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Historical Crime Writers

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I first became aware of this sub-genre about twenty years ago with Ellis Peters and Brother Cadfael. Since then it seems there isn't a period in history that doesn't have it's cop, private eye, or investigator, although I haven't yet come across a Neolithic one, but it's bound to happen.

 

It seems to me that it's a harder genre to write, because not only does the writer have to shape a mystery plot, they have to be able to get the historical detail at least believable. There have been one or two that I've thrown away in disgust because they didn't, or because the scenario stretched credibility.

 

I'm keen on Lindsey Davis and Falco - she hits a good note with her wisecracking Chandlerseque hero, and the historical detail is far better than in some straight historical novels I've read. I also like Susanna Gregory's Matthew Bartholomew in 14th century Cambridge. I've read a couple of Elizabeth Peters's Amelia Peabody novels which are quite entertaining, and I really liked C J Sanson's debut, Dissolution.

 

So who are your favourites?

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I've read some of Saylor, but I didn't like them nearly as much as I liked Lindsey Davis. Not sure why, possibly I found the characters less endearing, or perhaps because the books cover such a huge time period.

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Peter Tremayne's Sister Fidelma series is quite good, if a little derivative.

 

And I enjoyed Christian Jacq's Stone of Light books - set in Ancient Egypt.

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CJ Sansom for me has gone from strength to strength. Dissolution I really enjoyed, although it did remind me of the film of The Name of the Rose, however Dark Fire added an interesting and somewhat foul-mouthed sidekick and Sovereign took them out of London. The Tudor period was never my favourite period of history but CJ Sansom has now got me buying non-fiction works so I can study it in more depth.

 

I also enjoyed James McGee's Hawkwood books. Yes, they are more action oriented, but I found them a fun read and positively ripped through them.

 

I would be interested to hear any opinions on The Janissary Tree by Jason Goodwin. If anyone posts I will tip my hand.

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Another vote for C J Sansom's Shardlake series from me. I read Sovereign first and then went back and read Dissolution and Dark Fire back to back.

 

I see that the next in the series, Revelation, is due out in November. I think I will have to get it in hardback; I don't think I'll be able to wait for the paperback version.

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I like Saylor's books. He takes a broad sweep of the politics and history of the late Roman Republic and cleverly weaves his detective tales in amongst it. His scholarship is excellent, and for me he captures the flavour of ancient Rome as well as anyone does in literature.

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Just thought about Ellis Peters - aren't they historical crime novels? I can vaguely remember reading one as a teenager.

 

I'm sure there was more on this thread pre-crash. More sad losses never to be rediscovered!

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Paul Doherty/P.C. Doherty has written dozens of historical detective stories in a number of different series: several set in the Middle Ages, one in Ancient Egypt and one in the court of Alexander the Great. His latest detective is a woman in Ancient Rome. His style gets familiar after a while, and he likes to emphasise the gruesomeness of the corpse, but they're all good.

 

Ellis Peters's Shrewsbury seems awfully clean for the Mddle Ages, and her romantic interludes are pure Mills & Boon.

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Branagh to play Tudor sleuth

 

BBC picks actor-director to play hunchback agent of Henry VIII as it focuses on landmark projects

Ben Dowell and Vanessa Thorpe

Sunday November 18, 2007

 

Observer

Kenneth Branagh, the Oscar-nominated actor and director, is to star as a 16th-century detective in a major new BBC TV series.

 

He is to follow the path of other celebrated performers, such as Derek Jacobi, who have found popular success solving crimes while dressed in period costume.

 

Branagh, 46, plans to take the role of a hunchback lawyer named Shardlake who works for the key power brokers of the Tudor court, Thomas Cromwell and Thomas Cranmer. Negotiations to bring Shardlake, the idiosyncratic character at the centre of a series of mystery novels by CJ Sansom, to the small screen are believed to be in their final stages.

 

Sansom's three books have won praise for their evocations of the brutality of life in the Tudor period and for his strength as a storyteller. His disabled hero lives and works in Lincoln's Inn in the 1540s.

 

Branagh's return to television drama - the medium in which he first made his mark playing a young Northern Ireland boy, Billy Martin, in a landmark Play For Today trilogy in the early Eighties - marks a significant change of direction for the actor and film-maker, who has recently released screen versions of Mozart's The Magic Flute and Peter Shaffer's play Sleuth

 

The star and director of admired film adaptations of Henry V, Much Ado About Nothing and Hamlet last appeared in a TV role in the acclaimed 2002 Channel 4 film Shackleton, which told the story of the polar explorer's unsuccessful Antarctic expedition. Branagh, the former partner of actresses Emma Thompson and Helena Bonham Carter, also won plaudits for his 2001 portrayal of Reinhard Heydrich in the award-winning Nazi drama Conspiracy

 

The actor now stands to be one of the first beneficiaries of the BBC's new strategy of commissioning 'fewer but bigger and better' projects, as outlined by the director-general, Mark Thompson.

 

The makers of the Shardlake series will be hoping to repeat the success of the Nineties drama series Cadfael, which starred Jacobi as Ellis Peters's sleuthing 12th-century monk. The series ran over 13 films between 1994 and 1998, during which time Jacobi's habit-wearing Benedictine was called on to solve a succession of brutal murders.

 

A BBC commission of an adaptation of the first Sansom novel, Dissolution, is expected to be followed by more of the Shardlake books. Sansom, a former solicitor who lives in Sussex, is working on a fourth Shardlake story and has been consulted on the TV series.

 

In Dissolution, Shardlake, who supports religious reform, witnesses the viciousness of Henry VIII's dissolution of the monasteries and has to cope with the aftermath of the murder of a commissioner who is overseeing the closure at Scarnsea on the Sussex coast.

 

The next two Shardlake books are Dark Fire, in which he is involved in the defence of a girl accused of child murder, and Sovereign, which sees the lawyer dispatched by Cranmer to York to escort a prisoner back to the Tower of London to undergo brutal questioning.

 

Sansom, who has a history PhD from Birmingham University, is completing a story called Revelation, which the writer has suggested will tell of 'nasty things ... happening among the extreme Protestant sects in the capital'. After that, he hopes to produce a Shardlake novel set entirely in a courtroom. One critic has praised Sansom's 'superb approximation of the crucible of fear, treachery and mistrust that was Tudor England, and a memorably blood-swollen portrait of the ogreish Henry's inhumane kingship'.

 

One of Sansom's biggest fans is Colin Dexter, the creator of Inspector Morse, who said Dissolution was one of the best crime novels he had read in 2003.

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Interesting. I read and enjoyed the second Shardlake novel, "Dark Fire" a couple of years back and have been meaning to try more. I shall have to get through "Dissolution" before this hits the screens. Branagh's an interesting choice for the lead role.

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It must be my age are something.! But I love this 'new niche' (or whatever it is.!) historical detective stories. Michael Jecks's Sir Baldwin de Furnshill, and his side-kick Bailiff Simon Puttock, James Mc Gee's Matthew Hawkwood, C.J. Sansom's Shardlake, and they don't really play hard and loose with historical fact, well not much, needs must to make the story interesting, and keep you interested, put their "heroes" along with the then real live people and sometimes interact with them is a 'hairy' enough as it is.! But there IS something about HDS's that have a bite, I mean now days they can 'bug', have computers analysis of this that and the other, DnA, etc but back then...? WHOLE new, as the Americans would say "ball game".

And as poirot would say 'use of the little grey cells' is called for and HOW.

 

Yes they are a fantasy, but then is not ALL fiction JUST that, some more memorable then others true, it too depends on how it's written and not (if possible no ye and thy etc) but also not to "upto date" language either.

Can't be easy that, I mean no CSI's no criminal this that or the other iologist just a damn bloody good memory.! laugh.gif

 

They also tell (most times anyway) a rollicking good story.

 

You know if Gerald Harper were young again he'd be brill as Hawkwood those of an age will remember Harper as THIS bloke....Adam Adamant

:

adamadamant1.jpg

 

 

Ask your parents then.!

 

Not quite so sure about Branagh playing Shardlake, he's missing something, I'd choose possibly the chap from Dalziel and Pascoe Warren Clarke

:

dalziel_396_396x222.jpg

 

Perfect "a face only a mother could love" ! as my late mum said of Clarke.

 

But who to play Michael Jecks's Sir Baldwin de Furnshill, and his side-kick Simon Puttock, need to think that one over carefully methinks.! :)

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Lizzy, thanks for that. :) Sadly C&P I did in Uni all those years ago in old blighty, put me right off entierly anything to do with Dostoevsky. Crime and Punishment was, for me, utter pants and still is. God but it went on and on and... for a bloody piece of bread for God's sake icon_rolleyes-1.gif! never mind trying to pronounce the bloody names of the characters! hissyfit.gif; though, I'll tell you what, just for the sheer bloody hell of it, I will check out R N Morris novels (God he is brave!) and find out what he's done with Porfiry Petrovich. How's that then ok.? :D

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Speaking of historical detective stories, May I be so bold as to direct you to one particularly interesting chap. His name...Robert McCammon.

 

Who he you ask,? take a look at this site: http://www.robertmccammon.com/ and more to the point, where this thread is concerned, the two books you'll see slap bang in your face when you go to said place. I've read BOTH books and they are brilliant :D:cool: very.!

 

I'll let the site and contents therein speak for themselves.

 

Slightly off topic for a mo. but the chap who runs said site is also a member of a site I'm on too THIS place : http://www.specialx.net/specialxbbs/

 

(I'm known as steelclaw32 there btw.!) HairRaising.gif08.gif

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Not quite so sure about Branagh playing Shardlake, he's missing something, I'd choose possibly the chap from Dalziel and Pascoe Warren Clarke

:

dalziel_396_396x222.jpg

 

Perfect "a face only a mother could love" ! as my late mum said of Clarke.

 

Sorry, but I disagree about Warren Clarke as Shardlake. There are plenty of clues in the books to Shardlake being quite a goodlooking man who would probably be more successful with women if he wasn't oversensitive about his hunch back. That said, I've never pictured him as looking like Branagh, more like Jason Isaacs. And of course, Shardlake is in his thirties in Dissolution, which is another reason not to cast Warren Clarke, who's turned 60!

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Sylvia, thanks for that. Jason Isaacs you say eh,? not to shabby call that, though I still say Warren Clarke would be right, stage makeup can do wonderful things...so I'm told :yikes::o .

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Speaking of Historical Crime Writers. This brilliant writer and he's British too has written, wait for it lad/ies wait ......TWENTY FOUR that's 24 books with number 25 coming along in 12 Jun 2008.

this little beauty...

:

n248810.jpg

 

Have a look at his, Michael Jecks's site here... > http://www.michaeljecks.co.uk/

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QUOTE FROM CFP: 19th-c

The genre of detective fiction has gained increasing critical attention in recent decades. No longer a "fringe" genre, literary historians have increasingly looked to crime/detective fiction for fresh insights into

issues such as science and technology, law, gender studies, and empire,

to name just a few. Additionally, focusing on this "popular fiction" of

the 19thC has opened up new considerations of its relationship with and importance to the "realist" and non-fiction writing of the same era

 

QUOTE:

A Woman of Mystery: Mary Fortune By Lucy Sussex

Between the years 1865–1908 a woman of mystery, in art as well as life, published over 500 detective stories in the popular Australian Journal (AJ). Her ‘The Detective’s Album’, a series of self-contained crime tales—the form later used by Conan Doyle with Sherlock Holmes—was published for over forty years, making it the longest running series in the early history of crime fiction. She also wrote poetry, serialized novels, lively journalism and an (unreliable) memoir. Seven of her stories were reprinted in book form, as The Detective’s Album: Tales of the Australian Police (1871), the first book of detective fiction published in Australia. Yet nobody knew who she was…

 

 

ALSO FYI DOVER (IF IT IS STILL IN BUSINESS) HAS PUBLISHED JUST ABOUT ALL OF THE 19thC MYSTERY WRITERS IN LOVELY TRADE P/B EDITIONS.

 

 

I'm not sure if those of you who like historical thrillers are purists or part- purists and have read the writers who wrote suspense novels in their 18th or 19C era.

EMMUSKA ORCZY, BARONESS

DICKENS

COLLINS

ANNA KATHERINE GREEN

HENRY JAMES

FERGUS HUME

 

WE all know who writes contemporary 'historical crime fiction' and I am sure you know many of the 19thC writers listed here but I found this interesting and just thought I"d share.

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This isn't my favourite sub-genre within the crime field however I have read a few good books by both Laura Wilson and Robert Goddard which tend to be set in the last couple of centuries or relate to crimes in the past.:hmm:

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