Thursday, August 30, 2007

An old article returns

(warning, slight bragging ahead)

In fall 2005, the editor of Bookmarks Magazine asked me to write an article for them on a historical fiction-related topic. While following their usual format of short recommendations on a variety of titles, I selected 20 benchmark historical novels and described why they were important for the genre. Then I provided several "readalike" novels for the original 20. It was an excellent writing exercise, given that each book summary had to conform to a certain length (short!). When the article appeared, I was surprised and pleased to see it was published as the cover story for the Jan/Feb 2006 issue.

The article has, by far, the most gorgeous layout of anything I've ever written, though I'm afraid the link at the bottom of this post doesn't really convey this. Hard to do, in HTML format. But the cover of the issue gives some indication. I've since learned, via a letter to the editor in Bookmarks' Jul/Aug 2007 issue, that their "historical fiction" issue sold out almost immediately. I was happy to hear this, but felt bad at the same time. A woman desperately wanted to buy it but couldn't. If I'd had any spare copies left, I'd have offered to send her one.

In his response, the editor promised to put the article online as soon as possible. This afternoon, I got notified via Googlealerts that he'd done so.

Coming up with 20 books out of the thousands of historical novels ever published was great fun, and a challenge. I did my best to ensure that as many subgenres and time periods were represented as possible, to show the genre's diversity. Do you agree with my picks? What else would you have included?

Anyhow, please read on, if you so choose:
Masters of the Past: Twenty Classic Historical Novels and Their Legacy


  1. Congrats! I need to get reading some of these (though I at least have Katherine under my belt).

  2. Congrats! I've read Shogun, and 300, but some of the others I should pick up as well.

  3. Thanks! If I can still say that, a year and a half after publication :)

    300 isn't actually in the article (haven't read it either - any good?), though Pressfield's version of Thermopylae is.

  4. What a great article! I have a couple of them on my list of books to aquire in the future.

  5. Anonymous2:17 AM

    What a wonderful article! Some favorites (The Grand Sophy and the Lymond Chronicles in particular) and lots of new books to try.

  6. Excellent article! Many of my favourites are there, plus some new ideas to try out.

  7. Congrats, Sarah. Great article, and excellent choices, too. I have a first edition of "Sword in Sunset" that I bought at a second-hand shop that was closing down. I've never read it but I think I will now. Nice to see it's been reissued.

    Hard to say what I'd add: I think Edith Pargeter's "Heaven Tree Trilogy" is one of the finest classics set on the Welsh border, medieval times, though I understand Ellis Peters had to be there (!)

  8. Thank you!
    My copy of Sword at Sunset is an extremely ratty paperback. Unfortunately I don't think it has been reissued, at least not in the US.
    Yep, given Ellis and Edith, I had to choose Ellis - I was going more for subgenre there than time period. The Heaven Tree Trilogy's definitely worth reading. I've also enjoyed The Marriage of Meggotta.