tapestry of ancient lands and culture.

(oh and there’s a love story in there….. well told too, its not in there just for the ladies, or because these stories should have one)

Its a wonderful debut and i look forward to book 2

Highly recommended

(Parm)

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Filed under Historical Fiction, I.D Roberts

Stewart Binns: The Shadow of War (Review)

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Author:

Stewart has spent most of his professional life in television. Initially trained as an academic, he was variously a teacher, soldier and copy-writer before joining the BBC, where he worked in documentary features and current affairs, including stints on Panorama and QED.He was Director of Special Projects at TWI and later Head of Production at Octagon CSI. He produced a wide range of innovative programmes from sports magazines like Trans World Sport, Futbol Mundial and Golazo to historical documentaries like Britain at War, Century and Indochine.He has won over thirty international television awards including a BAFTA, Grierson and Peabody, was elected as a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts and is Visiting Professor at the University of Bedfordshire.The author of several non-fiction books connected to his work in television, his first work of historical fiction, Conquest, set around the pivotal events of 1066 and the life of legendary hero Hereward of Bourne, was published by Penguin in February 2011. Stewart now lives in Somerset with his wife, Lucy and their twin boys, Charlie and Jack. Their home is also the base for Big Ape Media International, the independent media company run by Stewart and Lucy.

Product Description

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Buy the book (amazon)

The Shadow of War is the first novel in Stewart Binns’s new series which will see a book release for each year of the First World War.

This title will be released on July 17, 2014.

June 1914: the beginning of another long, prosperous summer for Britain. But beneath the clear skies, all is not as it seems – the chill wind of social discontent swirls around this sceptred isle.

Shots ring out in a distant European land – the assassination of a foreign aristocrat. From that moment the entire world is propelled into a conflict unlike any seen before.

This is the story of five British communities, their circumstances very different, but who will all share in the tragedy that is to come. All that they have known will be changed forever by the catastrophic events of the Great War.

This is a story of love and comradeship, of hatred and tragedy – this is the story of the Great War.

Review

When I first started this book my initial reaction was “what the hell”, the books style seemed very bizarre, it was very much an outside view looking in on people and events. Then slowly as I read the chapters I was drawn into the lives of multiple different families and communities, before i knew it i was hooked. This book is still odd…different, it’s not like Stewarts previous series. It feels very much like a documentary mixed into a fictional drama, yet it works, it works so well. Anyone who reads my reviews and follows my blog knows I love Historical Fiction. But what they don’t know is that I’m really not a fan of WW1. I find the horror and darkness of that war too hard to read, too emotional to take in without feeling my own version of Churchill’s “black dog”. (read the book to understand that)

Stewart Binns has managed to portray the different strata of society without judging or demeaning any of them, and to cover in book one the lead up to and the early days of WW1 with passion and compassion, with energy and purpose, and to leave me feeling the emotion but not suffering from the horror. It’s all there contained in the pages, but delivered in such a way you can see and feel the passions of the different players, the struggles that sent individuals to war, the misconceptions of blame for the death toll and the passion to do all for family and country.

Stewarts books always leave me with a sense of pride for my country, and this book is no exception, but this is tempered by the individual courage and the individual loss. The personal tales that inspire and horrify in equal measure. By the time I finished the book I felt entertained and educated, which for me form the key pillars of a great Historical Fiction novel.

Once again Stewart Binns has managed to create something unique, entertaining and eye-opening, I’m very much looking forward to book 2.

Recommended

(Parm)

Other books

Making of England
1. Conquest (2011)
2. Crusade (2012)
3. Anarchy (2013)
4. Lionheart (2013)

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Filed under Historical Fiction, Stewart Binns

Giles Kristian: God of Vengeance trailer film shoot (Behind the scenes)

God of Vengeance: Trailer shoot, Day 2

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Sunday morning 6am alarm clock wake up, not so bad…except when you got to sleep at 1am.

So with much yawning and sneaking around the house to avoid waking the wife and Granddaughter, I finally got my bad ready, weapons stacked, food and drink ready and filled the boot. Leaving the house to a now awake family…The Granddaughter doesn’t like to sleep much past dawn. (double yawn).

A quick easy ride to Lincoln, I approached the point where I’m thankful for a SatNav, coming up the ring road towards Lincoln, The Cathedral and Castle rose out of the morning mist in the early morning sun. I was so lost in the power of the scene and how, apart from the houses cluttering the foreground, that iconic misty scene had been seen by people for hundreds of years, that i missed the turning and then had a quick play in Lincoln’s one way system.

Finally back on track i followed the directions to their conclusion, pulled up at a farm house, and decided the damn thing had got me lost again.

So a quick potter back up the road, and a call the Phil Stevens director extraordinaire from Urban Apache Films .

Change of meeting point, to the offices of Urban Apache in the center on Lincoln, and I’m a little pleased, who doesn’t want to see where some of the magic happens?

Another quick fight with the satnav, trying to make me drive through central reservations and up one way streets, and I’m there. Phil arrives soon after…looking….well, lets say worn around the edges. Most of the cast and crew only got to sleep after 3am, so coffee, McDonalds and what ever they can get to wake up is on the cards. All of this makes me shut up about my lack of sleep very fast.

The next hour is filled with some very tired people being made up by the happiest, nicest people of the day, makeup and wardrobe, the ladies organising and creating with quiet competence and humour despite their lack of sleep.

My first chance of the day to be useful came in the form of finding a hand dryer in the gents, The outfit for Floki (William Clayton) was still wet and muddy from the previous day, so to save Floki from a very damp arse and and uncomfortable morning on set, I spend the next 20 plus minutes blasting as much hot air as possible through the material (thank god for asbestos hands). (wonder if Phil will get told off for the state of the muddy toilet)?

Running about an hour behind the call sheet, which was pretty good going considering the walking dead that had arrived at 7.30am. A short 40 min drive, once again at the whim of the SatNav gods, who actually found the set, a quarry in the middle on who the hell knows where in Lincolnshire, I admit… I was impressed.

There must be something about Film shoots with Giles Kristian, this is the second one i have been lucky enough to go on, the last one Bleeding Land Shoot was also a beautiful sunny day. Even at 9am the sun was warm enough to ditch jumpers.

The first action of the day was a walk up to the film site, following a long winding path through the quarry and a decision for everyone, Do you want to drive your car around that winding path up to the site of the shoot?

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Immediately I heard the wife’s voice in the back of my head…NO… so that saved me worrying about that.

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Time to suit up…Not me, one day if there is a HUGE crown scene they might be daft enough to let me the wrong side of the lens, but for now I’m happy enough snapping away behind me little camera and pretending I know what I’m doing.

Time for the weapons to come out, cue Giles pulling out his huge chopper…. ok so I had to get that line in there…. His axe will feature in the filming.

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Having enjoyed this process before I was more prepared for the walk through, scene setting, practice and generally trying to get everything right before the camera rolls.

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One thing from the day that I wasn’t expecting was a second camera crew, a group of young lads doing a “making of” film for the God of Vengeance shoot. …. I think that meant i was doing the making of the making of GoV,,,well at least according to Giles.

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Another reason for not being in the shoot (aside from not being an actor, too old etc..)…. Look at the flipping size of these guys! (of course im way more toned that that…. Honest)

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The main thrust of Day 2’s filming, is the scene from the book where Floki is chained at the weeping stone, and must fight all comers.

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This is where the skill of the make up and wardrobe ladies really started to show, the amazing attention to detail that’s so easy to miss, the way the drape and texture of something is delivered to the camera if left at just the right angle. I even got roped into helping build a Viking bivouac/ lean to.

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That thing would still be there now we built it that well. (spot who was overly pleased to have contributed something that will be on film.)

Finally after several hours of prep work and camera set up its time to actually film something, and to some this may seem a bit tedious, but for me the time flew past. I’d have happily started building a cabin if we had needed too.

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Giles is everywhere now, making sure people are happy, included, that the scene matches his writing.

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This scene in God of Vengeance is one of the most iconic, a real blood and guts introduction to a key character, in the book its stunningly written so Phil has his  work well and truly cut out trying to reproduce this on camera.

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Each scene is walked through before the shot is actually taken, the below are shots of initial attack on Floki, where everyone learns…. well… read the book , watch the trailer, you’ll see.

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What you don’t often see in the final product are the down time moments, the mix of the modern and the ancient

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The demand for consistency in a film that’s minutes long but takes a day to shoot. The chasing of the light away from the quarry walls, the reflecting of light with a large piece of polystyrene. All filmed with the skill and technique that means none of that movement will ever been seen by others.

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The skill of many on set in stunning, with Phil and Lewis clearly standing out of the pack. Phil, while the director, is also one of the actors, and also clearly along with Giles the driving passion on the day, he not only understand the shots the angles, the drive and desires of the characters, but he also has a clear confidence in the filming and more importantly the weapons and their use in front of camera. Its no easy thing to swing a sword or axe at some one, or have it swing at you. The trust must be total.

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More shots of that pesky fella with the small musculature (cough ….what a wimp)…just for the ladies.

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The Star of the day though had to be Floki, not only facing off against all the big fellas, having to kill the boss, but also being the main focus nearly all day, and that chain, i didn’t know until the end of the day just how heavy that thing was. Not once did he complain about it.

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The close up fighting was where the skill and ingenuity of Lewis came to the fore, every problem that cropped up he could over come with a little idea, always delivered in such a way that it was a group decision to use it. How to fall, how to look like he had received an axe to the guts for the camera. Blood made from (if I remember) corn syrup, and mashed banana for that gory consistency.

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The light is really starting to chase us across the quarry now, its gone 4pm, we have been here since about 9am.

One of the really amazing parts of the day was being allowed behind camera to watch the playback, to see what it would look like when finally shown. I did this once and having just watched it being shot, the buzz of seeing it on screen still gives me a little thrill.

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More gratuitous shots of topless Viking holding Giles chopper… (yup there’s that pun again…) Sorry, there are quite a few ladies who read this blog…. target audience.

This is also the scene i got to watch back on camera.

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Sun is now gone from the early shoot site…our camera man and Phil have a “discussion” about this and the need to more again..Phil wins as usual.

Its late in the day, but we are only a couple of scenes from the end of the day now, Floki is now liberally covered in blood. Its time to gets some still of the little bad ass.

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Now for one of my favorite parts of the day, the death of the big Viking (yes ladies more photos) , the problem is how to get arterial spray, how to project it, and how to time it just right.

It might sound simple, but the more you watch the complexities, the more difficult it gets. The timing being the hardest. Floki pulling the Ax, Phil hidden behind spraying the blood at just the right time.

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Final Scene of the day….Catwalk Viking….Check out the camera poses!

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When Floki finally gets his hands on him, well… its how to choke a Viking.

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…… So sorry if this was all a bit of a tour through my holiday snaps, but the only way to do justice to this amazing day is with pictures.

The amazing people i met, and learned new things from (Thank you)

Phil Stevens… you sir are an inspiration, and i honestly enjoy every minute you allow me to experience on set so thank you.

and Giles… one of the most disgustingly talented individuals i know, but he tempers it with being one of the nicest people i know. Thank you for being kind enough to let me come along again.

The reason for all of this… The upcoming God of Vengeance published on the 10th April 2014

Norway 785 AD. It began with the betrayal of a lord by a king . . .

But when King Gorm puts Jarl Harald’s family to the sword, he makes one terrible mistake – he fails to kill Harald’s youngest son, Sigurd.

On the run, unsure who to trust and hunted by powerful men, Sigurd wonders if the gods have forsaken him: his kin are slain or prisoners, his village attacked, its people taken as slaves. Honour is lost.

And yet he has a small band of loyal men at his side and with them he plans his revenge. All know that Ódin – whose name means frenzy – is drawn to chaos and bloodshed, just as a raven is to slaughter. In the hope of catching the All-Father’s eye, the young Viking endures a ritual ordeal and is shown a vision. Wolf, bear, serpent and eagle come to him. Sigurd will need their help if he is to make a king pay in blood for his treachery.

Using cunning and war-craft, he gathers together a band of warriors – including Olaf, his father’s right hand man, Bram who men call Bear, Black Floki who wields death with a blade, and the shield maiden Valgerd, who fears no man – and convinces them to follow him.

For, whether Ódin is with him or not, Sigurd will have his vengeance. And neither men nor gods had best stand in his way . . .

Buy a Signed copy from Goldsboro Books

Is it any good?

Well my review will be up a bit closer to release… but lets just say : This is the book where the bloody legend of Sigurd is born, given voice not just in swathes of blood and violence, but also in the living breathing Norse world that comes to life on every page, as Giles weaves his tale like a master skald from the past. (so yes that means its going to be one of my top 5 reads for 2014 without fail)

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Filed under Giles Kristian, Historical Fiction

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

Author

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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

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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

J.T. Brannan : Extinction (review + Interview)

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JT Brannan is the Bradford-born author of Extinction, Origin and Stop at Nothing.

Trained as a British Army officer at Sandhurst, before deciding to pursue a writing career, he is a former national Karate champion and doorman.

He now writes full-time, and teaches martial arts in Harrogate, where he lives with his wife and two young children.

He is currently working on his next novel.

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 An extraordinary discovery in the Sahara desert will turn history on its head…

A series of unexplained phenomena create shockwaves across the globe – a huge religious statue moves its arm, and there’s a spate of floods and earthquakes. Many think it’s the end of the world…

Investigative journalist Alyssa Durham receives a call from an old friend claiming that these phenomena may not be entirely natural, but when he is assassinated in front of her, she finds herself on the run for her life.

Alyssa teams up with Jack Murray, a scientist from a secretive government research laboratory, to uncover the truth. But who wants them dead, and what are they trying to protect?

As chaos descends, Alyssa and Jack are drawn into a battle against an unknown enemy with the highest possible stakes, because one thing they’ve learnt is that nothing is safe from extinction..

Review

I had high hopes for this book and it didn’t let me down. When I first read the authors debut book Origin I found myself initially a little incredulous at the scope of the book. But then I re-read the book and found myself marvelling at the brass balls of the author, his ambition, drive and imagination to cover so many of the unanswered questions in the world, so many conspiracies under one book cover.

That however gave me a set of expectations for book 2, and initially my first read didn’t deliver that same ballsy scope, but then instead it delivered a quality thriller, and built to a world defining action packed book. One with great characters, ambitious global implications, high octane action and some very tight sparse fast paced writing.

As per book one JT Brannan keeps the reader guessing throughout the book, the edge of the seat action means that the book can easily be a single sitting read, 400 pages goes so fast. Its a real testament to the writing style, skill and the plot of the book.

I’m not going to explore the plot its self, the product description gives enough flavour, anymore is too open to spoilers. Suffice to say, nothing is as it seems, big brother is watching you, and nothing is to crazy and idea, it may just be true.

(Parm)

Q&A

Thank you for agreeing to answer some questions:

1: Book 1, what gave you the inspiration for such an insanely ambitious plot?

My agent asked me to come up with a high-concept thriller, and I remembered a story my wife and I had discussed one evening. We had been talking about advances in science, and wondering what effects this might have on a future society. How long could people live, after embracing genetic engineering, advanced medicine and nanotechnology? We decided that the most likely scenario would be that the rich – those who could afford it – would be the major beneficiaries, which might polarise society even more than it is today. What would result from such conflict? This discussion led me to develop a story which explored these ideas, but it was very much in the science fiction genre, and so the idea was shelved. But when my agent asked me for a unique, high-concept idea, I went back to this story and decided to twist it around and use it as the background for a contemporary action thriller. I’ve also always been interested in conspiracy theories, and I thought it might be fun to see if I could find links between any, in order to come up with a unique, all-encompassing conspiracy that could help to explain everything. Ambitious, as you say, but lots of fun!

2: After the high of book 1, book 2 is always a nail biter (congratulations on pulling it off) Was it hard having to start with new characters?

No, I really enjoyed it. It was a chance to explore different people with different ideas. In Extinction, neither Alyssa nor Jack have any sort of combat training, and I thought it would be interesting to see how these ‘non-professionals’ would cope when they’re hurled into a very dangerous environment. There’s a bit more of the ‘everyman’ about them than the characters in my first novel, and I think the result is really exciting. We really don’t know if they’re going to get through it or not.

3: What was the inspiration for book 2?

I’d read about HAARP (High Frequency Active Auroral Research Program) whilst researching Origin, and although it didn’t make an appearance there, I was very interested in what I found out and wanted to use it in another story. Essentially, it is a huge antenna array in the Alaskan wilderness, used to examine the ionosphere for the purposes of research into radio communications, navigation, and so on. But there are some people who claim that it is really intended to be used by the US military as a ‘weather weapon’, an ultimate WMD that can destroy entire countries through deliberately causing natural disasters such as earthquakes and tsunamis.

I was also reading a lot about Gaia theory, the earth’s ongoing history of mass extinction events, various beliefs in a natural destruction/regeneration cycle and so on.

When I was thinking about my second book for Headline, it occurred to me that these two things put together might make for quite an interesting conflict, and therefore gave me the background to Extinction.

4: Without giving away any plot for book 2, book 3 will require new characters. Have you thought about a series using a repeated character?

Yes I have! My agent and editor have both asked me to explore such a venture, and so I am developing an idea for an ongoing series right now. I can’t say any more about it yet, but watch this space!

5: Will we see any more Mark Cole? (for those who have not read Stop at Nothing, do so its fantastic, the American Bond)

If there is enough interest, I would love to. I already have ideas about other adventures for Mark Cole, so maybe one day!

6: If you had to sell Extinction in your own words…..

Extinction is a fast-paced, exhilarating rollercoaster ride of a thriller, which deals with the most terrifying threat of all – the complete eradication of life as we know it.

7: Do you have your own writing process?

Not really anything laid out in stone, as such. The only thing is that after the concept phase, I like to research everything and plan it all out in meticulous detail, before I write a word of the actual novel itself. As far as the writing goes, I write at whatever time of day I can fit it in, wherever I happen to be. Sometimes I write at the dining table in our conservatory, other times I write in the café at our tennis club, and other times I write on the sofa whilst my daughter watches cartoons next to me. I’ll try and write an average of 1000 words a day, but this can range from absolutely nothing, up to 10,000 words if things are really flowing. I try and be as flexible as possible, which is important with a family. If the sun’s out and it’s a lovely day, we’ll all go out somewhere and I’ll write some other time.

8: Any tips to pass on to an aspiring thriller writer?

I think reading a lot is very important. You have to really love the genre, know it inside and out. I don’t mean you have to know anything about the authors, or remember every name of every character they’ve ever written; it’s more about the feel of the genre, how to get those ‘hooks’ in, how to get a reader to keep reading. Reading thrillers and trying to identify what makes the good ones work so well is a large part of this.

I would also recommend reading works on structuring stories too, as I believe it is vital for novels in the thriller genre to be properly constructed. If you set something up, there has to be a pay-off later in the book for instance. If not, the reader is going to feel cheated in some way. You have to know where the story’s heading, or you won’t be able to layer things in throughout; the ending will just appear out of nowhere, and again the reader might well feel cheated. Story by Robert McKee is good one to start with on this topic. It’s written from a movie screenplay perspective, but the principles hold up just the same for novels.

Another thing is to write. Everything needs to be practised if you want to be good at it, and writing is no exception. There comes a time when all the reading has been done, all the research, all the theory. There’s only one thing left, and that is the actual writing itself!

9: Top 5 favourite books?

Musashi by Eiji Yoshikawa, Clear and Present Danger by Tom Clancy, First Blood by David Morrell, Red Dragon by Thomas Harris, and The Running Man by Stephen King, writing as Richard Bachman.

 10: Book you wish you had written?

Casino Royale by Ian Fleming. Who wouldn’t want to have invented James Bond?

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Filed under Action/ Adventure Thrillers, J T Brannan, Thrillers

Ben Kane : Clouds of War (Review)

Author: Ben Kane

kane

Author Bio

Click above for author bio info: (and visit his wonderful web site)

Book description

Clouds of War

Buy a Signed copy from Goldsboro Books

As Rome’s war with Carthage continues, two friends – now on opposing sides – confront each other in one of the most brutal sieges of all time. A new Hannibal novel by the Sunday Times bestselling author of The Forgotten Legion series.

213 BC. Syracuse. Under the merciless Sicilian sun, a city is at war.

Outside the walls, a vast Roman army waits. Yet the city’s incredible defences, designed by Archimedes, mean that Syracuse will not be taken easily.

A veteran of the bitter war since its beginning, Quintus is ready to give his life in the service of the Republic. But dangers face him from within his own ranks as well as from the enemy – who include his former friend, the Carthaginian, Hanno.

Hanno has been sent by his general Hannibal to aid Syracuse in its fight against Rome. Pledged to bring death to all Romans, he is diverted from his mission by the discovery of Quintus’ sister Aurelia, a captive within the city.

Two friends on opposing sides. A woman caught between them. They are about to meet in one of the most brutal sieges of all time.

Who will survive?

Review:

Its very easy for a lot of historical fiction to get classed as swords and sandals. Most peoples who dont read the genre have the impression thats its a bit of a dry, wordy style book with a lot of stabby stabby blood, war death maybe some sex and then the end. Firstly Swords and Sandals is so much more than that, there is humor, comradeship, tactics, fighting skills, characters and more, so never judge a book by its label.

That said Clouds of War is not swords and sandals in my opinion, so if you read the genre or not this book is something different, something much more personal, its a history lesson, its a life lesson, its a story of love, life, grief, both personal and national and romance. Its a book filled on a very personal level, it has an energy, a pace and a deep love of history you don’t find in many books, and not many authors have the skill to carry off.

As usual with my look at a book, i’m not going to risk spoilers, or try and pull apart the plot, too much chance of spoiling the book for others. The book blurb tells you all about this stage of the story of Hanno, Quintus and Aurelia. What i will talk about is once again is Ben’s amazing writing. There are a few authors who can leave me thinking about a book for more than an hour or so after i finish the review, There are even fewer who can elicit a real emotional response. Maybe i’m a sentimental old Granddad these days, but some of the familia led plot was just heartrending. I guarantee that this book will reduce some readers to absolute tears. Where with Anthony Riches you know that at some point someone is going to get a yard of steel through the guts, its almost part of the boys own action of it. With Ben it again is no surprise to see death, but it could be murder, famine, thirst, disease or war and it might not be just a family member it could be a whole village, a legion anyone. The man is so much more brutal when it comes to mortality, but only in terms of relaying the brutality of life and war in the ancient world.

Ben probably more than any writer shows you life in the ancient world, warts and all. And none of that should put a reader off, just the opposite, you MUST buy this book. This is the culmination of years of writing lessons learned, adding all the feedback, adding every nuance and experience to his writing skill.

This truly is a must buy Highly recommended book

(Parm)

Forgotten Legion Chronicles

1. The Forgotten Legion (2008)
2. The Silver Eagle (2009)
3. The Road to Rome (2010)
The Forgotten LegionThe Silver EagleThe Road to Rome
Hannibal
1. Enemy of Rome (2011)
2. Fields of Blood (2013)
3. Clouds of War (2014)
The Patrol (2013)
Enemy of RomeFields of BloodClouds of WarThe Patrol
 Spartacus
1. The Gladiator (2012)
2. Rebellion (2012)
The GladiatorRebellion
For those not aware authors Ben Kane, Anthony Riches & Russ Whitfield will be doing another fantastic charity walk in 2014

They are walking from Capua to the Forum in Rome in late April 2014, raising money for: MSF – Médecins Sans Frontières & Combat Stress. Last Year over £18,000 was raised, lets see if we can help them top that this year. (there is also a film crew this year, so i fully expect some fun, interesting and crazy footage in the near future)

Give Generously

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Filed under Ben Kane, Historical Fiction

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

Pierce Brown: Red Rising (Review)

Author

Pierce Brown

Pierce Brown spent his childhood building forts and setting traps for his cousins in the woods of six states and the deserts of two. Graduating college in 2010, he fancied the idea of continuing his studies at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. Unfortunately, he doesn’t have a magical bone in his body. So while trying to make it as a writer, he worked as a manager of social media at a startup tech company, toiled as a peon on the Disney lot at ABC Studios, did his time as an NBC page, and gave sleep deprivation a new meaning during his stint as an aide on a U.S. Senate Campaign.

Now he lives in Los Angeles, where he scribbles tales of spaceships, wizards, ghouls, and most things old or bizarre

Book Description

red rising

“I live for the dream that my children will be born free,” she says. “That they will be what they like. That they will own the land their father gave them.”

“I live for you,” I say sadly.

Eo kisses my cheek. “Then you must live for more.”

Darrow is a miner and a Red, a member of the lowest caste in the color-coded society of the future. Like his fellow Reds, he digs all day, believing that he and his people are making the surface of the planet livable for future generations. Darrow has never seen the sky.

Yet he spends his life willingly, knowing that his blood and sweat will one day result in a better future for his children.

But Darrow and his kind have been betrayed. Soon he discovers that humanity already reached the surface generations ago. Vast cities and sprawling parks spread across the planet. Darrow and Reds like him are nothing more than slaves to a decadent ruling class.

Inspired by a longing for justice, and driven by the memory of lost love, Darrow joins a resistance group in order to infiltrate the ruling class and destroy society from within. He will stop at nothing to bring down his enemies . . . even if it means he has to become one of them to do so.

Review

Red Rising by Pierce Brown: This book was a foray into something different for me, which is my personal challenge this year “To Read as many books as i can that take me out of my comfort zone”.

Right from the start i had to hang on to the book covers to stop from being swept up into the maelstrom of this plot and transported to Mars. I was amazed to discover its being billed as a Young Adult novel. Its complex world building and multi-layered society is leaps ahead in style and depth of almost any other YA book i have ever read. It very much put me in mind of Julian May and the Many Coloured land series (this being one of my all time fav series, gives you an idea of the compliment here).

Taking place on Mars, introducing the Red, the bottom of society, the worker slaves, in a society led by the elite Golds. One red is destined to rise from his station, to learn adapt and grow. It is this adaptation and growth that allows the reader to experience all the levels of emotion. through failure, victory, death, love, friendship, comradeship and so much more.

Inevitable comparisons will be made to Hunger Games, but this blows that series away. For me this is right up there with the quality of Wool by Hugh Howey A book that transported me to another time another place and other reality. For those that read you will understand the phrase : Book hangover, this is what i have now, i don’t know what to read next as my hair of the dog… but it will need to be damn good.

READ THIS BOOK
(Parm)

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Filed under Dystopian, Pierce Brown, Young Adult

Christian Cameron: Great King review

Christian Cameron

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Christian Cameron was born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania in 1962. He grew up in Rockport, Massachusetts, Iowa City, Iowa, and Rochester, New York, where he attended McQuaid Jesuit High School and later graduated from the University of Rochester with a degree in history.

After the longest undergraduate degree on record (1980-87), he joined the United States Navy, where he served as an intelligence officer and as a backseater in S-3 Vikings in the First Gulf War, in Somalia, and elsewhere. After a dozen years of service, he became a full time writer in 2000. He lives in Toronto (that’s Ontario, in Canada) with his wife Sarah and their daughter Beatrice, currently age seven. He attends the University of Toronto when the gods move him and may eventually have a Masters in Classics, but right now he’s a full time historical novelist, and it is the best job in the world.

Christian is a dedicated reenactor and you can follow some of his recreated projects on the Agora. He’s always recruiting, so if you’d like to try the ancient world, the medieval world, or the late 18th century, follow the link to contact us.

Author Web site

Author Forum

Also Christian Cameron is Miles Cameron: read about the reveal

Review

great king

I find it more and more difficult to write a review of Christians books, it’s so expected to write how wonderful they are.

This book is no exception. The characters as ever are some of the most rounded and real that you will read in any historical fiction novel, the action is probably the most realistic and authentic (all driven by his passion for Re-enactment and trying to live the parts, to write about them). What sets these tales apart is that while i get the cut and thrust of battle that i love in these ancient tales, i also get so much more.

The Hero Arimenestos isn’t perfect, he is very flawed, he can be vain, arrogant, passionate, impulsive, heroic. But more than that, he is a family man, his family being more than just relations, his ship mates, his friends, Plataea and his fellow hero’s. So often he finds himself on opposing sides to people he cares about while fighting with of for those he is indifferent to, but country wins over personal loyalty. The tug of war for his soul played out on the page. It’s this emotional tug of war that Christian Cameron excels at in his writing, drawing on what i can only assume is personal experience in the armed forces, and his own innate kindness as a human being.

I can’t go into the history behind the novel in anywhere close to the depth of the author or even JPS (review on here) what i can say is that i felt the history, it felt real. I felt i was there for every battle, for every race, for every tear and every heartbreak and betrayal. The ending and the inevitable death of the Spartan king is heart-breaking and crushing for the reader, portraying a fraction of what the men of the time must have felt. all again showing the skill of the writing.

This truly ranks up there as my all-time favourite series.

(Parm)

Other books by this author

Series
Tyrant
1. Tyrant (2008)
2. Storm of Arrows (2009)
3. Funeral Games (2010)
4. King of the Bosporus (2011)
5. Destroyer of Cities (2013)
6. Force of Kings (2014)
TyrantStorm of ArrowsFuneral GamesKing of the BosporusDestroyer of Cities
Long War
1. Killer of Men (2010)
2. Marathon: Freedom or Death (2011)
3. Poseidon’s Spear (2012)
4. The Great King (2013)
Killer of MenMarathon: Freedom or DeathPoseidon's SpearThe Great King
Tom Swan and the Head of St George
1. Castillon (2012)
2. Venice (2012)
3. Constantinople (2012)
4. Rome (2013)
5. Rhodes (2013)
6. Chios (2013)
CastillonVeniceConstantinopleRomeRhodesChios
Novels
Washington and Caesar (2001)
God of War (2012)
Alexander: God of War (2013)
The Ill-Made Knight (2013)
The Long Sword (2014)
Washington and CaesarGod of WarAlexander: God of WarThe Ill-Made Knight

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Filed under Christian Cameron, Historical Fiction