The most recent 5* review on Amazon for my RomanoBritish mystery, The Governor’s Man, opens with:
“If you thought nothing much happened in Britain between the Roman conquest and the arrival of the Saxons, then think again! Rebellion, corruption, murder, Brits attempting to take back control from Rome.”
The reviewer goes on to add: “The background is penetratingly researched by the author…” Many of my readers and reviewers have commented on my research, perhaps because little is recorded about Roman Britain at its peak in the third century, compared to the first century invasion or the removal of the legions in AD410.
But though we have little left to us in writing abut this period of British history, we do have an ever-increasing amount of archaeology giving us a rich picture. Sometimes the tiniest uncovered details can change our understanding quite significantly. For example, fragments of window glass found here at Canovium Roman fort, in the Conwy valley.
After we filmed this clip, we headed off to nearby Llandudno Museum, a great example of the superb regional museums scattered across the UK. I was interested in the opaque rough green window glass on display there, which had been dug up at Canovium. The archaeology reports detailed an elaborate, comfortable commander’s house, which for sure would have had glazed windows. In the past it was often assumed that the common solider’s barracks, by contrast, had small windows, unglazed or covered only by wooden shutters.
By now, I was so taken with Canovium, I was keen to use the fort as a setting in the third Quintus Valerius novel (hopefully to be published late 2022/early 2023). So I wrote to Dr Dawn Lancaster, the Museum Director, enthusiastic and very helpful despite being a mediaeval specialist. She gave me a lot of information about Roman glass-making in Britannia, and confirmed that the glass on display is thought to be from a barracks, not the praetorium, the commander’s home. (The suggestion being that the praetorium would have had finer-quality glass in larger panes.)
It’s tiny details like this that make up much of the research of a historical novelist. I may never mention window glass in the text of the book, but in my mind now I can picture the scene: Tiro, in his capacity as visiting investigative NCO, goes into the barracks to share a beer, a chat and some beef stew with the lads, in a room lit naturally through glazed windows, minus the brisk winds and showers of north Wales.
Another bit of worthwhile research!
PUBLISHING NEWS: Follow Quintus and Tiro in my short story Wolves of Viroconium in new Roman anthology Imperium, out now in ebook and paperback. Seven short stories from around the Roman empire and across the centuries, contributed by some of the biggest names in Roman fiction, together with interviews with each author.
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