Thursday, 17 April 2008

Countdown to Caligula

It's been London Book Week for the last few days and I'm pretty certain Transworld will have been doing their best to sell the rights for Caligula around the world. The little flurry of foreign sales I had before Christmas, Italy, Russia and Poland, gave me the wrong idea about the way these things work and I now realise how fortunate I was to have that early success. The last couple of weeks have been quiet on the book front, but I had word from Simon that Caligula's name has changed again. I'm now the author of Caligula - with a sub-title of: Can a slave decide the fate of an Emperor? which is a line I like, but is taking a bit of getting used to. I've just got back from Vilamoura on the Algarve on a holiday with my wife Alison and son Gregor, and his pal Ross. We had a hurricane for the first few days - at least the rain was warm - but the weather was hot for the rest of the week. The marina is great, but I found the rest of the resort a bit soulless. The best days I had were walking along the incredible, eroded red cliffs between Vilamoura and Albufeira and, surprise, surprise, at the Roman museum which is mostly an outdoor villa complex with pottery still lying more or less where it's been for the last two thousand years. Been in touch with a guy called Bob Low who I haven't seen for about ten years. He's another journalist turned author and we used to work together at the Daily Record in Glasgow. I didn't realise he'd written a book until I saw it in the shops, a historical novel - more Viking saga actually - called The Whale Road, the story of an intrepid band of Vikings called the Oathsworn. If anyone should know about Vikings it's Bob, who takes part in re-enactments, has built boats, stood in battle lines and, judging by his stories, has revelled in the mud and the blood - and the ale. By chance I had the opportunity to read his second book The Wolf Sea while I was on the way back from Portugal and I thought it was brilliant. He has an incredible depth of knowledge and a gutsy writing style that really takes you there and holds you in thrawl. If you like historical novels with an edge, it's right up with Bernard Cornwell. Three months to go to July 14 and I had another tremendously positive reaction from a friend who read one of my book proof copies while she was on holiday. She homed in on all the stuff I thought was special, but the best was when she told me: "You know, Doug, you really got the women right. A lot of male writers aren't able to do that." Until she said it, I wasn't sure I could either.