Return of the Roman: Prospect Magazine (UK) has a nice, lengthy essay by Allan Massie, detailing why novelists are attracted to the ancient world - and explaining why historical novels interest readers in general:
"... The novelist does something that academic historians rarely succeed in doing. He reminds us, as Carlyle said of Walter Scott, that people now long dead were not abstractions, but living beings made of flesh and blood. The novelist may perform another service to historical understanding. By its nature the historical novel teaches, or reminds, the reader that events now in the past were once in the future."Also of interest to me, the deal highlighted on Publishers Marketplace's home page yesterday was Anne Perry's latest:
Victorian mystery writer Anne Perry's THE SHEEN ON THE SILK, her first stand-alone historical epic, set in the late days of the Byzantine empire, telling the story of a woman masquerading as a eunuch physician who is searching for the truth about her condemned brother -- and the path to heaven, to Susanna Porter for Ballantine, in a major deal, by Donald Maass of the Donald Maass Literary Agency (NA).A departure not only in terms of time period, but also that this is the first of hers in a while (besides her fantasies Tathea and Come Armageddon) not to form part of a lengthy series. (I hope to talk more about the "series" bit later.) The "woman disguised as a eunuch physician" plotline has been done before - by Gillian Bradshaw in The Beacon at Alexandria, set in the 4th century Roman Empire, and probably by others as well - but the later Byzantine Empire is one not often explored in fiction. And I love the title of this one. It's on my wish list.
Also announced in Publishers Marketplace yesterday, deals for Anne Easter Smith's next two historical novels, both set during the Wars of the Roses. I understand the first should be out in 2007, with Margaret, Duchess of Burgundy (sister of Edward IV) as its subject.