I love history. Who couldn’t? You can’t make up the things that are more spellbinding than the stuff people have done in the past. No fiction is more dramatic than the stories that can be told about the Titanic, or Waterloo, or the hunt for James Wilkes Booth, or the murder of Beckett. With that said, it is the talented historians that take the cold facts of events and create intriguing stories that I so admire, and to these academicians I give full credit as my inspirations to write historical fiction.
Let me name just a few: Barbara Tuchman, Bruce Catton, Stephen Ambrose, Magnus Magnusson, and William Manchester. It is these learned and creative writers that create the challenge and construct the platform from which those of us who write historical fiction launch our stories.
One such writer who I devoured as a teenager is Thomas Costain, a Canadian journalist, who late in life turned to writing both real histories (the Plantagenet series) and works of fiction such as The Black Rose (1945) and The Silver Chalice (1952). I am particularly attached to Costain because he made the leap into novel writing at the age of 57, same as I did.
I sometimes fear these great writers are forgotten, lost in the glut of modern publications, so I feel compelled to bring them to the surface. Here’s the opening of The Black Rose.
It was growing late, and still there was no sign of Engine. Could Ninian have been mistaken? A roke had settled in early that afternoon, and the rain dripped from the roofs of Oxford with a dismal insistence. Walter had placed himself under the entrance at St. Martin’s, but the fear that he might miss her led him to venture out constantly around all the pointes of the Quadrivium. He was wet to the skin.
Church bells began to toll. Ordinarily they had a profound effect on him, particularly at the close of the day in Oxford, for there was something in the atmosphere of the gray old town, which lent an additional solemnity to the tolling and fitted the sound to every mood. They could ring loud and resonant like a call to battle; they could be gay and exciting, giving a lift to the heart as well as the heels; they could be slow and sad with a warning of the futility of this earthly life; but mostly they were as sweet and ravishing as the swish of a swift’s wings, bringing a lump of happiness to the throat.
Lovely, isn’t it.
You can purchase The Black Rose on Amazon for almost nothing. http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1568497016/ref=s9_simh_gw_p14_d0_i1?pf_rd_m=ATVPDKIKX0DER&pf_rd_s=desktop-1&pf_rd_r=09ZHSWWZX1WR56BHAW8E&pf_rd_t=36701&pf_rd_p=2079475242&pf_rd_i=desktop