For one who enjoys writing historical novels (and the occasional contemporary), I don’t read much in the genre anymore. Although I do like Amanda Quick (Jayne Ann Krentz’s historical persona) and Anna Campbell. I guess I pretty well exhausted my interest in my earlier years with Robert Graves, Jean Plaidy, Catherine Gaskin, Sarah Dunant, Macdonald Fraser’s Flashman series, Harlequin Historicals et al. And, of course, the classics: such as Dickens, Charles Kingsley, R L Stevenson, Jane Austen.
I also loved sci-fi, and devoured all the great writers of the golden age. I’m over that, too, except for Lois McMaster Bujold’s Vorkosigan series, which I read again and again. I’m just in awe of her skill in character development throughout the series, even of the most minor characters, and re-read in the hope of picking up pointers. As well as putting her characters through horrendous trials, there’s a lot of humour in the books, too.
These days I prefer historical non-fiction, crime novels, particularly series, and quirky books. Recently, I’ve greatly enjoyed The Romanovs, by Simon Sebag Montefiore, which traces the dynasty from the late sixteenth century up to the revolution. It reads like an exciting and barely believable novel, so much so that after 600-odd pages I was sorry to reach the end. An interesting fact was that by the time of the last czar they were hardly Russian at all, as after the first few they all married German, and the occasional Danish, princesses. Germany was a marriage mine for European royalty, as prior to the 1870s it was a hotchpotch of little principalities, with eligible quasi-royal princesses by the dozen.
Another good read was Stephen Coote’s Drake: the Life and Legend of an Elizabethan Hero. It turns out he was not so much a hero as a great self-promoter, and so rapacious he tried to cheat his brother’s young widow out of his estate. She took him to court, and won.
This is getting a bit long, so I’ll leave my comments on crime novels and quirkies to the next blog.