Simon Scarrow is the bestselling author of The Blood Crows, the twelfth book in the on-going Roman Legion series, set in ancient Rome. If you’re a fan of historical fiction, it’s the perfect book to take away on your next James Villa Holiday.
So why, as he has been quoted as saying that historical fiction is a hard sell, did Simon choose it as a career? “Because,” he says, “I’m interested in history, and because the books I enjoyed reading as I was growing up tended to be things like Hornblower, and later on, of course, books by Bernard Cornwell and Rosemary Sutcliffe, and a lot of that was part of my growing up. I thought, this is what interests me, this is what I’d like to write.”
History, of course, has a way of repeating itself, and it has teeth, biting those – mainly politicians – who refuse to learn the lessons of the past. “I was having lunch with Paddy Ashdown last year and we were talking about this… he was saying how important it was that we were in Afghanistan and I was saying, look, it’s not as if we haven’t been there before, on two or three occasions, and, as far as I recall, they didn’t end too happily the last time round. What makes you think it’s going to be different now?
“That’s why I think it’s vital that History is taught and I’m really big on going into schools and saying how important this is,” he says. “The last government were on the verge of getting rid of History as a separate academic subject, rolling into Geography and calling it something like Humanities. Now that, I think,is the thin end of a very nasty wedge.”
Research is at the core of Simon’s books, and it is an activity he has been involved in for most of his life. “I would say most of my research was actually done whilst I was at school as I really enjoyed Latin.” He says “I was never terribly good at the subject, but the culture and the history was excellent fun. As soon as something new comes out I’m straight in the shops and buying that because it might offer an interesting new angle on some aspect of ancient Rome that I wasn’t previously aware of.”
It would be fair to describe Simon as a ‘detail’ writer, and The Blood Crows is no exception, but he cleverly weaves the detail into his narrative so it never gets in the way of the story; but how obsessive are his readers, and do they ever try and pull him up on any perceived errors? “That is one of the givens of writing historical fiction… that this is going to happen at some stage,” he says. “The real pleasure, of course, is knowing that they’re wrong… because they will write and email this stuff to you and there have been a number of occasions now where I’ve been able to say, no, look at that, there is the evidence; and score one to me, really.”
With The Blood Crows out now in paperback, you too can immerse yourself in the world of Cato and Macro, the centurions who have been the stars throughout Simon’s much-loved Roman Legion series. The latest novel sees our heroes return to British shores for one of their toughest challenges yet, and if they do not emerge as victors then the very foundations of the Roman Empire could be shattered irrevocably.