Historical detective fiction

Having just enjoyed Lindsey Davis' Saturnalia, I am in Roman gumshoe mood, and am glad to see that Steven Saylor is bringing out another Gordianus book, The Triumph of Caesar.

Although their writing styles are chalk and cheese, I love both authors. I like Davis' knowing anachronisms and her hero's all too transparent attempts to hide his decent and, let's face it, softie self under macho talk. From Saylor I expect, and get, the feeling that I really know people like Sulla, Catiline and Cicero.

The great parody of “The Big Sleep” that begins “Lead Pigs” was in my mind when I began my first Saylor novel (in Los Angeles, before he was published here), and Saylor's much more 'literary' style and his 19th century novel type dialogue at first put me off. But once I accepted that Saylor is not Davis and vice versa, I found I could revel in them both.

Mind you, the 'Roman Mysteries' series are great, too, in yet another way…

'Dinner with Socrates' podcast

You can hear the half-hour light-hearted Times Literary Festival debate about whether one would accept an invitation to dinner with Socrates by going to Mary Beard's account of the occasion and following the link there.

Speakers were Mary Beard and Tom Holland v. Oliver Taplin and MM McCabe.

I'm interested that Mary Beard chose to take Xenophon's portrait of Socrates rather than Plato's. This fits with what I have always privately believed, that Plato, the brilliant philosopher, moulded his Socrates (whose name had by then gathered authority because of his 'martyrdom') to be a mouthpiece for his own philosophical ideas, while Xenophon, the soldier and historian, gave us the Socrates he knew and admired. So I trust Xenophon to give us something much nearer the real Socrates. An unkind person might say he had not the originality of mind to do anything else.

Children’s Archaeology Day at Whittlesey

From Peterborough Today

CHILDREN are told not to roam far from home – but what if you didn't have to go roamin' for Romans?

Cambridgeshire County Council’s Archaeological Field Unit and its Library Service will be holding a Children’s Archaeology Day at Whittlesey Library, on Saturday, April 26.

Throughout the day, children and their parents or carers, will be able to have a go at a range of different activities and even meet some “Romans”.

There will also be a free 40-minute activity session for children aged five to 11, which will run hourly throughout the day for which a ticket will be issued.

Free tickets are available from library staff or by booking in advance.

Call the library on 0845 045 5225. Places are limited so please get you ticket as soon as possible.

There is also an archaeological Odd Objects Quiz, which is running from now until Wednesday, April

A prize will be presented to the winner on April 26.