Sharpe opened my eyes to Wellington's Peninsular campaign in a way no teacher ever could. Here was the blood and guts of Talavera laid out before me through the eyes of a man destined to become an epic hero of literature. I loved, and still do, the meticulously researched history of the Sharpe books, but it is so much more than that. There are the wonderful, carefully woven fictional stories of love and death and betrayal, the heroines, heroes and especially the villains; who will ever forget the despicable Sergeant Hakeswill, the duplicitous Ducos or the odious Simmerson?
Yet Bernard Cornwell, surely the Godfather of historical fiction, is more than Sharpe. Take your pick from the Grail Quest, Redcoat, Starbuck or Uhtred, but for me the best of them all is the Arthur trilogy, an epic achievement by a remarkable writer.
And he's still going strong! On Monday Mr Cornwell begins a book tour to celebrate the publication of what is, by my count, his 49th solo novel, The Death of Kings. If you get the chance go along and say hello to a true legend.