Tour’s Books Blog

March 3, 2009

Favorite Books, Authors and Series – Historical Fiction

Filed under: Editorial,Favorite book,Historical fiction — toursbooks @ 9:09 pm
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Every reader has favorite books and favorite authors. I thought I’d just make a list of some of my favorites of the past and present. The first in this occasional list is for writers and books that are historical fiction. It doesn’t include books that are period romance or mystery, though to some extent both are present in these titles. Historical/period romance and mystery will have their own lists. Hey, feel free to tell me your favorites as well!

Historical Fiction: There doesn’t seem to be as much quality stuff out there as there once was. Most of the books on this list are OLD. But, hey, the stories are set in the past, so who cares?

Mary Renault – One of my favorite historical fiction authors, she set most of her books in ancient Greece. I cut my teeth on her Theseus trilogy – The King Must Die, The Bull from the Sea, and The Last of the Wine. It was these three books that sent me on a journey to read Edith Hamilton’s books on Greek mythology and also books on archeology. Renault went on to write many stand alones, like Mask of Apollo, and a trilogy on Alexander the Great as told by his male companion.

Gary Jennings burst onto the literary scene with an amazing first book – Aztec. Phenomenal! It remains one of the very best pieces of historical fiction ever. His Journeyer about Marco Polo was just as good. He lost me with Raptor and I gave his Spangles series a pass. He came back to the Aztecs, but I haven’t read his subsequent books that spun off from his first.

Thomas Costain made his living as an account. Late in life he became a writer, and a good one. He’ll be listed twice, once here in fiction for his wonderful book The Black Rose and again in non-fiction. Costain wrote many historic fiction books, but none more famous than The Black Rose. It was made into a pretty good movie starring Tyrone Power, Jack Hawkins and Orson Wells. His book, The Silver Chalice, also very good, became a movie as well. Very readable, but not in the same league as Jennings, Clavell or Waltari.

This list could not be complete without James Clavell and his amazing Shogun and equally impressive Tai-Pan and Gai-Jin. I burned more than one dinner because I got so caught up in the story I lost all track of time. Clavell also wrote King Rat, his first book, which is far better known as a movie starring George Segal. Alas, he wrote very few books and the story of the Nobel House went unfinished. But read and enjoy the gems he did give us.

A book that got the infamous ‘Banned in Boston’ label was The Egyptian by Mika Waltari, a Finnish novelist. It too was made into a movie this time starring Jean Simmons and Victor Mature. (He always looked good in skirts.) The Wanderer and The Etruscan are also excellent. Wonderful books.

I’m sure many will be surprised to see one author absent from my list – James Michener. I read 4 or 5 of his books and frankly, never really a fan.

Now it’s your turn, tell me what author or book you like best.

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