Romans in historical fiction

August is a good time to relax with an historical novel set in Roman times.

I’m at present enjoying The Eagle’s Conquest by Simon Scarrow, part of a series with Macro and Cato as joint heroes. They are at present taking part in the Roman advance on Camulodunum, and I am looking forward to taking up the book again. Bernard Cornwell commends the series, and indeed Simon Scarrow has taken many leaves out of Cornwell’s ‘Sharpe’ books, and good for him for doing it. It makes for a painless way of learning about the Roman invasion of Britain from someone with just the right background – as a leader of parties of students to ruins and museums across Britain.

The book has been out since 2001, so you may well have read it, but if you haven’t, and you don’t mind reading some pretty gory passages, then go for it. You should start (as I didn’t) with Under the Eagle. The series is published by Headline.

While on the subject, here’s a blurb about another book that I haven’t read, from the Holland Sentinel.

Holland, MI —

sleuths Pliny the Younger and Tacitus are back to work after a six-year
break in Albert Bell’s “The Blood of Caesar,” published on July 1. Now
they’re potential pawns in an emperor’s assassination scheme.
“They sort of looked like a Sherlock Holmes combination when I started
to look at it,” said Bell, a Hope College history professor.

“The Blood of Caesar” is a sequel to 2002’s “All Roads Lead to Murder.”

Roman emperor Domitian invites Pliny and Tacitus for dinner, where a
dead body is discovered. Meanwhile, Domitian is uneasy Caesar’s
descendants may still exist and have a claim to the throne.

“So are they just the hunting dogs for finding someone Domitian wants to kill?” Bell said.
Bell’s latest work is historical mystery. Historical characters, places
and events are accurate. Bell’s poetic license included some fictional
characters and encounters to ease the plot along.

Pliny was, in fact, friends with Roman historian Tacitus in the first
century. Pliny wrote 250 letters, including an eye-witness account of
the Vesuvius eruption at Pompeii.
“When I write historical fiction, I want people to be in the places we know they were in history,” Bell said.

The facts were Bell’s compass. He wrote the story next to a wall-sized
map of ancient Rome, making sure the routes the pair plied were

“When you’re writing historical novels, you just have to go where the facts take you,” Bell said.

Bill Reynolds, Hope College dean for arts and sciences, is a mystery specialist and read Bell’s mysteries.

“His novels hold up really well compared to other novels of the same kind,” Reynolds said. “It’s a well-done history puzzle.”

Bell said he hopes he can bring Roman history and culture alive for readers.

“Sometimes, I feel people think Romans were just like us today but just
wearing togas,” Bell said. “In some ways they are right, but at the
same time, they were different.”

Find Bell’s biography and book ordering information at

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