Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

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Welcome…

June 12, 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, will be published later this year and 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 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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Back to School

May 13, 2014

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

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

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

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

Design of fictional Roman city

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

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Events, dear boy,* events

October 12, 2013

[*or girl - Ed.]

For those of us who sit hunched over a computer all day, a chance to get out and meet real people is very exciting. I’ll be taking part in  several events over the next few weeks so if you’re able to join us, please come and say hello.

16 October – 7.00 pm at Barton Library (Barton le Clay, Bedfordshire) “Writing the Romans” with Henry Venmore-Rowland. Henry is the author of “The Last Caesar” and “The Sword and the Throne,” bringing to life the tumultuous events of AD 69 when Rome had four emperors in one year.

17 October – 7.00 pm at Putnoe Library, Bedfordshire – Crime Through Time. I’ll be discussing the appeal of the Romans and the Tudors with Rory Clements, author of the John Shakespeare series (yes, John is the brother of the more famous William, and a great character in his own right).

November

1 November, 7.00 pm – “Leeches and Prayer – the Medicine of the Past” part of the Thames Valley History Festival.   Join me and Karen Maitland, author of the superb “Company of Liars”, at the Natural History Museum in Eton College – a venue where we are promised real leeches.

2 NovemberHeffers Classics Festival – in association with Cambridge University’s Festival of Ideas. Such an honour to be invited! (When you see the lineup you’ll understand what I mean.) I’ll be talking about “Stories in Stones” – the tales that have slipped down the gaps of history. That will be the (relatively) easy part. I’ve also agreed to speak for Dido in a balloon debate about who was the greatest character in Classical Mythology. I’m still wondering why I said ‘yes’ to this. Unlike everyone else on the panel, I’m neither a classicist nor an Oxbridge graduate. Surely poor Dido has suffered enough? Details and tickets here.

Also in November – an eager horde from the Historical Writers’ Association will be descending on libraries to help celebrate  The Reading Agency ‘s History Month. Here’s my part in it:

7 NovemberUPDATE – the  afternoon visit to Honiton Library in Devon is now CANCELLED – sorry! But I will be doing the following visits the week after…

12 November – an evening at Calne Library with Ben Kane. Ben’s a very entertaining speaker so it should be good!

13 November – on a panel at the beautiful Bristol Central Library with the Vikings, two 19th century women, and the British Special Forces. Or at least their representatives – Robert Low, Kylie Fitzpatrick and Mike Williams.

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Murder in the Library

May 6, 2013

Illuminated graphic with shadow of hand clutching dagger on library shelves

I’ve been saving this one for now because it wouldn’t do to post two exhibitions at once, even though we did rush from one to the other on the same day. The British Library isn’t far from the British Museum, so we hurried up there to have a look at their Murder in the Library display, an A-Z of crime fiction which runs until 12 May. Below are some heavily-edited highlights.

S is for Sherlock Holmes.

This manuscript of a Holmes story suggests that Conan Doyle was a much neater and more decisive writer than some of us. To be fair it wasn’t clear whether this was the only draft or a final fair copy, but it does raise the question of whether our patterns of thinking have been changed by working with endlessly-tweakable text on screen.

4 Conan Doyle ms

MS of “The Adventure of the Retired Colourman,” published in 1927

Incidentally, I’ve just finished reading Peter Guttridge’s “The Belgian and the Beekeeper,” where a detective not unlike Hercule Poirot meets Sherlock Holmes, now a retired recluse who keeps bees. The newcomer suggests the Great Detective may have been somewhat naive about Doctor Watson’s intentions – why is Holmes now living in poverty while Watson is wealthy?  Exactly how many wives DID Watson have, and what happened to them? Peter Guttridge exploits some of the inconsistencies in the Holmes stories to joyous effect.

T is for True Crime

These are a couple of early books about the Road Hill House Murder, which continues to fascinate modern readers in  Kate Summerscale’s “The Suspicions of Mr. Whicher.”

Books about the  Road Hill House murder showing a plan of the house

The penny pamphlet on the left is written by “A disciple of Edgar Poe”, who clearly had a keen sense of marketing. I’m considering issuing my next book as “a disciple of J K Rowling.”

G is for the Golden Age

The time where everyone looked like this, or wanted to:

3 Golden Age

J is for jigsaw mysteries

Do the jigsaw, solve the mystery. These aren’t unknown today, or at least they weren’t when a friend bought me something similar in a charity shop.

5 Jigsaw puzzles

N is for Nordic Noir

…which goes back further than some of us realise: Maj Sjöwall and Per Wallöö were publishing their Martin Beck novels in the 1960′s.

8 Nordic Noir

O is for Oxford

…where  M is for Morse, who gets a whole display cabinet to himself. Here are three famous faces. Not shown is Colin Dexter, but I’m told he appears somewhere in every episode, which means I can no longer do the ironing during repeats as I have to see where.

7 Morse

Z is not for Aurelio Zen, but for Zodiac mysteries, but let’s end with this:

1 Intro

The quote from Raymond Chandler sounds much like an essay question. I will add one word. “The detective story is a tragedy with a happy ending.” Discuss.

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SEMPER FIDELIS audio

January 9, 2013

News at last! Release date for US/Canada will be 11 March and the narrator WILL be Simon Vance. Excellent!

Thanks to Laurie for spotting the relevant page on the Tantor Publishing site.

Any news on UK rights will appear here as soon as I have it.

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This was Deva

June 6, 2011

Photos of the fabulous Roman Weekend in Chester are over on the Facebook page, but here’s one to give you the idea…

Gladiatrix defeating condemned prisoner

HOW YOU CAN GET INVOLVED (safely):

Roman Tours, who organised the event, would love to build a Roman marching fort – and they may be one step nearer to it very soon. They’ve been chosen by Barclays as finalists in the ‘Take one small step’ competition for grant money. You can see their entry – and vote for it - here:   Or just text ‘ROMAN’ to 62555. Even better, do both.

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More about maps

November 16, 2010

Nothing to do with the Romans, but just to reinforce Jane Finnis’s comment on the perils of getting a map wrong (see the post below) here’s a timely article from the Guardian: Google Nicaraguan map error threatens to escalate into regional dispute

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It’s very quiet here lately…

December 3, 2009

…because the deadline for the initial draft of Ruso 4 is 31 December. I am too ashamed to say what it was before the nice people at the publishers agreed to extend it.

So, apologies for the dearth of posts over the last few weeks. It’s looking like a quiet Christmas here at Downie Towers – but hopefully a cheerful New Year.

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Does anybody know this man?

November 4, 2009

The Large Print edition of Persona Non Grata has now been published with this fine chap on the cover:

Picture of legionary re-enactor on book cover

Author’s aren’t consulted about Large Print covers (or at least, I’m not) so there was no chance to ask where this shot was taken. I’d love to know because the background is not unlike Corbridge, where I spent many happy hours researching the second of  Ruso’s  adventures.

If anyone knows who the tip of that nose belongs to, please pass on my thanks.

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Anyone for coffee?

October 23, 2009

Finally got organised to register for Poisoned Pen’s Webcon. I’ll be donning my pinny to host the chat in the Virtual Coffee Shop at 4.30-5 pm UK time tomorrow (Saturday 24th). If anyone’s around and would care to drop by, you’ll be most welcome.

I’ll be taking over from the excellent Jane Finnis, who’s making the coffee for the previous half-hour, so hopefully there will be some crossover*.  If it’s quiet we can have a chat over the washing-up about some gloriously obscure aspect of Roman Britain and the  fiction we both weave around it .

As regards the technical aspects  – ‘fraid I haven’t a clue how this sort of thing works, nor what time 4.30 will be across the rest of the virtual community, but people who DO know have made it all clear on the Webcon site.

*LATER – no there won’t, not unless something goes seriously wrong, as the final schedule says there should be a half-hour gap between us.  I’ll be sharing the hosting with Jenny White – hopefully that’s the right link!

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