Book Review: Death and the Dreadnought

Book Review: Death and the Dreadnought

Death and the Dreadnought, by Robert Wilton. Published Sharpe Books, Feb 2019.

The year is 1910. Britain and Germany are racing for naval armaments superiority. The Dreadnoughts – possessors of large gun turrets providing uniform and overwhelming firepower – are the new British answer to the German threat. The Germans are desperate to catch up, and will cavil at nothing to turn the tables in this superpower conflict. Continue reading “Book Review: Death and the Dreadnought”

Leaving Europe: we’ve done that before

Leaving Europe: we’ve done that before

In 225AD a tall fair-haired woman called Julia Aurelianus lives in a pretty townhouse in Aquae Sulis (modern Bath). Julia is an independent woman of means, a cultured high-status aristocrat and a healer who works at the clinic attached to the temple of Sulis Minerva. She is an educated, sophisticated citizen of the Roman Empire, living nearly two hundred years after the Roman invasion of Britain. She believes the Roman Empire will last for ever. But at the same time, she is a proud Durotrigian, with deep roots in a British identity, and a leading role as a tribal noble. Continue reading “Leaving Europe: we’ve done that before”

Just One Damned Bestseller After Another!

Just One Damned Bestseller After Another!

If, like me, you’re already a fan of the wonderful Bristolian novelist Jodi Taylor, you’ll get my reference to one of her St Mary’s Chronicles series. St Mary’s is a research institution where historians research historical events in contemporary time. Yes, they time-travel. Although as Jodi cheerfully admits, she has no idea how the time travel pods actually work.

Jodi is busy launching the ninth and latest in this series, An Argumentation of Historiansand together with her lovely publisher Hazel came up with the splendid idea of Prosecco and afternoon tea at Octavo’s Book Cafe in Cardiff. Jodi, bubbles and scones – what’s not to love? Continue reading “Just One Damned Bestseller After Another!”

Rediscovering Alice

Rediscovering Alice

I first read Nevil Shute’s A Town Like Alice as a teenager. At the time I found it a gripping story, combining adventure, romance, war and an unparalleled portrayal of life in the Australian outback. I have since re-read this slim masterpiece many times, most recently this week. The Rider and I have been holidaying in Malaysia after a hot busy fortnight in Hà Nội, Vietnam [long story featuring two weddings and many family visits – see my other blog].

Continue reading “Rediscovering Alice”

Special moments in history

Special moments in history

Readers of my travel blog (peteandjacmotorbikingineurope.wordpress.com) will immediately appreciate the serendipity of the picture above. Tracy Chevalier, my hero and talented author of Girl with a Pearl Earring, The Last Runaway, and most recently The Edge of the Orchard, was a speaker at the Historical Novel Society’s 2016 conference in Oxford last weekend, which I attended. (Apologies for the poor quality of the image, taken on my phone from way back in the hall.) Her wit, modesty and plain good sense are like gold dust. Coming only a few days after seeing the Vermeer original of Girl in The Hague on the final day of our European travels, her keynote address just seemed to really bookend that wonderful trip. Continue reading “Special moments in history”

A Moment of Madness

A Moment of Madness

A few weeks ago, I went to my local library in Cheddar on an innocent mission of research. I emerged having foolishly promised an enthusiastic volunteer that I would get involved with the upcoming Cheddar Arts Fringe Festival (CHAFF), taking place 29 April to 2 May in my part of Somerset, UK. Continue reading “A Moment of Madness”

Changes of scene

site of Shapwick villa

Doesn’t look like much, does it? Just a muddy field in a farm on the edge of the northern Somerset Levels. You’d never guess that under these grassy clods lie the remains of a large second century Roman courtyard villa.

In 1998 metal detectorists found a hoard of over 9000 silver denarii in this field. That is a serious amount of money, folks, something like £250,000 in modern money. The coins had been buried in the corner of a small room inside the villa. No-one knows by whom, or why. (The hoard is now on show in the Museum of Somerset, in Taunton). At around the same time as the hoard was hidden, c. AD 225, the villa was totally demolished, possibly after a major fire. Continue reading “Changes of scene”