David Churchill – aka Tom Cain – has written a fictional series on William the Conqueror. THE LEOPARDS OF NORMANDY: DEVIL is the first instalment and is available now. Here is a sneak peek at what makes him tick.
David’s Five Favourite Historical Novelists
1. George MacDonald Fraser: ‘not only are the Flashman books funny, sexy, action-packed, stuffed with wonderful characters both real and imaginary, and in every way pleasurable, but the way Fraser uses his historical notes to illuminate the fictional action is brilliant. One of the great literary conceits, almost flawlessly executed.’
2. Wilbur Smith: ‘a splendid storyteller in the grand, traditional style. His best books in the Courtney and Ballantyne family sagas (‘The Burning Shore is my absolute favourite) are not only proper, page-turning yarns, but are also superb guides to colonial African history, geography and wildlife. No one brings Africa alive as well as Smith.’
3. Ken Follett: ‘I loved Pillars of the Earth when it first came out and since then Follett’s own transition as a writer from thrillers to historical fiction (something also true of Wilbur Smith and, of course, Robert Harris) has been a great inspiration to me. Follett, of course, was allowed to keep his name as he made the transition. My only regret is having to change mine from Tom Cain to David Churchill – bah!’
4. Jason Goodwin: ‘there’s nothing like really knowing ones subject, and Goodwin’s Yashim novels – detective mysteries set in 19th century Constantinople – are rich with detail that only a real expert would know. But Goodwin’s erudition is worn very lightly and it’s the richness and delicacy of the detail that really brings the stories alive – that and the character of Yashim, who is surely the first eunuch sleuth in the history of the genre.’
5. Mary Renault: ‘this is really a childhood memory. My parents had half a dozen hardback Mary Renault novels – including the King Must Die and the Persian Boy- and as a bookish, solitary boy, who’d already devoured children’s books about the Greek myths and legends I devoured them all. Looking back, all those rainy afternoons spent nose down in a book laid down the foundations for my career as a writer over the past 35 years.’
David’s Five Inspiring Historical Locations
1. Berlin: ‘I’ve written two books as David Thomas – Blood Relative and Ostland – that are set, at least in part in wartime Berlin and post-war East Berlin. I don’t know whether it’s my lifelong fascination with World War II, or my teenage infatuation with that celebrated Berlin resident David Bowie, the city fascinates me. It’s really the nexus of 20th century European history and whereas London, say, is filled with monuments to British victories, Berlin is a city filled with powerful, even beautiful memorials to events and phenomena no one wants to remember, but that cannot be forgotten: book-burnings, the Stasi, the Reichstag fire and, of course, the Holocaust.’
2. The Roman Walls of Chichester: ‘I have an office in Chichester, West Sussex. It’s a delightful place, filled with lovely old buildings, including, of course, a glorious 12th century cathedral, whose spire can be seen for miles around. Best of all are the walls that encircle the city. I often go for a walk around them and that doesn’t just give me some much-needed exercise, but it really makes me feel the presence of history as a real, living thing.’
3. Rome: ‘because … oh, come on, does anyone need to be told?’
4. Kyoto: ‘I’ve only visited Kyoto, the ancient imperial capital of Japan once, but I still have a very powerful memory of the way that perfectly preserved historical buildings and gardens stood cheek by jowl with all the noisy, manic energy of modern Japan: here an old temple, there a pachinko parlour. I’ve had an idea for a historical novel sent in early 18th century Japan waiting on my creative runway for ages. One of these days I’ll get it written!’
5. Istanbul: ‘this is on my to-do list of places to visit. It’s arguably an even more historically rich and culturally diverse city than Rome: home to two great religions and two mighty empires, with layer-upon-layer of history from the Roman sewers on up. It’s actually mentioned in passing in Devil. But I can’t help feeling that there’s more to come.’
If you are interested in historical fiction then the first instalment in THE LEOPARDS OF NORMANDY: DEVIL will be right up your street for your next holiday read. It was newly released and published in hardback and e-book on 26th of February 2015.