Edwin Riddell

Letter from London #26

 

It’s been said that history is the new sex. Certainly, regarding trends in literature, historical fiction has been enjoying a remarkable renaissance in recent years. Numerous spin-offs into generously budgeted productions for film and television now make the genre a tempting prospect for authors.

Recent successes over here include the much lauded Wolf Hall, by Hilary Mantel. Set in the time of Henry VIII, and focussing on his machiavellian chancellor Thomas Cromwell, Wolf Hall was adapted into an award-winning series for television.

As far as I know, there was no prior book on which the magnificent HBO series Rome was based. However, the production demonstrated some techniques common to historical fiction. One of these was to follow the fortunes of two ordinary soldiers in Julius Caesar’s XIIIth Legion, as the story took us through the events preceding and following Caesar’s assassination. In this way, the momentous transition of Ancient Rome from Republic to Empire was given a believable and sympathetic human dimension.

Letter from London #25

East Hampshire

Cousin Ann arrived in best Miss Marple fashion on her bicycle late the other Saturday afternoon, in a state of some excitement.

A trained historian, she has been involved in the official archaeological investigation (‘dig’ as she would say) at a series of ancient burial mounds, or barrows, on a nearby heath.

That week the team had unearthed what is strongly believed to be an intact and complete Early to Middle Bronze Age burial urn - a find now being further investigated at a specialist unit in nearby Winchester.

It will not be the first of such discoveries, of course. But when it happens on your doorstep, and in a place that was until recently part of a golf course, it gives one pause. The urn is thought to be anything between 3,500 and 4,000 years old.

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