August 8, 2014

…and thank you for visiting.

I’m the author of a series of mysteries featuring Roman Army medic and reluctant sleuth, Gaius Petreius Ruso. His sixth adventure, TABULA RASA, has just been published in North America (tho’ friends in the UK will have to wait a bit longer). If you glance to the right you’ll see the cover.

Here’s what’s inside:

Ruso and his wife, Tilla, are back in the borderlands of Britannia, tending the builders of Hadrian’s Great Wall. Having been forced to move off their land, the Britons are distinctly on edge and are still smarting from the failure of a recent rebellion that claimed many lives.

Then Ruso’s incompetent clerk, Candidus, goes missing, and soldiers ransack the nearby farms looking for him.  Tilla’s tentative friendship with a native family turns to anger and disappointment over this latest outrage and when a local boy vanishes, tension between the Britons and the Romans threatens to erupt.  

To find out more about the rest of the books – including why the early stories all have two titles – click here. Events are listed on this page, but if we can’t meet in person, you can always contact me here. This is where you can find out that an author’s life is not as exciting as that of her characters, and below are the latest musings on the blog.

Want to hear a different voice? Meet my guests,  Vicki León , Sarah Bower,   Jane Finnis and Caroline Davies, or follow the links at the foot of the August 2013 Blog Hop article to see what fascinates other authors about the Romans.


The pleasure of being a guest

October 27, 2014

I’ve had the pleasure of being a guest twice this week – first on a virtual trip across to Alison Morton’s blog, where I was sharing a few mental meanderings about historical truth and donkey poo.  Alison is the author of the Roma Nova series, set in a world where the Roman Empire hasn’t fallen – so ‘historical truth’ is an interesting issue.

Then, while practially every other writer of historical fiction in the entire universe was at Harrogate (again, Alison’s blog will give you the low-down) I had the privilege of joining a group of visitors from the US on a visit to Hadrian’s Wall. Just as we were turning to leave Sewingshields (near Vindolanda) the sun came out, the rain began, and magic happened.


.Rainbow over cliffs at Hadrians Wall


Tabula Rasa UK – out on 23rd October!

October 6, 2014

The fine folk at Bloomsbury UK have almost finished doing the mysterious things that publishers do, and I’m delighted to say that TABULA RASA, the sixth Medicus tale, should be available here from 23rd October. That’s print and ebook: I’ll put up more info about the audio when I have it.

You can find out more about the story here.

I’m not sure a photo of a grinning (and rather hot) author clutching a book cover will encourage anyone to rush out and read it, but I went a long way for this picture and I’m blowed if I’m going to waste it:

Ruth holding copy of Tabula Rasa in Ostia

Above: writer of book set in a wet autumn on Hadrian’s Wall inexplicably chooses to publicise it with a summer photo from Ostia.

Did I mention that it’ll be on sale in the UK and Ireland on 23rd October?


England’s Westernmost Roman Town (so far).

July 20, 2014

Had a grand day out today visiting what the BBC says is “England’s westernmost Roman town“. Exeter University are running a 4-week dig there at the moment. I’m not sure they’ve actually dug up any buildings yet (tho’ there are some round houses showing on the geophys) but they do have a lovely stretch of Roman road, Devon-style, and plenty of evidence that “Roman” fashions had caught on here.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThis was probably a child’s bracelet. There are a few more photos over at the Facebook page . The project’s official page is here.

(And where, I hear you ask, is this town? It is, or rather was, just outside the village of Ipplepen, near Newton Abbot. That’s near Exeter, which I assume was itself England’s westernmost Roman town until this one turned up.)



July 1, 2014

The good folks at Bloomsbury USA tell me that “Persona non Grata“, Ruso and Tilla’s third adventure, is a Kindle deal on Amazon.com for the whole of July. Apparently you can take an imaginary trip to Roman Gaul for only $1.99!*

Sadly friends this side of the pond can’t access it, but as “Ruso and the Root of All Evils” the same book is available to borrow via your local library for even less. Or you could go wild and buy it!

*  LATER – please check before you click: we can’t see the US prices from here and I’m told that it has also appeared at $3.99… ebook pricing is, as we all know, governed by the new moon and the wind in the east…



Judging a blog by its cover

June 12, 2014

The nice people at the publishers have decided that it’s time to redesign the covers for the Medicus series,  so we’ll be raising the tone with a little classical sculpture. TABULA RASA has a view of The Weary Hercules – I’m sure that’s exactly how Ruso sees himself at times – clutching the golden apples of the Hesperides.

This is the sort of reference that cheers authors enormously because those same apples are mentioned briefly in the book.  It’s always flattering to think that the person who designs the covers has taken the time to read what’s inside them. (You might think this is a pre-requisite, but you’d be surprised – look what someone did to Henry James. And surely that’s not even a screw, but a nut?)

I’m not sure the actual cover is as bright as the picture here, which I have to admit clashes with the header of the blog. This may leave you wondering what right I have to be sarcastic about other people’s design choices. Meanwhile, let’s move on to the rather lovely new cover for the paperback edition of SEMPER FIDELIS:

Cover of Semper Fidelis paperback

Both of these should be available in the US and Canada in August, and in Britain in October.


Back to School

May 13, 2014

Oh dear.  I’ve been away from the blog for so long that I feel I should mark my return with something stupendously interesting. Truth is, the Coursera Roman Architecture course* threw up all sorts of fascinating things but I was so busy keeping up with the lectures that there was no time to post them.

I’ll be doing some updating of the blog after Crimefest this weekend and an evening at New Malden Library next Tuesday (20th May) with William Ryan and Imogen Robertson. Meanwhile, here’s what I’ve been doing instead.

One of the challenges of the course was to “Design your own Roman city”. It could be anywhere, as long as you could produce a reasonable excuse for putting it there. After much dithering, I took the coward’s way out and chose… Britannia. Some of the students designed fabulous virtual cities using computer software. Some of us went back to school and brought out the crayons.

So, friends, with apologies for the artwork, let me welcome you to the fair city of Salus Hadrianopolis, the attempt of a grovelling and implausibly wealthy tribal leader to welcome Hadrian to these fair shores. Sadly, it was never built. That’s just as well because I now realise the town sewer flows uphill. 

Design of fictional Roman city

There really were Roman town plans something (not much) like this. We still have fragments of a massive marble plan of the whole city of Rome. It’s called the Forma Urbis and you can read all about it here.

* the course is finished but the lectures are still on YouTube and iTunes via Open Yale Courses. I can’t recommend them highly enough.








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