Friday, July 30, 2010

Josephine Pollari Terranova

Josephine Pollari Terranova (April 21 1889 - July 16, 1981)was born in San Stefano, Sicily but immigrated to New York City with her widowed mother.  After years of sexual abuse at the hands of her aunt and uncle, she stabbed them to death and was brought to trial on double murder chargesl. 

But the trial itself took an absurd turn when she was put through a battery of tests to see if she was sane enough to stand trial for murder.  The experts shot electricity through her body, jabbed needles into her cheeks, hit her ankles with steel and dropped rocks on her toes.  She pleaded with them to let her return to the Tombs.  She was steadfast in declaring she was neither crazy nor afraid.  Many New Yorkers were horrified at what the young teenage girl was made to endure.

The jury acquitted her in what was widely regarded as an act of jury nullification. She later moved west and finally settled in the San Francisco Bay Area, allegedly with the financial assistance of William Randolph Hearst.

The case was a major and sensational news story at the time, leading to a widespread public debate on the proper role of psychiatric expertise in judicial proceedings.  It was largely forgotten until the appearance of a 2004 article in the Western New England Law Review by Brown University Professor Jacob M. Appel.

Here is what the original article in The New York Times on February 24th, 1096 reported right after the crime took place:



Thursday, July 29, 2010

Love on a Dime by Cara Lynn James

In 1899 Rhoe Island, Lillian Westbrook, has a secret that will scandalize society if found out – she writes dime novels under the nom de plume of Fannie Cole. But, she doesn't write just any dime novels. Hers are extremely popular for their riveting plots and morally inspiring undertones. The books are top-sellers and she earns good money, not only for publishing house, but for herself which she donates to a women's charity.

Just as she is about to announce her engagement to the son of a wealthy tycoon, Jackson Grail, her brother's friend and former love, arrives to spend the summer with her family in Newport, Rhode Island. Lillian's world is thrown into turmoil because she learns he is the new owner of the publishing house that publishes her books and that he is still in love with her. Lillian walks a fine line in trying to keep him from learning the identity of his most lucrative author. His search for the real Fannie Cole intensifies when Lillian falls into a blackmail scheme initiated by the owner of the gossip magazine/newspaper Talk of the Town.

Love on a Dime is an easy-going, tender Christian romance novel set in the gilded age of America's high society. At the heart of the story is an endearing heroine who with a quiet strength and high moral values who finds herself trapped between being a dutiful daughter and maintaining her family's social and financial status or and indulging her true passions and finding true love.

Love on a Dime is Cara Lynn James' debut novel. Although Love on a Dime is considered a Christian novel, it is very light in this aspect and will appeal to a greater audience outside of Christian readers. With its beautiful cover and simple, uncomplicated prose, this novel makes for an easy summer read.


Monday, July 26, 2010

Another Way to Heaven by David Bye

Set in Italy during the High Renaissance, the story opens with Isabella di Francavilla, Marchesa of Termoli, who is condemned to live out her days in a convent cell where she must confess her sins by order of a Papal Inquisition. And so begins her journal and the story of her life.

The unattractive Isabella is forced to marry a handsome young man named Alphonso, the handsome and dashing son of a wealthy Marchese. It is a political marriage arranged to unite their two powerful families. Although Isabella has loved Alphonso from childhood, her love is unrequited. Alphonso finds her unattractive and barely tolerates her. He regularly abandons her for years at a time to engage in war and womanizing.

Isabella yearns for a child, and their families wait impatiently for an heir, but she remains barren. Alone and pining for the husband she loves, Isabella befriends a woman named Tullia who acts as her governess for a short time. Unbeknownst to Isabella, Tullia is a former runaway wife turned prostitute and fortune teller. Yet she imparts to Isabella her love of Dante and Petrarch and her dream of a better life for women; one without the restrictions and loss of freedom. Through Tullia, Isabella learns of the idyllic world of Sappho's Lesbos. When Tullia moves away, she continues to correspond with Isabella. Her letters ignite a longing for freedom and love within Isabella, enhancing her unhappiness.

Isabella tries to be a dutiful wife, but all her attempts to produce a child come to nothing. Soon, she learns of her husband's numerous affairs and betrayals. Slowly, they drift apart and begin to lead separate lives.

Alfonso is a valiant warrior known for his military prowess, surviving numerous battles including the ones at Ravenna and Marignano. He is therefore promoted in rank and gains respect and entry into the opulent courts of Ferrara and Mantua, where he is able to indulge himself into more intricate sexual affairs.

After years of absence, weary of waiting for Alphonso, Isabella secretly departs to spend some time with Tullia who is an independent woman running a fortune-telling salon and a girls' school in Milan. From Tullia, Isabella learns the art of the Tarot. Their affection or each other soon turns physical, and shortly thereafter, becomes bitter and Isabella returns home. But it is not a joyful homecoming. Alphonso is eager to repudiate her so he can marry his mistress whom he has impregnated, but Isabella refuses. Alphonso forewarns he will get his way. Soon, members of the Inquisition arrive to question Isabella about her involvement with Tullia, claiming knowledge of her sins. Isabella finds herself trapped with no alternative but to enter a convent.

This is a magnificent, epic story of a noblewoman's life during the height of the Italian Renaissance. Beautiful prose, colourful descriptions, and plenty of historical detail breathe life into this poignant story of one woman's search for love and acceptance. Author David Bye spent a great deal of time in Italy. He gained his inspiration from this story after visiting the Island of Ischia in the Bay of Naples where there exists a rocky islet with the remnants of an ancient castle, a cathedral, a crypt and a convent remain to this day.

The main character of Isabella is portrayed through deep introspection and first person narrative, which gives the story power and impact. The point of view of Alphonso is related through third person narrative and helps maintain continuity while allowing the reader insight into his perspective. Clearly, the author has done years of research and has a strong understanding of this historical period including its art, literature, and political turmoils.

As an avid reader of Italian historical fiction, this novels stands with the best. I enjoyed reading every page and has all the qualities needed to catapult it into fame – passion, tragedy, and forbidden love. This is a terrific book filled with enduring characters, outstanding prose, breathtaking descriptions, and an intriguingly poignant plot. A true pleasure in every way.


Thursday, July 22, 2010

Giveaway Scout

Recently, I learned about Giveaway Scout - a free service that helps promote prize giveaways on various blogs.

What a wonderful way to publicize our giveaways on this blog.

There's a terrific widget which I've added to our sidebar, so if you're looking for a freebie, check the widget for the latest offerings.

May you all have good luck and win!

Giveaway Scout

Recently, I learned about Giveaway Scout - a free service that helps promote prize giveaways on various blogs.

What a wonderful way to publicize our giveaways on this blog. 

There's a terrific widget which I've added to our sidebar, so if you're looking for a freebie, check the widget for the latest offerings. 

May you all have good luck and win!

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

What is Left the Daughter by Howard Norman

What is Left the Daughter
By Howard Norman
Reviewed by L. Gregory Graham

Why do some families appear to attract an unusual share of bad luck and woe while others sail through life piling achievement upon achievement? The author tries to answer that question in the rocky wind swept village of Middle Economy in Nova Scotia during World War II when German Uboats patrol the waters of Eastern Canada sinking what boats they can.

What is Left the Daughter is a story of a boy marked for life by the suicides of his parents on the same day. Both jump to their deaths from separate bridges in Halifax, Canada. The story is the interplay between the heart and the mind when disaster is heaped upon disaster in the course of one young life.

Does one recover from something like that? In this case, the answer is no. His life is colored by the sepia tones of that tragedy. Wyatt Hillyer, the protagonist of the story, moves to the village of Middle Economy to live with his aunt and uncle. It is a village where the women are emotionally stronger and saner than the men. It is also a village where anyone who leaves to improve their lot in life fails. He starts a new life, makes friends, falls in love with Tilda, the adopted daughter of his aunt and uncle, is spurned, and foolishly helps his uncle dispose of the body of his murdered brother-in-law.

When he returns to Middle Economy after prison, he fathers a child named Marlais by Tilda. He loves them dearly, but Tilda and Marlais move to Denmark to live with the parents of her murdered husband.

The book takes the form of a long letter to Marlais who has decided to return to Canada now that her mother has died. Wyatt tries to explain himself, and why he has not tried to visit or even contact her for twenty years.

Self-reflection is not a strong point in Wyatt. He catalogs his long days working as a detritus collector in Halifax Harbor. He accepts his lot in life. He lives in transient hotels, goes to movies, and lives a small careful life devoid of self-improvement or ambition. Wyatt loves his daughter, but never makes any attempt to see her or contact her.

We are left with the question why? Wyatt tells us that he thinks the ghosts of his parents are with him always. They whisper in the static on the radio. Does he fear that his bad decisions will imprint on Marlais if he contacts her the way his parents’ decisions imprinted on him? Or is he merely content with the small rut of a life he has carved for himself in the rocky damp soil of Nova Scotia? Has he judged himself in some cosmic balance, and deemed that this is the only life he deserves? We never know for sure.

This book asks some tough questions, and then supplies only incomplete answers. Is Wyatt a hero in the sense that he refuses to pass on the legacy of his parents and his own bad decisions? Or is he so self absorbed in penance for his own misdeeds that he cannot reach out to his own daughter? And finally, why does he feel it necessary to contact her now that she has decided to return to Canada? Does he wish to tell his side of the story now that Tilda can no longer filter it, or before she hears it from the folks of Middle Economy?

In the end, what is left to Marlais? Her legacy appears to be a very long letter and a very timid father.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

On Falcon's Wings by Lisa Yarde

In 11th century England, Avicia is a daring young Flemish woman under the guardianship of her strict uncle. She is in love with Edric of Newington, the son of a minor Saxon thane, and to impress him, she shows him how well she can fly a falcon. Unfortunately, the falcon belongs to her mistress, the daughter of a Saxon count, and while in flight, the majestic bird tragically dies. Edric is forced to watch helplessly as Audra is brutally whipped for her indiscretion. Almost immediately, their families force Audra and Edric apart - Edric is made to return to England to marry Cynwise of Hastingleigh and Audra is married off to Philippe de Montfort, a Norman knight.

No romance is complete without a loathsome villain, and in this tale, Odo, Bishop de Bayeux is cast in this most dastardly role. Odo, the brother of a Norman duke, is strongly attracted to Avicia, but Avicia, repulsed by his sinister abhorrent nature, spurns him. Her rejection embitters him and unleashes a powerful urge for vengeance against her. He lurks in the background, waiting for any excuse to discredit her.

Audra focuses on making a life with her new husband, while Edric makes the most of his marriage to Cynwise. Yet, destiny conspires to intervene and throughout the story, their paths cross – a constant reminder of their great love for each other.

Rich with realistic characters, this well-researched medieval romance abounds with emotion. A multi-faceted story, it swept me into the unrest that led to the Norman Conquest between England and France, and into the lives of an unforgettable heroine and honorable, compelling hero.

Lisa Yarde has a gracious, lyrical style of writing that makes reading this novel a pleasurable, carefree experience. Her comprehensive research into medieval falcony enriched the story, bringing good understanding to this ancient sport. I found the tale engrossing and full of emotion. The turbulence and historical details of the era were accurately depicted, clear evidence that the author has a strong understanding of the period. Who doesn't love a story about love, betrayal, and deceit set against the backdrop of impending war? Lisa Yarde is a new upcoming author who has made her grand entrance with this passionate tale of honor, duty, and the reward of true love.

Friday, July 16, 2010

The Loney Hearts Killers


Martha Beck and Raymond Fernandez

Raymond Fernandez was born on December 17, 1914 in Hawaii to Spanish parents. Shortly thereafter, they moved to Connecticut. As an adult, he moved to Spain, married, and had four children, all of whom he abandoned later on in life.

After serving in British Intelligence during World War II, Fernandez decided to seek work.  Shortly after boarding a ship bound for America, a steel hatch fell on top of him, fracturing his skull, and injuring his frontal lobe.  The damage left by this injury may well have affected his social and sexual behavior.

Upon his release from a hospital, Fernandez stole some clothing, and was imprisoned for a year, during which time his cellmate taught him voodoo and black magic. He later claimed black magic gave him irresistible power and charm over women.

After having served his sentence, Fernandez moved to New York City and began answering personal ads by lonely women. He would wine and dine them, then steal their money and possessions. Most were too embarrassed to report the crimes. In one case, he traveled with a woman to Spain, where he visited his wife and introduced the two women. His female traveling companion then died under suspicious circumstances. He then took possession of her property with a forged will.

In 1947, he answered a personal ad placed by Martha Beck.

Martha Beck was born Martha Jule Seabrook on May 6, 1920 in Milton, Florida.  Due to a glandular problem, she was overweight and went through puberty prematurely. At her trial, she claimed to have been sexually assaulted by her brother. When she told her mother about what happened, her mother beat her saying she was responsible.
After she finished school, she studied nursing, but had trouble finding a job due to her weight.  She initially became an undertaker's assistant and prepared female bodies for burial. She quit her job and moved to California where she worked in an Army hospital as a nurse.  She engaged in sexually promiscuous behaviour, and eventually became pregnant. She tried to convince the father to marry her but he refused. Single and pregnant, she returned to Florida.

She carried out an elaborate charade in which she claimed that the father was a serviceman she married, later claiming that he had been killed in the Pacific Campaign.  The town mourned her loss and the story was published in the local newspaper.  Shortly after her daughter was born, she became pregnant again by a Pensacola bus driver named Alfred Beck. They married quickly and divorced six months thereafter, and she gave birth to a son.

Unemployed and the single mother of two young children, Beck escaped into a fantasy world, buying romance magazines and novels, and seeing romantic movies.  In 1946, she found employment at the Pensacola Hospital for Children. She placed a Lonely Hearts ad in 1947, which Raymond Fernandez then answered.

Fernandez visited Beck and stayed for a short time, and she told everyone that they were to be married.  He returned to New York while she made preparations in Milton, Florida, where she lived. Abruptly, she was fired from her job, likely because of rumors about her and Fernandez.  She then packed up and arrived on his doorstep in New York.  Fernandez enjoyed the way she catered to his every whim, and he confessed his criminal enterprises.  Beck quickly became a willing participant, and sent her children to the Salvation Army. She posed as Fernandez' sister, giving him an air of respectability.  Their victims often stayed with them, or with her. She was extremely jealous and would go to great lengths to make sure he and his "intended" never consummated their relationship. When he did have sex with a woman, both were subjected to Beck's violent temper.


In 1949, the pair committed the three murders of which they would later be convicted. Janet Fay, 66, became engaged to Fernandez and went to stay at his Long Island apartment. When Beck saw her and Fernandez in bed together, she smashed Fay's head in with a hammer in a murderous rage, and then Fernandez strangled her. Fay's family became suspicious, and the couple moved on to a new victim.

They traveled to Byron Center Road in Wyoming Township, Michigan, a suburb of Grand Rapids, to meet Delphine Downing, a young widow with a two-year-old daughter. While they stayed with Downing, she became agitated, and Fernandez gave her sleeping pills. Enraged by Downing's crying daughter, Beck strangled her, though not killing her. Fernandez thought Downing would become suspicious if she saw her bruised daughter, so he shot the unconscious woman. The couple then stayed for several days in Downing's house. Again enraged by the daughter's crying, Beck drowned her in a basin of water. They buried the bodies in the basement, but suspicious neighbors reported their disappearance, and police arrived at their door on February 28, 1949.

Fernandez quickly confessed, with the understanding that they would not be extradited to New York; Michigan had no death penalty, but New York did. They were extradited, however. They vehemently denied 17 murders that were attributed to them, and Fernandez tried to retract his confession, saying he only did it to protect Beck.

Their trial was sensationalized, with lurid tales of sexual perversity. Beck was so upset about the media's comments about her appearance that she wrote letters to the editor protesting.

Fernandez and Beck were convicted of the three murders and sentenced to death. On March 8, 1951, both were executed by electric chair.

Despite their tumultuous arguments and relationship problems, they often professed their love to each other, as demonstrated by their official last words:

"I wanna shout it out; I love Martha! What do the public know about love?"Raymond Fernandez

"My story is a love story. But only those tortured by love can know what I mean [...] Imprisonment in the Death House has only strengthened my feeling for Raymond...."
Martha Beck

The Dark Rose by Cynthia Harrod Eagles

Cynthia Harrod-Eagles ‘Dynasty’ series was first published in 1980, and book number 35 is now available. Sourcebooks has gone back to the beginning and reprinted the first books and being a CHE fan, I jumped at the chance to re-read an old favourite.

The Dark Rose is the story of French Paul, Eleanor Morland’s great grandson and the founders of the dynasty. Paul runs the Morland properties, but struggles with jealousy of his half-siblings and dislike of his wife. King Henry VIII has finally become tired of his wife, Catherine of Aragon and has fallen in love with Anne Boleyn.

Paul’s niece, Nanette Moreland, becomes lady in waiting to the King’s favourite, and is beside her as a beloved intimate when she becomes his ill-fated queen.

Nanette is also struggling with the fact she is in love with her uncle Paul and feels to be at court will diminish her feelings for a relationship frowned on by the church.

However the church is changing, and the country’s sense of right and wrong divides families, among them Paul’s. His son, Amyas, a harder taskmaster than Paul, clings to the ‘Old Religion’ and is prepared to make his feelings known in a rebellion against the dissolution of the monasteries that threatens to bring the King’s wrath down on Moreland Place.

Nanette’s fate, so closely tied in with Anne Boleyn’s, is destined to change when her mistress is executed. She returns to Moreland Place and marries Paul, a union Amyas abhors. Nanette is safe under Paul’s protection, but then his long lost son returns. Adrian is the son of the beautiful Ursula who died of the sweating sickness that took Paul’s own wife and Nanette’s parents and brothers. Although he loved Adrian Paul rejected him out of duty for his legitimate son, an act Adrian can never forgive.

Adrian begs his father to let him come home, but when he is rejected again, this proves a tragic decision for Paul, and the outcome leaves Nanette at the mercy of the new master of Moreland Place.

CHE’s portrayal of Anne Boleyn is masterful, and one I always compare with other interpretations. She is portrayed as coquette, child, lover and schemer all in one, and goes to her death as an innocent victim, mourned by few but her beloved Nanette.

Nanette herself is a little too perfect, whose exposure to the betrayal, lies and murders at the Tudor Court, leaves her as innocent as the day she arrived and with apparently no ill feelings towards the King, who murdered her beloved mistress. The only person she appears to resent is the ‘honey scorpion’ Jane Seymour.

The style of writing is different to historical fiction being published today, maybe a little romanticised, less gritty and true to life. However, the author’s research cannot be faulted in its detail and subsequent effect on the Morlands, whom CHE is not afraid to kill off in multiple numbers if it suits the plot. Together with her great characterisation, this fast moving story will keep you reading to the end.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

The Ladys Slipper by Deborah Swift

Deborah Swift's debut novel, published by the Macmillan New Writers Scheme aimed to publish new authors, is set in Westmoreland in 1660. King Charles II has returned to his throne, but strong religious differences threaten the fragile peace and the growing Quaker movement especially is viewed with hatred and suspicion.

Alice Ibbetson, a young wife mourning the loss of a beloved younger sister, is passionate about painting wild flowers. When Richard Wheeler, a local Quaker who was once a member of Cromwell’s New Model Army shows her a rare orchid, the Lady’s Slipper, growing in his wood, Alice is so obsessed with preserving and cultivating the flower she tries to convince Wheeler to give it to her.

When the Quaker insists the flower must grow where God intended, Alice creeps out of her house one night and steals it.

Wheeler comes looking, and Alice senses he knows what she has done, but he has no proof. However others are interested in the flower - the local cunning woman, Margaret Poulter wants to use its medicinal powers, and the unpredictable Geoffrey Fisk, Alice's patron, sees it as a way to cure his debilitating skin complaint and revive his fortunes.

Alice quickly learns that her action has set in motion a chain of events that have little to do with posterity and more about greed, corruption and betrayal. Alice’s actions make her vulnerable to those who would happily use her for their own ends, so her well-intended crime becomes her downfall, and poor Alice goes through torment due to her guilty secret.

The fact Alice confided her ‘crime’ to the odious Geoffrey Fisk seemed a strange choice bearing in mind the man’s character and his behaviour when he sees the flower. Her intentions are pure, well sort of, she did steal it after all, but his are entirely self-interest.

It left me wondering why a simple girl like Alice would associate with such an awful man, let alone put herself in his power. Even Alice’s maid, Ella, has nothing but contempt for both her employers and uses knowledge of her mistress’ deceit against her.

At first, I imagined Richard Wheeler to be the villain of the piece, with his uncompromising attitude, but he proves to be the hero of the story. Tall, broad and with penetrating dark eyes and hair, his character proves the most honourable and brave amongst a society where the rich and influencial are still allowed to run roughshod over the less fortunate.

As I became immersed in Ms Swift's prose, the story became less about a flower, and more about how obsession can ruin lives and make people lose perspective. The persecuton of Quakers is brought out vividly, and there is some surprising eroticism in the latter chapters which I didn’t expect and which, for me, brought nothing to this already atmospheric story.

Deborah Swift’s writing style, combined with her knowledge of mid 17th Century life is masterful in her portrayal of a crueller and less tolerant time, where suspicion is enough to condemn the innocent and women were regarded as the cradle of all evils. Alice’s spell in gaol was particularly chilling and I was glad to finish that chapter.

If you enjoy reading about life and attitudes of the 17th century, Ms Swift's sequel, using some of the characters in her first book is something to look forward to.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Casa Braccio by F. Marion Crawford - A Scandalous Book

One of my all time favourite classic novels is Casa Braccio by F. Marion Crawford.  This book has everything to make it an ultimate read and a very, very scandalous book.  Forbidden love, unrequited love, passion, murder, vengeance, dark secrets, and plenty of emotion.  The setting takes place in Rome and a nearby village and the characters are ones you will never forget.

I've lovingly recreated this classic novel and have included plenty of beautiful art and graphics to keep you interested and enjoying the book from start to finish.

This rendition includes the complete story - both Volume 1 and Volume 2!

Click Casa Braccio to download a free copy of this sinfully good Scandalous Book!

Monday, July 12, 2010

The Waste Land by Simon Acland




“The abbey awed me; it was in itself the largest town I had seen, ringed by a thick wall broken by occasional narrow windows, with the houses of the village scattered around outside. By the wall loomed the skeleton of a building greater than I had dreamed possible, clad in wooden scaffolding. The ribbed bones of huge arches made me think of the great fish which had swallowed up holy Jonah. The entrance was guarded by a solid gatehouse. It squatted on the walls with menace. I realised that it hunched there as much to close the inhabitants in as to keep strangers out. Above the gates was carved the Clunaic coat of arms – two large keys crossed over a single heavenwards pointing sword. It pictured to me an uncompromising message: ‘here forever you will be locked away from your childhood knightly ambition.’
– Hugh de Verdon, The Waste Land

In The Waste Land by Simon Acland, the Master of a nearly bankrupt college needs to improve the institution’s finances. Enter a former student, now a Best-Selling Author and the Research Assistant with a timely solution: the novelization of an ancient manuscript. The turbulent life of Hugh de Verdon, a would-be knight errant unfolds on this timeworn parchment, which seems to predate the unfinished work of ChrĂ©tien de Troyes, on Perceval and the grail. Each of the college’s administrators has a keen interest in the manuscript, much to the Best-Selling Author’s dismay. When their concerns conflict, it soon becomes clear that one person among them is less keen on the adaptation of Hugh’s fascinating story, and perhaps is willing to kill his academic rivals to prevent its publication.

As Mr. Acland takes the reader from the contemporary world of the college to the high Middle Ages, likewise Hugh moves between the secular and spiritual spheres of the world, often questioning the ideals and realities of both arenas. Orphaned and disinherited in his childhood, he enters the Benedictine abbey at Cluny, seemingly consigned to a monkish life forever. Yet his natural curiosity soon takes him beyond the abbey walls, as Pope Urban II announces the holy Crusade to retake Jerusalem and the surrounding cities from the Muslims. Now in the service of Duke Godfrey de Bouillon, Hugh journeys on his own quest to become a knight, resolve the doubts surrounding his faith, and find the woman he loves. In a strange encounter with a mysterious Old Man of the Mountains, Hugh undergoes a life-altering change and learns some of the answers he is seeking lie in his past.

Whether in the depiction of Hugh’s loneliness at Cluny, or the gory battle scenes of the First Crusade, Mr. Acland excels at showing Hugh’s development. Each scene and location is remarkably detailed, and the historical figures are equally fascinating. In particular, I enjoyed the characterization on Hugh’s overlord Godfrey, as a lusty, battle-hardened leader; often shown in contrast to his conniving brother Baldwin de Boulogne, who usually serves to frustrate Godfrey’s plans. Hugh’s first-person narration ensures that the reader experiences the full range of the character’s emotions and thoughts, and a deeply personal view of his perspective on the Crusade. I won’t spoil the ending, but it entirely fits the theme of a grail romance. Hugh’s journey continues in the sequel, The Flowers of Evil, due in 2011.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Winner of The Swords of Faith


Congratulations Pricilla! You're the winner of The Swords of Faith by Richard Warren Field!

Please email us at: historicalnovelreview.blogspot.com with your mailing address.

Thank you to everyone who visited and left their comments. Richard enjoyed reading them all.

I Came Upstairs by MC Halliday

In Victorian England, Mabel Gray (Mae) is a young girl suffering the dregs of utter poverty in a London slum. When her life turns bleak, a man by the name of Robert Vickers comes to her rescue. In Mabel, he sees the promise of a great beauty. He takes her innocence then teaches her the art of seduction. After showering her with fine clothes and tutoring her to become more refined, he sets her to work as a courtesan and duly reaps the rewards.

But Mabel is quick-witted and when one of her customers presents her with fine jewellery, she comes to the realization she could earn her own way in life. She escapes Vickers's clutches and establishes herself as a dancer. Fame comes easy and before long, Mabel becomes a woman of independence means with a well-established following of men and a manor house with loyal servants of her own.

MC Halliday resurrects the art of Victorian erotica in this novel of a young courtesan in 19th century England. Although the erotica is plentiful throughout, it is balanced with an abundance of interesting plot twists and nefarious characters who either wish to exploit her, or come to her rescue. And this makes an interesting story from start to finish.

Within the pages of this novel, you will find an imperfect heroine who drinks too much, lusts, and makes numerous serious mistakes. But it is her human failures and mistakes that drew my interest. After all, who among us is perfect? And although I often disagreed with some of the actions of the heroine, I found myself understanding and sometimes empathizing. And it is this which creates a compelling character, not soon forgotten.

I very much enjoyed the author's easy style of writing. The story is a little bit 'rag to riches' and a little bit "My Fair Lady' sprinkled with some sexually charged scenes. Tastefully written, this novel makes for a charming introduction to Victorian erotica.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Winner Announcement: Clan by David P. Elliott

Andie, you've won a signed copy of Clan by David Elliot! Thanks for leaving a comment on the blog. Please contact Lisa with your full name and mailing address to receive your copy.

The Murder of Helen Jewett

Helen Jewett
(October 18, 1813 – April 10, 1836)
Prostitute
Murder Victim

Helen Jewett's real name was Dorcas Doyen and she was born in Temple, Maine to a working class family.  Her father was an alcoholic and her mother died when Jewett was young.

When she was 12 years old, Helen found work as a maidservant in the home of Chief Justice Nathan Weston of the Maine Supreme Judicial Court.

As the years passed, Helen grew into a true beauty.  AT 17, she was ruthlessly seduced by an unscrupulous bank cashier.  

At 18, she changed her name to Helen Jewett and moved to New York City.  It was not long before her great beauty attracted notice.  She found work in a bordello and earned a very comfortable living as high class courtesan .  One day, while she was accosted by a ruffian outside a theatre, a man by the name of Richard Robinson, also known as Frank Rivers, came to her rescue.  A bond developed and Robinson soon became a regular patron.

.  

Richard P. Robinson
A profile made in 1848 by the National Police Gazette.
Courtesy of the American Antiquarian Society.

But it was a rocky relationship and the couple broke up.  Some said that it was because Helen learned that Robinson was planning to marry another woman, and she threatened him.  Others said it was caused by the fact that Robinson had been embezzling money to lavish on Jewett, and he became worried that Jewett would expose him. 

On an April night in 1836, another woman in the brothel heard a loud noise followed by a moan.  She peered out into the hallway and saw a tall man hurrying away.  When the Madame of the brothel looked into Helen Jewett's room, she discovered a small fire and Helen who lay dead in a pool of blood from a arge wound in her head.  She was struck three times in the head.


Her killer fled from the house by a back door and climbed over a whitewashed fence to escape.  The women of the brothel named Robinson as their primary suspect. 

Police found him in his rented room, in bed with whitewash stains on his pants and they charged him with Helen's murder. 

Robinson was charged with the murder of Helen Jewett.  

The Coroner's Report revealed the murder happened sometime after midnight.  Helen was struck on the head three times with a hatchet.  Because there were no signs of struggle, the blows were unexected.  After killing her, the murderer hen set fire to Jewett's bed.  When her body was discovered, the room was full of smoke and Helen's body was charred on one side.  

Robinson denied killing Jewett and didn't display any emotion.  Based on witness testimony and the recovery of a cloak that resembled Robinson's, Robinson was indicted. 

On June 2, 1836, Robinson's trial for murder began. The media sensationalized it.  Because most of the witnesses were prostitutes, the judge ordered the jury to disregard their testimony.  The rest of the evidence was all circumstantial.  As a result, the jury returned a verdict of not guilty. 

Jewett's murder excited the press and the public, with strong supporters for Jewett as well as Robinson. 

Long after the trial, some of Robinson's personal letters surface.  They disputed some of the claims he made in court and showed that he was more than capable of sexual, deviant behavior.  

Public opinion turned on him as his guilt became clear.  To escape the notariety, he fled to Texas where lived quietly until he died of a fever, murmurring Helen's name.   

 

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Pearl in the Sand by Tessa Afshar

In Jericho, in the time of Moses, Rahab is a happy young girl barely entered into womanhood. When her family falls into desperation, her father enters her into prostitution to feed their starving family. Rahab, ever dutiful, faces her fate with courage. She makes the most out of her situation, controlling the number and status of men who seek her out. Soon she is a woman of independent means and purchases a small inn built against the walls of Jericho to conduct her business.

One day, she saves two Israelite spies from certain death. From them she learns about God and that the Israelites will soon attack Jericho. To spare her and her family, they promise not to attack the inn if they hang a red ribbon above their door. The Israelite spies are true to their word. The Israelites slaughter the entire population of Jericho except for Rahab and her family. With no community, the family seek acceptance within the Israelites.

Amongst the Israelites, Salmone is a strong military leader of the tribe of Judah. Angered that the two spies he sent made a deal with a prostitute, and certain they will bring trouble, he is wary about their acceptance into their community. But Rahab's undying love and dedication to God slowly endears her to him and soon, he knows without doubt that he loves her, but if he wants to marry her and make her his, Salmone must learn to accept her past.

The Pearl in the Sand is not only a biblical story, but a love story about two people who must overcome much and place their faith in God and each other. The author excelled at bringing this period of history to life through research of facts, descriptions, and the day to day items. It gave the story a thread of believability that ran throughout the story. It is an easy, relaxed read, which meanders at a gentle pace. This is a Christian novel with very strong elements of religion throughout, more than is usually found in Christian historical fiction. The love story is compelling, as are the historical details. And this made for a good summer read.



The Burning Land by Bernard Cornwell


Bernard Cornwell delivers another action-packed treasure in The Burning Land, fifth installment in his paragon Saxon Tales, set in 9th century Britain. Once again, Uhtred of Bebbanburg rises to his reputation as King Alfred’s formidable warlord and snatches another great victory from the Danes, this time at Farnham. While his family grows and Gisela provides comforting familiarity, two other women – Aethelflaed, the fair daughter of Alfred, and raven-haired Skade, a cruel and enchanting Danish sorceress – tug Uhtred’s fate in opposing directions. At a time when it seems he is never more more highly valued by Alfred, an insult from a proclaimed saint incites an act of sacrilege and Uhtred becomes an outlaw on the run, seeking the fortune that will propel him back to power and seal his fate as Lord of Bebbenburg.

From the blood-soaked battlefields of Saxon versus Dane, where one can practically hear the guttural battlecries and clang of weapons, to the cold, spume-capped North Sea as Uhtred voyages on Seolferwulf, The Burning Land is perhaps the best so far of the series. Not only does Cornwell give us a superbly paced tale of adventure, impossible odds, unlikely trysts and a revolving appearance of old allies and sworn enemies, but here we begin to glimpse an Uhtred who is not only wiser and more far-thinking, but willing to risk seizing vengeance for the sake of a promise.

I’ve been a Cornwell fan since picking up one of the Grail Quest series in Scotland a decade ago. With an author as prolific as Cornwell, one might expect his stories to become more formulaic and his characters flatter with each successive product, but in my opinion the opposite is true here: Cornwell somehow manages to get better with every story. This is one of those rare books I could read again. If you like historicals rife with battle scenes, perilous tales of adventure and an antihero who is, at the core, loyal and recklessly courageous, then don’t miss The Burning Land.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Author Interview - Richard Warren Field

1. Welcome, I’m so glad to have this opportunity to chat with you. Can you share with my readers the essence of the story you’ve penned?

Thanks very much for inviting me onto your blog to discuss The Swords of Faith. The essence of the story? Richard the Lionheart and Saladin, two iconic warrior-rulers from the Middle Ages, clash over which religion will rule Jerusalem. The true story is so compelling that I stay with the history, taking some scenes straight from the chronicles. With two fictional characters, a Christian knight and a Muslim trader, I explore the idea of whether good people of different faiths can thrive during times of polarizing conflict. And there is a little romance in the tale—the historically based story of Richard the Lionheart choosing between two potential queens and marrying his choice on the way to battle Saladin, and the fictional story of a mysterious young woman of mixed blood whose story blends with the stories of the knight and the trader.

2. You’ve chosen a very interesting title. What inspired the title? What inspired the book?

The title was originally Richard and Saladin. Not as flashy—accurate, descriptive, but without much energy—kind of dull! The Swords of Faith seems to relay, in four words, how this story refers to a bloody fight over religion; the title has an internal dissonance to it, as we should expect when thinking about a “bloody fight over religion.”

What inspired me to write the book? I discuss this at length at my blog (http://creativeeccentric.wordpress.com), June 16th post—Nine-Eleven inspired me to pursue this story, a story that had been in the back of my mind for a long time, but that became compelling for me after the attack on my homeland by Muslim fanatics.

3. What makes this book special to you?

The book is special to me because of the way these two men resolve this conflict. I hesitate to say too much, not wanting to give away the story. But your readers who know the history will understand what I mean. Because of the way the real story resolved, I avoided the temptation to add dramatic flourishes. It would have been tempting to have Richard and Saladin meet at the end to seal the resolution. But history is more nuanced. And to me, the profound lesson is that when these men were the most fanatic about their religions, they were the least successful in reaching their personal goals.

4. What makes this a book that people MUST read and WHY?

The “Crusades” are in the news a lot, sometimes used as propoganda by Muslim fanatics. (I discuss how current Western activities in the Middle East are not the Crusades in my essay, “No, It’s Not The Crusades!”— http://www.richardwarrenfield.com/essaycrusades.htm.) The Swords of Faith is offered as an entertaining, true-to-history portrayal of the “Third Crusade,” the highest profile crusade for those who have a passing familiarity with the subject.

5. What sparks your creativity? Any tips to help others spark their own creativity?

A passionate rush of something to say. From there, it’s a matter of filling it out. I am also a musician, and the process works the same for pieces of music or songs. The rush of something to say then gives way to fleshing it out. The best creative offerings from me come in this way. Suggestions to others? Keep looking at the world, thinking, searching for fresh angles. Then let the “passionate rush” come.

6. What has been the biggest stumbling block in your writing? Can you share some tips to help others get past similar problems?
Stumbling block—taking the time, having the patience, to develop craft. If a writer is only writing for himself (herself), then learning craft is less important. But when a writer steps into the arena, there are expectations among professionals with respect to craft. A good example is point-of-view. Literature from fifty to a hundred years ago was not so concerned with precise control of point-of-view. But today’s gatekeepers—publishers, agents, editors—expect to read good control of point-of-view, and if they don’t, they assume they are reading the work of an amateur, and onto the reject pile that manuscript goes. So craft is important to get into the arena; writers should absorb the basic conventions through books on the subject, critique groups/contacts with other writers, and by reading what’s out there in the arena.

7. Tell me about the most unusual things you have done to promote your book?

My fact-check article for the movie “Kingdom of Heaven” (http://www.richardwarrenfield.com/essay029.htm) brought me thank-you(s) from all over the world, and interest in The Swords of Faith well before it was scheduled for publication. I am offering similar information on the movie “Robin Hood”—a review and synopsis at my website (http://www.richardwarrenfield.com/essayrobinhoodmoviereview.htm) and a comment about the movie’s treatment of Richard the Lionheart at my blog (http://creativeeccentric.wordpress.com/), June 11th post.

8. Each author is different in the way they create a work of fiction. Please describe for us how you plan or plot a story.

For The Swords of Faith, the process was different than some of my other work because it is a historical novel, and I decided to stay close to history. I read forty books on the subject, including three biographies of Saladin, two biographies of Richard the Lionheart, and two books about both of them. I also read a number of books about the Crusades and the period. I then developed a historically accurate timeline and built the story around it.

9. Authors are very unique in the way they write, the tools they use, when they write, etc. Please describe a typical writing day for you? How do you organize your day?

I am mainly “old-school” when it comes to the initial stages of the writing process. I write out the first draft in pencil on lined paper. I type that into the computer, editing slightly as I go. After the first draft is complete, I print it and then stay away from it for at least a month. After that, I read it with a fresh view and set it up for the first major revision. I repeat this process until I am satisfied the book is completed.

10. What is your current work in progress?

I am working on the sequel to The Swords of Faith—The Sultan and the Khan. It is set about sixty years after The Swords of Faith, and has a thin thread linking the two books, a child born during The Swords of Faith who is an elderly man with a complicated past in The Sultan and the Khan. The Sultan and the Khan dramatizes events surrounding one of the most important battles of history that rarely gets mentioned in western history classes, the Battle of Ayn Jalut, in 1260. In this battle, the Mongols finally suffered a major defeat. The momentum of the Genghis Khan dynasty toward world domination, momentum with the potential to carry the Mongols through the Middle East and North Africa, maybe even up through Spain into Western Europe, ends at that battle, in the late summer of 1260. Surrounding this battle are exotic mixes of Christians, east and west, factions of Muslims, and a dilemma for more than one character over whether to choose an alliance with evil in the pursuit of a perceived greater good.

I have also co-written with a chiropractor friend of mine a novel called Dying to Heal (http://www.richardwarrenfield.com/DyingtoHeal.htm).

11. Can you tell us where to find more information about you and your books and how readers can reach you?

There is a lot of information about me and all my various creative projects:

http://www.richardwarrenfield.com/index.htm
http://creativeeccentric.wordpress.com/

12. What would you like our readers to know about you and your writing?

I love to be astounded by new ideas, by exotic stories and dramatic events taking place in out-of-the-ordinary settings. And I love to astound people by offering new ideas, exotic stories and dramatic events taking place in out-of-the-ordinary settings. I doubt I will have the time to bring to fruition every creative idea I have, but it will be fun to try!

Fascinating interview, Richard.  Thank you for taking the time to speak to us about yourself and your work!  You are definitely one of my favourite authors.

Monday, July 5, 2010

The Swords of Faith by Richard Warren Field

In the 12th century, under the leadership of Richard the Lionheart, knights marched into the Holy Land to reconquer it and wrench it from the grip of Saladin, its Kurdish Muslim Sultan. It was known as the Third Crusade, and although it was considered a failure, it was the catalyst which fired the need for a Fourth Crusade years later.

Two larger than life men are at the heart of this sweeping epic. One is Saladin, the charismatic and chivalrous Saladin who staunchly conducts himself with honour even though his followers did not always obey his orders. He is driven to defeat and oust the foreign Christians forever from his lands. His rival is Richard the Lionheart, the pious and gallant English prince and king, who aims to re-conquer Jerusalem, the city the Christians lost to Saladin years before. Both men believe themselves called by God to lead their armies to victory against each other.

Several endearing secondary characters pepper this intriguing story. Pierre of Botron, a captured knight is traded as a slave to Rashid, a wealthy merchant, for the cost of a ruined pair of shoes. Rashid of Yenbo, a man with a dark secret who is driven by greed and power, but who is also a loving son, father-figure, and trustworthy friend.

Meticulously researched, the story recounts, in accurate detail, the history of this momentous event in history, from start to its finish. Author Richard Warren Field penned this incredibly story with such a vibrant simplicity that not only engrosses the reader in the plot, but that endears them to its colourful and intriguing characters.

Field’s passion for this period in history is clearly evident on every page. He relays historical facts and details through action and dialogue instead of narrative. In this way, he makes the story literally spring off each page. But the most striking quality of this novel is Field’s ability to build three-dimensional, larger-than-life characters. He is able to show the reader all aspects of their personalities, good, bad, and ambivalent, by taking us into their thought innermost thoughts so that we understand what drives each character.

The novel is long, but one that is easy to read and escape into. I could not help but fall into the story, eager to turn the page to learn a character’s secret or discover the next plot twist. For anyone who wants to learn about the Crusades, this is the novel to start with, the first of a trilogy. Field is already well into completing the sequel. Look for Swords of Faith later in 2010!

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Book Giveaway - Swords of Faith by Richard Warren Field

The Historical Novel Review is very excited to present an exciting novel by debut historical fiction author, Richard Warren Field.  THE SWORDS OF FAITH is a brilliant new novel about the Crusade, which brings to life the fascinating characters of that epic era. 

We will be giving away a copy of the novel to a lucky winner from Canada or the U.S. who can answer the below questions after visiting Richard Warren Field's website at:  http://www.richardwarrenfield.com/ and http:creativeeccentric.wordpress.com.  Please ensure you leave your email address so that we can contact you should you be the winner.

1.  What is the title of Richard Warren Field's next novel?  

2.  Describe what fascinates you most about the Crusades.

So stay tuned this week for this most interesting look into a passionate era of history!

Saturday, July 3, 2010

The Hitler I Knew by Otto Dietrich


Reviewed by L. Gregory Graham


I would love to make this book required reading for anyone who considers himself an educated person. It is a primer on how a good nation goes bad. Ignorance does not lead Germany into the clutches of Hitler. There is no thirst for world dominance in them. Their populace is as educated as any at the time. They wanted what we all want: a job and a little security in their lives. They surrendered personal freedom to get it, not a big thing for a people used to living under a Kaiser. Unfortunately, the author points out that times had changed. War had become total, communications instantaneous, and the world far too complex for one man to run.

As sometimes happens, the reason the author wrote the book and the reason why it is so important to read are different. Dietrich, a man who was in almost constant contact with Hitler throughout his career as leader of Germany, wrote this book to explain to the German people following WWII why they were not at fault for the rise of Hitler and the destruction that ensued. He spends a great deal of time describing how Hitler burst upon the scene as a man of destiny. How he seduced the people into believing that he was always right, always fair, and always had their best interests at heart. How he ultimately concealed his dark side: his all-consuming hatred for the Jews, his plans for world domination, and his willingness to sacrifice everything to achieve it.

I’m not sure how well he does that, but then my sensibilities are not his, nor is my time his. I do not automatically assume that my government has my best interests at heart. It is an attitude with a long tradition in the United States.

What I find fascinating about this book is how Hitler, a man devoted to improving the welfare of German lives, eventually through the force of his personality destroyed everything that he held dear. He did not plan to reduce Germany to ashes and rubble, he did not plan to destroy an entire generation of young men, nor did he plan to turn his beloved country into a captive nation for the remainder of the twentieth century and yet that is what he did. How does that happen?

“Hitler had extraordinary intellectual gifts—in some fields undoubted genius. He had an eye for essentials, an astounding memory, a remarkable imagination, and a bold decisiveness that made for unusual success in his social undertakings and his other peaceful works,” Otto Deitrich writes in the opening pages of his book. These are qualities that any board of directors would find appealing in their CEO. No wonder the people loved him. He put seven million unemployed back to work. He thumbed his nose at France, England and America who had stupidly demanded reparation payments following WWI, and he reminded his downtrodden citizens that they were a great people, and a great civilization. So far, so good.

Then the German people gave him ultimate power when he asked for it. Why shouldn’t they? He had done so many good things for them. The new powers would only make it easier for him to give them more. No person, no institution could say no to him or even question his decisions, and the good he had done crumbled away as individual prejudice replaced reason, and might replaced morality.

It practically makes me want to give the American system of checks and balances a big wet kiss on the one hand, because I think it would stop a homegrown Hitler from coming to ultimate power. On the other hand, I also worry about the desperation of the unemployed who might be willing to trade freedom for a steady job, quality medical care, and a secure retirement. These are things in short supply in America at the onset of the second decade of the twenty-first century. Perhaps our leaders should take note.

The book documents Hitler’s fall into megalomania. It happens by degrees. The public man gradually surrounds himself with friends and sycophants who dwindle to a few trusted aides as the war grinds to its horrible conclusion. The smiling, avuncular personality sloughs away throughout his reign revealing a brooding presence much given to rage, denial, and ultimately suicide. In the end, he demands that Germany die alongside him because in his mind, he is Germany.

Read this book if you desire a subjective look at Hitler by a man who witnessed his rise and fall. Read this book if you wish to understand how Hitler seduced Germany, and how Germans willingly allowed it to happen. Finally, read this book if you wish to see how unchecked power in the end destroys what it loves most. 

Friday, July 2, 2010

Book Giveaway: Clan by David P. Elliott


“Suddenly Elliot shuddered, just as he had when they first arrived at the cottage, but this time the temperature drop was accompanied by a strong feeling of nausea and a feeling that something was clenching at his heart. His vision was blurred and he felt faint. Suddenly his body was soaked, as he broke out in a cold sweat, reminiscent of his night terrors. Sweat ran from his hairline into his eyes and through his blurred vision he saw a hooded face looking at him from one of the windows.”

If you enjoy Scottish history, with a good dose of the paranormal, David P. Elliot’s Clan revels in both. The author is skilled at depicting and manipulating myriad emotions, with his vivid descriptions and powerful characterizations.

As Clan opens, a great medieval battle unfolds between two giants, William Wallace, of Braveheart fame, and William de Soulis, lord of the ancient Hermitage Castle. Both men survive and while Wallace goes on to the fate history has recorded, de Soulis’s life takes him in a different, and far more dangerous, direction. Centuries later in 2007, David Elliot, three times divorced and now jobless, contemplates his dreary past and the bleak outlook for the future. His daughter Kate convinces him to take a much-needed vacation with her husband Simon and their son Thomas, in the Newcastleton area, once home to generations of his clan, the Elliots. It was also the scene of hundreds of years of border strife between the English and Scots, as both sides fought for the Scottish throne.

Unexpected events and meetings with strange characters convince David that his journey is more than a simple getaway, but an opportunity to deal with the demons of his past, bring meaning to his dissolute life, and discover the power of love and family. Though separated by centuries, his fate is on a direct collision course with the will of William de Soulis, who reaches from the dark recesses of the past to reclaim his birthright and the destiny his enemies have kept from him.

Clan met all my expectations for a good read, but I was truly impressed at how well the author handled the various scenes, juxtaposed from differing points of view. In addition to Elliot and his family, the author also introduces us to Andrea Dettori, the shady leader of the Soulis Foundation; Thomas Truman, a seemingly harmless old man, with ties to Elliot’s past, and other engaging characters. I was engrossed throughout the chapters and had to pace myself and just enjoy the story as it unfolded.

I’m not one to scare easily, but the paranormal scenes especially spooked me, and I felt no shame in confiding to the author that I refused to read the book at night. In addition to the violent, soulless villains, the author introduces some of the most depraved and vicious creatures to ever terrorize on the page, called Red Caps. Whenever one appeared, I expected a bloody mess and the author always delivered.

Clan is currently available in several countries and has been featured at the Hawick Museum and the Liddesdale Heritage Centre in the Scots Borders.




PLEASE LEAVE A COMMENT TO WIN A COPY OF CLAN, AND VISIT US FOR AN INTERVIEW WITH FEATURED AUTHOR, DAVID P. ELLIOT.

Interview with David P. Elliott, Clan

David P. Elliot, Clan

Today, we're joined by Davi P. Elliot, author of Clan, who's agreed to give away one copy of his book to a lucky blog visitor, and taken some time out of his busy schedule for an interview.

Please tell readers about yourself and your background.
I was brought up in a strong working class family with 2 brothers and a sister, a Scottish father and an English mother from the East End of London who would never have met had it not been for the second World War; which has I think left me with an awareness of the fragility and randomness of life. I spent 8 years in the Police Service, mostly in the CID. I left having become a Sergeant in the Thames Valley Police to enter the IT industry. On a cold, rainy February night in 2005 I was driving home from work after another meaningless meeting, when I decided that there had to be something better than this and decided at that moment to give up my “proper” job to become a writer. I became very poor, very quickly, but have never been happier. I now do something I consider worthwhile for a living.

Besides writing, what are your other interests?
I love reading; mostly thrillers but also biographies and history. I love the theatre and fell in love with Shakespeare after teachers at school stopped forcing it on me and I also love film. My other great passion is cooking. I couldn’t live without music and work on the Duke Ellington principal, that there are only two types, Good & Bad so love everything from Rock, through the great American Songbook to Opera.

Clan is your most recent release. Please tell us about the story.
‘Clan’ is fundamentally a tale of Good versus Evil. The story is told from the perspective of a flawed father and grandfather, David Elliot, who after 3 failed marriages and once again finding himself out of work he is on the point of a breakdown when his daughter, persuades him to take a trip with her, his son-in-law and beloved grandson Thomas, to the Borders of Scotland to research the bloodline of his father, who’s early death he has really never come to terms with. A chance meeting with a strange old man leads them into terrifying danger and suddenly Elliot has to confront evil of both a supernatural and more modern kind, to protect his family and particularly his young grandson. Apparently totally unequal to the challenges before him, the story questions the nature of bravery and whether love and family are really enough to defeat otherwise insurmountable odds.




Do you have a favorite character in the story?
I like the main character Elliot because of his flaws and weaknesses. For me, true heroes are those who face adversity when it is not necessarily apparent in their nature. However, the character who became my favourite was the Russian Colonel Mikel Batnykov who seemed to me to display all the dedication, courage, and resourcefulness I think are lacking in most of us, especially me!

How would you like readers to view your characters David Elliot and William de Soulis?
As mentioned earlier, I hope readers will view Elliot as a flawed human being like most of us, and identify with him as such. Hopefully they will recognize in him, how easily ordinary people can be ground down by our society. William de Soulis was a real person and a powerful Lord, probably with an even better claim at the time, to the Throne of Scotland than Robert the Bruce had himself. Perhaps his greatest error was to challenge The Bruce and fail. History, as we know, is written by the victors. Perhaps had he succeeded, someone would be writing a book about the Great King of Scotland William and casting The Bruce as a villain! As mentioned earlier about the chance meeting of my mother & father, life is random and fragile.

Were there any surprises as you researched and wrote the book?
Many! One of the most satisfying responses I have had from readers are the questions regarding what was real and what was fiction. I love the books of writers who blur the edges a little. It is a truism that truth is often stranger than fiction. One of my favourite quotes is from writer Tom Clancy – “The difference between fiction and reality? - Fiction has to make sense.” There is often controversy about the validity of what is sometimes called “faction”. For me creating characters readers can identify with within a real historical setting really brings home to them the history of the time, by giving characters that they can identify with – in a sense they become more “real” than the simple historical characters who otherwise have no context. I also loved discovering the suggestion that Robin Hood might have been based on William Wallace – who in my mind is probably the greatest hero I have ever encountered.

The power of the clan and a family heritage is very evident in your story. What does clan mean for you?
Clan gives me a place in the World and a shared heritage that means pretty much everything to me. Clan and family are interchangeable as far as I am concerned and is something worth fighting for. In the modern World we have managed to make people feel vulnerable, impotent, alienated, and lonely no matter how big or small the community may be that we live in. I know that as part of my Clan, there will always be someone who cares what happens to me and will mourn my passing.

What’s next for you? As I suggested, you could easily scare readers to death as a horror writer.
It’s funny – I have never considered myself a horror writer. When I wrote ‘Clan’ I called it a “historical, supernatural thriller.” I was surprised when my publisher categorized it as “horror,” but then I put that down to him being a bit of a wimp. Actually, it seems I am out-voted on this point! I personally, do not like what I would refer to as the “slasher” type of horror, but real life can be more horrible than anything my fertile brain can ever come up with and I think for true heroism to exist – and we all need heroes – real menace needs to be present. However, the supernatural is a recurring theme in my writing and I am currently putting together a compendium of short stories which I would categorise as of the “Tales of the Unexpected” type. I am also working on a sequel to ‘Clan’

Please provide your website and blogs where readers can learn more about you.
My website is at http://www.davidpelliot.com/ and I blog at http://davidpelliot.blog.com/. I also publish a small online magazine at http://www.clanmagazine.com/


Any closing thoughts you would like to share.
If I could change one thing in the World today it would be to reverse what seems to me to be a sad decline in the reading of books. It is not coincidence that where freedom is removed in this World, dictators often start by burning or banning books. Books change the World in a way that film, television and computers cannot. We lose them at our peril. I would love to see half the IT budget in all schools taken and spent on encouraging children, especially teenage boys, to read. Maybe one day!

Thanks for your time, David, and best of luck with Clan.

Don't forget to leave your comment to win a copy of the book, and thank you for visiting the Historical Novel Review blog.

The Love Story of Antony and Cleopatra


The Legend of the love story between Marc Antony and Cleopatra was immortalized by William Shakespeare.  It has endured and fascinates to this day. 


When Marc Antony's duties took him to Egypt, me met Queen Cleopatra and was immediately beguiled.  The spell she weaved over him was intense, and Marc Antony soon began to neglect his duties in order to be with her.  While he dallied with the Egyptian queen, Rome was in turmoil and his wife in Rome died.
 
 
 
He is called back to rome from Alexandria to battle Sextus Pompey, Menecrates, and Menas, three notorious pirates of the Mediterranean.  But Cleopatra is heartbroken and she repeatedly begs him not to go.  All Marc Antony can do is reaffirm his love for her, but he is firm - he must go.
 

In Rome, Agrippa pushes for Antony to marry Octavius Caesar's sister, Octavia, in order to cement the bond between the two men.  Reluctantly Atony weds Octavia but Antony's lieutenant knows that Octavia can never satisfy him after Cleopatra.  
Age cannot wither her, nor custom stale
Her infinite variety: other women cloy
The appetites they feed, but she makes hungry
Where most she satisfies.

A soothsayer warns Antony that he is sure to lose if he fights Octavius.

 
In Egypt, when Cleopatra learns of Antony's marriage to Octavia, she takes furious revenge upon the messenger that brings her the news.  But her courtiers assure her that Octavia us ugly, short, low-browed, round-faced and has bad hair.  This soothes Cleopatra's temper.  

Antony clashes with Octavius and Antony returns to Alexandria, he crowns Cleopatra and himself as rulers of Egypt and the eastern third of the Roman Empire.  He accuses Octavius of not giving him his fair share of Pompeii's lands.  
 
Antony prepares to battle Octavius, and although warned not to battle at sea, Antony refuses.  Cleopatra pledges her fleet to aid Antony, however, during the battle, Cleopatra flees with her sixty ships, and Antony follows her, leaving his army to ruin.  Ashamed of what he has done for the love of Cleopatra, Antony reproaches her for making him a coward, but also sets this love above all else, saying "Give me a kiss; even this repays me."
 
Octavius sends a messenger to ask Cleopatra asking her to give up Antony and come over to his side.  While Cleopatra flirts with the messenger, Antony discovers them.  He orders the messenger to be seized and whippped.  The lover's spat cools and later, he forgives Cleopatra and pledges to fight another battle for her, this time on land.
 
Antony is winning the battle until Octavius shifts it to a sea-fight.  Once again, Cleopatra's ships desert him.  He is forced to surrender and publically denounces Cleopatra who has betrayed him once again.  He is determined to kill her.  
 
But Cleopatra wants to win back Antony's love, so she sends him word that she has killed herself, dying with his name on her lips. She locks herself in her monument, and waits for Antony to come to her.  
 
 
Unfortunately for Cleopatra, her plan backfires.  Saddened by the news of her death, Antony decides that his own life is no longer worth living.  He succeeds only in seriously wounding himself, prolonging his death.  When he learns that Cleopatra is alive, he goes to her monument, but dies in her arms.
 
Octavius attempts to convince Cleopatra to surrender.  She refuses.  But Cleopatra is betrayed and the Romans seize her.  Cleopatra resolves to kill herself, using the poison of an asp.
 
 
She dies thinking of Antony who she hopes to meet in the afterlife.  Her serving maids also kill themselves. When Octavius discovers the dead women, he experiences great emotion.  Antony's and Cleopatra's deaths cleared the path for him to become the first Roman Emperor.  He ordered a public military funeral for them both and buried them together.