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Welcome…

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.

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233 comments

  1. Hi Ruth,
    What fun that you have a blog/website. I’ve read both your books, waiting months and months for the second one to be published in the US. Your story about becoming a published author is so exciting, speaking as a yet-to-be-published mystery writer. I’m looking forward to your next book and I HOPE it will be published in the US with a lot less lag time from the UK publication date!

    Do you belong to a writing group or do you work totally independently?
    Best,
    Susan


  2. Hi Susan,
    Thanks for getting in touch. I’m currently wishing I could slide through time and emerge at the point where Book 3 is published, instead of slogging through the editorial changes… But you’ll be pleased to hear that UK and US publishers are hoping to co-ordinate dates for the next one.

    Since you ask – I’m in two very informal writing groups, which have been a vital source of friendship, encouragement and education over the years. Then of course there’s feedback from agents and editors. The ‘lone writer in the garret’ scenario definitely isn’t me!

    I wish you both luck and stamina with your own writing. Mysteries are a real challenge to put together (it always amazes me that anyone can make sense out of mine) but thankfully it’s a genre that is, as you see, welcoming to new writers.

    Cheers,

    Ruth


  3. Merry Christmas and a Happy, Healthy, Prosperous and Productive New Year from Harriman, NY, USA!

    Just finished “Medicus,” Ruth; bravo!

    AND… since I found the novel on the “new” fiction book shelf of my local library and hadn’t noticed the copyright (2006), now that I’m here at your website thanking you for writing “Medicus,” I can also thank you – in advance of and in anticipation of reading – for “Terra Incognita” and “Ruso and the Demented Doctor.”

    Best regards,

    BILL


  4. …and a very happy New Year to you too, Bill! It’s kind of you to get in touch. Also very decent of the Harriman library staff to put the book where you’d notice it (even if it should have been somewhere else!) They shouldn’t have any trouble tracking down a copy of ‘Terra Incognita’ for you – hope you enjoy it.

    Ruso’s third escapade should be published in July on both sides of the pond. It’ll be called ‘Persona non Grata’ in the US – the first time ever that the publishers have accepted one of my suggestion for a title. Mind you, some of my previous offerings have been real stinkers…

    Cheers,

    Ruth


  5. thank you for such literate, historically accurate writing. ruso is a strong, decent guy. love albanus, and hope that he continues to be a part of the series. but curious about the curious relationship between ruso and tilla. does he experience any kind of cognitive dissonance? cannot wait for ‘Persona non Grata.’


  6. Hi Linda,

    Cognitive dissonance… hm, good question! Not sure I know too much about this or that I dare to probe too deeply, but here goes.

    Clearly there’s a huge gap between what the Roman Army believes about the natives and what Ruso begins to learn from Tilla. But it’s not clearcut: sometimes the natives do behave in disappointingly stereotypical ways and Ruso’s left feeling… well, let down, I suppose. Caught in the middle. Just plain cross.

    There’s also a void between what Tilla believes to be true and what Ruso knows to be logical and/or ethical. What he finds really tricky is that she can frequently ‘prove’ that she’s right – for example she’s convinced she can demonstrate the power of curses. It’s a tension he constantly tries – and fails – to resolve, and I do wonder whether he’s secretly jealous of her certainty and her ability to ignore logic. I think that’s one of the reasons he finds her simultaneously exasperating and attractive, and why I find them fun to write about.

    You’ll have deduced from the above that I don’t know what I’m talking about! Anyway, so glad you like the books and especially Albanus, of whom I’m very fond. I’m thinking of bringing him back in book 4…


  7. hi ruth–

    thanks for your thoughtful response, and PLEASE bring albanus back in book 4. he is fussy enough (!), innocent enough, smart enough, kind enough, and absolutely loyal. excellent points about ruso and tilla. i was also thinking about the conflicts he might feel about a person he must legally treat as a slave, (i.e. beatings, arrests) but a person to whom he is becoming emotionally attached. i’ve read a little bit about romanized britain, and to my [marginally informed] mind, tilla seems a beautiful fit for her place and time. thank you again for a wonderful series.


  8. I’m enjoying your work, and hope you keep on, and get a terrific movie deal, and get fabulously rich!

    May Fortuna Attend!!

    My son is a classics scholar working on Roman army training of officers, Imperial grand strategy at the frontier, and time permitting, on Ovid. As an old semi-retired guy I mainly look into odd little technical corners like candle-making, rope-making, warehousing and goods transport in Ostia, and also magic-religion-healing. Should you need curses and spells, I’ll give you a special discount.

    I’m heading off to Greece in April to pay my respects to Asklepios at Epidaurus– not unlike Ruso, I’m an Epicurean more than willing to hedge my bets with a tip of the hat to the gods when the case gets serious.

    You know, it’s so interesting that the ancients are of course just like us in so many ways (being human), and in others so very alien. The mental life of a people for whom gods and nymphs and magic and were unquestioned realities is endlessly fascinating.

    Best of luck & prosperity for 2009!

    Vale.


  9. Hi Linda,
    Yep, unless the editors really hate the idea (and why should they?) Albanus is back in Book 4! Hooray!

    The slavery thing is an odd one – it’s hard to imagine a world where slavery isn’t viewed as morally wrong, isn’t it? The only moral issue I’ve been aware of so far in the literature concerns how decently you treat your slaves. (Or if you’re a slave, how diligently you do your job.) Also it wasn’t unusual for slaves to be freed after a time in service, and some of them were given highly responsible jobs and became stonkingly rich.

    The whole master/slave relationship must have been a complicated business and the Romans seem to have kept tweaking the law over the years to try and regulate it. Given the proximity in which households must have lived, I guess it’s not surprising that we have records of (presumably decent) owners freeing their slaves in order to marry them.

    As Skip says, the ancients were so much like us in so many ways, and in others so very alien…


  10. Skip, thanks for getting in touch and for the good wishes!

    Interesting how you and your son epitomise the range of fascinations people feel for the ancient world – all the way from Imperial policy to the practicalities of candle-making. I’d imagine the latter could lead to some fun experiments in the kitchen?

    The more I find out, the more respect I have for people who had mastered crafts we’ve long since handed over to distant experts and machinery. (I know it’s possible to dye things blue with woad, but my efforts were hopeless. The plants looked pretty in the garden, though.)

    Your point about the ancients’ beliefs in gods and nymphs and magic leads me to wonder: what are the delusions of our own age to which we’re all blind, but which will baffle and amuse our descendants?

    Have a wonderful time in Greece!


    • The delusions of our own age to which we’re all blind—this is a very interesting question, unfortunately unanswerable in the short term, we can only speculate.

      I like to think our descendants will be amazed that so many of us still believe in gods (or, at least, God) and the competence of politicians to rule over us; they may also be amazed at how we coped with our short lifespan and vulnerability to many diseases. In all these areas we haven’t really advanced very much since Ruso’s time.


  11. I’d say the modern blindspot is faith in science and reason, especially in our ability as biological entities– animals, to be blunt aboiut it– to ever be really rational and logical. Free will, memory, our beliefs, our opinons about why we or others do things: all are hopelessly compromised by the fact that the processing unit is a mass of soggy, fatty, grey stuff between our ears. Religion and philosophy have expended a great deal of energy explaining why we humans are seperate from and above the biological world: but that effort was both wasted and a dangerous conceit.

    So we are creatures. We are not the “undying ones” on Olympus, nor the mythological all-knowing God of the Christians, nor the sadly fictional self-conscious supercomputer HAL.

    Our creaturliness is what the blind spot of science and reason hides from our view.

    Just my two oboli.


  12. Interesting! And as creatures we’re perhaps more vulnerable and more interdependent than we care to acknowledge.

    Shifting sideways slightly, it occurs to me that my cat must have a mental map of how the world functions which he believes to be totally valid and universally true. But already of course I’m starting to use the language of reason, which doesn’t figure in his world at all…


  13. I thoroughly enjoyed your book, Terra Incognita, on audio CD from my local library. Then I went out and bought Medicus. This is not the first time I have enjoyed book two before book one. Thank you for providing me with some very enjoyable reading — I particularly like the interactions between Ruso and Tilla and the unique angle of military medicine. Cheers. Mike


  14. Thanks, Mike! That’s really good to know. I had wondered whether, if you came across the second book first, it would spoil the first one because you’d know roughly how things would turn out. So it’s great to hear that you found they worked the other way round.

    As an aside, what a wonderful thing blogging software is. Being able to communicate so easily with people who’ve read the books is a real pleasure.


  15. Just finished Medicus — reading the books out of order was not a problem for me — in fact it was quite entertaining as it was like having gotten to know someone and then hearing a tale from his past. I am looking forward to the release of the third book in the U.S. this year. I should mention that I am a retired military health care administrator — your depiction of a penny pinching administrator is definitely reality.


  16. Mike, now I know what you used to do for a living I’m mightily relieved that you didn’t take Medicus as an insult to all healthcare administrators!

    Priscus was such a joy to write. Some of his squabbles with Ruso reflect current debates in the Health Service, but I fear in his worst moments he’s simply voicing all the dreadful things I found myself wanting to say when I worked in Local Government finance. (Definitely not my finest moment.)


    • I’m back again to drop you a note. I’ve started Persona Non Grata and am just as hooked by this story as the last two. I do hope you are working on a fourth book in this series. I enjoy the plots of your books, but even more the misunderstandings and different perspectives Ruso and Tila have along the way. Your handling of the misunderstandings derived from language and cultural differences is authentic from my personal experience. All the best. Mike


      • Hi Mike – yes, book 4 is under way. Not as fast as it should have been, so much to my relief the publishers have extended the deadline to Christmas. Interesting that you’ve picked up on the cultural differences theme, which is something that’s very much to the front of my mind now that we’ve been expanding our mental horizons around the Far East. (That’s ‘we’ as in ‘the family': I haven’t taken to speaking like the Queen). Did you have experience of this sort of thing with the military?


  17. Hi Ruth,

    I totally enjoyed listening to Medicus and Terra Incognita and have to say that the choice of Simon Vance as the narrator was perfect because he brings a sense of realism to the characters that truly does justice to the richness of your writing, and it is killing me to have to wait for the third installment and I only hope that Simon Vance will again narrate.

    I would lastly just like to say thank you for your hard work and hope that you write a myriad of books that are of the calibre you have already achieved.


  18. Hi David,

    Thanks very much for the kind comments, and I’m so glad you enjoyed the audio.

    I know Simon Vance went to a deal of trouble to get things right – we had an entertaining email exchange over the pronounciation of ‘Darlughdacha’! To be honest I had no more idea than Ruso of how it should sound. Luckily my brother works in an Irish university where they have people who know about this sort of thing.

    I’m not sure yet what’s happening about the audio for Book 3 but will post it on the blog when there’s some news.


  19. I am sure he was glad of the help you gave with Darlughdacha as phonetic renouncing would not help!

    It would be very interesting to see a list of the alternative names that was put forward for the first 3 books, and also what are you reading at the moment ?


  20. You’ll get an edited version only, David – I’m too embarrassed by most of my terrible titles to admit to them!

    For the first one the agent thought ‘Pax’ sounded like science fiction. ‘Into the Shadows’ didn’t fit the book… The American publishers suggesting finding a whimsical title but didn’t like the Dancing Girls (which was the brainwave of the British editor). So they headed off in the direction of Latin – and now we have to figure out two titles for every book.

    I’m hoping ‘Ruso, Death and Taxes’ may get the thumbs-up for the 4th in the UK, but on reflection that may turn out to be a stinker too.

    As for reading – at the moment I’ve just started ‘Buried too Deep’ by Jane Finnis. I’m thoroughly enjoying her Roman/British innkeeper Aurelia – wise, warm and witty. Jane and I are on the same panel at Crimefest in May, which should be fun.

    What are you reading?


    • Interesting that you’re in touch with Jane Finnis. Before coming to your own books, I’ve read Ancient Roman stories by Kipling, Lindsey Davis, Steven Saylor, Jane Finnis, and others besides. Each author has a somewhat different style. Ruso #1 seems to me closest in approach to The Silver Pigs (Falco #1), which is still my favourite of the Davis books although I have most of them. But as the author you will feel most keenly the uniqueness of your own work and probably reject as pointless the idea of comparing apples with oranges. It’s interesting and unusual in this kind of book that Ruso is not an investigator of crime by profession, nor even by avocation; he seems reluctantly drawn into it by the force of events.


      • Well they do say you should write the sort of book you enjoy reading! Oddly enough it never occurred to me to make Ruso a detective – a doctor seemed like the sort of chap who could get into interesting dilemmas without (usually) being required to kill anybody.

        Have you tried any Roman military adventures? Simon Scarrow, Harry Sidebottom et al?


      • No, I haven’t tried the Roman military adventures you mention; in fact, hadn’t heard of them. Not sure if they’d be my kind of thing. I’m replying to my own message because there’s no Reply button on yours…


      • There isn’t? Sorry. Another of the mysteries of computing I’m afraid…


  21. I have to admit that I think that the latin names seem to suit best, but I can see that this may be off putting to some people.

    As for what I am reading ? (listing) well I just finished Conn Iggulden’s – The Gates of Rome which I have to say was a very good read and I hope at some point to read the rest of the series, and now I have just started book seven in the Hollows series which is called White Witch, Black Curse and it is fantastic and I hightly reccomend them especially if your a fan of fantasy. After this I hope to read GIVE ME BACK MY LEGIONS! by Harry Turtledove purely because it is another story based on Rome! & as a bonus is also read by Simon Vance!


  22. Ah, Conn Iggulden’s great, isn’t he? Thanks for the Hollows recommendation. I bet you’d enjoy Harry Sidebottom’s ‘Warrior of Rome’ series too if/when it gets to the US.


  23. Just spotted my speilling mistake! I intended to write listening! Thanks for the suggestion of Harry Sidebottom’s ‘Warrior of Rome’ and I’m from Nottingham in the east Midlands (Sunny old England!)


  24. Aha! I was fooled by your having listened to the Simon Vance audios, which are the American editions (tho’ he isn’t). That’ll teach me to make assumptions!


  25. I got them from Amazon UK and thought that it might be the case that they was the US version due to their listings.


  26. Hi Ruth,

    I just wanted to let you know that I am a librarian and am leading a book discussion at my library on Medicus on Monday, April 13. I think the group is going to have a good time discussing your book. Do you have any insights into some topics we should pursue further?

    Thanks so much!
    Sarah

    ps – I was excited to learn about book number 3 – I will put it on order at my library!


    • Hi Sarah,

      I feel honoured, and hope you and the group find enough in the book for a good discussion. As for topics… crumbs, that’s tricky. I’ve just skimmed back over the comments above and people have raised some interesting issues.

      a) Slavery is one – different in the Roman world to slavery in more recent times, but still the ownership of one person by another, and we don’t have any evidence for an ‘abolition movement’ back then. Religion is another – ‘the mental life of people for whom gods and nymphs and magic were unquestioned realities’, to quote from a comment above.

      Do you think these themes resonate for modern readers? What will surprise or shock future generations about our own society?

      b) ‘What a lot of things a man doesn’t need.’ (or a woman either). What do you think?

      c) I know some readers are relieved not to have to wade through lots of ‘historical research’ passages to get to the story. Others feel the tone is too modern (tho’ in answer to one query, yes the Romans really DID measure in feet and inches.) What do you think?

      d) Husband’s just suggested, ‘Ruso – a man of the 2nd century or the 21st?’

      I’m not sure if any of this is any use, and as it gets ever later at night here my brain is getting slower – sorry!

      Thanks for getting in touch – I hope you all have a great time on Monday,

      Ruth

      PS Maybe there should be an ‘ideas for reading groups’ page on the blog?


  27. Hello Dear Ruth!
    I have the question to you
    I tried to find your Biography, but Ihave found only this:

    In 2004, Ruth Downie won the Fay Weldon section of BBC3’s End of Story competition. Her first novel, Medicus and the Disappearing Dancing Girls was published in the UK in 2006, and in the USA in 2007 (as simply Medicus). The second in the series, Terra Incognita, was published in the US and UK in 2008.
    She is married with two sons and lives in Milton Keynes, England.

    I will have to improve my exams at the University and the subject of my rexamination it is you , your Biography :) and books
    to say the truthI like historical fiction and I found you the author of Medicus: A Novel of the Roman Empire as I like this kind of books :) I’m going to read your book if I will find it here in Ukraine as I’m very interesting

    If you can give me some more infortmation about you may be just a little :) as my exams in June and I would like to imporrove it in the best best way ;) and the teacher who will accept the exams she is a professor in English Literature
    PLEASE Help! :)
    Best Regards, Irena


    • Hi Irena,
      Thanks for this – I’ll reply by email.
      Ruth


  28. We have just “discovered” you! My husband is a history buff, and I’m a bibliovore, and we BOTH loved Medicus. I confess, I actually picked up Medicus as a “remainder” book at my local bookstore (which is how I “try out” most “new” (to me) authors). I’m *thrilled* that you already have two more out, because I can’t wait to read them!

    So, never discount the value of remainder sales – you might not make much on that particular book, but – at least in our case – you’ve guaranteed yourself an automatic sale for all your subsequent books!


    • Thanks, Karen, and welcome to the blog! Great to know you both enjoyed ‘Medicus’ – and that’s a very good point about remainder sales.

      Cheers,

      Ruth


  29. I am midway on Medicus and am excited to see there’s more coming up. I think it’s pretty good (there were parts that made me snicker and laugh) I think you’re doing a great job. Never stop. :)

    I’ll be writing a review on Medicus on my blog :) I will let you know when I have it posted if you’d like.


    • Hi Karoline,

      Hope you enjoy the rest of it! Yes please send me the url when you post the review.

      Love the blog, and especially the business about the overwhelming stacks of books waiting to be read – so true. (I haven’t read ‘Twilight’ yet either.)

      Cheers,

      Ruth


  30. Ruth:

    Just finished Persona Non Grata, and enjoyed every page of it. Loved how the ‘barbarian’ reacted to the gladiator fights, and the executions as public spectacle.

    Will they back back in the British Isles for Book 4?

    Joan


  31. Thank you Joan!

    Seeing the Amphitheatre in Nimes was the start of the idea for the book, really. One wonders what sort of mental gymnastics the perpetrators and the audience must have gone through in order to justify the carnage. No doubt Freud would have had something to say about it. (Maybe he did – must ask Husband, who knows about these things.)

    Yes we’ll be back in Britain for the next book, although exactly what will happen is probably more of a mystery to me than it should be at this stage, given the current deadline for the manuscript.

    Ruth


  32. Hi Ruth!

    I finished it!!! it was a great read!!!

    http://okbolover.wordpress.com/2009/07/17/review-on-medicus/

    I’ll have to go to the library this week for Terra Incognita (hopefully no one else has it out!) :)

    Loved Medicus. There were parts in there that got me laughing


    • Thanks for this and for the great review, Karoline. Hope the library come up with the goods…


  33. I really enjoyed your first book…. now am starting the second. I would appreciate knowing where you found the quote from Socrates you used in the opening chapters. (I’m a pastor and it would be useful in a sermon.)

    What a lot of things a man doesn’t need.

    Thanks for the info. Keep writing your stories

    CD Haun


    • Glad you enjoyed it!

      I wish I could quote you some obscure Greek source for the Socrates story but actually I picked it up from Jostein Gaarder’s excellent ‘Sophie’s World’. It’s from the section on The Cynics in the chapter on ‘Hellenism’.

      He doesn’t give his original source I’m afraid, and I never did manage to pin it down. It seemed like just the sort of thing that would appeal to Ruso, though, so in it went.

      Sounds like it’s going to be an interesting sermon…


  34. Just finished Persona Non Grata, all in one day. Loved it, though I missed Valens. Glad to see that there will be a fourth in the series!

    Found your site several months ago when I found a copy of “Medicus and the Disappearing Dancing Girls” by “R.S. Downie” at the (American) bookstore. Since I had already read “Medicus” by “Ruth Downie” a year or so earlier, I was wondering why it had been republished with a different title and author. Looked up your site and found that that’s what it was called in the UK (sometimes), though I still haven’t figured out what it was doing at a bookstore in Virginia…

    Anyway, love reading about your travels to historical sites. Been planning a trip to Britain, originally for September though now we won’t be able to get to it this year, and whenever it is we go we definitely want to check out some of the Roman sites. Or at least I do, and I will drag my wife along. :)


    • Thanks, Kevin. I missed Valens too – he’s a real joy to write, so he’s back in Book 4.

      Good luck with convincing Mrs R of the delights of Roman Britain when you get here. Maybe the fact that many historic sites are blessed with tea shops will help?

      Cheers,

      Ruth


  35. Hi Ruth,

    I haven’t yet read your books, but based on the positive feedback here and at http://librarything.com (where I first stumbled upon references to your books) I’ve ordered the first in the series. I’m a sucker for ancient history, though I have tended to mostly read non-fiction in the past. Do you have any favourite historians, books or authors you turn to for reference and inspiration?

    I’m a recent fan of Steven Saylor (who I’m sure you’ve heard of), and I very much enjoyed his first book in the Roma Sub Rosa series. It was a bit fluffy, but enjoyable none-the-less. So much so I went out and ordered his entire back catalogue! Looking forward to your book arriving soon!


  36. Hi Oisin,
    Thanks for giving Ruso a try. Interesting to hear that you came across him on Librarything – I hope you enjoy his company.

    Hm, favourite historians/reference? That’s a tough one. I got into all this through archaeology so I guess I’d have to say the Vindolanda letters. Anthony Birley’s ‘Garrison life at Vindolanda’ is very good. I’ve just enjoyed Mary Beard’s ‘Pompeii’, and as you probably know, the Oxford Classical Dictionary is invaluable for hunting down obscure facts and wasting time reading interesting things you didn’t know you wanted to know about!


  37. Ruth, Very glad to hear book 4 is under way. In response to your question “Did you have experience of this sort of thing with the military?” Yes, I did, long story in short, I met my wife in Spain — she spoke no English at the time and I spoke little Spanish — 20 years later two bilingual kids and and an extended family that spans the Atlantic. Keep the books coming. Cheers. Mike


    • Oh, that sounds so romantic!


  38. Hello from a new fan. I just found your series so it feels really fresh to me. I just finished reviewing Persona Non Grata my favorite of your books to date.
    Normally I read Medieval history novels, but Medicus looked to good to pass up. I am really glad I took the chance and read it.
    I look forward to reading more of your books and your blog. I wish you a very successful writing career.


    • Thanks for getting in touch, Sari – it’s good to know that you felt Persona non Grata was up to scratch! Enjoyed the blog, by the way…


  39. Ruth,
    Thank you fore checking my blog out. I am fairly new to reviewing. I am really touched you stopped by. I don’t know if you do blog interviews but it would be fun to have you stop by. I have talked two friends into starting Medicus and know others who would love the series.

    Best,

    Sari


    • Thanks, Sari – I’m sure we could fix up a blog interview. I’ll email you separately.

      As for reviewing – I hadn’t done any before I started this writing lark, either. It’s not as easy as it looks, is it?


  40. Ms. Downie,
    I completed Persona Non Grata a while ago and have been meaning to add my congratulations on a splendid book. I found it most enjoyable. I am going to risk being more specific. The risk is that I will get it all wrong as I am not a scholar or had more than the basics in formal education in literature. That said, I like to read and do so as much as the demands of the real world permit.

    In the first two novels, I found it interesting to meet and get to know the characters. The environment you placed them in is fascinating. The story line first rate. The third installment, like the first two held one’s interest to the end. I found the new background environment of the third installment fascinating. Like the first two it was most interesting but did not distract from the characters or story.

    What I liked most regarding Persona Non Grata was the development of Ruso and particularly Tila. In the previous novels, we got to know them and went along for the adventure. May I make a cautious parallel to Jane Austen? In Jane Austen’s novels, most characters are who they are, don’t evolve and lack critical self-examination. Her most interesting characters, however, not only know who they are and why, but have insight and understanding as to why others are the way they are and most interesting of all they demonstrate the capacity to grow. I think your Tila in this installment shows some of the same characteristics of Miss Austen’s most interesting heroines. In Persona Non Grata, Tila (as a result of being placed in a new environment and meeting new and different people) engages in the kind of introspection and examination of her fundamental beliefs that reaffirms who she is but also leads to some evolution of who she is. In Sense and Sensibility there is a great line that I think applies somewhat to Tila’s experience “Marianne Dashwood was born to an extraordinary fate. She was born to discover the falsehood of her own opinions and to counteract by her conduct, her most favorite maxims.” Well, Marianne Dashwood changed more than most of Jane Austen’s characters and certainly more than Tila, but I think the common thread is that it usually takes some extraordinary circumstance or event to cause change, growth or evolution in a person. I think you handled the development and growth of Tila masterfully.

    With Ruso in this book, he too develops and grows but not because he is in a strange new environment meeting new and different people as in Tila’s case. He develops because he goes home. “You can’t go home again” can be true because home isn’t home anymore because everything and everyone has changed, or it can be true as in Ruso’s case because while away it was he has changed or grown into a different person. What might have been at least somewhat comfortable once upon a time is no longer comfortable. As a result of this dissonance, Ruso sees the homefront somewhat differently, sees himself differently and sees Tila differently, especially Tila. I think the way you have developed Ruso’s and Tila’s relationship through this novel is wonderful. They value each other more because of their experience in southern Gaul. Hard to see how that could have been done any better. Kudos.

    Well, this is more than most blog visitors write. I am sure I am violating some unwritten protocol for brevity when visiting blogs. Too much but also not enough. I hope you take great satisfaction in what you have done. Thank you for writing three most entertaining novels.

    Phil Hall
    Oregon, USA.


    • Phil. you’re very kind – I don’t think I’ve ever been mentioned in the same sentence as Jane Austen before! It’s an honour!

      I haven’t read ‘Sense and Sensibility’ recently enough to comment – tho’ I did like your quote about Marianne – but think you’ve hit on a good point about developing characters. Back in the recesses of my memory I do recall something from university about ‘flat characters’ and ’round characters’ – the ‘flat’ ones being very useful in peopling a story and providing some background for the ’round’ ones. I have a vague recollection about Dickens using a lot of ‘flat’ people for his minor characters – they’re usually defined by some noticeable characteristic that identifies them throughout the book, and they don’t change.

      I’m sure I’ve read something since about comedy, in which half the fun is that the characters never learn where they’re going wrong. Sorry, that’s off at a bit of a tangent.

      I was a little anxious about taking Ruso and Tilla out of my own comfort zone (Roman Britain) and possibly some of that uncertainty helped to move them on as characters. Of course now that they’re back in Britain for the fourth book I guess I need to be thinking about how the experience of travel has changed them both… Hm…

      I don’t think there’s an unwritten protocol about brevity on blogs. Well if there is, there shouldn’t be, so…

      I hereby declare this a protocol-free blog, subject only to the arbitrary tastes of the person in charge of the password. (Me.)


  41. Good evening, Mrs. Downie! Just wanted to pop by and, like the rest of your fans, let you know how much I’ve enjoyed reading about the foibles and exploits of Ruso and Tilla. I’ve wanted to write a review for my own sake for quite a while now and, after finishing Persona Non Grata, finally picking up Terra Incognito (why the title change btw?) and tearing through that in a night, I need to get these thoughts out of my head.

    They’re both charmingly naive, headstrong, loyal and sometime plain nuts and it’s good to see that you’re continuing on with them. IMHO, they’re a Roman era Sherlock Holmes/Dr. Watson with Tilla doing all of the working out of the details and Ruso sort of blundering along, trying to do the right thing whilst keeping her from getting damaged irreparably. God help them when they have children. If they are anything like their parents, Ruso may just go grey early, poor sod.

    Thanks again for a lovely, well-thought out, hilarious, rollicking series!


    • Thanks, Toni! I love the description of Ruso blundering along while Tilla works out the details (and takes the risks). At this rate I think she will turn him grey all by herself, children or not.

      The differing titles between the UK and the USA were the result of the UK and US editors failing to agree on the name of the first book, and thus heading off at different tangents. It’s a pain, but it’s too late to do much about it now. And at least some good has come of it: the need to make clear which book is which spurred me into starting a blog, and ‘meeting’ the people who drop by is a real joy.


      • Ahh so that’s what the deal was. Not surprising, although Terra Incognito had me a bit puzzled (my Latin is not what it used to be) so I sat here for a while wondering what they were going for.

        After re-reading Persona Non-Grata, I noticed that there was quite a bit more fast paced action than in the previous books (not that I’m complaining!) and Tilla definitely was out for blood. Ruso seems to have odd notions about what “loyalty” means (it was irritating how he deliberately misconstrued Tilla’s intent when she “slept” with Riaornix (my memory of names is hideous, please forgive me)). Tilla compartmentalizes loyalty: family first, the Medicus and whomever she feels is unjustly wronged. Ruso, though having freed Tilla, still is firmly entrenched in the master/slave roles they initially had. In Persona Non Grata, he has to re-evaluate that bit of thinking and he nearly combusts with the effort. I can understand Tilla’s exasperation with his inability to deal with things he doesn’t want to think about. He accuses Arria of that same problem but brushes it off when the shoe is on the other foot. Just like a man LOL! Really, though, their relationship is very complex; Tilla seems to understand this more than Ruso which, I guess, irritates him enough to think that she’s being irrational or illogical. It’s interesting, too, to see that Tilla acknowledges her weaknesses (i.e. reacting to a situation without thinking). She’s very intelligent and I don’t think Ruso gives her quite enough credit. Ruso means well but there were times that I cringed at his naivete. Poor boy. She’s going to whip him into shape yet :D


  42. Hi,
    I just read your Sept.1 entry about the Greenbelt Festival and Jasper Fforde. Although I haven’t been able to get into the Thursday Next books, I absolutely love the Nursery Crime Division novels and hope he has another simmering in his brain pan. Claim to fame: Fforde thanked a fellow Oak Ridger, John Wooten, in The Fourth Bear for his assistance on some of the stuff on physics. I have met John – several times actually because he keeps forgetting me. For some reason he thinks my name is Sally His wife and I and a mutual friend used to go antiqueing together. So, you and I have a link – you’ve seen Jasper Fforde and I’ve been serially forgotten by someone he personally thanked in one of his books.
    Cheers!
    Susie Stooksbury – the librarian from Oak Ridge, Tennessee


    • Aha, is this proof of the theory of Six Degrees of Separation? Except that it’s not six. Anyway… being ‘serially forgotten’ must be a demoralizing experience, but what a great expression, um… Sally, is it?


      • More “Six Degrees” — Simon Vance, the audiobook voice of Ruso and Tilla, is also the narrator of Fforde’s The Fourth Bear. Small audio world, too! (I know this is an old post, but was just reading them and happened to be listening to The Fourth Bear today!)


  43. Had to come back and nag you for the fourth book! My husband and I have now finished all three of the “Medicus” books, and are eagerly awaiting number four.

    ::taps foot::

    Is it done yet?

    ::tap tap::

    Is it done yet?

    ::tap tap TAP::

    How about now?

    (Just kidding. Kinda.)

    Seriously though, we really both love the series – me for the characterizations and mysteries, my hubby for those, but even more for the accuracy in the historical stuff. He gets seriously annoyed at “historical fiction” that gets the history (according to him) ALL WRONG! And then I get to hear about it. A lot. ;-)


    • Aagh! You’re not a secret agent for the publishers, are you Karen? That’s more or less what they’re asking too. Bizarrely, even though I seem to have written three books already, I can never remember how it’s done when I’m in the middle of it. But it is making progress, I promise, and it’s nice to know that somebody’s looking forward to it…


  44. Nope, not a spy, just an impatient fan. And I should warn you – approximately two days after I get the fourth one, I’ll be back here nagging you for the fifth…. Not in a stalkery-kind of way, of course. More like a polite “yum, that was good, may I have some more” kind of way. I don’t call myself a bibliovore for nuttin’!


  45. Hi Ruth,
    I saw this article recently that I thought you might find interesting.

    http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/09/090915140924.htm

    On another note, I was listening to an interview with AS Byatt on her latest book and was amazed at the amount of period research that goes into her books. I suppose it’s the same for any historical novelist.

    Given the amount of physical historical research that you do, I was wondering if you surround yourself with pictures of the artifacts or reproductions while you work? I saw previous threads about getting into the mind of people for whom slavery and gods/nymphs/etc are very real things. How do you get into the heads of your characters? Do the re-inactors help?

    Regards,

    Mark

    Mark


    • Thanks, Mark – your link to the article about the mystery body led me to a wander around the net, and to the discovery that the Caistor dig has a blog – http://caistor2009.wordpress.com/2009/09/15/day-21/ It’s good to see the Iceni tribe famous for something other than having produced Boudica.

      Pictures – oh yes, along with maps and lists and sticky notes over every available surface in what should be The Study but would more accurately be called The Distraction Room. (The digital camera is a wondrous thing. Not only are most of the pictures in focus, but some of them are cropped to hone in on the relevant item. Thus the re-enactors appear charging across a field in full Legionary kit with spears raised, but without the yellow tape that separated them from small children in the audience. )

      I’m also known to sit in front of the television spinning a fleece on a drop spindle (the way it would have been done in the Iron Age) but this is possibly less to do with research than with avoiding the ironing.


      • Hi Ruth,
        That Caistor blog was great! Thanks. It’s always interesting to see the process from the point of view of the people doing the work. There’s a show here in the States called Time Team America, which is like archaeology for those with ADD — they arrive at a dig and contribute to it for 3 days. The blog has a much more interesting perspective.

        There was a program recently on the National Geographic Channel which talked about the conflict between the Druids and the Romans culminating in a battle in Anglesey in which the Druids were wiped out. I think this happened around the same time that the Ruso books are set. More grist for the mill I guess.

        Here are some interesting pictures to add to your collection: http://channel.nationalgeographic.com/episode/secrets-of-the-druids-4073/Photos#tab-Photos/0

        If you run out of room for all of the pictures in The Distraction Room, you might give CoolIris a try. It’s an interesting way to browse through a lot of images. http://www.cooliris.com/

        I just got back from Barnes and Noble with “Persona Non Grata”. I’m looking forward to putting my feet up and losing myself in the latest mystery.

        Mark


      • Hi Mark,

        Good to know that Time Team has made it across the pond – they’ve adapted a British format which has worked really well to ‘spread the word’ about archaeology over here. Three days isn’t long but if it’s anything like the format here, they do throw huge amounts of resources into the excavation. As for the massacre of the Druids – there might well have been people still alive in Ruso’s time who remembered it, and not fondly. If only we had a British account of events . It’s very frustrating only ever getting the official line from Rome

        Ruth

        PS thanks for Cooliris, clearly another fine contribution to the Distraction Room.


      • Hi Ruth,
        I just finished “Persona Non Grata”, and all I can say is “Thanks!” There were plenty of red herrings to keep me guessing. Every time I thought I had it figured out I was surprised.

        Usually Ruso is the fish out of water in these books, but this time it was Tilla’s turn. At one point in the book I realized that Tilla’s role, in certain respects, is to ask the questions and consider the possibilities that convention won’t allow Ruso to ask. She’s also willing to go places that Ruso would have second thoughts about.

        I’m curious if there are questions that Tilla wouldn’t ask? I’m going to have to go back and re-read the earlier books. I don’t seem to remember much about British culture and convention in the earlier books.

        As far as the “official line” is concerned, the National Geographic program I mentioned also talked about Julius Caesar’s view of Britons as savages who painted themselves blue and sacrificed each other. I remember reading Marion Zimmer Bradley’s “Mists of Avalon” and “The Firebrand” and seeing Arthurian legend, and Homeric epics told from a different point of view. Is there much in the way of historical record from that time? Were the Celtic peoples of Brittany culturally similar enough to the ones in Britain that you would be able to extrapolate cultural norms to the point that you could paint a background for Tilla? I think she’s still something of a mystery to me.

        Anyway, I had lots of fun with this book, and as always I’m looking forward to the next one!

        Mark


      • Mark, you’ve hit on the big problem with early British history – we don’t have any. Not written by the natives, anyway. Not because the Druids were dim, but because they seem to have had a deliberate policy of relying on memory rather than writing.

        We have descriptions from Romans, but we don’t necessarily know whether they understood what they were seeing – and when there was nobody ‘important’ here, the province falls out of the history books altogether. All we have is archaeology – which is open to interpretation – and documents from Celtic sources recorded several centuries later, largely by Christian monks who may well have improved on the stories. The cultural clues suggest that women had more freedom in British society than in Roman, which is good news for Tilla, and of course there’s plenty of magic/religion.

        The dearth of sources is both frustrating and liberating, because it does leave space for the imagination. Given the apparent level of violence in the Iron Age, I do try not to use the ancient Britons as receptacles for vague romantic yearnings about misty hills and poetry recitals round the camp fire. Well not too often, anyway.


  46. As I read through additional comments, I’m rather glad to have found your blog. Question for Ruth: do you teach?


    • No, I just rant on the Internet!

      Ruth

      (and I seem to have done something that’s put this comment out of sequence. Doh.)


  47. I want to say that I am one of the Men who seldom read women authors. Usually the subjects I see written by them are not what I want to read about(mostly Romance or serious mystery) and some of the few I have tried to read really wern’t well done. I actually decided to read the third book in the series by default. My local library(Yes I am one of the peole who seldom buy books as I have a great memory about what I have read) is somewhat small and I have a limited list of types of stories I like. So when I couldn’t find anything else to read I decided to try out your book, I loved it. Excellent character development, good story, not sappy, good humor. I started to locate the other books(actually read them in reverse order). Now you are a favorite. Looking forward to the next book.


    • Jeff, I feel honoured! Thanks so much for getting in touch – and full marks both to you for supporting your local library, and to them for stocking the book.

      Happy New Year!

      Ruth


      • I’m one of the men who often reads female authors; I find no reason to discriminate. Though I also read science fiction, a field in which male authors are more numerous.


  48. Hi Ruth,
    I just finished reading the third Ruso book and I enjoy each one more than the last. I was very amused to see a reference for a book (?) by Robin Lane Fox at the back. He is my favorite garden columnist and his is one of the first columns I turn to every weekend in the FT.

    Cheers, I’m looking forward to the next book. I’m wondering where he and Tilla will end up next. I suppose eventually all roads lead to Rome – that would be fun research to undertake. Enjoy.
    Susan


    • Hi Susan,

      Good to hear from you, and I’m so glad you enjoyed Ruso III. As for Robin Lane Fox – yes it’s the same one (or so Wikipedia says). Is it fair that one person gets to be so multi-talented?

      I’m still wondering about taking Ruso to Rome – it’s been written about so well by other people that I’m not sure what there is left to say. But I may need to spend a week or two in the sunshine checking it out, to make sure.

      How’s your own writing going?

      Ruth


  49. Hi Ruth,
    I think you would relish a research trip to Rome after the snowy winter in England. I just received several photos from my sister-in-law of Oxford in the snow (quite beautiful) and my father-in-law reported being happily marooned in his Dorset barn, with plenty of food, firewood and new books from Christmas. What could be more ideal!?

    I thought Robin Lane Fox’s specialty was more Greek classics rather than Rome, but I shouldn’t be surprised that he is so versatile. He seems to have knowledge of many topics, including badgers in the garden.

    My writing is coming along slowly. My second book has not yet reached the “critical mass” stage where I am compelled to write because the story and characters are interacting almost on their own. Have you found that happens when you are writing? I have been totally amazed that the characters go off in directions I did not plan and did not foresee in any of my advance plotting of the story.

    My completed first book is gathering dust as I procrastinate on the daunting next step of seeking an agent. I use having a full time job as an excuse – a pretty good excuse, but not totally!

    Best,
    Susan


    • I have to admit I find ‘critical mass’ a strangely elusive thing. It’s usually reached in the small hours of the night (or after a large glass of wine) and then subsides the next morning when you really need it – i.e. when the typing of real words has to commence.

      I do find the characters go off in unforeseen directions, though. It seems a shame to stop them, doesn’t it? Even though it does mean that lovely plot outline lies in ruins and has to be rebuilt. I can never fathom how anybody gets to the end of a novel with the plot the same way it started out. I guess it’s called Discipline.

      Good luck with the agent-hunting!

      Ruth


  50. Hi Ruth,
    Thought you might find this article from the Times interesting: http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/science/living/article7042984.ece#cid=OTC-RSS&attr=797084

    It makes you wonder about the level of cultural diversity that the Romans introduced when they came to Britain.

    Mark


    • Yes indeed. Thanks for this, Mark – I’ll do a post on it.


  51. Hi Ruth, I just wanted to say that I enjoyed your first book and am moving onto the second tomorrow! The third is already ordered. Being a fan of all things Simon Scarrow, Anthony Riches etc etc I was a bit dubious when I ordered your first novel as the only place I could get a hardback version (book snob, sorry) was the USA and wasn’t sure what to expect.

    However, I thoroughly enjoyed the story, the characters and the setting, Deva as I was born in Chester and have always had a fascination with the Roman Empire, especially Roman Britain. I’m in the process of writing my own story set in AD47 and hope to one day get it published.

    Once again, well done, keep up the excellent work and I’ll keep reading and I’m sure your fan base will grow!


  52. Hi Ruth,
    Thought you might find this article on a recently discovered gladiator cemetery in York interesting. http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/uk/article7145204.ece#cid=OTC-RSS&attr=797084

    Mark


    • Thanks, Mark! Fascinating stuff – and I see there’s a programme on Channel 4 coming up. I’ll do a separate post.


  53. ruth–

    hello again. just finished ‘persona non grata,’ and am now moving dangerously close to picking up ‘roman medicine,’ at your suggestion, despite the fact that i have tons of work to do! the medicine part of the series is absolutely fascinating.

    but on to the book: tilla has always been very smart, somewhat headstrong, and entirely likable. but here, she really comes into her own. i made more than one person sit still while i read aloud tilla’s experiences at the prayer meeting with the Christians. it was hilarious, and enchanting, and so insightful. how DOES someone respond to a completely alien religion?

    it was nice to be reminded that family dynamics and dysfunctions, as well as the inexplicable glues that hold them together are as old as families themselves. poor ruso…

    cannot wait for book four.

    linda


  54. Ah yes, reading about Roman medicine (or Roman anything, really)is so much more fun than working. I’ve been enjoying Pliny’s ‘On the Human Animal’ lately. Apparently snake broth gets rid of lice, and women have fewer teeth than men…

    So glad you enjoyed the Christians, Linda. They were great fun to write but I did wonder what people would make of them.


  55. They had an interesting discussion on Pliny’s “Natural History” last week. I think it’s still online: http://www.bbc.co.uk/radio4/features/in-our-time/

    I didn’t realize that there were several books on drugs and medicine in his “Natural History”.


    • Thanks Mark – I’ve just had a listen, it’s very good.


  56. Ruth,

    Dropped by to see when the next book would be out. Interesting to find out about the two sets of titles, and must say I vastly prefer the US versions.

    Keep writing, please. I adore the Ruso and love the stories, the history, and the humor.


    • Welcome to the blog, Beth. It’s looking like January 2011 in the US, and March in the UK, and of course the wretched two titles business continues… Very glad you like ‘em anyway, whatever they’re called.

      I’ve just spotted your blog entry back in December 2008 about taking three sentences from page 56 of the nearest book – it’s strange to find my own words in there! But what a good exercise: no choice of ‘easy’ passages allowed. I’ll be trying it in the morning.


      • Oh goodness. I had completely forgotten about that entry! (For that matter, I seemed to have forgotten about the poor old blog altogether. I suppose must either feed it or put it out of its misery.) But yes– I did use an example from Medicus. And it was fun to later read the book and discover the context for that isolated line.


  57. Descartes wrote (in Le Discours de la methode (1637))that ‘[t]he reading of good books is like a conversation with the best men of past centuries . . .’ I would have enjoyed conversations with Ruso and Tilla.

    Glad to read that number 4 is on its way.

    Regards
    Alex


  58. hi ruth–

    i’m very much looking forward to caveat emptor!

    i just read the interviews posted on vicki leon’s blog–what great fun. i read yours with a huge smile, and with more than a little empathy: i am a professional photographer, and a photographer colleague of mine and i were given grant money to speak about our Very Important Photography Project at a large library in Pennsylvania. despite some decent publicity, the audience for our presentation consisted of the head librarian and a staff member, whom she strong-armed into attending. it was a good time, we still laugh about it, and it certainly has kept us humble.

    again, very happy to have more russo and tilla in the new year!

    linda


    • Ah, it’s consoling to know it’s not just me! Thanks Linda – and I hope some of the folk who didn’t make it to your talk have since visited the website. (http:www.thepennsylvaniaproject.com) The photos I’ve just seen on a brief visit are wonderful.

      Ruth


      • hi ruth–

        thanks so much for taking the time to visit our site! i should have thanked you weeks ago. in any case, best wishes in the new year to you and your family, and again, i look forward to reading ruso and tilla’s new [mis]adventure.

        linda


      • Thanks, Linda – and a happy New Year to you and yours.

        Ruth


  59. Happy New Year to you and yours…


    • Thanks Laurie! Good wishes to you too.


  60. Ms. Downie

    Having recently read Caveat Emptor, I congratulate you on another very entertaining novel. I’ll hazard a few comments realizing I have probably gotten it all wrong.

    I like the way you have continued to evolve the relationship of Ruso and Tila. Clearly Tila has gained insight and better understands Ruso because of the time she has spent in Gaul. Although she remains stubbornly British, she does well at being able to live in the Roman world. Her ability to have one foot in Britain and one foot in Rome has grown incrementally through each novel. Tila continues to mystify Ruso and she remains somewhat unpredictable to Ruso. I suppose that could be said at least to some degree of many marriage relationships.

    In Caveat Emptor, Ruso has some better understanding of the British tribes having lived with Tila. It would seem that Ruso would have a better understanding of his wife if he had been able to spend time immersed in the British culture as Tila has in the Roman culture. I doubt if living in a tribe would be something for which Ruso would readily volunteer.

    I don’t know whether it would be as so noticable to readers in Great Britain, but you have given mild British colloquialisms to a number of characters, particulary those lower in the pecking order but also to a character such as Valens. This seems to help paint their individual personalities. Funny, but it is far easier for me to imagine a Roman such as Valens using American colloquialisms than British. Ruso and Tila, and most of the characters as far as that goes, do not use colloquialisms (or very few) in their speech. Interesting and entertaining.

    I have to comment on your humor. Great. One of the things that gives your humor such zing is that your witticisms always take me by surprise. There is no lead in. I also find myself not only laughing at the situation in the book but laughing at myself because I identify with very parallel situations in my own life. Well done.

    In each of your novels, Ruso and Tila have shared the same story but also have had an individual story of their own. As the novels have gone on, although they continue to have their own stories, their stories seem to have become more interconnected. They seem to be moving towards a husband and wife crime solving team.

    In the 1930’s, here in America there were a series of films starring William Powell and Myrna Loy as Nick and Nora, husband and wife. The series of films is broadly referred to as the Thin Man series. Nick is an investigator who tries to stay retired and Nora is hs wealthy sophisticated wife. Like Ruso and Tila, murder mysteries seem to just show up on their doorstep. Nick tries to keep Nora out of it, but she invariably becomes involved and somehow helps him solve the case. The movies are murder mystery drama mixed with comedy mostly involving Nick and Nora’s relationship. It is not a perfect analogy, but as I read Caveat Emptor, the Thin Man movies came to mind.

    Thank you for writing such a fine novel. I am sure your family is proud of you. If my wife and I ever visit Britain, our must do list will include any public appearance of Ruth Downie so that we might shake hands and get our novels autographed.

    PS: I prefer the North American titles to your books.

    Phil Hall
    Roseburg, Oregon, USA


    • Thank you Phil, it’s always a pleasure to read your thoughtful comments. You’re absolutely right about Ruso never volunteering to live with a British tribe, it’s something he would see as unthinkable – although of course he and his companions would readily expect a Briton to fit in with their way of life.

      I hadn’t thought about the colloquialisms being British but on reflection of course they must be. Also interesting to note that you would imagine the characters with American colloquialisms – I suppose we all see the past through the lens of our own culture. I may have mentioned before the American copy-editor’s suggestion that we amend a centurion’s very English ‘bugger off’ (sorry, but that was what I wrote) to ‘Scram!’ – a word which, although it made sense, sounded really strange to British ears. In the end we settled for something bland and vaguely mid-Atlantic.

      As for the Thin Man – it’s yet another famous and much-loved series from the past that I’ve heard of but failed to see… maybe I should hunt them out for some inspiration!

      With best wishes,

      Ruth


      • Well, of course a Roman centurion would be speaking Latin (or perhaps scraps of Old English on occasion): what we read in the book is a translation, so I suppose the best translation for any reader would be into his/her own particular language and dialect.

        Whether to translate a British novel into American English is, I suppose, a commercial decision. But I wouldn’t have thought the two languages are sufficiently different to make it necessary. Surely anyone who fails to understand an occasional word can either look it up or get a vague understanding from the context. I read plenty of American fiction without trouble, although I’ve never lived in America.

        The USA is a young country, dating only from the 18th century, and for that reason American actors appearing in films set in ancient times seem to me as out of place as a digital watch. But presumably Americans don’t see it that way…


      • Latin, yes – or possibly Celtic to the locals or, in private, whatever his native language was. And of course if he had a smattering of culture or lived in the Eastern Empire, he’d know Greek. I can’t help suspecting that our ancestors were much more flexible with languages than we are – altho’ I’m sure I’ve read somewhere that Augustus, who was apparently not a great speller himself, once fired a Governor for sending him a personally-written letter containing a spelling mistake.


  61. Incidentally, anyone suggesting to Lindsay Davis the use of American English in her books should be ready to duck…

    I should clarify that my reaction to American actors in ‘ancient’ films is subjective and personal; strictly speaking, all modern actors are out of place in ancient times.

    Thanks for your comments on language. I suppose that even Latin would have differed considerably in vocabulary and even grammar depending on who was speaking it and in what context.


  62. … And I should be ready to duck myself, having carelessly written Lindsay instead of Lindsey …


  63. I only discovered Ruso by accident when trawling for “something new” and being in Chichester a book about a Roman seemed to be right. So I read book 2 first and have now finished book 1 and am reading book 2 again. Book 3 is sitting looking at me now and your fourth book is on order! I do annoy my when reading about Ruso and Tilla in bed as my unexpected laughter is somewhat unexpected. These are fantastic books, enthralling, interesting and funny! Thank you.


    • Ah yes, when in Chichester…

      Thanks for the kind comments, and I’m delighted to know you’re enjoying the books – hope the unexpected laughter isn’t making you too unpopular!

      Ruth


    • Oops, didn’t click ‘approve’ on Tonanti216’s comment before replying to it, so everything’s probably in the wrong order now. Sorry.


  64. I am currently devouring your Medicus series and have just started book four. Having started it makes me a little sad though, because it will be over soon and there is no book five. Will there be a book five (she says with much hope and pleading)??

    I am really enjoying these books – I love the characters, your wit and the rich descriptions. Also, thank you for making them available digitally – there is nothing like the instant gratification of click-download-read. No waiting or going to stores! (having said that, I do miss the ‘aroma’ and feel of a real book but I find I read faster and with better comprehension/retention on my iPad)

    Well, I just wanted to encourage (beg) you to keep writing about Ruso and Tilla (oh please please please!) and congratulate you on a wonderful evolving story, brilliantly told.

    Kind regards,
    Nancy


    • Thanks for the kind remarks, Nancy. There will indeed be more – it’s about time we had that long-awaited visit of Hadrian to Britannia, so I’m currently working on Book Five. Still haven’t mastered the art of writing (or thinking) quickly, I’m afraid, so it’ll be a while…

      Glad the digital thing is working well for you. As you say, it’s a very different experience and doesn’t have the ‘feel’ of a real book. On the other hand, it’s a whole lot easier to carry around, and so much better for reading in bed!


      • Re: Book Five – Oh thank goodness!!!! Wooo Hooo! If it’s “a while” then that’s just a good excuse to go back and read the first four again. :) Thank you, and wishing you all the best…
        Nancy


  65. I discovered your first book when it was free for the Kindle on Amazon.com, and it sat in my list of books to read for a few weeks. Well, as soon as I started reading it, I had to buy the next three books and finished them in short order, and am now eagerly awaiting further installments. I’m happy to see that a fifth book is in the works. Until it comes out, I’m reading more about Roman Britain because your books have left me with a hunger to know more about the world the characters inhabit. Do you have any recommended sources for information about the period?
    Thanks, from a big fan in Japan.


    • Thank you Kristen – and all good wishes to you and friends in Japan in these very difficult times.

      I’m delighted to hear that you’re exploring Ruso and Tilla’s world! I’ll have a think about sources and put a post up (or even a page, maybe?) in the next few days.


  66. Hi Ruth,
    I think I just spotted the plot for the next Ruso novel: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-kent-13211331

    Mark


    • Thanks, Mark! Poor girl: it doesn’t sound like a pretty story, does it? I’m a bit baffled by the assertion that ‘Roman’ and ‘Pagan’ burials were different things and also about the orientation, but suspect the chap may have been misquoted.


  67. I just finished reading the latest book in the Ruso chronicles, which here in Singapore (being part of the Commonwealth and all) is the British edition.

    I take it that Ruso’s brother, Lucius, and the family farm/vineyard are now self-supporting and that the convoluted financial arrangements have been sorted out?

    Which should leave Ruso and Tilla free to do more “detecting” in Roman Britain!

    However, I seem to find Tilla’s character to be strangely “not really there”. It’s as if she had some ambivalence about her native Briton roots, her family tragedies and her present status as a free woman and the wife of a Roman citizen. Btw, she hasn’t become a Roman citizen by now, has she, or have I missed out on this?


    • *NB – THIS REPLY CONTAINS A PLOT SPOILER FOR BOOK 3!*

      Thanks for getting in touch, PJ – good to know that Ruso has made it to Singapore even if I haven’t!

      Yes, Ruso and Lucius’s financial problems are kind-of sorted in that they have, in modern parlance, rescheduled the debt – although I fear that Diphilus will be trying to lead Arria into further unwise home improvements, and we will be hearing from the family again (unless the editor really doesn’t like that part of Book 5). Incidentally, there really was a dodgy builder called Diphilus who built – I think – a temple whose columns weren’t straight. I wrote that into Book 3 and had the family temple collapse and catch fire, but the editor said – rightly – that the temple collapse and the mad priestess who went with it weren’t relevant to the plot. Maybe they’ll appear somewhere else.

      Interesting observation about Tilla. No she hasn’t become a Roman Citizen (again, I’m having some thoughts about this for Book 5) but now you mention it I do think she’s a little lost – not entirely accepted by Ruso’s Roman friends, not a native of the tribes in which she finds herself living, and not the mother she would like to be… which is perhaps why she finds herself so eager to defend Camma, who’s a similarly lost soul. Much food for thought there: thank you.


  68. hi ruth,

    i read ‘caveat emptor’ the month before i left for rome, and it was a really nice sendoff. i was so thrilled to see albanus again! and happy to learn that our byzantine tax system has a…precedent. most of all, i was happy to watch ruso and tilla’s complex and beautiful story unfold. to me, it was an oddly sad and true book: almost every character, no matter how heinous his actions, was empathetic. well, sort of…

    i wanted to mention that we were able to get a tour of the lower and upper levels of the roman colosseum, which to my knowledge have, till now, not been open for tours, and it was just spectacular.

    throughout our walk through the colosseum, and those levels in particular, i was reminded of your terrific rendering of the gladiatorial games and the amphitheater in gaul, in ‘persona non grata.’ it was a profound experience, made even better by those memories of ruso, tilla, and those who had to fight for their lives.

    i believe you mentioned the gladiator graveyard found in york; our tour guide mentioned that they were still discovering things in a gladiator graveyard found a few years ago in ephesus as well.

    can’t wait for book 5, maybe next year? thanks again, and ciao!

    linda


    • Thanks for this, Linda – Albanus is always such a pleasure to write!

      How wonderful (in a sobering kind of way) to be able to explore beneath the Colosseum. Husband and I went to a re-enactment of gladiator fights in Chester Amphitheatre recently and it was quite worrying to see how quickly one became detached from the fate of the combatants and carried away by being part of a big crowd, with all the events sanctioned by the Emperor so therefore OK. Obviously we all knew it was an act, but even so…

      I’ll look out for reports from the Ephesus graveyard. Meanwhile, Book 5 trundles on!

      Best wishes,

      Ruth


      • ruth–

        you’re so right–how quickly, carried away by the moment, we can detach ourselves from the lives of the people in the arena. while it is not [yet] a blood sport, american football has left quite a number of players in a very bad way. but our stadiums are always filled. i have been to a few football games, and while i am not a huge fan, i have been swept up in it. it is not until a player gets carried off the field with possible head injuries that we allow ourselves to consider the cost of what we are enjoying.

        ah, the human condition.

        in any case, i know everyone here is glad that you are trundling on with book 5! (in a perfect world, we would promise not to disturb you so that you can finish it!)

        all the best,

        linda


  69. I suppose the gladiators were the footballers of their time.

    “Look at that big baby lying on the ground and screaming. He’s only lost a foot, why doesn’t he carry on?”


    • Indeed!


  70. I discovered your books by chance and love them. Keep up the good work!


    • Thank you Barbara – I hope you continue to enjoy them!


  71. Thanks for __Medicus__, which my little sister lent. Am off to buy __Terra Incognita__.
    Microscopic correction, if I may suggest for the e-version: there’s a typo in my (her) copy of __Medicus__. Page 376. Not “swilled” but “swirled” the wine dangerously close to the rim of the cup.
    If the original is the author’s choice, I apologize. I think it’s a typo.


    • Malcolm, I think you’re right. And it may not be a typo. It may have been the author’s (wrong) choice. I suspect it’s too late to change the ebook now, but I’ll be more careful with the swilling and swirling in future!

      Thanks for pointing it out.

      Ruth


  72. Ruth,
    I am not prone to gushing but I am already anticipating books 5 and beyond. I almost never read fiction but found myself quite enthralled. My maiden Aunt (and NY native) used to be an ardent fan of Ellery Queen but I found it unendurable. I think I have some insight now. Please do continue this very entertaining series. I am amateur historian with facts, events, dates and names swirling (correct use) through my head. Your clever novels distill some of this “vapor” into a very satisfying form. Good fun!


    • Thank you Alex, you’re very kind! It’s good to hear from a history enthusiast, and you definitely have a firmer grasp than I do of this swilling/swirling business…


  73. Hi Ruth,
    I came across this article about a medical kit found in a Roman-era shipwreck, and thought you might find it useful background info.

    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/europe/italy/8627715/Roman-era-shipwreck-reveals-ancient-medical-secrets.html

    Regards,

    Mark


    • Mark, that’s a fascinating find – thanks very much for the link.

      I just had a quick look at some of the ingredients listed and, according to Dioscorides, cultivated cabbage could be used to treat everything from bowel troubles to dim sight, plus ‘it quells the ills of carousing and drinking when taken afterwards.’ It’s also handy for those bitten by vipers, for old sores, to clear the head, and to ‘stay the falling of hair from the head.’ Not to mention restoring a lost voice, clearing the face of birthmarks and dealing with intestinal worms.

      No wonder they were putting it in their pills!


  74. There’s an app that lets you explore the streets of Londinium. The next time I go to London, I’ll have to give it a try.

    http://www.reuters.com/article/2011/08/08/us-app-londinium-idUSTRE7772HE20110808


    • Mark, that looks great – thanks for the link. It may be a development of the Londinium web material they were working on a few years ago which was really good, and which seemed to have mysteriously vanished.
      Hope you don’t mind if I do a post on it, but it’s well worth passing on.


  75. I’m reading “Medicus” – wonderful book and excellent writing. Thanks!


    • Thank you Mike!


  76. I’m deep into “Caveat Emptor” and am, as usual, relishing the characters, the plot, the setting & details, and the humor. In fact, I just recommended my book group read “Medicus” next year, to get them going. Thank you!

    Thanks, also, for the pieces you’ve written about writing historical fiction; I toy with the idea of doing that, and it was helpful to see where one can start.

    I really appreciate the details you include about the setting – the smells, the food and clothing, the medical implements and remedies, the housing, etc. Gives one a real feel for the time.

    Best wishes for your future work,

    Susan, who says this in unabashed self-interest


    • Thank you Susan! I hope the book group enjoys ‘Medicus’.
      I’m so glad you found the pieces about writing historical fiction useful, and wish you much pleasure in creating your own work and your own fictional world.

      Incidentally, have you see the Historical Writers Association website? http://www.thehwa.co.uk/ There’s a forum there where you’ll find other folk who also spend their time consorting with imaginary friends from the past, and you might find some of the ‘craft’ discussions interesting.


  77. Hello Ruth,

    I’ve done a review / promo for the series over on my new author website http://fiona.veitchsmith.com/2011/10/ruso-and-the-river-of-darkness/

    Hope to convert a few more fans to Ruso’s cause!


    • Fiona, you’re a star! Thanks very much, and I’m glad you enjoyed the River of Darkness.


  78. Hi Ruth
    A friend of mine leant me the first book, I had never read anything like this before and now I am hooked, I am just starting ‘Ruso and the river of Darkness’ these books are a wonderful read.
    Well done and keep up the great work.
    Regards
    Beverley


    • Thanks, Beverley. Clearly a friend with excellent taste! I hope you enjoy the ‘River of Darkness’.

      Ruth


  79. Hurry with book 5…I can hardly stand the wait with the “teaser” in your latest comment rom November 25th or so!
    Kathleen Upstate NY


    • Thanks Kathleen! Off to wrestle with the final chapters…
      Ruth


  80. Hello Ruth.

    I am a physician and a giant history nerd, classical history in particular, so I am obviously in love with your books, and anxiously await the newest adventure.

    I am also the husband of a novelist, so I understand a bit about the pressures you must be under. Best of luck getting over the hump (or humps, possibly), and thank you so much for your wonderful books.


    • Thank you Jason, you’re very kind! A first draft of Book 5 has just gone to the editor. Your wife may recognise the feeling that comes with pressing the ‘send’ button – the amazing clarity with which you can now see all the things you should have written and didn’t!
      Best wishes for a happy and creative New Year to you both.


  81. Updates, please! Love your four books and just hoping for more! Amen to all said by Jason on 1/3/2012.


    • Thanks Marilou! Book Five has now gone off for copy editing (that’s the detailed one, as opposed to the ‘structural’ edit) and Bloomsbury plan to release it in January 2013. Sorry about the delay but it IS under way, and the cover design they’re working on is lovely.


  82. Hi, Ruth … Just dropped by to check on new book’s status, and was thrilled to learn of the Jan 2013 release!! My sister asked me just the other day if Ihad any idea “when.” Can’t wait! :-D


    • Glad you visited, Leah! Final tweaks have just been made to the proofs so I’m assuming we’re still on schedule.


  83. hello ruth, i just pre-ordered semper fidelis, and am very much looking forward to reading it! just wanted to share something with you and your readers: i have been listening to a podcast, “mike duncan–the history of rome.” the last podcast was actually recorded a few years ago, but it is still relevant, as ancient rome ended quite a while before 2010…(smiley face). he is quite knowledgeable, very witty, just a lot of fun to listen to. and i hope that you, ruso and tilla would approve.


    • I hope you enjoy it!

      I’ll certainly have a listen to Mike Duncan. Just to make sure others get the recommendation I’m about to include it in a blog post – I hope that’s OK.


      • i would bet mike duncan would be delighted!


  84. Hi!
    I’ve read and enjoyed all your medicus books, and was delighted, on finding this page, that the next one comes out in January (just in time for my 60th!!!!!).
    Will it be available in Kindle format? Love my Kindle!!!!


    • Hello Ingrid,
      Thanks for getting in touch – great to know you’ve enjoyed the books so far! I’m hoping that the Kindle edition of SEMPER FIDELIS will be out in time for your Big Birthday, but I’ve emailed the editor to check and will let you know. Is your Kindle linked to Amazon.com or co.uk? Because I’m pretty sure the American edition will be out first.


      • Thanks SO much for replying!
        I am in the UK so it might not be in time for my birthday, but I will save up my (hopeful!) Amazon vouchers and it will be something to look forward to.
        Thanks again!


      • Agh, Ingrid – I’m sorry about the lack of clarity on the UK version. As soon as I have something definite I’ll put it on the blog. Hope you have a great birthday anyway!


  85. Hi,
    I enjoyed your first book very much, but for whatever reason never thought to check if there were more. Very pleased to find out there is – and will be ordering them for the holiday break.
    All the best, and enjoy your proper Christmas season while we swelter here in Australia.


    • Thanks, El – I hope you enjoy Ruso’s company over the holidays! And best wishes for your warm festivities while we all enjoy a good grumble about the weather over here…


  86. hi ruth–

    just wanted to alert folks to the fact that Bettany Hughes’ television series “the roman invasion of britain” is currently showing in the U.S. i believe it was produced a few years ago; maybe you have seen it. i am seeing it for the first time. it’s a nice–if brief–overview of romanized britain, and she goes to some sites that i am sure you have been to. she is an engaging narrator, and it will tide me over till Semper Fidelis hits these shores…

    happy holidays, ruth, and many thanks!

    linda


    • Thanks for this Linda - I'll put the word out.

      Happy Holidays to you too!


  87. Dear Ms. Downie — Any word yet on the audio version of Semper Fidelis? I’ve checked the publisher’s website, Audible’s site, Amazon — nil. Of course, I’ve got my Kindle pre-order all set up…but I do love those audios, and I hope it’s Simon Vance again. He’s Ruso in my head…


    • Hi Laurie,

      Yes! News at last. I’ve just heard this week that the audio contract is going through. I don’t know who’ll be reading it but it’s being done by the same company as the others, so it’s looking hopeful.

      Ruth


      • Deo gratias!


  88. hi ruth–i am sure this is not news to you, but it was news to me here in the states. lovely story (involving a curse, of course) about a ring dating from 4th century romanized britain, and the tablet to which it has been linked, being an inspiration for tolkien’s ‘hobbit’ books.

    apparently because i have been much more interested in reading roman history, i am one of the seven people in the world who have not read tolkien. but i was delighted that there may be a link to a briton named Senicianus. here’s the story i read:

    http://bigstory.ap.org/article/roman-ring-inspired-tolkien-goes-show

    all the best,

    linda


    • Hi Linda,
      No, I didn’t know about any of this either until the other day. The article I saw showed a picture of Elijah Wood, which wasn’t a lot of help. So it’s great to see a link with a photo of the ring – thanks! I can’t quite work out the connection between the curse tablet and the ring – is it a different ring or is Silvianus implying that Senicianus stole it and then had his own name engraved on it? Someone will have to write a novel about it, tho’ Ruso will be about 200 years old by then so maybe not me.

      Ruth


      • ruth–

        hmmm…i am not certain, but i believe that the beautiful ring in the picture is related to the tablet.

        the story possibilities are endless, aren’t they? the image of venus makes me wonder if there was some kind of love triangle…a ring that Silvianus gave to his wife, which she subsequently passed along to Senicianus. bad idea– trysts so often end with someone being cursed.

        roman britain without ruso and tilla would be a little less fascinating. if they are not around to solve the mystery, it might just be better left unsolved..!

        all best,

        linda


  89. You are only the second author I have left a comment with. I, quite by accident, came across “Medicus” by accident; it was brilliant, as was all of your books. My favorite is “Persona Non Grata”, but I have only just started “Semper Fidelis”. Please tell me you have more books coming. I would love if you could work him back to Gaul; it would be great to see what happened with the family. Plus I am French so I am a little biased. The fact that I have been able to read four of your books in three weeks is a minor miracle because I have seven children and basically have to stay up all night to get any reading time.

    Anxiously awaiting book six.


    • Thank you so much for your kind words, and I hope you’ll catch up on the sleep soon! There is a sixth book on the way, although probably not until next summer.

      My husband also wishes Ruso and Tilla would go back to Gaul – or indeed anywhere warm and sunny with good food where he could accompany me on a research trip. We’ll see!


      • Hispania?


      • …would be just the sort of place he (Husband) has in mind!


      • I would like to see Ruso and Tillago go for another visit to the family in Gaul. They were marvelously dysfunctional!


  90. I love your books and am anxiously awaiting #6. Please hurry. I miss your characters. Thanks for all the enjoyment your books have given me.


    • Thank you for the kind words, Mary. Book 6 is currently in draft form and I’m busy trying to iron out the creases. I think the publishers have it scheduled for Summer 2014. I really must learn to write faster…


      • I suggest not pushing the accelerator to the floor. In many endeavours, high speed tends to detract from quality, although low speed may not necessarily improve it. The trick is to hit the happy medium.

        However, I once saw a quite interesting Web page about writing better and faster, and on looking for it again I think this is it, or something very like it: http://thisblogisaploy.blogspot.com.es/2011/06/how-i-went-from-writing-2000-words-day.html, by some American called Rachel Aaron.

        Writers are individuals, and different systems suit different writers. I thought the article persuasive, although I’ve never succeeded in writing fiction myself: perhaps because I lack the requisite abilities, perhaps because I’ve never tried hard enough, or both.


      • Yes I agree quality and quantity don’t always go together, but in pursuit of a happy medium, that’s an extremely useful link – thanks, Jonathan. (Although if I were averaging 2000 words a day I’d be feeling smug already.)


      • Yes I agree quality and quantity don’t always go together, but in pursuit of a happy medium, that’s an extremely useful link – thanks, Jonathan. (Although if I were averaging 2000 words a day I’d be feeling smug already.)


  91. Thanks for letting us know that book 6 is coming. You do such a nice job of making your stories history, colonial politics, mystery and honest romance, they are a real joy.


    • Thank you Jessica!


  92. Dear Ruth,
    Have just read the series to date and enjoyed it immensely. Came across it when looking for audiobooks using Simon Vance’s narration, then quickly got hold of the print versions as well.

    Although I am born and bred in Australia, my ancestry, like so many of my countrymen and women, is Irish and English. Husband and I have visited the UK several times, and Roman Britain has really caught both our imaginations and interest. We particularly enjoyed our visit to Chester, so you can imagine how pleased I was that it so “central” in your books as either a setting or a destination, and from what I understand from Semper Fidelis, really it is Ruso and Tilla’s “home base” as a couple.

    I am in “the medical trade” as my husband is wont to call it, working in General Practice and in outpatient Geriatrics, with a foot in both the private and public medical systems. You have absolutely nailed the medical “inner voice”, and the medical administration shenanigans. Prisco in Medicus was priceless, his administrative manipulations (within the system that is) so true to life! Gambax in Terra Incognita ditto.
    A particular example of the brilliantly written “inner voice” was when, in Terra Incognita, Ruso rescues the chicken stealing soldier from the attack by the local natives and runs through in his mind all the things a man can die from while the doctor is still trying to work out the diagnosis. I’ve probably misquoted as that book has gone back to the library – but near enough I think. My response to that line was “Yes!!” There are many other examples but that will suffice for now.

    As for Ruso and Tilla’s relationship, like so many other readers (and admittedly being a sucker for historical romance), I’m fascinated and continually curious as to how you’re developing it. The cultural differences are so great. Such a challenge.Their childlessness, and the poignant way you write them each handling it has actually had me tearing up on more than one occasion. I’d desperately love for them to get a joyful surprise, but I’m sure it’s also a great point of tension for ongoing story lines, so I can see it both ways I think. Tilla’s decision to take that energy and direct it into attempting to train as a medicus is intriguing and I’m with child (excuse the pun) to see where you take that.
    Using the “voice” of Tilla’s Mam is another poignant device.

    Then there are the challenging slavery issues. And the fascinating insights into the minutiae of everyday life. And the auxiliary characters (Albanus rules! Valens – he annoys the daylights out of me but I can’t help liking him).
    I could go on.

    Two final thoughts.Firstly, the overriding feeling I get when reading the books is “Plus ca change, plus c’est la meme chose” (never studied Latin so can’t attempt quoting that language!). Nothing changes when it comes to human behaviour. It’s so refreshing and entertaining to have the mirror held up to our contemporary world and find 2nd C Roman Britain reflected back.

    Secondly, Monty Python’s Life of Brian keeps creeping into my consciousness (even though it’s the wrong century)
    “Reg:
    All right… all right… but apart from better sanitation and medicine and education and irrigation and public health and roads and a freshwater system and baths and public order… what have the Romans done for us?
    Xerxes:
    Brought peace!
    Reg:
    (very angry, he’s not having a good meeting at all) What!? Oh… (scornfully) Peace, yes… shut up! ”

    Thanks for a wonderful series of books. Looking forward to the next. Will try to be patient.
    Will now take Reg’s advice and shut up.
    Sherry Watson


    • Hi Sherry, and thanks so much for the lovely comment. I’m delighted to know that you find the ‘medic’ aspect of the books works because as you may have gathered, I’m not writing from experience (altho’ I do call on friends for advice). As for the ‘system’… when I started to look into Roman admin it rapidly became clear that this was a familiar world. Except that they had slaves to do the jobs nobody else wanted, which must have been very convenient as long as you weren’t the slave.
      Glad you enjoyed Chester – such a lovely place and still with the street plan laid out by the Legionaries!


  93. I have just read your latest book , what a superb series , keep them coming , please .


    • Thank you, Dave! I’m pleased to say that book six, probably called TABULA RASA, should be out in 2014.


      • I was so happy when I read this news, then I realized it almost has to be a mistake. Its almost the end of October … did u mean 2014?


      • Oh whoops – sorry Jessica, yes that should have been 2014 – I’ve corrected it now. Thanks for pointing it out.


  94. Hello Ruth,
    I too am happy to hear about book #6! I enjoy fiction set in Roman times, but our ‘medicus’ is definitely my absolute favorite. I only wish he could go back to his old self and be grumpy and disagreeable again. Before he was in love with Tilla Ruso was so much more entertaining and likeable.
    Thank you for the series, and please keep writing!


    • Thank you Petra! I’ll bear the grumpiness in mind if there’s a book 7…


  95. Hi Ruth,
    I read the entire series of books, I have Truly enjoyed them..I was just wondering if you have considered getting in touch with Netflix and see if they would be interested in a television series or motion picture since they are now in the business of producing original programming. (HBO Also produces their own material now).
    I’m sure there are many other options but I think the material would make an excellent film or series of films.
    And of course I’m looking forward to the new book that’s coming out this summer (I hope).
    Best wishes,
    Phil Mancino


    • Thanks Phil! A screen deal would be wonderful. I have a lovely agent in the US who sorts out that sort of thing and I suspect that if there’s the least sniff of interest, he will grab it with both hands and probably his teeth as well, while I dance around the room and shriek. Meanwhile I guess I have to hold back on the shrieking and just get on with putting words together…

      You’re right, TABULA RASA will be published in August in the US and October in the UK – I hope you enjoy it!


      • hello ruth– i love phil’s suggestion, it would be such a wonderful series. just received ‘tabula rasa,’ and i am so looking forward to reading it. (all apologies to UK fans who are still waiting. in the words of john watson: ‘i don’t understand. …i still don’t understand’).


      • They certainly would make super movies. Fingers x-ed that someone in The Biz thinks so and comes knocking for those screen rights.


      • No, I don’t really understand either! To be honest I’m just grateful that anyone’s willing to publish them at all – and that kind folk such as you are willing to buy them! I do hope you enjoy ‘Tabula Rasa’.


      • The unfortunate thing about film versions is that they tend to do violence to the original book, so that you end up crying all the way to the bank; unless you’ve written such an awesome bestseller that the film company abases itself before you.


      • Promise yourself that, whatever the temptations laid before you, you will not offer to write the screenplay. Then buy a big box of tissues and ho for the bank.

        It is right that a movie should be a different thing from a book, even if made of the same material. Sometimes awful things are done. Sometimes not. I would certainly find them a box set which I would reach for often.


      • No worries Judi, I promise I will never offer to write the screenplay!


      • Yes, it’s right that a film should be different from a book; but, when I’ve seen films of books, I can’t remember a case in which I preferred the film to the book. At best, the film becomes a sort of colour supplement to the book, filling in some gaps in the reader’s imagination. But the story is inevitably abbreviated, and the film company can never resist making gratuitous changes to it.

        Lindsey Davis: “A film called The Age of Treason was made some years ago, ostensibly of The Silver Pigs, though who would know? It departed from everything that I think makes the books special. This is the terrible side of Hollywood in particular and film companies in general. It taught me that authors will probably not be made rich and famous through film rights, that they should demand enough money to cover any pain, and that they have a duty to loyal readers to defend much-loved characters.”


      • You are largely right, I think, in what you say, Jonathan. Although I thought the Potter films beautifully realised. And after an initial revulsion (completely understandable) I think Rowling thought so too. Let us hope that it may be a film company top heavy with Brits that options Ruso: I think we Brits are perhaps more even-handed that Americans in this sort of situation. I’m thinking of U-571, perhaps inevitably …


      • Ah, but didn’t “The Sound Barrier” depict a British pilot achieving what an American actually did (although without reversing the controls, which would have been catastrophic)? I have often wondered if “U571″ was a form of revenge…


      • Hi Ruth,

        I hope that your US agent can come up with a film deal. I believe that the characters are strong enough and storyline compelling. It does not need excessive special-effects to tell the story . (this affects the production costs). If it were done using CGI (computer-generated imagery) and using it in an economical way that emphasizes reality not fantasy (Hollywood tends to use this technology in ways that are far beyond reality), it could be used effectively to create the environment that your characters lived in.

        Recently I had an opportunity to visit Hadrian’s Wall in England. one of the things that I witnessed, while I was there (at Vindolanda), was an archaeologist dig up a 2000-year-old shoe. Just seeing her pull it out of the mud illustrates the reality that people really did exist and they had to wear shoes just like everybody else, it gives you a human connection to the past. Russo, Tilla and the other engaging characters do this for me and in a most entertaining way.

        Will be receiving the new book on Friday, can’t wait to read it. keep on writing keep the imagination going, you truly have a gift…

        Phil

        Sent from my iPad

        >


      • Hi Phil,
        Thanks for the kind comments about possibilities of filming. It’s something way beyond my area of expertise (not to mention beyond my wildest dreams). Meanwhile I’m glad you had the chance to witness another kind of magic at Vindolanda. The letters and other wonderful things they’ve found there, and the experience of being part of a team digging a Roman villa site further south (www.whitehallvilla.co.uk) have been a major source of inspiration.
        Hope you enjoy “Tabula Rasa”!


      • That revenge was certainly served ice cold, if that is what it was, taking nearly 50 years to hit the big screen :o)


      • Good point!


      • I liked Potter films 1 and 3, as well, and I didn’t go much further with them because I mainly liked books 1 and 3 (though I did read all of them). But Rowling, with her sales figures behind her, had the clout to insist on a British cast and locations, and kept the stories closer to the books than usual.


  96. Ms. Dowie,

    I loved Medicus! Just finished it – well done. Even better is to visit your web page and discover that Ruso’s adventures continue in five more books. I’m a fan of Harry Sidebottom, Simon Scarrow, and Jack Whyte to name a few. But you have a special something they don’t – a sense of humor that tickles my funny bone.

    I so enjoy your tales of England under Roman Rule, your wit and humor. However, initially I was concerned that your novel would destroy my marriage. I read in bed and am prone to burst out laughing at your wicked one-liners. Clever girl! Invariably, I’d wake my wife and she was less than amused. My solution read her the first chapter now she’s hooked too.

    If you ever get a moment free, cruise on over to my webpage http://www.jamiedodsonbooks.com. I write historical fiction as well but unlike yours – it’s not “Hysterical Historical Fiction”. You have a knack that I envy.

    Thanks for all your efforts and great webpage. May your days be filled with deep satisfaction and joy. And may your muse never desert you.

    Cheers! Jamie Dodson


    • Hi Jamie,
      Great to hear from you and so sorry for the delayed response – I’ve been away and I still haven’t got to grips with doing Internet stuff on the phone.
      Anyway, thanks so much for the kind words about ‘Medicus’, and I hope your wife has forgiven you!

      Your own writing covers a fascinating period of history – not only politically, but in terms of the advances being made, and the risks taken, in aviation. I’m a big fan of Nevil Shute whose day job was, of course, in exactly that area, and I’m sure there must be many great stories to be told.

      Happy writing!

      Ruth


      • Ruth,

        Keeping up with Facebook, email and a web blog takes a whack out of anybody’s day. Oh yeah, then there’s that chapter to write. Thanks for your kind words. Meanwhile, back to editing …

        Cheers! Jamie


  97. Greetings Ruth. I am awaiting “Tabula Rasa” somewhat impatiently but patience has never been one of my disciplines! I was wondering if you have any plans for a book signing tour here in the USA? I have attended a couple and it is a real treat to meet an author “live”.
    Thanks to you my fascination with ancient Rome and things Roman I have read several other novels on that time period. Simon Scarrow for one. Still like Ruso and Tilla the best.
    Be well and I pray to the muses for your inspiration as an author!!!


    • As an expat Brit, I’d love to attend a Yank book signing too. Just saying …


      • Yes, and I’d love to do one, Jamie. It’s in the hands of the gods!


    • Thank you Roland – good to hear from you and apologies for the slow response: I’ve been away from home. Great to hear that you’re enjoying the work of other writers: lots of us seem to find our inspiration in the ancient world, and your prayers to the muses are most welcome!

      I’d love to do a book tour in the US but it’s down to the publisher, really – if anything happens rest assured I’ll be blathering about it all over the internet.


  98. I find it totally unacceptable that we in the UK have to wait for this. Since when did the colonies deserve preferential treatment over your own country men and women? Eh? Disgraceful!
    (You still owe me a doughnut.)


    • Oh dear, it’s going to be a very stale doughnut at this rate! But I promise you’ll get preferential treatment over the colonies when it comes to repaying confectionery. Anyway, I hope all’s well with you? I keep living in hope that the Chester event will happen again but it seems the signs are not good.


  99. TODAY IS THE DAY! Received the long-awaited email in my inbox — “Your pre-order is now available in your Library.”
    I’m spending the day today with Ruso, Tilla, and Simon Vance. I can’t thank you enough, Ruth!!!


    • Hi Laurie,
      Sorry for the delayed response (I’ve been away from home) but I hope it was a good day?
      Ruth


      • It was a WONDERFUL day!


      • :-)


  100. Yay! I just bought it from Audible. Love Tilla and Ruso (especially with Simon Vance’s narration)!


    • Hope you’re enjoying it, Brenda. I feel enormously privileged to have Simon Vance narrating – he is such a good reader.


      • I’m really, really enjoying this one! One thing I’ve always liked is your nuanced presentation of relationships. Ruso and Tilla and their marriage comes across as real and “lived-in,” with all the baggage that comes with real life. I love when you play with the reader’s perception of “the other.” The British often fill that role, but Ruso’s bizarre lucky charm (and Tilla’s reaction to it) easily flips that around. And Vance’s narration is perfect. I especially like how he handles the humorous bits, with just the right pitch of dryness.


      • Thank you Brenda! We’re enormously privileged to have Simon Vance doing the readings: he’s very talented. I listened to his reading of “Bring up the bodies” a while back: his Henry VIII had just the right combination of petulance and menace.


  101. Hi, Ruth! I’m 2/3 through TABULA RASA and think it may be the best book yet in your series. Feliciter!

    But is there a way we can tell your publishers how awful the cover is? The statue idea isn’t bad, but the blue and red lighting looks like a disco parody. I had to take off the dust jacket in order to relax while reading the book. Sorry, but it doesn’t do justice at all to your wonderful work!


    • Hi Sherry, and thanks for the feedback, good and bad! I’m having a meeting with the editor in a while so I’ll raise the topic of the cover. Meanwhile I’m very glad you like the book!


  102. I just finished reading “Tabula Rasa”. It’s really good and it fleshes out some details of Tilla’s past.

    And Ruso kind of grows on you as a a man who has a strict code of honour and who always tries to do the right thing.

    A more upright version of Marcus Didius Falco (apologies to Lindsey Davis!)

    As I live in Singapore, I am thankful for Amazon US and UK that I am able to keep up to date with the latest books. The book stores here don’t really keep up to speed with historical fiction. Which is a bit sad.

    Now that “Tabula Rasa” is read and digested, I must ask – when is the next Ruso and Tilla book coming out?


    • Thank you – I’m glad you enjoyed it! It’s such a pleasure to know that Ruso and Tilla have friends in places they could never have dreamed of.

      As for the next one – well, I’m currently staring at a large plot hole, coupled with a word count that isn’t as large as it should be at this stage. So basically, the writing process is going pretty much as it always does! The editor wisely tends not to talk about dates until she gets her hands on the manuscript, but as soon as there’s any info I’ll spread the word.


  103. Ruth – I have read all your books here in the US – I totally enjoy Russo & Tilla – The historical aspects of the mystery are very interesting, and I am learning much of Roman Britannia. Good luck with all future efforts -looking forward to the next book!!!


    • Thank you Janet, it’s great to know that you’ve enjoyed spending time in Roman Britain!



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