Holiday time nearly over – back to work!

Over the last few weeks, there’s been a radio silence here at the site – having finished Spartacus: The Gladiator, I’ve been waiting for the copy editor to get back to me, and having a bit of downtime with the family. Thanks for everyone who kept the comments coming in, and the conversations going on the boards during that time! This week, however, it’s time to get back to the keyboard. While I was off, I had the opportunity to read more than usual, and boy did I make use of it. In one week abroad, I read 6 books, which is exceptional for me. Some great reads too:

The Burning Blue by James Holland – an incredibly moving novel about the Battle of Britain.

The Tenth Gift by Jane Johnson – a really great time-slip novel set in the modern day and in 17th century England, retelling the true story of Barbary pirates who carried off hundreds of people from Cornwall.

Wounds of Honour by Anthony Riches – OK, OK, I had the book for 3 years and hadn’t read it. But when I did, I read it in about 30 hours. Damn good stuff!

Spartacus and the Slave Wars by Brent Shaw – the best type of textbook – short and to the point! Contains every word written about Spartacus that survives, and a great read. Also good info on the 2 slave rebellions on Sicily in the 60 years before Spartacus.

The Aviary Gate by Katie Hickman: I’ve not quite finished this one, but it’s really good too. It’s about the daughter of an English sea captain who is sold into slavery and ends up in the harem of the Sultan of Constantinople. Not quite as good as The Tenth Gift, but well recommended all the same.

Maybe it was only 5 books! *scratches head*

No, it wasn’t – The Thieves of Ostia by Caroline Lawrence. First in her Roman Mystery series, this is an intelligent and well-written kids’ book, which will also appeal to adults. It’s full of rich little details about Roman life, and does not shy away from the grim realities of life in ancient times.

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  1. John Salter
    Posted 23 August 2011 at 13:21 | Permalink

    Arrows of Fury and Fortress of Spears next then Ben? Great books and very visceral. I’ve just finished The Eagle and the Raven by Pauline Gedge and it’s a whopper at 694 pages but a fantastic book about the Roman Invasion of Britain. I came across it by accident but I’m glad I did. Published in 1978 it’s not a newby by any means but like Eagle in the Snow it’s well worth finding although some copies are expensive.

    On her website it says that originally she wanted to write about the revolt (war) by the Iceni but her research uncovered Caradoc and so the majority of the novel chronicles the Catuvellauni and what they went through.

  2. benkane
    Posted 24 August 2011 at 10:18 | Permalink

    @John – I’ve heard of that Gedge book before, but not noted the title down (probably sub-sconsciously because I knew I wouldn’t get around to it for an eternity!) Thanks for the heads up, I will do now. And I’ll be moving on to Tony’s second soon, yes. Maybe when I get Hawk Quest finished!

  3. John Salter
    Posted 24 August 2011 at 17:00 | Permalink

    This seems to be a good website site for all things Roman:

  4. benkane
    Posted 25 August 2011 at 11:48 | Permalink

    @John: it is indeed! Together with, it’s one of the best places on the web to go looking for info.

  5. Mike Reed
    Posted 25 August 2011 at 22:41 | Permalink

    Hi Ben – although I don’t have all that much to contribute to this discussion, I’m glad to join you and John Salter. I’ve only just logged on, but maybe I’ll have something later. Best wishes Mate, Mike.

  6. benkane
    Posted 26 August 2011 at 15:53 | Permalink

    @Mike: Welcome to the site, Mike, glad to have you here! Please post early and often!

  7. Mike Reed
    Posted 27 August 2011 at 09:34 | Permalink

    It’s always a pleasure Ben.

  8. Posted 28 August 2011 at 20:22 | Permalink

    Cheers for that bloody expensive tip John…do you know how much a signed first edition costs??

  9. Mike Reed
    Posted 5 September 2011 at 13:40 | Permalink

    I’ve taken a day off work today Ben cos I’m 49 today! I was going to go to Hadrian’s Wall to mark the occasion but the weather doesn’t look all that friendly, and could even make Tony Riches’ experience of ‘horizontal’ rain look like chicken-feed! Tony’ll be pleased to know I’ve just started “Fortress”, for I finished Road to Rome last night.
    A bit of trivia now – I learnt only recently that Manda Scott beat me here just by one day! I contacted Manda about that last Saturday, and I had a nice, cheery e-mail in quick reply. It’s made me want to buy her books now, and has even knocked Russ Whitfield’s Gladiatrix and Roma Victrix off the top of my target list. I’ll get all those eventually, but what a way to get to know someone, and of all the times of the year to find that out. Strange!

  10. benkane
    Posted 5 September 2011 at 15:07 | Permalink

    @Mike: Many happy returns! I hope you have a great day, and some decent weather on your visit to Hadrian’s Wall. The weather there can be pretty extreme all right. I worked in Northumberland for a year during the Foot and Mouth Disease outbreak in 2001/2, and experienced it in all weathers.

    Manda’s books are excellent – particularly her novels about Pantera, the spy. So too, however, are Russ’s. Still, you’ll get through them all in the end… 🙂

  11. Mike Reed
    Posted 5 September 2011 at 16:34 | Permalink

    Thanks for your wishes Ben. Oh – I got a knock on the door as well! Not the type Gemellus had but the one we’d all rather have. Adrian Goldsworthy’s book on The Complete Roman Army arrived after I ordered it from Amazon the other day. Yeah – I appreciate that Ben, thanks once again.

  12. annis
    Posted 6 September 2011 at 02:02 | Permalink

    Good to hear that you had a weell-deserved break, Ben 🙂

    @ John: I still have my original 1978 edition of Gedge’s “Eagle and the Raven”. It’s my favourite of her novels, along with “Child of the Morning”, a novel set in ancient Egypt. Unfortunately when I thought I might re-read E&TR not that long ago, i discovered that the print had shrunk over the years, dammit!

  13. benkane
    Posted 6 September 2011 at 09:27 | Permalink

    @Mike: Goldsworthy’s book is excellent – enjoy! Glad that your knock on the door wasn’t a Gemellus type incident!

  14. benkane
    Posted 6 September 2011 at 09:29 | Permalink

    @annis: thanks! Raring to get stuck into Spartacus book two. Incidentally, the publication date of book one has been moved forward to 5th Jan – a whole month earlier. Might please a few people…

  15. Bonovox
    Posted 7 September 2011 at 02:24 | Permalink

    Hey Ben, are you working on the follow up to Hannibal yet? Or will you be doing the Spartacus series first? Is it difficult to jump back and forth between series? Just wondering.

  16. benkane
    Posted 7 September 2011 at 09:56 | Permalink

    @Bonovox: Nope, not working on Hannibal Bk. Two (Legionary) yet. Doing last tiny bits of editing/author’s notes/glossary of Spartacus: The Gladiator before jumping into Spartacus: Rebellion. Yes, it is difficult to jump betwen series. It wouldn’t have been my natural choice, but the topic of Spartacus is starting to heat up again bigtime, and I didn’t want to miss rush hour! Returning to Hannibal in about 6-8 months after a break of more than a year will be tough. However, I will read the book in its entirety first, to get myself into the world again, and I think it will all come back then. I can’t wait to write about Cannae!

  17. Mike Reed
    Posted 7 September 2011 at 22:07 | Permalink

    Ben – I’m going to pester my boss at Northern Security for the weekend of 24/25th September, so I can attend the Middlewich Roman Festival, and take pictures of the re-enactments that will be going on as part of this art project I’ve just started. The Ermine Street Guard will be there, so I’m going to have to get that digital camera ready.

  18. benkane
    Posted 8 September 2011 at 10:09 | Permalink

    @Mike: sounds like a good idea! I hadn’t heard of that festival before. Is that the Middlewich near Chester, which itself has a huge Roman festival (this year 170 reenactors, including over a century of legionaries. They’re aiming for a cohort next year!).
    The ESG always put on a terrific show. You’ll get some great pictures there.

  19. Mike Reed
    Posted 8 September 2011 at 11:15 | Permalink

    That’s right Ben. Middlewich is just north of Crewe and a few miles west of the M6. Middlewich also has Roman origins. Only last night I was looking at the ESG website and what festivals they were appearing at, and they will be there that weekend. In fact, like the Chester festival, you’ll see footage of the one at Middlewich on U-Tube which even goes back as far as the last 10 years!
    I’ve come across the Goldsborough Book Festival which is to take place in London later this month. I’ve been in two minds about getting a ticket and going, but I don’t think it’ll fit into my curriculum. It was such a dilemma though, with the notion that you, Tony, Manda and Russ will all be there, and another disappointment after already missing Kelmarsh. I’ll concentrate my mind on this project though, and I’ll let you know how it goes on. I hope the book festival goes well and you all enjoy it.

  20. benkane
    Posted 12 September 2011 at 10:15 | Permalink

    @Mike: shame that you can’t make it to to the Goldsboro event. 47 authors and counting – including the great Bernard Cornwell!
    I hope that the Middlewich Festival was good!

  21. Mike Reed
    Posted 12 September 2011 at 19:45 | Permalink

    It’s not till Sept. 24th Ben – whereas such a lot goes on it’s difficult to tell whether it’s been or gone. I’m terrible at that. But you’ll never guess what’s happened – I e-mailed the ESG straight after admiring their website, commended them, then got a quick reply and they’re even roping me in! It began with my intention of just keeping a low profile and taking pictures of the action – I now find myself in the thick of it and they want to get me kitted! And all this was so spontaneous – it wasn’t forced. I’ve now got a weekend to look forward to, and I’ll thereafter have the chance to get some work going on that project before the winter sets in. I’ll give Chris Haines MBE a call as soon as, possibly when I’m at work tomorrow, and see what we can arrange. Don’t wory you’ll know more about it!

  22. benkane
    Posted 13 September 2011 at 10:35 | Permalink

    @Mike: look out, or they’ll have you holding the target for their pila practice! No, well done. It sounds like good fun.

  23. Mike Reed
    Posted 13 September 2011 at 22:04 | Permalink

    Oh well – at least no-one’s called on me to play the part of Crassus in a re-enactment at Carrhae!

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