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!



Bring up the Bodies – and do pay attention, please

Hilary Mantel’s Thomas Cromwell novels seem to divide readers into those who think they’re absolutely wonderful and those who… don’t. As a member of the former camp I’m delighted that she’s won the Booker again. I have to admit, though, that I’ve never actually “read” either WOLF HALL or BRING UP THE BODIES. Instead I’ve enjoyed having them read to me while I’ve been busy doing other things.

The ‘other things’  have to be chosen with care. I once tried a long-distance drive in the company of Ian Rankin’s THE COMPLAINTS, and while the book was great, the  resultant speeding ticket wasn’t.  So now I reserve audiobooks for repetitive tasks not involving dangerous machinery. Thomas Cromwell has unwittingly helped to clear many piles of dirty dishes, and there’s a patch of garden at Downie Towers that I shall forever associate with the terror of young Mark Smeaton in much the same way as many of us can remember where we were when Kennedy was shot.

That, I think, is the sign of a good book.


Words and pictures

Huge thanks to Hasan Niyazi over at the Three Pipe Problem, who’s created this lovely graphic showing the different book titles:

Illustrations of all book covers together

Thanks also to Juliette Harrison, who’s just posted my recent chat with Hasan over at her PopClassics blog. If you haven’t seen either of these before, Juliette’s is a lively review of the use of classics in popular culture, and Hasan’s is simply the most beautiful blog I’ve ever seen. Now is a good time to visit them both!

Good news – it’s Simon Vance again!

Ruso and Tilla’s followers on Facebook will already know the good news – Simon Vance will be reading the audio version of ‘Caveat Emptor’. Hooray!

Someone mentioned authors narrating their own work, which set me thinking.  Simon Brett, Alan Bennet and  Gervase Phinn sprang to mind as people who’d made a success of it – but since I’ve been in this game I’ve begun to understand why most audiobooks are the work of actors rather than authors.  My own experience from giving ‘author talks’ suggests that, both literally and figuratively, I can’t read my own writing. Well, only selected parts of it. Parts where nobody has much to say.

I hope the Ruso books ‘read’ fairly easily, in that people don’t have to chew over the sentences to pick out the meaning. And I do work pretty hard on making the dialogue sound natural – if it doesn’t ‘sound’ right in my head, it ‘s tweaked until it does. Often many times. But in my case what goes on inside the head and what comes out of the mouth are very different things.

This came as more of a surprise than you might think. After all, my earlier dramatic readings of ‘Winnie the Pooh’ were acknowledged works of genius – consistently greeted with enthusiasm and demands  for more. Eeyore (from a mythical place in Yorkshire where everyone speaks in a glum monotone) and Kanga (based on Marge from ‘Neighbours’, obviously) were particularly fine creations. On reflection, though, practically any old rubbish  is more appealing to a five-year-old than being told to put the light out and go to sleep.

To read for several hours at a time, making sense of the story while bringing a huge cast of characters convincingly to life,  requires skills that few of us have.  And the really clever thing is, the best readers make it sound easy.