Bettany Hughes invades Britain in the U.S., Semper Fidelis will be on audio, and…

Sorry about the title of this post but I couldn’t think of a cunning way to join up several completely disparate pieces of news. (It’s been a long day.)

Firstly – Thanks to Linda for getting in touch “to alert folks to the fact that Bettany Hughes’ television series “the roman invasion of britain” is currently showing in the U.S. I believe it was produced a few years ago… it’s a nice–if brief–overview of romanized britain, and…  she is an engaging narrator.”  Catch it while you can!

Secondly – several people have asked whether there will be an audio version of SEMPER FIDELIS and hooray, yes, I’ve just heard that there will be!
No news yet about when it will be released or who will be reading it, but it’s being produced by the company who did the previous US versions (Tantor)  so I’m sure it will be of the same high quality.

Meanwhile, a quick reminder to friends in the UK and Ireland that it’s not too late to enter the draw to win a free copy of SEMPER FIDELIS (see the 2nd post below), and for anyone who’s planning to celebrate the holidays in true Roman style, this great post over on Caroline Lawrence’s blog will give you plenty of ideas.

I think that’s everything. I’ll leave you with the traditional greeting of the season.  Io Saturnalia!



My Next Big Thing

And now, a change of pace. First, a big thank-you to Caroline Davies,  who tagged me for “My next big thing” longer ago than I care to admit. It’s a set of questions that one writer passes to another, giving each of us a chance to blather (sorry, tell the world) about our own current project.

Caroline is a poet. Now I have to confess that collections of poetry are rarely my thing. They tend to remind me of my efforts at wholemeal pastry – very good for you, but heavy going. Not so with Caroline’s soon-to-be published collection, CONVOY. The clue is in the title – it’s the story of one of the Allied convoys that battled across the Mediterranean to take supplies to Malta during the Second World War. I read a draft a while back and loved it. It’s vivid and exciting and humbling, and all the more impressive for being a true story. So that’s Caroline’s Next Big Thing. Here’s mine –

Cover of US edition of Semper Fidelis

What is the working title of your book?

It’s called SEMPER FIDELIS. Thanks to my astounding ignorance, I had no idea when I chose it that this is the motto of the US Marines. I hope they aren’t going to pay me a visit and complain.

Where did the idea for the book come from?

It’s the fifth in a series featuring a Roman Army medic serving in Britain. We usually see the Roman Army as full of tough highly-trained killers, but every one of them was somebody’s son.  I’m at the age where my friends’ cute little babies are donning uniforms, getting tattoos and being sent to countries where other people want to shoot them. Those of us who wait at home for news trust that their commanding officers will do their best to look after them, and it occurred to me that it must have been the same for Roman families waving their sons goodbye as they went off to join the Legions. But what if some of those officers didn’t have their men’s best interests at heart? Would mistreatment be dealt with, or would it be hushed up?

The series is now at the point in history where Hadrian visited Britain, and my characters are under serious pressure to put on a good show.

What genre does your book fall under?

Historical crime.

Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?

Someone who knows what they’re doing had better do the casting. Meanwhile I’ll be auditioning George Clooney and Daniel Craig over a long lunch.

What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?

Roman legionary medic is under pressure from his comrades to cover up a scandal, and from his wife to expose it.

Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?

It’ll be published by Bloomsbury in the USA and Canada in January 2013. The UK shouldn’t be far behind.

What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?

There are quite a few Roman crime series being published now, but as far as I know, the trend was started by Lindsey Davis and Steven Saylor.

Who or what inspired you to write this book?

I’m fascinated by the interplay between the occupier and the occupied in Roman Britain, and the fact that so much evidence still lies buried under our feet. I wanted to write the sort of personal stories that have slipped down the gaps of history.

What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?

Hadrian’s marriage was not made in heaven, and at about the time of the British trip, the Empress Sabina was involved in a mysterious disgrace. Only the flimsiest of details have survived in the records – but of course all is revealed in the book.

Tag time

And now I’m going to tag the Mysterymakers, three writers from the north of England “who love to talk about murder”. First up is a fellow-writer of Roman mysteries who will be familiar to regular readers of the blog – Jane Finnis. Look out for Jane’s Next Big Thing in the next few days, and through her we’ll get to meet the other Mysterymakers. After that – who knows?

More Ruso for less money!

Check your Kindle on 10 December!

For readers who have an account with (the American site)- PERSONA NON GRATA,  the third Ruso book, is scheduled to be the Kindle Daily Deal on Monday 10 December. Grab it while you can!

Win a copy of SEMPER FIDELIS!

As we  Britons won’t be able to access the Deal, we’re having a free draw instead. For  a chance to win one of three copies of the next Ruso novel, SEMPER FIDELIS, just let me know your email address on the form below (it won’t be passed on to anyone else) by 31 December.

Winners will be announced on the blog on 1 January.

Mighty Preparations

This seems like a good time for a few words from Seneca (d. AD65) to his friend Lucilius:

It is the month of December, and yet the city is at this very moment in a sweat. Licence is given to the general merrymaking. Everything resounds with mighty preparations – as if the Saturnalia differed at all from the usual business day! So true is it that the difference is nil, that I regard as correct the remark of the man who said, “Once December was a month: now it is a year”.

Goodness knows what he would have thought if Roman shopkeepers had been selling tinsel and fairy lights in October.

Seneca’s ideas on how a good Stoic should respond to public merriment can be found over at