Latest from the H for History blog

Celebrating female translators for #WITMonth

Posted on: 22/08/2018

Today is the publication of the brand new riverrun Editions series – three classic books released with their best ever translations. And it turns out that many of the books we now know as modern classics were translated by women. Female translators were so important to the literary modernism, as it was a career that was open to women, so often barred from academic roles. It was also flexible, so suited women with children. We’ve been delving into the lives of the extraordinary women who translat…

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H.B. Lyle: Fiction to fact to fiction – finding nuggets in the archive

Posted on: 21/08/2018 with tags: author blog, crime fiction, espionage, historical crime, historical fiction, Sherlock Holmes, 20th Century, British History, English History, European

It’s perhaps the most dreaded question in the author Q&A: where do you get your ideas from? Setting aside Arthur Miller’s famous response (‘I wish I knew, I’d go there more often’) this is perhaps an easier question for the historical novelist to answer than those working in other genres. For inspiration, we only have to look into the history books. And this is so often the way of things – authors find out versions of what happened then transmute and change and reimagine then in the form of…

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Living in the Past by Robyn Young

Posted on: 06/08/2018 with tags: author blog, court of wolves, historical fiction, historical novel, new world rising, robyn young, European, Renaissance, World History

It’s a summer’s morning and I’m standing in a field with a gun in my hands – a flintlock musket from the English Civil War, long and heavy, the stock hunched into my shoulder, barrel aimed down the field. I struggle to pull back the hammer, needing two fingers to do so.  It’s stiff and I’m nervous.  The pan is loaded with gunpowder and the flint is now poised above it.  I pull the trigger.  The flint snaps down, striking the powder to life with a flash, sending a rush of fire and force down the…

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The Scarlet Ladies by Paul Fraser Collard

Posted on: 26/07/2018 with tags: Frances Clayton, historical fiction, Jack Lark, Paul Fraser Collard, The Rebel Killer, American Civil War

I blame the Monocled Mutineer for my love of impostors. The story of Percy Toplis first caught my attention when it became the basis for the TV series of the same name that was shown in the 1980s. I still remember watching it and being fascinated by the idea of someone taking advantage of the world simply by putting on a fancy uniform and speaking with the right accent. Young Percy, a rogue with little education and a strong northern accent, successfully impersonated British army officers during…

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The Best Historical Fiction Set on Islands by Anna Mazzola

Posted on: 23/07/2018 with tags: Anna Mazzola, historical fiction, Islands, the Story Keeper, 19th Century

  Islands, with their closed communities, their remoteness, their uniqueness, have a special place in an author’s heart. Sometimes they become not just settings, but characters in themselves. I chose Skye for my second novel, partly because I wanted somewhere cut off (as it once was), and somewhere with its own folklore, its own beliefs. Others have gone a step further and created fictional islands: Atlantis, Azkaban, Atuan, Fraxos, Hedeby, Svalvard. Once I’d started thinking about books se…

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Writing about the Romanovs by Gill Paul

Posted on: 16/07/2018 with tags: Gill Paul, romanovs, Russia, the lost daughter, 20th Century

A hundred years ago, in the early hours of the 17th of July 1918, Russia’s last royal family were murdered in a bloodthirsty and bungled attack. Yacob Yurovsky, leader of the hit squad, and some of the other killers left testimonies describing what happened. According to them, the first shots ricocheted off jewels the four daughters had sewn into the seams of their clothing, wounding but not killing them. The air was thick with gunsmoke, the floor slippery with the blood of their mother, father…

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How does historical fact go into making fictional characters? by Kim Sherwood

Posted on: 11/07/2018

How does historical fact go into making fictional characters? Virginia Woolf writes that ‘if we think of truth as something of granite-like solidity and personality as something of rainbow-like intangibility and reflect that the aim … is to weld these two into one seamless whole, we shall admit that the problem is a stiff one’. Writing my debut novel, Testament – which is about the impact of the Holocaust on three generations of a family – I faced what Woolf calls the ‘queer amalgamation of drea…

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Alison Weir introduces Anna of Kleve

Posted on: 10/07/2018 with tags: alison weir, Anna of Kleve, Anne of Cleves, henry viii, Six Tudor Queens, six wives, Tudor

Most people think of Anna of Cleves – or Anna of Kleve, as she should be known – as the luckiest of Henry VIII’s wives. Having re-researched her story in depth for Anna of Kleve: Queens of Secrets, the fourth novel in my Six Tudor Queens series, I am not so sure that is true. Anna should have had it all: a crown, a great marriage to a powerful king, wealth, influence and popularity. But it was all snatched from her, for reasons that are still not fully clear. When, within a month of Jane Seymour…

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A Night Out in the Shanghai Badlands with Paul French

Posted on: 28/06/2018

A Night Out in the Badlands, 1941 Throughout the 1930s Shanghai had been a legendary city – an international metropolis where no visas or passports were required; the most modern city in Asia drenched in neon and its sultry summer night air filled with jazz; the fourth largest city in the world and the most densely populated; home to over four million Shanghainese and the city’s foreign inhabitants (known as “Shanghailanders”). Shanghai was a city that had always had more than its fair share of…

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Karen Maitland introduces her new novel, A Gathering of Ghosts

Posted on: 20/06/2018 Medieval, Middle Ages

‘You’ll need more than a sword to protect you up there. Other side of that priory stands the most accursed hill on the whole moor. You can hear the dead whispering among those rocks. Hungry ghosts, they are. There’s many has heard them talking, and some even followed the voices into the caves up there. Followed them in, Brothers, but never came out …’ From A Gathering of Ghosts Some images make such an impression on a child that they burrow deep into his or her imagination. And, if that child gr…

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