A short story of love and danger on the Roman Empire’s most hostile frontier.
It’s always a delight to work with Simon Turney. He and I took opposite sides in the “Romans versus Britons” debate at the Alderney Literary Festival, (there are photos here) but we both knew it was much more complicated than that – and so we put together this story of a small family in the midst of a big crisis.
Senna, a native Briton married to a Roman auxiliary, accidentally uncovers a dreadful plan by the rebellious northern Maeatae tribe. Her husband Brigius, a Briton who now serves Rome, is torn when the imperial prince Caracalla arrives in northern Britannia with his unit of vicious, dangerous Numidian cavalry, causing trouble and endangering the couple’s once peaceful life. Heedless of the danger to both them and their world, the pair see only one way to ensure the continuation of peace in the north, and it carries a horrifying risk.
Simon is not only a great storyteller: he’s also far more technologically adept than I am. That’s how The Bear and the Wolf is now available as a short ebook from:
If you haven’t yet discovered this excellent book blog, now is a good time to nip across there – not only for the chance to win a copy of Vita Brevis, but also to browse a splendid collection of reviews and articles, and to get some ideas for good books to fill those long winter evenings.
In case anyone wants to catch up, here’s the list of people who’ve been kind enough to host the tour over the past week. My thanks to all of them, and also to the fine folk of Bloomsbury UK (you know who you are!) who did all the legwork making the arrangements.
There’s competition fever here at Downie Towers, with the caption competition running till the end of July, plus two more chances to win goodies. Apologies to those who’ve heard this all before, but in case you haven’t…
First, a chance to stock up your summer reading bag with books of your choice, or to win one of the splendid titles on offer:
Would you rather visit ancient Greece, or go to Tang Dynasty China? Meet the Jeffersons at Monticello, or travel to Paris in the 1920’s? How about Ireland, or Alcatraz? To help you choose, there are links to all the authors and their books below.
There’s a marvellous video of this year’s Deva celebrations on YouTube. Somewhere in there you may spot the author of the Empire series, Anthony Riches (dressed as a centurion), the Emperor Domitian (being suitably megalomanic) and yours truly. An extra treat was the combination of Saturnalia with the Winter Watch parade, which made for a truly spectacular evening’s entertainment.
Basking in reflected glory here, because some of my former comrades from the site at Whitehall Roman Villa have made a wonderful find: the skeleton of a man who died in about the 5th century, and the remains of the shield that was buried with him. There’s video footage and some pics from the local paper here.
I was privileged to be part of the Whitehall Villa team for over a decade and it was an education: not only about archaeology, but about how volunteers and a supportive landowner can work together to make something fantastic happen.
Friends, something has gone strangely amiss of late with the distribution of some of the Medicus series in the UK. If you’re searching for a paper copy and even your lovely local bookseller can’t find one, please get in touch via the Contact page and I’ll see whether I can supply the book you want from the box under the bed.
That way, you can relax, sit back and read while the good folk at the publishers run around tearing their hair out.
UPDATE, 3rd September:
I think it’s all been straightened out at last. Hooray!
A piece of unexpected good news has arrived at Downie Towers – Ruso and Tilla’s first adventure is being translated into Croatian. To celebrate, here’s a view of Croatia’s most famous Roman building, the palace of the emperor Diocletian at Split.
Diocletian was an unusual emperor. Others had commissioned sprawling extravganzas with vistas and lakes for their personal residences, but Diocletian’s architect must have been told to think very much INSIDE the box. The whole palace fitted into the standard walled rectangle of a Roman fort.
Meanwhile, Diocletian was a man on a mission. He’s chiefly famous not for waging war (although he did) but for his less glamorous attempts to rescue the struggling Empire from chaos by sharing power, re-ordering local government, and trying to crack down on raging inflation and profiteering. His Edict setting maximum prices for goods across the Empire was inspired by his observation that “Greed raves and burns and sets no limits on itself,” and who could argue with that? You can read the full text of the introduction here, and there’s a video featuring one of the remaining copies of the Edict here.
He also seems to have been a man with a plan. In his sixties and in failing health, he handed over power to his pre-arranged successor, moved back to his native land and – as far as we know – enjoyed a relatively peaceful retirement. Which made him a very unusual Emperor indeed.
There’s much rejoicing here at Downie Towers over the news that the lovely Stuart (a Man who Can) will shortly be giving the blog a face-lift. l will thus be able to concentrate all of my muttering and cursing on Book Seven, which has reached that special stage where plot and author appear to be heading in opposite directions.
As Paul Theroux once observed, the writing of fiction is a messy and mysterious process. And, it seems, one that involves principally the letters I, O, L, M and N. At least, I think that’s what they were.
It would have been wiser not to start redesigning the blog when I’m supposed to be working on Book 7. But the layout here was looking a bit tired and it seemed like a simple enough job: just cut my name from the new book cover and paste it in at the top of the screen. How hard could that be?
I should have remembered the time Husband and I decided that plastering didn’t look all that difficult, either.
Nine hours later, I’m now going to try and put back the picture that was up there in the first place. It still doesn’t go with the new book covers, but I really would like to go to bed. And in the morning I think I might be phoning a friend. Sometimes it really is best to leave things to people who know what they’re doing.