Sunday, 30 August 2009


Confession time - I've been back looking at the numbers on Amazon again. My excuse is that its the only way to find out how Claudius is doing and the good news is that it seems to be doing pretty well. It still has a fair way to go to catch up with the authors I think of as my 'rivals', people like Simon Scarrow, Conn Iggulden, Ben Kane and Harry Sidebottom, but Claudius is up there in the top 75 historical novels. The launch of Claudius has also given sales of the paperback of Caligula a boost, which is really encouraging.

I'm continuing to work on my next book, Hero of Rome, which will be out next July. The story's almost there but the writing needs a bit of polishing. You're always conscious that this book has to be better than the ones which have gone before, but I also now have a huge sense of responsibility to the people who've read Claudius and Caligula and enjoyed them. That and the fact that I'm now doing this for a living adds an extra bit of pressure.

This post is being written on the fancy new i-Mac which I bought on Friday and I'm sitting at a new desk, well not new, just better, and pinched from my daughter who's now living elsewhere. It's great because all my research books are stacked in shelves and within reach, instead of scattered around like confetti. As well as writing, I have to prepare for three public appearances over the next month. I'm at Milngavie Library a week tomorrow ((Sept 7) for a meet the author event, then on the 15th I'll be doing a talk and readings at Dunblane Library for the Stirling Book Festival, and finally on October 3, the Wigtown Book Festival, where I'll be appearing with Alan Massie, Philip Parker and Charlotte Higgins to talk about why the classics still matter. If you're in a position to make any of them please come along and introduce yourself, it would be great to see you.

Sunday, 16 August 2009


I went into Stirling yesterday and signed a couple of hardbacks of Claudius at our local Waterstone's. Only a couple because they were all that were left of the fifteen they'd ordered in. The manager said he was well pleased with the way they were selling and that Caligula had had a boost as well. I'm appearing at the Stirling Book Festival in about a month and Waterstone's will have a stall there, he promised to get a good supply in.

Overall, Claudius appears to be doing pretty well and I've been doing what I can to publicise it. There have been very positive reviews in the Scotsman and the Scottish Sunday Express and I'm doing an interview with our local paper, the Stirling Observer, at the end of next week.

I'm also charging on with the next book, but I took a day off on Friday to go salmon fishing on the River Tay with my friend, Robin, who's a lecturer at Stirling Uni. We fished all day in the pouring rain and didn't even get a bite between us. The only thing I hooked was me and a size 10 double-hooked salmon fly through your finger may be poetic justice, but it's no joke. So I spent an hour and a half in accident and emergency at Stirling Royal, where a very efficient nurse practitioner pushed the hook so that the barbed point came out through the skin and then snipped it off with a pair of pliers before pulling the rest back through the way it had gone in. Expert, painless and it's barely left a mark, who says there's anything wrong with the NHS?

Sunday, 2 August 2009


The first book of the new trilogy is on track for hitting the publishers' deadline. I'd been struggling a bit with it, but this week has seen a lot of progress and I'm on the brink of the big battle scene that will be the centrepiece: a doomed last stand that I think of as Rome's Alamo. Early Roman Britain is a fascinating place, with the retiring legionary veterans putting down roots in places like Colchester and lording it over the natives, and the conquered Britons still conscious of their defeat and either co-operating/collaborating with their conquerors or covertly keeping the fire of freedom burning with the help of the druids.

This second week has made me very aware that I should have done a lot more work to prepare for my new life. I'm sitting on a leather office chair that only has one arm (teenage party casualty) and typing on the same laptop I used on the train. It's not a great combination because I've started to have niggling back pains. I should have set up a proper office, with new equipment and decorated it so that I don't have to sit and look at pale blue wallpaper with white daisies on it all day. So sometime next week I will start with a new office chair and look at buying a new computer (I'm thinking iMac). The wallpaper will have to wait a while longer.