Tuesday, 19 July 2011

A little piece of history

Think of yourself on the film set of an updated version of Time Bandits. Roman legionaries march by led by a centurion and eagle bearer; knights in full armour launch their horses at each other in the lists; the English Civil war rages on one side, while in a nearby field a group of riflemen gets ready to take on Napoleon. Desert Rats, the Forgotten Army, the Red Berets, Nazi Stormtroopers, Yank GIs with jeeps and half tracks and the Red Army, all living cheek by jowl. Throw in twenty thousand spectators and mix for a kind of T in the Park for people who like armour, guns and swords and you have the Festival of History at Kelmarsh.
Re-enactors of every kind were living the dream

Oh, and then there was the Historical Writers' Association. Thirty two of Britain's best writers of historical fiction and non-fiction holding forth in twelve events over two days, magnificently organised by chair Manda Scott and her merry band of helpers, and every event attended by two hundred people or more. It was fantastic to be there and even better to be part of it. It also proved once again that, as a breed, writers are nice people who'll generally do anything for anybody. I hope it's the start of something big that will get even bigger.

A Spitfire and Messerschmitt duel 
Apart from being on stage with my brilliant panel of Harry Sidebottom (Warrior of Rome), Ruth Downie (the Ruso series) and John Stack (Masters of the Seas), my favourite memory is of smooth Simon Scarrow and the rather more rustic approach of Robert Low as they battled it out verbally to decide who would have won between the Romans and the Vikings. While they debated what an annoying bed-farting, bottom-scratching partner would have been called before the Vikings came up with the word husband it sounded as if World War Three had broken out a hundred yards away and they didn't turn a hair.

Bob Low signs one of many books

I met dozens of people who are fascinated by historical fiction, including two (Jim and Kate) who've become friends through the internet. It was wonderful to see you all. By some miracle Bantam Press had managed to get copies of Defender of Rome to Kelmarsh, even though the ink was barely dry. And I thought I'd died and gone to heaven when out of the blue a Spitfire and Messerschmitt staged a mock dogfight overhead.

The Red Army
Defender of Rome makes it to the shelves
Everybody joined in
Yanks with their tanks
It was a fantastic event for any history lover and if you ever get the chance to go, you really should!


Grumpy old man said...

That sounds like an awesome weekend! I am booking the time off next year!

Anonymous said...

I must get across again and if I get this book written I might be there as an author and that way I'll get in for free (ha ha)

Doug said...

Can't wait to read it, Paul. If it can happen to me it can happen to anybody!

Becky Wilson aka Valkyrie1008 said...

Ahah! So you were the book loaded young fella who was hogging Mr Low all to yourself :P Ah well, I may have been last in the queue but not even a berserking viking could make me miss my chance to meet the author in person. He gave a really good discussion event with Giles Kristian (another author whom I admire and swoon over regularly - i guess some might even say I'm stalking the guy being the third time I've met him). I'm shortly to add my lengthly overview of my experience of the event shortly on my blog.

Doug said...

I thought Giles and Bob were brilliant, Becky, if only I could be that laid back on a stage! I know Bob well and he's a fantastic larger than life character. Hope you didn't miss the Scarrow/Low battle of the bad guys wordfest. The whole thing was great and I'll look forward to seeing your take on it

Alan Hutcheson said...

That just all sounds like a wonderful time. Wish it was a day trip instead of an across the ocean journey for me.

applegarth said...

Hi Doug,it was great to meet you at Kelmarsh and may i thank you and the rest of the HWA for a great weekend.One of the meny joy`s of the weekend was being able to pick up Defender of Rome and thank you for signing it,so i returned to London town with great anticipation of renewing my adventure`s with Valerius,but first i had to finish Rob Low The Lion Wakes,which i thought was very good and as a London boy had no trouble with the Scottish language,in fact i thought it enhenced the story.On friday night i open up Defender and plunge into the next chapter of Valerius life.Well what can i say, you have done it again,at first i was not sure if i was going to like a political adventure of our hero after the blood and guts of the first book but it was not long before i was totality enmesh in the struggle for power in Nero Rome.I thought the rise of the Christians was really interesting and that laced with the action and suspense made for me a great read.I must confess that i had forgotten that Valerius had lost his hand and as a lefty i was intrigued how he coped.I have posted this on your birthday,you do not look a day over 21,so happy birthday,but also thank`s for a great read that had me page turning all weekend and now i am looking forward to the arrival of Doomsday Testament and of course the next adventure of Valerius.
Best Regards Jim

Doug said...

Thanks for that Jim, it was great to meet you too and I really appreciate the review. Very glad you liked Defender. I had similar reservations about moving the action away from the battlefield when I was writing it, but I didn't want to get stuck into the rut of fighting the same battle over and over again in a different setting. I hope the way his character develops through the book proves it was probably the right choice.

applegarth said...

Hi Douglas,would i be right in thinking that Valerius would be heading of to Africa with Vitellius on his next outing and would Marcus and Serprentius be with him?

Doug said...

There will be a few flashbacks to his time in Africa in the next book, Jim, but he will actually be in Syria and Armenia with Domitius Corbulo. I've always wondered why Nero would order his most successful (and loyal if you believe what Tiridates is supposed to have said) general to kill himself at a time when the Judaean revolt was erupting. Valerius is sent from Rome to be his aide, but Corbulo's officers think he's Nero's spy with predictable consequences. Fortunately Serpentius is there to cover his back