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Read Through History May and June 2016

Yes! That’s right! A double bill, ladies and gentlemen! Why? Because… well… I didn’t get round to it last month.

Anyroad, here’s what I’ve been reading over the last two months:

1) Vespasian: Rome’s Fallen Eagle by Robert Fabbri. The fourth installment in the Vespasian series shows the Roman General travelling to Germany and Britain. I’m looking forward to reading the rest of this series very much.

2) Resurrection Day by Brendan DuBois. This is the winner of the 1999 Sidewise Award for Alternative History looking at what might have happened if the Cuban Missile Crisis had escalated. Very interesting.

3) SPQR by Mary Beard. I read this as I watched the series on BBC. I’m going to have to re-watch I Claudius at some point.

4) The Lord Darcy Series by Randall Garrett. This classic work won a Special Achievement Award from the good people who give out the Sidewise Award. This is a Sherlock Holmes-esque series set in the twentieth century where the world is governed by magic rather than physics and where Richard the Lionheart lives for another twenty years before being succeeded by his nephew Arthur. Some really good stories here.

5) Clough: The Autobiography by Brian Howard Clough. I watched the Damned United film recently and was interested to find out more about the legendary football manager.

6) The Hangman’s Daughter by Oliver Potzsch. Set in seventeenth century Bavaria, this is a crime thriller set during the times of the witch trials. A very good story.

7) Ash: A Secret History by Mary Gentle. Winner of the 2000 Sidewise Award this follows the story of Ash, a company commander in an alternative fifteenth century where a new Carthaginian Empire is establishing dominance over Christendom with the help of Golems.

8) Independence Day: Crucible by Greg Keyes. If you want to know what happened after the first film before you go and see the second then have a read of this.

9) The Miniaturist by Jessie Burton. This novel set in Amsterdam around the time of the Dutch Golden Age is the winner of many awards and deservedly so. I liked it very much.


Something Rich and Strange

Can’t think of anything to buy people for Christmas? Want to treat yourself but haven’t seen anything you want? Was Black Friday more like Blank Friday?

Then why not buy this latest offering from the Random Writers? Something Rich and Strange is an anthology of fourteen stories that explore what happened next after legends or folk tales placed in historical settings.

The electronic version of this books is available to pre-order now and the paperback is on sale from the 12th December.

And while you’re waiting for that, you can whet your appetite with the first anthology the Randoms produced: A Seeming Glass.


Read Through History: November 2015

Another year is almost over already, can you believe it? This blog will be history itself soon.

And speaking of history, here’s what I’ve been reading (and listening to):

1) Heresy by S. J. Parris. I listened to the audiobook of this tale about an Italian in the service of Sir Francis Walsingham after fleeing the Inquisition. Really good. I look forward to reading/hearing the others in the series.

2) Ink that Bleeds by H. D. Loughrey. A collection of short stories from an up and coming writer. Really worth reading. I look forward to seeing her debut novel on the shelves.

3) The Queen’s Man by Rory Clements. A prequel to the John Shakespeare series that sees a fictitious older brother of William work for Sir Francis Walsingham to uncover a plot concerning Mary Queen of Scots. Very interesting with some good detail of the period.

4) Warriors of the Storm by Bernard Cornwell. The latest of the Saxon Stories and a really good one. I’m looking forward to the next book. The TV series isn’t bad either.

5) Just One Damned Thing After Another  by Jodi Taylor. A group of historians are doing a unique kind of research by actually travelling to the events themselves. Very interesting and funny.

Right, probably should think about Christmas shopping. I might even do the shopping as well…

Read Through History: July 2015

Afternoon. This month has been busy but I’ve got some reading in, although there have been deviations from the historical fiction path, but it’s good to try other things from time to time.

1) Blood Feud by Rosemary Sutcliff. This was lent to me by a colleague and I knew, after enjoying Eagle of the Ninth, I would like this too. I was not disappointed. It was also nice to read something about the Norsemen again.

2) Lord of Misrule by Christopher Lee. As one of Britain’s finest ever actors passed away a few weeks ago, I thought it was time to read his autobiography. He certainly led a very full and interesting life.

3) The Hound of the Baskervilles by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. I thought it was about time I read this classic book and it’s one of his finest. I look forward to seeing some of the films that were adapted from it.

4) SS-GB by Len Deighton. Another alternative history about the Nazis winning the Second World War. Worth reading and I look forward to seeing the upcoming dramatisation (speaking of which, when is the rest of Man in the High Castle going to appear?)

5) The Boleyn King by Laura Andersen. Another alternative history where the son of Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn lives and succeeds his father as King Henry IX. Very interesting, especially the politics side.

6) Back Story by David Mitchell. I fancied a change and chose another autobiography from my bookshelf. Very funny as you would expect from the Peep Show star.

Read Through History: May 2015

Summer’s here… apparently. Well, they say a heatwave is on the way so here’s hoping.

Now, I bet you’re all wondering what I’ve been plundering from the local libraries, aren’t you? Well, here we are:

1) I Belong to the Earth by J. A. Ironside. Taking a break from historical fiction (‘Whaaaat?’ I hear you all cry) I enjoyed this very much. A classic ghost story with elements of fantasy added for good measure.

2) Assassins’ Creed: Renaissance by Oliver Bowden. Although I’ve not played the game I’m tempted to give the first one in the series another go and move onto this. A good adventure story with a good mix of historical characters and events.

3) Thief’s Tale by S. J. A. Turney. This is the first in the Ottoman Cycle series. Gives a good account of life in Istanbul shortly after the Ottoman conquest. If you liked the Marius’ Mules series, you’ll like this too.

4) Empire of the Moghul: Raiders from the East by Alex Rutherford. I’m glad I gave this a go. I know very little about this time and place so it’s good to try something new.

I also finished The Tower by Nigel Jones that I started last month. One of the best non-fiction books I’ve read in a while. There will be a Tower of London post at some point. Honest.

Read Through History: February 2015

Pinch, punch, first of the month and no retur… OW!

Anyway we’re now two months down in 2015, doesn’t time fly? I’m still writing 2014 down! In fact I think I wrote 2013 down the other day…

So here’s what I read in February and what I thought of it.

1) Company of Liars by Karen Maitland. Really good story following a group of characters trying to avoid the Black Death in the late 1340s.

2) Stalingrad by Anthony Beevor. Bit of non-fiction to go with the fiction. Give it a go.

3) 1356 by Bernard Cornwell. The latest installment in the Thomas of Hookton novels, this covers the lead up to and the Battle of Poitiers in the Hundred Years War. Very good. Got it signed as well!

4) R. U. R. by Karel Capek. This was the BBC Radio adaptation of the Czech play that brought the word ‘robot’ into the English language.

5) The Man in the High Castle by Philip K. Dick. Read this alternative history on holiday and enjoyed it very much. I also watched the pilot episode of the series and look forward to seeing the rest when it’s available.

6) The Amber Antidote by Tom Harris. This is the sequel to Tom’s previous book The Amber Room. A brilliant piece of work from an up and coming Young Adult Fiction writer.

7) The Ten Thousand Things by John Spurling. Taking a break from European history, this is set in China between the Yuan and Ming Dynasties. It’s also been nominated for the Sir Walter Scott Award.

8) Stowaway to Mars by John Wyndham. After talking about the film Village of the Damned with friends, I thought I’d read some of the work by one of Britain’s leading science fiction writers. This is one of his first novels. See what you think.

And as for my current scribblings, The Lenin Plots is currently being hawked around the agents and Novel Three (who still hasn’t got a title) is half way through its edits.

Read Through History January 2015

Can you believe we’re one month into the New Year already? It’ll be Christmas again before you know it! Anyway, here’s what I plundered from the library/bookshelf/kindle this month:

1) The Time Traveller’s Guide to Elizabethan England by Ian Mortimer. A bit of non-fiction that’s helping with the editing for the current book.

2) The Last Templar by Michael Jecks. I met Michael at the Portsmouth Bookfest a few months ago and got this copy signed. If you like the Middle Ages, murder mysteries and good books I can recommend this.

3) Wolf’s Head by Steven A. McKay. Steven’s Robin Hood novel set during the reign of Edward II has been riding high in the Amazon charts for some time now and the audio version was one of ACX’s first books published in the UK. A real success and deservedly so.

4) Shakespeare’s Restless World by Neil McGregor. I went to the exhibition of this at the British Museum back in 2012 and this book of the Radio 4 series and this is another useful book to help with the edits.

5) Master of War by David Gilman. Set during the Hundred Years War, this follows the story of an archer who receives a knighthood. Give it a go and see what you think.

6) At Road’s End by Zoe Saadia. Taking a break from Europe for now. This is part of Zoe’s pre-Aztec series. An interesting introduction to the cultures of Central America at the time.

And what am I reading now? Drop by next month and find out!

Portsmouth: The Home of Great Writing

On Wednesday the University of Portsmouth hosted a talk from a local writer, Mister Matt Wingett, about the literary history of this Island City.

Now, Portsmouth has something of an embarrassment of riches when it comes to its literary heritage but there really is nothing to be embarrassed about. Below is a list of some of the people Matt mentioned in his very interesting talk.

Lake Allen, with a storyteller’s knack for writing history, wrote a two hundred and fifty page History of Portsmouth in 1817, drawing on the work of his grandfather Lake Taswell, a surgeon and writer of a guidebook to the town. Along with fellow scholar, Frederick Madden, he formed the Atheneum Debating Society. They were joined by brothers Julian and Henry Slight, who had written their own history of the town in rhyme. This Metrical History of Portsmouth did not go down to well with their fellows.

Frederick Marryat, a British Naval Officer, was one of the first writers of naval fiction and one book in particular, Peter Simple, features naval life in Portsmouth. Marryat was a contemporary and acquaintance of Charles Dickens, who was born in Portsmouth. There is a statue to him and his birthplace in Landport is now a museum but it is not mentioned in any of his writings.

Two other writers from the Victorian Age, Rudyard Kipling and H. G. Wells, both spent time in Portsmouth while growing up and did not have the best of times. Wells worked in various jobs in different states of drudgery, which may have inspired him to write about the Morlocks and the Eloi in the Time Machine. Kipling, living under the tyranny of someone he referred to as ‘the Woman’ would beat him for any perceived lies. In the end, he learned to tell stories to avoid punishment. Some of the experiences could well have led him to write his famous poem If.

One of the most famous people to come out of Portsmouth isn’t actually real. The first two Sherlock Holmes novels were written on the Isle by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. He arrived in 1882 with only ten pounds in his pocket and set up a doctor’s surgery. During his time in Portsmouth he met with all sections of society, playing in goal for the association football team, cricket with the middle classes and bowls with the Lord Mayor.

And what about the modern day? Well, as well as Nevil Shute, Graham Hurley, Susanna Rowson and some of this lot and this lot. This list goes on and on.

All in all a very good evening and a fascinating discussion about a fascinating subject.

Read Through History (and Back Again): December 2014

Happy New Year one and all!

Well, 2014 shot by very quick. I’m still writing the year down as 2013. Has the World Cup started yet? I’ve not even finished writing last years’ Christmas Cards!

Anyroad, here’s what reading I crammed in over the Yuletide Revelries:

1) The Empty Throne by Bernard Cornwell. The latest in the Saxon Stories that someone from the Day Job kindly lent me.

2) Knights of the Cross by Steven A. McKay. A spin-off novella from the Forest Lord series. A very good read and I’m much looking forward to reading Steven’s debut novel Wolf’s Head.

3) Kingdom by Robyn Young. This was a signed copy from the Historical Novel Conference. The concluding part of the Robert Bruce Trilogy which I enjoyed very much.

4) The Iron King by Maurice Druon. I can see how George R. R. Martin was inspired to write Game of Thrones after reading this. This puts in interesting perspective on the buildup to the Hundred Years War as I only really know about it from the English point of view so it was good to read from the French side.

5) Time and Time Again by Ben Elton. This was a Christmas present and I read it in two days. I can recommend this book very much. I don’t normally read time travelling alternative history but I might give it a chance after this. Very interesting with a couple of clever twists.

Read Through History: November 2014

So, December is upon us and tis will soon be the season to be jolly. Here’s what I’ve been reading along with doing the Christmas Shopping:

1) The Hidden Crown by David Haworth. This is the first in the Northland series, set one hundred years after the Battle of Hastings in an alternative timeline. Instead of William of Normandy winning the throne of England, Harald Hardrada comes to an agreement with the surviving brothers of Harold II and England is once again divided between the English and the Norsemen. Very interesting.

2) Death and the Devil by Frank Schatzing. A crime thriller set in thirteenth century Cologne. It was good to read something set in a setting where very little has been written about it.

3) One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich by Alexander Solzhenitsyn. A tale about life in a Stalinist gulag.

4) Too Long to Die by Pat Jackson. A murder mystery set thirty thousand years ago. A very interesting idea and well worth a read.

5) Renegade by Robyn Young. The second book in the Robert Bruce series. I enjoyed Insurrection and I am halfway through this at the time of writing. It’s very good and I’m already looking forward to the third book.

So there we are for November. If I don’t put another post up, I hope you all have a very Merry Christmas! Oh, and if you’re stuck for something to read over the Yuletide season and there’s nothing in the bookshop except Space Poems, Ghost Stories and that Viking Novel I wrote, you could always have a look at this.