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Beat the Drums Slowly

My second novel, Beat the Drums Slowly was formally released in the UK in hardback yesterday. The setting this time is the retreat to Corunna, December 1808 to January 1809. I am pleased with it, and reckon it's a faster paced and livelier story. True Soldier Gentlemen was all about setting up the characters. Now they are in Spain, at war, and the action can begin from the word go. So it will be interesting to see what people think of this one. Once again I have tried to make the historical background as accurate as possible, and have drawn heavily on the memoirs and diaries of the time. We also get to meet Sir John Moore, who often tends to disappear under Wellington's shadow, but was a very interesting man.

A few more pages were added to the website a couple of weeks ago, with some stuff about this new story, and a list of some of my sources. I shall be adding to this as the series goes on. The manuscript of Send me Safely Back Again went in to the publishers recently. This takes the story on into the Talavera campaign, and is due for release this time next year.

Another book, this time Napoleonic
This next recommendation will probably have more appeal to those who like the novel. Before too long I plan to add pages to the website looking more at the historical background to the stories, and listing the sources I have used for each book, adding to it as the new ones are released.

For the moment, I would like to bring Carole Divall's Inside the Regiment: the officers and men of the 30th Regiment during the Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars (Pen& Sword 2011) to everyone's attention. This is a companion to the author's earlier Redcoats against Napoleon. This time the structure is thematic rather than narrative. It is a book about the day to day life, the rules, rituals and society of the regiment and gives a marvellous picture of one part of the army in that period. So we read about the backgrounds or both officers and men and their careers. One especially interesting theme is discipline and punishment, and the author has gone into records of courts martial in great detail.
There is a lot of information in the book, but at the same time it is a lively read. Some individuals remain shadowy, simply because we do not know enough about them. Others come vividly to life.
I know that I will be using many of the incidents in future novels. An especially intriguing episode is the court martial for drunkenness of Ensign John Herring in 1810, and a similar episode involving Captain Leach a few years earlier. In each case, some or all of the key witnesses were NCOs.
Carole's website is well worth a look. Personally I find this sort of day to day detail absolutely fascinating. As an aside it helps to understand any army - including the Romans - if you have an idea of how other armies have worked and work today.
Not too long ago I read Stephen Dyson's Rome: a living portrait of an ancient city (Baltimore, 2010) and have been meaning to write a blog entry recommending this ever since. A lot of studies of architecture in ancient Rome focus purely on building styles, or stay with just one period. This is a lot more interesting, as he does his best to relate successive constructions to the political and social changes. So it is not simply a question of who built something and when, but looks at why they did so and how the city changed as a result. It is the sort of book where you really need a good background knowledge of Roman history to get the most from it. If you have that background, then I think it will make you think differently about quite a few things. It is certainly shaping my own understanding of Caesar and Augustus' building programmes.
Long time, no see
I knew it had been a while since I last added an entry to the blog, but confess that I was a little shocked when I looked and saw that it has been five months. Ah well, I did warn everyone in my original entry that I was unlikely to update very regularly. It has been a busy year and the time has flown. The last entry was about True Soldier Gentlemen. It is now only a couple of months before the sequel Beat the Drums Slowly is due to be released. I finished the first full draft of the third novel a week or so ago, and hoping to tidy that up and have it ready to go off before too long. A week or so ago I appeared on BBC Radio Four's Open Book programme, as part of a discussion on the relationship between history and historical novels. Last Monday I did something more local, and went on Radio Wales' Roy Noble show to talk about the novels. Both were a lot of fun.
In the meantime, work continues on the ancient history. The rest of the year will be devoted to working on the biography of Augustus. I have spoken at a few conferences and festivals in the last few months, so there has been plenty of ancient history alongside the novels. The Rome Unwrapped series has also been broadcast on National Geographic and I have managed to see a few of them. Still have not caught the one about Vespasian and the Roman army, although saw a little bit and reckon they have cut most of the stuff we filmed at Colchester. As always, far more is filmed than actually used.
My first novel
TRUE SOLDIER GENTLEMEN, my first novel, will be published in the UK by Weidenfeld and Nicolson on the 27th January 2011. It is the first of a series of adventures set in the Regency era, telling the story of a group of young officers fighting in the Napoleonic Wars.

For much more information, check out the new Fiction pages on the website.

This is a new venture for me, and has been a lot of fun to write. There is a great freedom in making up a story, and this period has always fascinated me, almost as much as the Romans! However, the historian in me is still strong, and I have done my best to make all the historical detail in the story as accurate as possible.

To find the book on amazon, go to:

True Soldier Gentlemen

By the way, although I am looking forward to writing more novels - the sequel BEAT THE DRUMS SLOWLY is released in August 2011 - this does not mean that I am quitting writing ancient history. I am already working on the biography of Augustus, and looking forward to dealing with plenty of other aspects of the ancient world in the future.

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